Elephants, mountains and Baobab trees all have something very particular in common: they elicit a feeling of calm and respect, quietly and steadfastly towering above their surroundings, giving off an aura of wisdom and connectedness. They evoke in us a sense of awareness of the vastness of time, and force us to accept the temporary nature of our own lives. Perspective is easier to gain in the presence of any one of them.
They can also all be found in close proximity to one another in northern Tanzania, where the mighty Kilimanjaro and his little sister, Mount Meru, stand firmly in the grassy plains, which span for miles around them, punctuated by Baobab trees and happy elephants. We had the privilege of staying with a friend in Arusha, in a lovely home with a spectacular view of Mount Meru.
We took a trip to nearby Tarengire National Park, home to the largest natural concentration of elephants per square kilometer in the world, and were lucky to see over 100 of them in one day.
Of course we also saw other animals too; giraffe, zebra, antelope and warthog, all roaming freely in the yellow grass, not constrained by fences or borders; quite different from the game parks back home in this regard.
And the Baobabs, the kings of the plains, some of them still bearing the scars of sticks that had been driven into their bark to provide footholds for the Masai people to collect honey from their boughs years ago when they had lived in the area; some of them wounded by passing elephant herds; others littered by the white mess of vultures that make their nests in their branches. All of them robust and impressive, but also slightly resembling overweight Rastafarians, standing around on the beach.
Another day trip, this time to Moshi, gave us a spectacular view of the much revered Mount Kilimanjaro, which often tends to hide its peak above the clouds. The sight of it is magnetic, and its size never ceases to impress, as it looms through the fog, emerging sporadically throughout the day. Our friend, having climbed it recently, described the respect she had gained for the mountain for having made the treacherous journey to its summit. I felt it just from being near to it; just from looking up at it.
A few days later, as I flew back over the northern part of the country on my departing flight from Tanzania, I caught another view of the mighty giant in its solitude above the clouds. After three weeks in Tanzania, and with my trip to Malaysia only days away, I felt I had managed to gain significant perspective, and a solid sense of calm, enhanced most excellently by my having been closer to giants in Tanzania.