There couldn’t have been a better reason for me to visit Africa than the fact that our evolutionary origin is traced back to that land. This ancient thread, common for each one of us inhabiting this beautiful planet, finally pulled me closer to the windy womb of Tanzanian savannahcountry and its cities. And here, in a series of blogposts, I fondly recollect my experiences of my ‘first return’ to Africa. And this first part is about my arrival in Tanzania and the Kipepeo Beach Village story where I spent the first night listening to the rumbling sea.
Hours of layover between flights, lack of sleep and the immigration formalities at the Dar es Salaam Airport have managed to wreck my excitement for this long-awaited moment of setting my foot on the African soil. It was supposed to be an intense human experience. I have finally reached the land whence we have all come. Even the first visit to Africa is the first return to Africa. There are no tears of joy. Heck, I am barely awake. And I am so hungry that I can swallow a hippo whole. Romanticism is a fossilised thing. Bizarrely fitting, actually, the defeat of poetry by hunger – a primordial emotion – on this prehistoric land.
The cousin and I finally walk out of the air-conditioned Airport to the warm familiarity of the tepid evening air. We get into our taxi and all the space in my head occupied by the throbbing of my feet is finally free and I notice the sky crimsoned by the setting sun. The Africa devotion stirs to life like camphor catching fire. A prayer. I feel the origin of an eventual grand narrative coming to a clear form in the dying light. The intimate restlessness of a romantic observer of all things has returned. Yes; I have returned to Africa.
When the taxi engine turns quiet at the Kipepeo Beach Village, I hear the sea’s tumult, its lunge, the leap, the tumble, the roar. The eternal familiarity, the heartbreaking constancy that the language of the sea is. The Beach Village has gorgeous huts on the shore and a dimly-lit rustic bar-and-restaurant at the far end looks like a little paradise to our tired eyes. We choose a hut facing the sea, leave our luggage in great haste and dash into the bar. We get some beer – Tusker lager – for our parched souls.
There are not many people around and I am grateful for the silence. I walk closer to the sea, that dark rumbling, faintly animalistic ancient thing. It is as if it is telling an ancient but familiar story. But tonight, the story is not just some knowledge fed to the intellect. While listening, my mind does not persevere for reason. The waves crash and crash. I am listening to them telling me how our arboreal ancestors gradually began to walk upright on the savannahs of this very land I am now standing on. My knees tremble.
My knees tremble under the sweet weight of a nostalgia that has finally found some meaning in the present. An ominous thrill. A girlheart, whose romanticism is often ridiculed, is making that ginormous attempt to understand what these lands with so much past – of our own evolutionary origin – are doing to it at this moment. One beat at a time, it relates to the pounding heart of the sea differently tonight. Instead of trying to feel some sort of timelessness, it is humbly learning to work with time, bound by it in this trenchant nostalgia.
I know I can finally afford that luxury, that dream of the quest for belonging. And that this land allows me a singular opportunity to realise that. And there is a whole week ahead of me for this journey, for this exploration. To have something to look forward to, too, is a luxury, I realise. I am ready to leave the sea to her forever rumbling and return to my thatched hut for the night.
A joy has visited. A joy that is pure. A joy that is not relative to sadness.
(To be continued…)