Tue, January 11, 2011 at 11:05
AFRICA BUG. I was born and raised in the foothills of the Magaliesburg Mountains in South Africa. And while I am African, and have spend years working and living in the tourism industry throughout the continent, I am still subject to a version of the Africa bug.
Over the holidays, I spent some time in the Greater Kruger area and I was reminded of my family's trips there. Every year, my family would spend a week in the Kruger National Park. Our Volkswagon Kombi was retro-fitted with a benches, cupboards, luggage racks and curtains. The kids in our family were strewn out on the various benches. My older sister slept on the bench between the drivers seat and back seat. My big brother slept on the back bench underneath the pre-cut bundles of firewood for the braii. I slept behind him in the luggage compartment on the tops of the engine. And my parents slept in a bungalow so the whole family could use the facilities and enjoy dinners together on its verandah. The cupboards housed field glasses as well as bird, mammal and tree books and other game viewing paraphernalia. Breakfast was enjoyed in the van next to a watering hole after waiting in line (usually first) to leave the camp on game drive, when the gates opened in the morning. The African bush is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. At once breathtakingly beautiful, terrifying, the epitome of perfect harmony, yet senselessly cruel at times and always a sensory overload.
These annual trips produced some of my fondest memories. I clearly remember the hilarious face my sister made when my parents made us take terribly bitter chloroquine malaria pills. At the time they were still effective in preventing malaria. The bitter tablets didn’t protect me against "the bug" though; it must have been during these early years of my life that it bit me and it could only have happened during our annual visits to the Kruger. At the time I didn’t show any symptoms. When I reached adulthood and the continent re-opened for South Africans to travel, the symptoms took hold and it has become much more severe since then, probably due to repeated exposure.
Thirteen years ago I gave up my freshly started career in Urban Planning to be in the African bush more regularly; eight years ago I left my home country to be there permanently. Times and circumstances change and my home base in now in Pretoria. I count the days until I set off for the bush again. Once I get there, I’ll be able to forget about "the bug" I caught all those years ago and the symptoms will be masked by bliss until I have to leave again. Visitors from other continents call it the Africa bug and once it’s bitten you, you’ll have the symptoms for life. There is no medication that can prevent it and the only treatment is to visit again.