On the ground....again!
On the road… again!
Afghanistan to Zambia
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek
On The Ground….Again!
When the Footloose Forester ventured far afield in his lifelong adventure to seek out the mysteries of nature, he often found himself without food or shelter. Not to worry, that was part of the adventure; and sometimes it came with the job. He did not purposely punish himself by going without food, it was more a case of going without food until he returned to civilization where store-bought or restaurant food was available. Of course, there were always the snacks that went into the backpack, so being hungry was seldom a priority. But when it came to a roof over his head and a bed under his butt--that was a different matter, entirely.
There are enough luxury hotels in cities, even in Africa, to enjoy worldly comforts that are not too far removed from the wilds. An early start in the morning from the comfort of an air-conditioned hotel room; for example, might find you; a few hours later, in the midst of a pride of lions….and protected by the glass windows of a Land Rover. Thus it is not always a case of being entirely exposed to the elements and the proclivities of wild animals. More often, however; the accommodations on the outskirts of small towns and villages in Africa, in Asia, and in the Americas, were quite modest. Still, sleeping in a bed was often preferable to taking your chances by sleeping in the rain; or on a cot in the open desert; or on the ground when you didn’t have a cot. That is not to say that the beds, themselves, in hotel rooms are better than sleeping on the floor, or sleeping outside.
More than once the Footloose Forester chose to sleep on the floor of a hotel room, rather than to endure a long night with an old, sagging mattress; or to be a few degrees cooler on the floor and near the door where a breeze might flow in from the hallway in a sultry hotel in downtown Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. In one large and quite beautiful hotel (from the outside) in Indonesia, he chose to spend the night on the tiles of the adjoining porch because not even the floor inside the room was cool enough for sleeping. At another time, in Pakistan, he chose to pick up his mattress and take it up to the roof where he could sleep under the stars and with a breeze that did not exist in his windowless room. A most extreme fix, however, was called for when he was bitten twice during the night, by a rat in an otherwise pleasant guest house in India. The Footloose Forester took up his mattress and a sheet and spent the rest of the night sleeping on a kitchen table. His traveling companion, whose turn it was to sleep on the floor that night, took no chances of being bitten, so picked up his sleeping bag and spent the night in the cramped back seat of his tiny VW bug.
Being On the road….again! meant being on the ground... again! By choice! Having a backpack or a duffel bag with a blanket or a sleeping bag inside meant that a Footloose Forester bitten by wanderlust could choose where and when he bedded down. He can’t recall everything or everywhere; but the list would include; in alphabetical order: Arizona, Belize, California, Canada, Germany, Haiti, Idaho, Indonesia, Kenya, Lesotho, Mali, Montana, Mauritania, New Jersey, Oregon, Pakistan, Senegal, Switzerland, Texas, Viet Nam, and Washington.
By comparison, sleeping on the ground was more comfortable most of the time. Especially in the desert. Sometimes when we had camp cots and tents while on safari, the Footloose Forester usually elected to sleep on a cot, under the stars. The tents were hot during the day and cold at night, but that was not the main objection. If and when mosquitoes or termites found their way into the tents, there was no easy way to find them in the dark. The confines of the tents made it easier for them to find you. So, sleeping under the stars with mosquito netting over your head was a lot better; more private and more peaceful than listening to someone snoring a foot or so away from you inside a tent.
Where there was deep sand around, sleeping on the ground was at its best. The Footloose Forester always looked for those conditions. Why? Because wriggling until the sand underneath conformed to your hips and shoulders made for conditions that was even better than the narrow, swaying camp cots that had no hip or shoulder depressions. You could roll over as far as you needed to get comfortable; and not worry about being pitched off the cot. Come to think of it, sleeping in sand on the beach was even better than in desert sand. And for an additional reason, as well.
The sound of the surf and of the crashing of waves was a constant reminder that you, the Footloose Forester, were in a place you elected to be, working in a profession that you sought out long ago. There was joy in those experiences; a quiet and unspoken sense of satisfaction that you were in a place where you were truly happy. At such times you would inwardly begin to rejoice with the words of a song you learned in high school….”This is my Father’s world…and to my listening ears…all nature sings and round me rings…the music of the spheres. This is my Father’s world…I rest me in the thought…of rocks and trees…of skies and seas…these wonders His hands hath wrought.”’