16 December 2015

Finding Inner Peace

What does peace mean to you, and where do you find it?

Is it lying in a hot bath with a good book and a glass of wine, or doing yoga? Losing yourself in your favourite music, or going for a walk in a park. Climbing a mountain, going to the beach, or perhaps taking a drive. Or is it the wind in your hair as you explore tar and gravel on a motorbike?

For me, I am at peace when I am in the air. It doesn’t matter what I’m flying; all that’s important is that I am flying. The problems of the world just disappear as soon as the wheels leave the ground. It’s invigorating.

But today I found a different kind of peace. It was a sense of peace with the world, a sort of serenity, beauty, and complete relaxation. I didn’t have to be in the air to find this peace, no, I found it whilst in a mokoro, navigating one of the many thousands of water ways of the Okavango Delta.
Upon arriving at Nxabega Tented Camp for a night stop, I asked if there was any space on the game drive. There wasn’t, but they did have room on a mokoro. I had never been on a mokoro before, so this was going to be great! I imagined it would be similar to the boat, but it was so much better.

In the year that I have been living and working in Botswana, I have had the opportunity to go on a few game drives, and a couple of boat trips. Every now and then, it’s a welcoming experience to go on the boat – as opposed to on a game drive – as it gives you a different perspective of nature; it’s quieter for one, and you get to see all sorts of little bugs and critters and birdlife that lives in or near the water, that you wouldn’t be able to see from a vehicle.

A Pied Kingfisher hovers above the water, hunting for its next snack

Going on a mokoro just adds a whole new dimension to that. It’s SO quiet; there’s no engine noise, you can barely hear the water lapping against the hull. It’s just you and nature. And even though we didn’t say any big game, we saw so much more than what you would on a game drive.
Like, fish darting beneath the water (and coming to an abrupt halt as the went head-first into a clump of reeds), insects balancing on spindly legs as they make their way from lily pad to lily pad, having dragon flies follow us, almost as if in formation with the mokoro. Seeing the clouds reflected in the water. It’s truly phenomenal, and relaxing.  Even the thought of knowing that if there is a hippo nearby  it could easily tip us over wasn’t enough to destroy the peace.
I was happy to sit back, relax, and take it all in, so much so that I almost dozed off a few times.

When you’re in a tiny floating vessel, looking up at this great big blue sky, it makes you feel so small and insignificant, and you realise that there is this whole huge world out there, just waiting to be explored. But we’re so caught up in our urban lives where it’s a cycle of working and sleeping, and focusing on technology and social media, and running around trying to earn enough to put food on the table, while staying up to date with the latest gossip and political drama.

But is that really living? There’s no beauty in that. We are so caught up in this routine that we forget to stop and look around us, and see what we have. See what we’re missing.

On the drive back to camp from the mokoro station, we stopped in a clearing. The sun had just about set and the horizon was only just visible in the distance. The guide switched off the engine and lights, and said “We are going to listen.”
For a nanosecond there was complete silence. And then all of a sudden there was a cacophony of noise, like being at a rock concert, deafening, but different. Nature was all around us, and our ears were assaulted. Crickets chirped from every direction, frogs croaked at one another, bats squeaked and the whizzed across the air like ghosts. It felt as if the entire earth, the entire universe, was bearing down on us. And it was almost overwhelming- the sounds of nature, raw, untouched wilderness. That is beauty, and freedom, and serenity.

Being able to experience just a minute of that is living. That is what I love so much about being able to live and work in a place where I am afforded the opportunity to experience the simple things in life.