I don’t meltdown often but sometimes something happens that you know is your own fault and screaming won’t help. An internal assault takes place where your mind and body go to battle because there is nothing, and no-one else, to blame. Today was that day for me and the realization of my neglect came in the middle of nowhere surrounded by globe shaped boulders quite content to balance precariously on top of each other as if all the world was in perfect harmony.
It was a metaphor for my day but I didn’t realize it then.
The worst thing that can happen on the road is the loss of travel documents, tickets, and money. I strap this all to my body when I am traveling and unless you take my pants off chances are you’re going to be fresh out of luck if you think you will be able to swipe my stuff; unless of course I leave everything that is valuable sitting on the bar of the hostel.
My excuse is not one that involves a late night of drunken debauchery and hedonism, often the root cause for the loss of common sense, but rather an early morning wake-up. With blurry eyes and a mind still dreaming I wandered from bed to bar; ate an omelette then outside to the jeep for my day safari in Matopos National Park.
As the jeep wound its way down dusty side roads with an ever-changing urban to wild landscape a grey cloud slowly settled over me. At first it was more a mental itch but that itch would grow.
We have all lost our wallets. It’s in that initial moment when you slap your pockets, rustle through whatever bag you may have, do a deeper dive into clothing crevasses, check sleeves, hat, and basically any garment. You cling to the hope that maybe, just maybe, you were not as stupid as you are about to realize you are.
My personal fondling lasted a while…I can be stubborn.
Eventually it dawned on me as we passed through the gates that my day at Matopos was going to be mentally overcast; one riddled with anxiety. My money belt was not secure around my waist. Flickering in the back of my mind like an old memory, the one’s you would rather forget, was the image of my money belt casually resting on its buckle next to a white plate containing the remnants of a mornings egg breakfast.
We were a couple of hours away so I couldn’t go back; nor could I ask for the jeep to do a u-turn. “Sorry guys, I am a dumb-ass who left my most important papers on the bar…do you mind if I ruin your day as well and we all head back there so I can feel better.” No, that wasn’t going to happen.
I sunk inside myself and became the quiet guy in the corner, counting the hours till we departed the park and headed back. One trail I wasn’t about to travel was the “what if” trail. I just put that worst scenario out of my mind and when a zebra trotted by followed fairly closely by a rhino, some semblance of calm wrapped me up in a protective cocoon.
Matopos offered its fair share of wildlife. Within minutes of arriving we had seen waterbuck, baboons, elk, kudu, and a family of giraffe; Mum, dad, and a young one.
The parks main attraction though is the 6000 year old cave paintings sketched by the San people; otherwise known as the Kalahari Bushmen.
Sitting outside the caves, on the crest of a perfectly smooth and massive boulder I became more contemplative. Just looking out over the park made me feel at ease; it was a gorgeous sight. Matopos has an unusual landscape. Unlike any other park I have been to. Almost a moonscape topography yet with trees and water.
The other big attraction at Matopos is the critically endangered Black Rhino. Only called black because the other rhino to which it is compared is the White Rhino and this name has nothing to do with color.
Something got lost in translation.
Early Dutch explorers noticed the wide mouth on this species of rhino and described it as such. The translation to English became “white” as it sounded similar but lacked any kind of similarity in definition. It caught on though and has stuck.
Seeing the rhinos in the flesh is an amazing spectacle. They are like trotting tanks; covered in armor. As big as they are though, they move with grace. They seem to glide as they maneuver through the knee-length grass.
No-one knew of my dilemma; I am guessing they thought I was just the quiet shy type but as we left the park and headed back towards Bulawayo the excitement was too much and I felt the need to explain myself.
The driver seemed less than concerned and for an extra half hour we circled the outskirts of town as he attempted to find his boss’s new house.
He had to drop a package off….arrrgghhh!
At 6:30 PM I got back to Hitch-Haven and bolted through the front door and into the bar. The manager looked at me. He must have sensed my urgency and I found out later the prank he had planned fell by the wayside as he recognized the anguish in my eyes.
Locked up, safe and sound, was my well-worn brown leather money belt. He had taken care of it during the day and now that evening was upon us he handed it over like a sacrificial offering.
I am not sure I have ever breathed a sigh of relief that intense. It was a sigh built up over the course of an entire anxiety ridden day. To say I was a happy man in that moment would be an understatement…lesson learned that’s for sure.