Major Fambrough:” You wish to see the frontier?”
John Dunbar: “Yes sir, before it's gone.”
Dances with Wolves
I remember standing near our station wagon in the crisp predawn half-light of a lowveld morning. We were at Numbi Gate, Kruger National Park. My dad was in the reservations office arranging our permit while my ma fussed with my baby sister in the car. I recall that I was all of five or six years old and that I stood rooted to the spot staring at the fence and the impenetrable thicket beyond. My ears were filled with the strangest and most mysterious of cacophonies…sub-tropical squeaks and clicks…the dawn chorus of an African wilderness. I was transfixed…and consumed with an urgency to see over yonder…beyond that wire barrier…to understand what made those marvellous noises…I had to go, was drawn inexorably. It began for me that morning. It was an awakening of something visceral within me…the acknowledgement of a hunger for Africa’s frontier spaces and a lust for her siren song.
For the last nine years I have guided and explored the magnificent wilderness of Mapungubwe with folk from all over the world. I have been blessed with adventure in the grandest form and it has almost always culminated with some time at the well-known confluence viewpoint. Across the Limpopo and up the Shashe basin lies another dramatic frontier. I have stood there more times than I can remember perceiving a voice growing louder with each subsequent visit. It is in essence a powerful vortex, a force tugging on my mind, calling to me. I cannot describe the language. It is an archaic tongue formed in the sediment of Gondwanaland and rising from the rifts and scars of this brave continent. It has become insistent of late constant reader and I must heed it now.
Several years ago my dad and I ventured to Madagascar and I heard it there too. It had a Malagasy inflection to its accent but was just as African and just as stubborn. It was almost overwhelming in the dry deciduous canopies of Tsingy Bemaraha National Park. Troops of Decken’s Sifaka (a rare lemur variety) were eyeballing us from their precarious perches and I remember that African voice in my skull exploded with indignant gusto. “Do you see this…this wonderland…feel it, revel in it. It is a reminder of the very beginning of time” I was like a deer in the headlights, helpless, enslaved. I felt like the first man on earth. I remember that I had a hard time leaving…hugging my Malagasy guide, Celestain, like a man drowning and promising my speedy return.
On the first of September 2014 I will embark on a new journey. I will look across another frontier…one of self-employment as I launch my company, RAE Safaris. It is the first move toward heeding that incessant siren song…a song I can no longer ignore. It is quite simply the rest of this wondrous dark continent calling me to explore…to cross new frontiers…to seek the beauty behind other distant blue horizons.
Good friend and architect extraordinaire, Peter Rich used an analogy that I love and I trust he will forgive me using it here. When discussing my new venture and its perils Peter said: “Andrew…if you don’t push your boat from the shore, how will you ever discover new worlds?”
I do that now. This ship is sailing for deep running dark waters. In my mind’s eye I see myself standing in the mist as the vessel turns away from the harbour and my first mate, a crusty faced fellow, warning that…”thar be dragons over yonder there Cap’n!”
Lord I hope so!