In the morning, the crackling embers of the last night’s fire still glowed in the pre-dawn haze. I sat alone, but glanced toward the tents, behind me on the rise, just as the sun broke deep violet and burning orange across the horizon. Slivers of light crept down toward the savannah below, illuminating herds of buffalo and Uganda kob. In the wide open spaces of Queen Elizabeth National Park in southern Uganda, it felt as though I was the only person on earth awake to witness the world in that moment of its greatest beauty.
As others stretched and yawned their way across the hillside to the warmth of the red coals, we heard a distressed elephant trumpeting somewhere off in the trees behind us. Another marched across the expanse of grass below. The night before, as we settled in under the stars, the far away cackles of hyenas reminded us that the night was wild and full of unknowns.
It’s rare, these days, to be somewhere so remote and quiet, far from the traffic noise of roads and the constant murmur of radio songs from the valley below my house. I spent the last week passing through some of the greatest wild spaces on earth, waking in a tent in the game park or in a rough hewn wooden cabin on the shores of a rushing river in the Ishasha region of Uganda. I’m not entirely sure what to conclude from those experiences, just yet, but I’m grateful for the ways in which they seem to have cleared the cobwebs from my mind.
There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have had the nerve to board a bus, alone, and ride 10 hours through a strange part of foreign country. There was a time when I wouldn’t have dared to hop on the back of a motorcycle in a small rural village and ride across roadways shared with lions and elephants to reach an unfamiliar lodge in the middle of the wilderness. And there was a time when I wouldn’t have dared spend a week exploring one of the most beautiful places on earth with relative strangers. Let’s just say I’m glad those times in my life are over.