The Zulu people have a saying that no man (or woman) crosses the same river twice – the river is always changing. Sometimes the person changes. This is the experience at the heart of every wilderness trail with The Wilderness Leadership School.
I could ramble on and on about the many physical experiences we had on trail — We saw abundant wildlife and sweeping landscapes. We slept under a wide, star-lit sky and cooked over a small but strong fire. We took turns during each night keeping watch, listening to lions, hyenas, rhinos and our other neighbors in the bush and watching for visitors to our camp as the others slept.
We bathed in the river, took time to notice the big and small creatures that shared space with us and learned traditions and history of the Zulu people.
But, perhaps most importantly, we embarked on a journey – both collectively and independently – to better understand ourselves. Before going on trail, I heard many accounts of the transformative power of the Umfolozi wilderness trails but had honestly not understood the depth of the experience.
So often in our modern world, we go into the wild to prove our strength. We seek to climb the highest peak or run the fastest river. We seek to show our independence and in a way, assert ourselves over wild-nature, continuing a cycle of controlling nature for our own benefit.
What is apparent after several days living simply and quietly in the African bush, is that the human-animal is as vulnerable as all of the species we share the planet with. We need Nature and each other to survive. We need to be forgiving, trusting and benevolent to the planet, ourselves and each other. We need to use past experience to guide our current actions and consider the future impact of every decision. Often, we need to find ease with not being in control and can only survive by asking for help.
This is what I saw in the wilderness. I enjoyed seeing the landscape and the magnificent wildlife, sure, but as Ian Player instructed — the most interesting things I saw were within myself.
PS – Vance and I will post more details about the trail is more blogs to come soon!