As the day comes closer, I grow anxious. I start to worry about what to pack. I make checklists and go over them repeatedly. I start to have dreams about missing the plane or arriving without any batteries for my camera. But I am happy and thrilled to be so close to the Okavango. I read books, I watch photographs by Franz Lanting, I watch BBC shows about the largest wetlands on the planet and I imagine myself right in the heart of it. I try to imagine the feeling of smallness and amazement when faced with such immense nature.
Packing for Africa is not easy. On the one hand, I want to keep it as light as possible. After all, there are weight restrictions on every flight between the air strips I’ll be using, but on the other I must make sure I have everything I need and replacements for it. There are no Wallmarts in the Okavango. On the one hand I’ve been dreaming about this assignment for over a year, but on the other I’ll miss my wife and kids badly. Conflict seems to accompany me everywhere I go. But I keep packing and it makes it more real, it makes it imminent. These bags that I now stuff with all my equipment, will be my only companions through 14 days of travel and adventures. I stop for a while and go over my schedule, my checklist and my documents; everything seems right. Got my visas, got my yellow fever shots, got my malaria pills and permits in order. I make sure I have enough batteries for everything and I weight my equipment once again. I still dream of Africa.
This trip will complete my project “AFRICA: field notes of a traveler” to be published at the end of this year for three great sponsors: Travelwise, Autohaus and District & Co.. The book will include photographs and notes from Cape Town, Serengeti, Maasai Mara, Ngorongoro, Lake Manyara, Victoria Falls, Okavango, Central Kalahari and Sossusvlei.
I’m very excited about this project. Africa gets under your skin and you surprise yourself always wanting more. Always dreaming about going back. But I also feel afraid. Afraid my kids won’t be able to experience all this beauty. Afraid we will destroy a place we have been lucky to enjoy and admire. If we keep behaving like we are, there will be no more rhinos or lions left, there will be no more water left, there will be no more paradise. I am afraid we are going to lose it all for the sake of profit. I want my kids to see Africa and understand our place in the world. I want them to understand we are not the owners but only visitors, and as such we have the responsibility to protect the place that has given us so much and be able to pass it forward in better shape than it was passed down to us.
As I get ready for Africa, I pack not only my gear but also every dream and fear I have. One thing is for sure; no matter what happens, this will be a trip to remember.
To see more images of my journeys in Africa and other trips please visit www.mariodavalos.org