Close Encounters of Third Kind in Africa
Our hearts stopped beating as our roofless windowless Landrover Zeep failed to start after three ignition during our Safari at Mosi-oa-Tunya ('The Smoke Which Thunders’) Park in Zambia. It was a gorgeous sunny day in June 2005. Our only child Maya, raised in the US turned sixteen two months ago. As geographer I yearned to see humanity’s birth place where animals still roam wild in panoramic landscape. Maya’s dad had a professional interest in mining and a relative in Zambia.
Our happy Zambian driver Lumumba was hot on the trail of fresh Rhino dung. He drove us within seven yards of the two twin horn White Rhinos. In our excitement he turned the engine off - something he never did before as a veteran Safari driver. The unpredictable Rhinos stood silent cowering their heads, staring directly at us! We all felt very exposed and in danger without any gun or cell phone. Our only option was to surrender unconditionally to the moment. After about ten minutes which seemed like a timeless blackhole, I started praying to the God of Rhinos. Strangely, in my mind I told the Rhinos that we do not intend any harm to them, they are safe to walk away and roam free. Within a minute or two the bigger Rhino turned around and took a step away from our car. The female Rhino took a minute longer to return to grazing.
Our next stop was the nearby spectacular Victoria Falls along the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. The entire river Zambesi takes a great leap across two kilometers of basalt cliff edge. Crashing like a thunder, her raw energy is unleashed in billowy mist of vast clouds. Maya felt an urge to make her first bungee jump over the Victoria Fall Bridge – world’s highest (111 meters) jump from a man-made bridge. I couldn’t believe Maya’s dad went along with her, without asking me. I wanted to stop my mind seeing her injured or lost in the abyss. As she took the beautiful jump, I heard her piercing gutteral scream. The rope was wildly swinging beneath me. Our hearts stopped for the second time. Maya emerged out of her harness fearless. With flushed swollen cheek, she approached me from the other side of the bridge with a big smile and tears of joy. Wish we parents could jump to our own sacrificial teenage initiation like that!