• Of All the Things I Loved About Botswana, Time With You Was My Favourite

    April 2017. Seba Camp, Wilderness Safaris. Okavango Delta, Botswana. All images by Elizabeth Erasmus / Lubella Photography.

    Of all the wondrous things we saw, the big cats, the elephants, the hyena cub, the birds, oh the birds, the waterways of the delta from a helicopter and closer, by mokoro… the time we got to spend together, as a family, was the best of all. I turned on the out-of-office message on my work e-mail and together with friends (framily), our little trio headed off to one of our favourite places on the African continent. Botswana. More importantly, the Okavango Delta.

    I’m sure the setting had much to do with it. WiFi was slim to none; our eyes were on each other. Our thoughts not pulled away by a faraway place or person. We were exactly where we wanted to be. Together, in the wild. Sometimes families need this. A regroup. It has been a year of great change – and it’s only April. We set up a second home in Cape Town and soon the boys will start school, after many, many wild and free months living on the banks of the Zambezi, reading, drawing, playing Monopoly, but mostly fishing and sunset cruising. We needed an adventure before the classroom called. We needed, even more importantly, time together. Time with loved ones.

    In the wilderness, that’s exactly what you get. You can’t stop the emotions either. The wild cuts right to your heart and soul, with the very first whiff of the bush in the morning. The intensity of the sunrises and sets, the realness of a lion’s roar and an elephant’s flapping ears. The fear, the excitement all sort of wells up inside and sometimes you get those emotions confused. Sometimes they’re really just a conduit for those deeper feelings you’ve been sitting on and not let out. My eldest let them out. Just for one night. A child’s tears are never nice to see, but I’d rather see them than have them hidden. His tears were about not having a father to play with him and Renzi. This is when single parenting gets tough. Mostly, you can’t tell that he is at all affected by it, but I put this down to the effect of the wild. To the releasing that happens when we start to relax.

    One of our larger tribe, our framily, my friend, Hillock, said “Carlos, don’t worry about not having a dad who plays with you. You’ve got a mum who does and chicks are way cooler. That’s why I’m a lesbian!” I cried laughing and that was the end of that. Back to the game drives, mokoro trips, and sunset river cruises while fishing.

    The people at Seba Camp completed the family. In terms of service, they have all the heart and soul you could ask for. They are beyond all praise and dance together in perfect harmony. To be surrounded by the dearest of friends along with this incredible team made me realise that we may be single parents, on paper, but in life, we have all the support we need, if we just learn to acknowledge and accept it.

    What I want you to know, though, my dear boys, is that you can always show me your tears, for you have shown me more strength than I could have expected of you. And as often as we adventure, head to new places and meet new faces, it is you, Carlos and Renzi, that I need most. That I want most. It is time with you that matters most to me, whether we’re on a boat in the Delta or the Zambezi, or under the covers in bed at home, together, all for one and one for all, teary, sleepy, giggly or still. You are the greatest adventure.

  • Boys, Meerkats and the Concept of Time

    There is a quote that reads, Time spent in nature is never wasted. Sigmund Freud believed that it was time with cats that was never a waste. So, I guessed, while planning a trip with the boys, you surely cannot go wrong with both cats, well, meerkats, and the wilderness.

    We piled bags, cricket bats, Boon Boon the Velveteen Rabbit and road trip snacks into the car and headed from our home at Royal Chundu, across the border of Zambia, into Botswana… Destination: Kalahari, to meet not only the meerkats, but the other desert-adapted animals and tribes of this part of Africa.

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    There is nothing like a road trip to lull my sons into slumber – except perhaps a plane ride. Young travellers that they are. But soon the Volvo was replaced by an open-sided game vehicle and the boys were wide awake and pointing out the wild things in the distance – “Elephant! Elephant! I saw it first!” And, “Mom, mom! Wildebeest. Wildebeest.”

    For the next few days we called Camp Kalahari home. Deep in the Makgadikgadi Pans National Park, solar energy fuelling our A-frame tents, we were without Wi-Fi. Without mobile connection. Without the outside world. To the boys, a cricket bat or a Monopoly board is all they need. I had some adapting to do.

    A funny thing happened though. And I blame the meerkats. I blame the boys. I blame the desert. And I thank them, each and every one. Time disappeared. All we knew of time was that once the sun had risen, it would sink again, and that once the moon was lost to daylight, the day would heat up and then cool and the moon would return.

    I watched this phenomenon unfold first with the meerkats, as my spirited young boys sat almost not breathing on the open plains of the Kalahari, waiting for a meerkat to grace them with a paw.

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    Carlos is an animal whisperer. A meerkat was on him in a second. And then another. And another. Renzi, the littlest, sat still and silent for the longest I’ve ever witnessed him do so. Until pins and needles set in. And until, finally, a meerkat came close and his little itchy-to-move fingers got the better of him and twitched nervously. The meerkat ran away. But still Renzi sat. Still and silent. Patient. Perhaps, I hoped, he was experiencing those words for himself, the idea that time spent with cats, or animals of all sorts, in nature, is never wasted… Perhaps he was happy, just as he was.

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    T and Sons

    While the boys walked with the meerkats, until the light of day faded, I followed, photographing the moment, to hold on to it forever. A reminder of patience, of living in the now, and of how nature never fails to be the best friend and teacher that my boys need (after me, I hope).

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