There is a book I read many years ago entitled, "The Crime of Living CAUTIOUSLY" by Luci Shaw, which gabbed my attention and filled me with a longing to live courageously not cautiously. Since reading that little book much has changed in my life. I still battle between cautious living verses courageous living but little by little I swing towards the courageous life. I live in Gabon, some have called it "Earth's Last Eden". For those of us who live here life isn't so "Eden-like", in fact one has to travel far and wide with much expense to find this "Last Eden". So four of us friends set out to find this Eden we have heard so much about and discover it for ourselves, in living color not glossy magazine images or billboards posted around the capital.
We bought knock-off Converse "Chuck Taylor" shoes in the three colors of Gabon's flag... Leanne - blue, Lisa - yellow, me - green, and Hannah - white (white isn't actually in the flag but it is the ultimate back-drop). We planned to not plan our journey knowing that here in Gabon it is quite difficult to make advance plans. None of us had ever done this before but we know the language (sort of) and have the old church network to fall back on should we run into challenges. Our loose plan was to follow the coastline south-ward. Our goal was simple, to see the Gabon of glossy images and find elephants and hippos and monkeys... oh my! We knew taking the tourist route would be way over our budget so we thought we'd just piece together our very own path and use non-tourist methods.
We decided to have a meeting together just before our trip to discuss things such as expectations and the like. I have gone on vacation with close friends before and found that vacation can be stressful if the participants have differing ideas of what should happen during said vacation. This meeting was to avoid such frustrations and help us to communicate well. So we each shared our hopes and dreams for the next nine days. We packed lightly with travel pillows and snacks to make meals on the go should the need arise. We also carried an enormous pepper spray can within easy reach... just in case... We had a first aide kit and super glue. We were pretty much ready for anything!
Steve dropped us off at Port Mole where we had the day before purchased our VIP first class tickets aboard our first sea vessel to take us from Libreville to Port Gentil. We were filled with nervous excitement and had our bags checked and waited in a concrete slab holding area in plastic chairs labeled VIP. We sat, and sat and sat. By the time we were ready to climb aboard the boat it was two hours late. C'est la vie! Our boat was a white double decker with nice seats and tables and even a flat screen tv up front. We should have known things were taking an unexpected turn as the boat attendants were handing out complimentary sick-sacks by the dozens. The vomiting began just as we pulled out of port. There was as small area outside the upper deck to sit and have the wind in our hair and see the stars and lights of the land twinkle into the distance as we sped onto Port Gentil. Three out of the four traveling chucks sadly became the traveling up-chucks. And a few of us were spewed with the vomit of another traveling companion upwind from us on the deck. It was the most vomitous voyage of my life to date. I will spare you the details of the ship's employees morphed into "vomit nazis" insisting on the correct way to vomit while one is in the process of vomiting.
We finally reached Port Gentil a little worse for the wear. Fortunately a friend from Port Gentil was there waiting for us and wisked us away to a beautiful home. We stayed for a few days in Port Gentil taking in the sights and enjoying a white sandy beach next to the clearest blue sea I have ever seen. Our host, Rod, was supremely helpful and gave us much needed contacts to the next phase of our travels. We quickly realized we would not be able to go all the way to the southern end of the country as our limited funds would run out. So we called and found we could stay a night in Omboue and then onto the Louango Lodge for a few nights and have a boat safari to see the sights we set out to see.
We had an amazing adventure and reached our goal of seeing the eden of the glossy images and saw elephants and hippos and monkeys oh my! We laid out on a gently swaying dock under a blanket of stars and talked and sang together. We had a picnic in a remote lodge while watching an elephant graze grass across a river with the clear blue sky stretched to the heavens. We battled the dreaded tsetse fly and kayaked to a crocodile isle where we saw croc prints in the sand of an enormous croc who could swallow us whole without looking the worse for the wear! We bought cheap googles and watched fish dart about and swam with a stingray in the clearest sea. We were treated like royalty at peasant prices. We felt our Father in heaven was displaying His creation in living color, sound, and scent and far exceeding our expectations.
"The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars..." Jack Kerouac
We took 7 boats in 9 days and I got to spend time with fabulous women who are creative and smart and funny and are mad to live and talk and be saved and... well... you get the idea! It was not a time to live cautiously but courageously. Luci Shaw would be so proud... Many thanks to the Traveling Chucks: Leanne Barnard, Hannah Trosen, and Lisa Nicky! Hip, Hip, Hooray!