Africa. Thank you for the memories.

Always have lily pads.

Our team in the background – Ryan, me, Kendall, Dean and Tiaan. The crazy Put Footer in the foreground? No idea.

I have always been driven to make memories. My life has been made up of a series of ‘lily pads.’ ‘Lily pads?’ you ask. Lily pads represent little events or things I plan (or take up) to ensure there is always something to look forward to. My lily pads float strategically between the humdrum of everyday life. They ensure a new memory-making moment is just a hop away. I seldom turn down an opportunity, and now more than ever, I am grateful for that. For the stockpile in my memory bank.

No one can restrict the freedom of our minds. Even now, amidst this piece of unscripted history where the world’s freedom has been severely restricted, we still have our thoughts. In our minds, we can wander freely, far and wide. And our memories populate our minds like a colourfully illustrated storybook. Today, I chose to flip back the pages to The Put Foot Rally 2013, where myself, my husband, brother-in-law, sister-in-law and another good mate, traveled Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, and Malawi on a charity drive. Africa is truly a continent like no other. Below is an article I wrote that was published in The Daily News. It recounts this African experience…

Me and Ryan being photographed for the Daily News a few days before departing.

The Put Foot Rally

The road goes on forever. The party never ends.

There he stood. That silly grin. Face ablaze with delight and enthusiasm. My husband, that I love, waiting for my reply.

‘Oh, dear God,’ I thought. Literally. This was not blasphemy. I was indeed looking for some divine intervention. Ultimately it did arrive, but not in the form I was requesting at that point.

The truth of the matter is that my husband and I are polar opposites in many respects. This is what makes us work. I’m a bit of a homebody, while he suffers from a permanent case of FOMO. This helps us strike a comfortable balance of relaxation and late-night socialising. Without me, he’d be dead, and without him, I’d be about as exciting as the annual budget speech.

‘How lucky are we? Can you believe Dean managed to organise our entries?’ he asked. Silly grin still firmly in place. I did choose to marry him.

‘Wow, that’s awesome,’ came my unconvincing reply.

Inside I was quaking. The Put Foot Rally was something he and I had bandied about, but I honestly didn’t believe he’d go through with it. Camping for weeks? Driving through deep, dark Africa? 8 000 kilometres in 18 days? The first three things that flashed through my mind (after fear and nausea) were hot baths, my fluffy white gown, and toilets.

‘Isn’t it going to be cold?’

‘Yes! Isn’t that exciting? We can have a bonfire every night.’ Like I said – yin and yang.

However, bonfires have always been a favourite of mine, and just then, a slight spark ignited my inner child. Maybe, just maybe, I could do this thing.

And so it happened. We embarked on ‘THE GREATEST SOCIAL RALLY ON THE FACE OF THE EARTH.’ Entries were sold out in 5 days and 5 times over, so we were truly privileged.

Ryan, Tiaan and Dean at Blyde River Canyon after setting off in Cape Town.

Starting in Cape Town with 60 other teams, four members of Team Barons headed off in a Volkswagen California Bus with a camping trailer in tow. I opted for the Paris Hilton version, flying into Namibia a few days to meet them. I arrived on the day of the first ‘Out of Africa’ themed Checkpoint Party. Oh, and what a party it was. With DJ Wags on the decks, we danced under the stars just outside the Southern Gates of Etosha National Park, Namibia.

It was messy but was the icebreaker needed to bond with the other teams. And then, there was Mango, the campsite’s resident mongoose. This slinky slip of cuteness scurried into my arms, snuggling for a good half hour from the cold. A definite highlight for me. I was in Africa and loving it.

The next morning resembled a scene from the movie The Hangover. A human in a chicken suit slumped fast asleep in the middle of the campsite. There was a girl in a wedding dress dancing on the roof of a car. And Anders from Sweden was sporting just his underpants, clutching a beer. It was only 6h30 am. We packed up and left – quickly.

The chicken suit. Says it all.

And so our adventure continued. Another night in Namibia at hippie-owned Ngepi Camp with a toilet designed like a throne overlooking the Kavango River. Then through to Northern Botswana where we spent some time at Nxamaseri Island Lodge situated at the beginning of the Okavango Delta. Ryan caught his first Tiger Fish, as we slowly cruised the river with a fiery-red Botswana sunset as our backdrop. Soul-stirring.

The Caprivi Strip was thick with elephant herds as we made our way to the Zambian border. Be prepared to pay royally. This border is not shy to charge for everything real and imagined. But once through, Zambia is as delightfully charming as its people. Potholes are part of the landscape, and in keeping with The Put Foot Rally spirit, we stopped twice to help locals change burst tyres. Arriving in the dark to our campsites was almost always a guarantee. Still, setting up camp eventually became so routine we could have done it with our eye closed.

It was in Zambia that we had the privilege of doing the School Shoe Drop for which all the funds had been raised. We were police escorted as our wildly quirky and colourful convoy of 60 teams made its way towards the school. Roadside waving and cheering were our constant companions as locals encouraged us on our way. The Put Foot Rally is well known for its excellent work, and ‘putting shoes on feet.’ This moving experience is one that every ‘Put Footer’ will relay to their grandchildren one day. The children’s smiles and laughter will live forever within me.

Victoria Falls. Prepare to get soaked!

We gleefully ticked the full Zambian tourist list, danced at the next ‘Royal Banquet’ Checkpoint party, and then headed for Malawi a few days later.

Lake Malawi. My other favourite place in Africa. We camped right beside the lake. I tried cocking my head to the right, then the left, only stopping short of a headstand, and still, I couldn’t see this lake as anything other than a sea. And that was not the best part – the people were.

Heading towards the ablutions one evening, I muttered, ‘Ouch!’ as I stood on a thorn. ‘No! You must not be sad in my country.’ A man sweeping the campsite had raced to my side and placed a gentle hand on my shoulder. Known as some of the nicest people in the world, the Malawians love with their whole heart. I was truly sad to leave.

My Paris Hilton Put Foot Rally saw me flying out of Lusaka while the rest of my team continued the long trip back home. And this was not without hiccups. They got stuck in the Botswana Salt Pans needing to be rescued…but that’s a whole other story on its own.

My team mates in Botswana – stuck in the Salt Pans.

‘Welcome back home,’ said the stern face sitting at the South African border control. I don’t think she meant it. I might have taken the Paris Hilton fly-in package, but that was where the resemblance ended. No make-up, mud-stained boots, unwashed hair, grass bangles from every country I’d visited, and 7-day-in-a-row denims. Not the fluffy white gown, bubble-bath lass I used to be. I was changed.

I smiled. ‘So happy to be back.’

The Put Foot Rally had not been a holiday, it had been an adventure. Little had I known that when first asking for God’s intervention, that he had indeed been listening. I had been handed one of my most precious life experiences. What a privilege.

I was beyond excited to return to Africa 4 years later, when we ventured to Kenya – the Masai Mara. Again, the people were the highlight. Warm, tender, and endearing. The love for their country and its wildlife is clear. When you breathe Kenya in, you never want to breathe out again.

Africa, thank you for the memories. I appreciate you now more than ever!

Remember, you can always travel in your mind. Stay strong, stay safe everyone. Before you know it, we’ll be coddiwompling again and making new memories in a healed world.

Let’s just coddiwomple

x Keryn