Several years ago I made a trip to Cape Town South Africa, and it was one of the most memorable trips of my life. The excitement of the unknown grew with each passing hour spent in the air, high above the earth. Though my sons and I had a planned five day excursion, I still couldn’t stop wondering what might still lie ahead. Would it be something about this new culture I was about to experience; or would it be something more, something about me? After clearing customs and retrieving our luggage, we still had the daunting tasks of maneuvering through the hordes of people and locating our tour guide.
The sounds of luggage being dragged across the floor, babies crying while their parents in their British, German or native Afrikaans language, trying to soothe them, were becoming all too familiar, too overwhelming. Nevertheless, we found our tour guide waiting for us just outside the automatic sliding door. As we loaded ourselves into the decrepit VW bus, painted with the colors of the South African flag (green, red, black, blue and yellow), the reality of it all hit me: our adventure had begun. As we rolled along, the bus creaking and groaning with each bump in the road, our first stop was the “Big 5 Safari Game Drive. Our arrival was timed for just prior to dusk when the animals that we were to see would just be settling in for the night. We climbed up into a very large, exposed Land Rover. Blankets were handed out as the air became cooler with the sun slowly reaching the horizon. We came upon a female Cheetah that had a fresh kill. The smell of blood hung thick in the air. Her mate, close by, kept watch, allowing her to feed, and all I could think of at that moment was, “WOW! ” Never in my wildest imagination did I think I would see such a sight. What else could I possibly encounter these next four days?
Day two started with such an amazing sunrise, as though God had painted it just for us. This day was to bring us to the town of Oudtshoorn and its surrounding communities where ostrich farming is prevalent and where the Congo Caves are located. As we stopped at one of the local farms, we were welcomed with such warmth that we felt as though we were family. We were given an inside tour of how these awkward, powerful, ugly, yet beautiful birds were raised and cared for. Afterwards we continued over to the Congo Caves to explore the depths, to hear the stories, and to witness magnificent stalactites made of limestone.
As we awoke the morning of day three, you could feel the anxiety, the nervousness, and the excitement of what was to come. No, it wasn’t that we were going to canoe in the crystal clear cool waters of the Wilderness Lagoon; nor was it about the birds and wildlife that thrive on the lagoon. This was the day my youngest son had been waiting for, to leap head first off of a perfectly good bridge into the abyss. As the VW bus roared over the bridge, the same bridge that my son would soon be leaping from, I tried to remember the last time I intentionally, purposefully, attempted an adrenaline rush.
Could I do it again? Nevertheless, my son could and did. As I watched him take that leap, I could hear his scream of excitement, joy, fear and happiness. And, upon his return to the top of the bridge, the smile on his face, the smile as big as the Cheshire cat in “Alice in Wonderland” said it all. After experiencing such excitement and adrenaline from the previous day, we awoke on day four feeling slightly exhausted but nonetheless filled with anticipation for the upcoming events of the day.
We bumped along through the countryside towards the Tsitsikamma National Park, where a day of Zip Lining was waiting for us. Once we arrived, we were suited up in rain gear and fitted in harnesses that would support us as we zipped our way through the tree tops and over rambling streams. Streams so clear, the sun reflected off the silver fish swimming around. The tree tops, full of bright red and blue birds, whose colors stood out against the green back drop of the trees. There was such peach and tranquility, like a Zen garden that Mother Nature had created just for us.
As day five arrived, I was filled with happiness, but sadness hung thick in the air. It would be our final day of this great adventure and what better way to end it than swimming with the sharks off the coast of Hermanus. Yes, shark cage diving it was. As each of us pulled on a wet suit to protect us from the ice cold waters of the Atlantic, we smelled the overpowering odor of chum. I’m not sure why none of us got sick or, worse, left a little of ourselves in the water. We slipped right down into the cage enclosure as though we had been doing this our entire lives.
What exhilaration as the Great White shark gracefully swam by us, close enough that we were tempted to reach out and touch it but fearful enough to know better. Feeling the water swirl from its tail as it passed by, and to finally coming up for air, we laughed and shrieked with excitement, knowing once again we had witnessed something so incredibly amazing. At last, this great adventure of ours came to an end. Finally as the VW bus, our trusted steed, pulled up to the curb for its last stop we were silent, either consciously or subconsciously (was it that we were each lost in our own thoughts? , until the quiet turned to laughter, tears, smiles and frowns. After my sons and I took our seats for the long flight home, my thoughts raced back over the past five days. What had I just experienced? Had I learned anything about myself? In fact I had. I learned that no matter what fears or adversities I may encounter in life, I could work them through them and become stronger in spite of them, and that I had instilled the same values in my sons as I watched them face their own fears and adversities.