By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
As our time in Africa slowly winds down to a close, I find myself thinking about all the incredible experiences we've had here. Some of these times include coming face to face with lions, elephants, rhinos, or delving into the food, cultures, and languages that make up this vast continent. But those are the expected treasures of Africa, the ones you see in brochures, or on instagram, and online travel articles.
Today I'm going to talk about my favorite experiences that came as unexpected surprises, things that I never expected or even dreamed of happening. And even though all of my experiences here have been profound, and some even life-changing, it's the little things that sometimes hit home the hardest. The ones you don't see coming.
Lunch With a Sotho Cowboy
We were in Lesotho, down a lovely country backroad surrounded by gorges cut by rivers through the mountains, rocky pasturelands, and little stone houses built into the landscape like they had always been there.
We pulled over at one of these "abandoned" houses for a lunch break, and while we were eating, a Sotho cowboy trotted up to us on his horse. I immediately thought, "Oh no, maybe this is his home and we're intruding on his land." But he came right up to us with a big smile and got off his horse to shake hands with us. We offered him some of our lunch which included bread and cheese, and hard boiled eggs. He greatly appreciated the food, and even though he couldn't speak English, he managed to offer us his horse in exchange for our motorcycle.
Of course, we jokingly agreed! I got on his horse, we snapped some pictures, while he admired our motorcycle. Finally, we went back to our respective beasts of burden, and he went on his way. It was a simple, but heart-warming moment.
The Adventure Motorcyclists of South Africa
When we first purchased our KTM 1190 back in 2014, we had one non-motorcycle friend who was familiar with the brand. Everyone else had never heard of it.
Since then, KTM has come a long way in popularity in the States, but it has always been popular in South Africa. In fact, the country has a robust and vibrant adventure motorcycle community of all brands, and many South Africans love to take these bikes on their thrilling backroads where they can really put a stamp of approval on the "adventure" motorcycle name.
I remember we were staying at one campground in Oudtshoorn and I kid you not, ten other KTMs were parked next to ours in the parking lot. And that was just the KTMs. You can find BMWs all across South Africa, KLRs, and any other two wheeled vehicle that likes the dirt. We met so many incredible adventure motorcyclists there, and the generosity these people showed us simply cannot be compared. I had been apprehensive about going to a new continent and a new country where I didn't know anyone, but the fellow adventure motorcyclists of South Africa made me feel right at home. And I will be forever grateful.
Carpooling with a Himba Woman
I had always wanted to meet the Himba people of Namibia, who are famous for their traditional lifestyle and the ochre resin the women coat on their hair and body. While the monoshock of our bike was being fixed, we rented a car to explore the country, which turned out to be very fortunate to have an extra seat when we came across a Himba village and they asked if we could drive one of their women and her newborn baby to another village near Etosha National Park. Of course we said yes!
It was about a three hour drive, and even though we couldn't speak each other's languages, we had lots of fun listening to the Namibian music CD that had been left in the car. I would coo at the baby boy who was swaddled in blankets, and we even spotted some giraffes beside the road. Because the Himba women take "smoke baths", she filled our car with the smokey perfumes of her clothes, and it's a smell that I will always remember fondly.
Finally, we reached the woman's camp, and as her family crowded around the baby, meeting the newborn for the first time, we waved our goodbyes. And were thrilled at what an incredible experience that was.
The Firefly Christmas Lights of Zambia
It was the day after Christmas, and we were traveling through Zambia with an American motorcycle friend, Emiliano. We had pitched our tents at a wild camping spot high up in the mountains, and being the fantasy video game nerds that we all are, we decided to watch an episode of the Witcher (a show based on the video game and books) that we had downloaded on our phones. Emiliano was in his separate tent, but we pressed play at the same time so that we'd be watching it "together".
The sun had just set, and the forest of the many hills and mountains came alive in the sound of buzzing insects. And then about halfway through the episode, as we were just starting to immerse ourselves in the fantasy world on our tiny screens, I noticed something glowing outside. And then I saw a huge yellow light float over our tent, hovering around like a fairy. It was so bright, it made shadows around it like a lantern.
And there were more, a lot more. We all got our our tents to admire to magical light show of thousands upon thousands of these fireflies illuminating the hills in a twinkling ballet. And I realized that we didn't need a Netflix show to transport us to a fantasy world. We were already there.
East African Home Away from Home During the Pandemic
The pandemic was an unexpected surprise in the worst possible way. But as the people of Uganda and Kenya opened their arms to us and allowed us to stay in their home during this time of upheaval and the unknown, it was a show of the true character of Africa - one of kindness and hospitality even when facing difficulty. While many countries closed their borders and went under some form of lockdown, Uganda allowed us to stay beyond our visa limits without any problem. And Kenya has also been generous by allowing foreigners who present recent negative tests to enter and stay up to six months. We couldn't have been luckier.
Moreover, these countries have handled the pandemic extremely well. With limited resources, they have taken crucial measures to keep their case numbers down and make sure their hospitals are not overwhelmed. I've been honored to spend this past year in East Africa, and I will always feel indebted to the people that make this beautiful region of the world feel like a second home to us when we were most in need of a safe and secure place.
Next week, we will be traveling back to Uganda which is where we'll be flying home from. I'm not sure I'll be able to write a blog post next Sunday since we will most likely be on the road at that time. But I'll keep you posted on how things are going once we get there.
Happy Easter, and all the best to everyone.
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