I recently returned from an adventure in Africa that was the most incredible of my life!
For at least 30 or 40 years, I've wanted to visit the country of Madagascar to actually see (and of course photograph) some of the bizarre and unique plants, animals, and reptiles that live nowhere else in the world.
I have never gone to this huge island because the flights from my part-time home in Tanzania are very expensive. However, I was given an "offer" I simply couldn't refuse.
By making plans through a local company I'm well acquainted with and coordinating everything with another company in South Africa, we were able to develop a truly awesome itinerary at an affordable price. (By the way, part of the "deal" was that I evaluate the entire experience for both companies since they'd never done this adventure before.) I also promised to have pictures taken of me for them to use on their new web-sites and brochures.
This was set up to be a private photographic safari that was all-inclusive - meals, transport, guides, a driver and my flights were available for less than the normal cost of the flight alone! I decided I had to take advantage of this - I'm 67, have OA and have had nine joint replacements. I was fully aware that it was a "now or never" situation that was unlikely to be offered again!
OK - so far, so good, right? When I arrived in the bustling and very old capital city, I suddenly realized that no one had mentioned to my guide that I have a slight walking challenge! I tried to explain to him what my problem was, but people there speak only French or Malagasy - there was no English anywhere! When I tried to help my guide understand, he said, "Mama, we can't do this - you need to spend six-and-a-half days hiking up steep mountains over roots and rocks in order to reach the animals in the rainforest." Oh, and yes, the forest floor was often wet, slick and very muddy. He informed me that it was too dangerous for me to do. At this point, I didn't know whether to sit on a log and cry, pout, scream or what. All I could think was that I had come so far and waited so long, and now my dream was disappearing. I finally asked him if we could go a little slower on the steep paths, but to let me try it. As most of our readers have heard me say quite often - watch me! (This phrase that has helped me often to overcome other tough challenges.)
I began my first climb. I refused to give up and simply quit; I refused to just walk away. Yes, it was tough - I had sweat pouring out of every pore - but I wanted to see at least one of these incredibly rare animals. I was ready to give up - I kept thinking "I can't do this," but then I peeked through the treetops ahead of me and saw a glimpse of my first Indri! It was too dark and wet for a good photo, but I just knew this was a sign. Yes, I could keep going; yes, I would succeed in my adventure! One mountain at a time; one steep, rough, and wet trail at a time; one more glorious species of a rare and endangered lemur species seldom seen; and my eight days were just beginning!
The slide trombone of the forest, the Indris, awakened the entire forest early each morning with their shrill territorial calls. Living in a tiny thatched bungalow high in the Perinet Rainforest of Madagascar fulfilled a life-time dream. Night sounds with the tree frogs: locusts, crickets, indris socializing, and a wide variety of calls from other animals and birds helped make almost the perfect sleeping "pill." My photo experiences with two kinds of indris, eight different exotic species of lemurs (including two that are extremely rare), as well as an unexpected bonus - photographing around 50 species of reptiles seldom seen and all incredibly unique all helped to make my adventures in Madagascar extra special. I will blog again on the unique culture of the wonderful people of Madagascar as well as more of my adventures as an OA patient in Africa.
I proved to others, but more importantly, I proved to myself that, in spite of my OA, in spite of my 9 joint transplants, I CAN and WILL do almost anything. I have a diagnosis, NOT a life sentence. Please go out and experience your world as much as you are able; be able to say "WATCH ME!"
Published On: February 02, 2011