South Africa – not a bad place to get over the ‘Post Nepal trekking depression’

Monica's Walk

And the ‘wanderous’ journey continues…
Molo, from the beautiful country of South Africa!  …and I must admit, ‘beautiful’ is an understatement. My apologies for not having posted about most of my journey throughout Nepal …yet. I went through a lot and am still trying to figure out how to put it all into words. My trip home over Christmas was extraordinary and to be honest, I didn’t want to spend the short but valuable time I had in front of a computer typing. I wrote every day while in Nepal and the stories will be there, when I am ready to tell them.
In the meantime!  Welcome to my journey through South Africa! From Cape Town to road tripping down the Garden Route, riding mopeds, sticking my hands in both the Indian and Atlantic Oceans at the same time at the Southernmost tip of Africa, caves, lagoons, mountains, oceans, sand, elephants, tigers, cheetahs, exceptional company (thank you so much to my South African family! Charlie and his mom), great food (although maybe a bit too much PB & J while road tripping), accommodations of every kind and some amazing connections…what a time! Although I must admit, it hasn’t been completely all rainbows and roses. It seems that the sudden halt from trekking all day, every day, flying back and forth across the world twice in less than three weeks, polar opposites in weather systems 3 times in less than three weeks and just a lot of chaos over the past 1-2 months took a toll on me mentally and physically when I first got here. I’ve gotten through it though and clarity has begun to seep its way back in, along with improved digestion and all around well-being. (However changing environments with a day of flying and new people again tomorrow…look out Vata!)
The photo above was taken on a hike that began in the hills in the Crags near Tsitsikamma National Park. As I climbed down through the South African forest I found myself face to face with a not so happy snake, and eventually entered a peaceful lagoon that was separated from the vicious ocean by strip of sand about 40 feet wide. Stunning to look at and walk across. Continuing along the sand for about an hour, the trail began to cross jagged rough rock along the sea and eventually took a turn up a river that drained into the sea. How I love connecting bodies of water…so special. There were a couple of skinny dippers swimming peacefully in the river as we turned the corner and decided to put our feet in as well. You couldn’t help but slow down everything in your life in this magical place. Bliss was the word of the day… After following the river, the trail turned back up toward the forest, eventually circling back to the start. After a full day of hiking, a delicious organic, home grown dinner awaited my palate at the Wild Spirit Backpackers up the road (see blog to come).
Another beautiful South African day was spent going on ‘Elephant Walks’ which entailed hiking through the lush forest on ‘paths’ where elephants used to walk through. It is said (and proven by scientifically verified dung and foot print findings) that there are still 2-4 wild African Knysna Elephants roaming through this area (Knysna forest).  If you don’t already know about my passion for and curiosity about elephants – it is deep seeded and quite interesting. Needless to say, I spent the day hiking through the forest, ducking and jumping over massive spider webs (and spiders) that had come alive in the mornings’ rain showers…looking for these elephants. Apart from a very strange fluttering noise that appeared to be following us (and scaring the crap out of me on two occasions) I found no sign of the extraordinary creatures.  The aloe plants that lined the beginning and end of the trails were amazingly enormous! The South Africans appear to be very in tune with the benefits of aloe, as I figured out while speaking to a holistic medicine man in a shop one day.
…speaking of elephant hunting, this may in fact have been the highlight of my entire stay! Yes, that is me, taking an elephant for a walk through the forest. I had no idea what it would be like to connect with this peaceful being. There is a group of 6 elephants that are in the process of rehabilitation at the elephant sanctuary in the Crags. I met three of them. Two had part of their trunks cut off by wild game traps in the wild and the other has no tusks which means he would be unable to dig up roots for food if left to be independent in the wild. There are two main types of elephants: African Elephants and Indian Elephants. African elephants are smaller than the Indian type, have ears shaped like the continent of Africa (vs. Indian elephants who’s ears are apparently shaped like India) and both males and females grow tusks to help them dig roots from the ground and scrape bark off trees. African elephants eat much tougher food than Indian (who eat soft grass and plants); as a result, both males and females need tusks to survive. Unfortunately, because of their eating habits, African elephants have a shorter lifespan than Indian. The rough food wears away their molars much more quickly and eventually, in the wild, they die from starvation, due to the inability to chew their food. Indian elephants (and African elephants in captivity who are fed softer diets) are able to live over 70 years! Wise souls.
The elephant I am walking with here is 19 years old and his name (of which I am unable to remember the African pronunciation) means ‘Bliss.’ I was able to take him for a walk and interact with him for over an hour. It was spectacular.  The staff at the Elephant Sanctuary really appears to love their elephant family and keep them on their toes both mentally and physically. These creatures are incredibly smart and can certainly teach us humans a thing or two about meditation and the essence of being calm. It is amazing what the mom teaches her baby in the first few years of life. What an incredible experience. I could type about this for hours. Did I mention how much I love elephants?
Can you imagine a more beautiful place to ignite your spiritual practice?! I see places like this and all of a sudden…ahh I almost wrote “there is nothing else my mind can think about”…but it’s not that. Actually, it feels like my mind simply disappears. What remains is this passion inside of me, surrounding me, above and below me that resemble a calm fire that glows with joy and what results is some of the most memorable yoga practices that I have experienced to date. (This also happened at Wild Spirit – see blog.) The flow of water certainly seems to have an intense power over my soul.
…part of the famous five day “Otter Trail” trek, Tsitsikamma National Park

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