The Night of The Elephants

Botswana is beautiful. I know, I say that about every country we go through, but let me tell you...Botswana is beautiful. Mind you, it has some diabolical tracks as we found out when we negotiated our way into Senyati Camp yesterday afternoon.

Leaving  the brand new motorbike loving road we had ridden from the  border, we turned off for a short 5K ride into our camp, not knowing it would be the worst 5K of the trip. A few hundred meters from the road, we ran into deep sand. I hate sand. It’s a bikers worst nightmare and this stuff was talcum powder like. And did I say it was deep?

It took every iota of our energy to hold our half ton bikes up as they skidded out from under us like recalcitrant dogs, trying to escape their leashes. Once or twice they did. One moment we were sliding sideways trying not to topple over, the next we were dug in up to our wheel hubs trying to get out. Even worse for me, Mrs. Smith has a stubborn fan which didn’t kick in, meaning that in the 40 degree heat, I had to keep stopping to let her cool down. At one point I found myself alone, dug in so far that she was almost standing up on her own, with a herd of Zebras galloping by. I couldn’t decide if it was heaven or hell.

Somehow, after what seemed hours of muscle searing effort, we made it to the camp, panting and gasping for air. Wes, Lenard and I just looked at each other shaking our heads, knowing we had to do it all again in the morning. A little morose and desperate for a drink of water, we headed to the bar.

And that’s when the magic started.

Senyati camp has a waterhole just beside the restaurant and all of a sudden an elephant ambled by. And then another. And another. It was sensational, just sitting there, no fences or barriers, just us and the elephants. I remember thinking this is incredible, it can’t get any better than this. So majestic, so magical, so perfect.

I was wrong.

After a fabulous dinner cooked by Andrew [who knew he was Gordon Ramsey in disguise? He’s been holding out on us), we went back for another look. In the dark, the water hole was lit up by soft yellow lights and out of nowhere, a whole herd of elephants appeared, bulls, babies and mothers. We stood on the lower level, mesmerized as they came ever closer. And closer. And closer. At one point a pair were no more than five feet away from us. It was as though we had been transplanted into the middle of a Planet Earth film and I half expected to hear the voice of David Attenborough, breathlessly whispering about the incredible sights we were so privileged to see unfolding before our eyes.

I found myself eye to eye with a bull elephant, right within touching distance, and I felt something shift in my soul, something deep and profound that reflected the glory of creation that I and the elephant before me are both part of. I was in my own world, completely hypnotized by the splendour unfolding before me, until I looked around and realized that there were many others from the camp there. All of us, standing in complete silence and awe. The only thing I could hear apart from the elephants eating the grass they were pulling up wth their trunks, was the occasional gasp, and the sound of someone quietly sobbing.

We stood for ages watching until we wound our way back to our tents, still in silence, unable to speak. I lay awake a lot of the night trying to comprehend what I had seen, listening to the sounds of lions roar just a few hundred meters away. What an incredible, luminous night. 

I think there is a lesson here.

There was a dark moment during the ride in when I had wondered if I could make it. My bike was stuck, I was on my own, the engine was boiling and I was literally shaking with the effort it was taking to keep going. It seemed impossible. Yet it was only because we pressed on that we had an experience that we will all treasure forever. 

Life sometimes throws the tough stuff at us and we all want to quit, to go back to the road we know we can handle. To maybe just stop where we are and give up. But it’s when we press on that we discover things that we could never have dreamed of, things that can change the way we look at the world, that can challenge our preconceptions and our very way of being.

Last night showed me that the challenges, however tough they are, can lead to things that seem impossible, to sights that will always remain unseen if we give in, yet are waiting for us to revel in if we just go that one extra step more. I will never forget the night of the elephants and I will always remember the spiritual experience of being there. But I know I would have missed it if I had given up.

So if I may be so bold, and without wanting to minimize the tremendous challenges you may be facing, please, allow me to encourage you through whatever makes up your own bogged down, fear inducing sand trap today. I know it’s not easy and I know how simple it seems to give in, to believe it’s just too hard to keep going. But please, don’t do that. Don’t believe the voice in your head telling you that you can’t make it. You can. So Gun the throttle, keep the bike upright, don’t fade out, no matter how hot it is and how much you want to stop.

.Keep going, keep pressing on. The elephants are waiting for you just down the road. Believe me, you don’t want to miss them.

Andy