Many of you have asked me about our trip to Africa in June. We went with Don and Jeanie Jackson and Don did a great job covering the trip from a hunter’s perspective, in his column. I’m not a hunter, but I support my hubby’s love for the sport. I do enjoy the meat, although we couldn’t bring it back with us. I’ll tell you how I saw Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa, from the view of a Dirtgirl, in a few words.

The trip was a gruesome five hour trip by truck to the airport in Atlanta and a long visit with customs, followed by 14-1/2 hours in economy seating in a packed airplane. That was followed by more than an hour in customs lines and economy seating on another airplane for 8-1/2 hours. The trip then continued by truck, on off-road-like roads, for an additional 4-1/2 hours to reach our camp. If I were 30 years younger it may have been easier. Sleep would’ve been nice. I was grateful for the little TVs on the back of the seat in front of me.

And the trip home? More gruesome.

South Africa was amazing! It’s a different world and it’s not the one I saw on documentaries or magazines. It was winter there, so the mornings were in the 40’s and afternoons in the 70’s, with no humidity. The sky was the deepest cloudless blue, and weather was perfect all week.

My best memory will always be of the people who took care of us and tended to every need. Ana and Sara washed our clothes by hand and hung them on the line to dry. Roberto prepared delicious meals. Bybeat and Sandra saw to everything else.

Even though we struggled to find common wording for a conversation, the warm open smiles and shared laughter, said enough. Their language is Africans and English, but their English is different, often a mix of the two languages. Being a “wordy” girl, the spelling vs. the pronunciations of names was intriguing. For instance, Koos is pronounced “Qwess,” Cobus is “Qwebis.”

I walked and gawked at unfamiliar plants, soils, and birds and with a scattering of rocks the same color. Most trees were short and gnarly. They have mimosa with long wood-like beans. There are plants there that I’ve only seen in nurseries, and many I’ve never seen.

The birds were colorful and outspoken. When I asked about names of them, no one knew. I took pictures and looked them up after we got home. One with a showy checkerboard undertail is the green wood hoopoe. Another very odd, big bird, that travelled in groups was called the “go-away bird” by the locals, because it warns wildlife that danger is coming. There were some that looked like they’d been made of spare parts, with long crooked beaks on small heads and big bodies. Some looked like toucans. There was a flock of tiny black ducks on the pond I walked to everyday. If you got close to them, they’d disappear into the water, as if they’d never been.

One day I was on my walk, admiring all the clear animal tracks in the sandy path. I rounded a corner at the pond, looked up, and there stood a giraffe! I don’t know which of us was more shocked! We both stared for a long time. It slowly made its way to the bush, looking back and staring some more.

We had game meat for a lot of our meals and it was perfect. A warm snapping campfire at night was an opportunity to share the day with other people in the camp and listen to the tales of the day. My tales consisted of reading books, napping, and observing my surroundings, as well as visiting with whomever happened along. No TV, phone, or internet!

I’m grateful to have had the experience and I’ll never forget the people we left behind. Hubby had the opportunity to fulfill a “bucket list” item – Africa. No lions, tigers or cape buffalo were seen or heard.

I’ve had a “bucket list” item most of my life: Scotland and Ireland. The in-flight GPS showed that we passed over much of the world I’d only read about or seen in the news. It included the UK, Scotland and Ireland. I looked longingly at the words on the screen, then quietly waved at them. I’ll mark that one off because I don’t plan to ever go thru that kind of flying experience again!

Sherrie Ottinger, aka: “The TN Dirtgirl,” is a regenerative Earth thinker, teacher, columnist, author and speaker. Her passion is all things “dirt.” She may be reached at velokigate@yahoo.com with comments or questions.