I came to London for Bebe’s birthday bash. But I also came here on my way to Africa. Tomorrow Pete McBride (we call him Pedro), a photographer with National Geographic Traveler, and I will catch a red-eye from Heathrow and when we wake up, we’ll be in Nairobi.
A different continent, a different world.
The last time I was in Kenya was half a lifetime ago.
What I remember: The tingly singing of a million cicadas, newly hatched, as the long rains came.
The sickly-sweet smell of rotting mangos in a grove where we camped.
Nasty vervet monkeys pissing on our tent at night.
Steam rising off the Indian Ocean off Mombasa during low tide.
Pitching camp in a donga and having a flash-flood bury much of our equipment in deep sand and mud.
Spending hours digging out of sand rivers after a rain.
The hollow calls of sand grouse in the still air of dusk and the soft, sad cooing of mourning doves—coo, co-co, co-co, coo—at sunrise.
A family of giraffes loping quickly and soundlessly across the distant horizon.
The red ochre soil you can never completely wash from your clothes or your skin.
Karen Blixen, in a letter from Africa dated February 1918, wrote: “It seems right that human beings should live in the nomad fashion and unnatural to have one’s home always in the same place; one only feels really free when one can go in whatever direction one pleases over the plains, get to the river at sundown and pitch one’s camp, with the knowledge that one can fall asleep beneath other trees, with another view before one, the next night.”
I am anxious to get back to Africa, to sleep beneath the trees.
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