Wild places are less common now, even here in South Africa which has something of a reputation for wilderness and wildlife. We went for a weekend away in the rugged Cederberg which was lovely and remote. But we drove for four hours through heavily managed farmland and towns to get there. When we arrived we had bunk beds, central heating (Cederberg is cold at night) and running water in a new cottage which felt like it was custom built for us. A Bosch dishwasher made cleaning up easy! There were few wild animals to speak of except a few baboons and many birds. Weavers and sunbirds enjoying the river next to the cottage. Everything worked. Orderly and sophisticated. Beautiful, but not wild.
When I was young, even though I was a “city boy”, I had access to a lot of wild places and experienced wildlife at a scale that is uncommon nowadays. Kenya was relatively sparsely populated and undeveloped compared to today. We saw buffalo, giraffe and hyenas around my house, monkeys and chameleons in the gardens and warthogs at school. When I got a little older I could ride my motorbike through a forest and over the range of hills behind our house. There I found wide open space as far as the eyes could see. The rift valley. I used to love that ride and I miss it.
Our family would camp in places so remote we needed to bring our own drinking water, fuel, toilets, tents and food. We would also bring motorbikes on a trailer and after setting up camp next to a river we’d go for long rides through the bush. This felt like freedom from a young age.
Washing in a river, scorpions in our shoes, and waking up to lion footprints through the campsite in the morning. Certainly no electricity. Not so sophisticated. Amazing memories. Wild.
My children may not have such memories. We plan to stay here in “civilised” SA. But we can still go to game parks and show them wild animals in their natural habitat. We can then buy a cappuccino back at the campsite! Perhaps we will be able to show them Kenyan bush – Still pretty vast and wild. I look forward to that.