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Sharing Inzalo moments through an African Companion….......

This is a story about Africa. Africa that brings joy to people. Even if they have never seen her or experienced her moments.

It all started with an elephant. Charles (fellow guide) and I set out one spring morning on foot. We walked east along the southern slope of the Sterksroom river towards what we call, deep crossing. There is a gorge heading south which we both enjoyed exploring. We made our way down the slope. As we got to the edge of the open clearing on the bank of the Sterkstroom river, Charles clicked his finger and pointed to the Silver Cluster leaf thicket just east of the clearing. We both stood dead still, listening. I looked up and saw a flock of Oxpeckers flying out of the thicket. This is generally a sign indicating the possible presence of large game. Rhino, I thought at first…then we heard the soft rumble and the breaking of branches. “Elephant,” Charles whispered. I nodded and smiled.

We crossed over the little stream that flows form the gorge into the Sterkstroom river, heading back up the slope towards the thicket where we heard the elephant feeding. If we stayed on higher ground we should be able to see him and have a safety point at the same time. We walked quietly. Scanning down below. Then we saw him. A big bull in the prime of his life. The wind favored us, and he had no idea we were watching him. We sat down on a large flat rock and watched him in silence. Just enjoying the moment with him. He was so peaceful. Just going about his normal day.

He broke of a long branch from the tree and we watched how he rolled the branch over his molars. Stripping the outer bark and juicy cambium of the branch, eventually dropping the stripped branch on the ground next to him.

“That would make a cool walking stick, Gerhard” Charles remarked. He knew well enough how I hated carrying a rifle and that I would be way more comfortable with a walking stick. Well eventually the elephant moved on and I made my way down to collect the branch that he dropped. Charles was right. It was the perfect walking stick!

I sanded the branch down and gave it some wood oil. On the top area where it broke off from the tree I engraved the word, “Rafiki.” It means “a companion” in the Swahili language.

Months later a guest at Inzalo, Kim told me about a friend of hers in Scotland. Kim said he loved to hike but he had a walking difficulty and always must walk with a walking stick. She added that his biggest dream was to see Africa. However, because of his medical condition, doctors have always advised against such a journey.

That night at dinner I told Priscilla about the young man in Scotland. She looked at me and said: “Why don’t you send Africa to him?” “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well, you can give him Rafiki and that way he will have a companion from Africa” she said with a smile. I kissed her on the forehead. “Damn, she is clever” I thought.

On the morning of Kim’s check out, I gave Rafiki to her and asked her to give it to her friend. And so Rafiki’s journey to Scotland started. Months passed. And then one morning I received word from Kim. Rafiki made it to Scotland. And there was proof. Photos of a smiling young man with his Rafiki. His African companion.

And so Africa touched the life of a man who has never seen her. It gives me great pleasure to know Rafiki is there with him every time he hikes. I truly hope that he will one day get his chance to walk on African soil and feel her drumming in his veins.

He and Rafiki.

Rafiki on his first walk in Scotland


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