It was serene all right, and I felt pretty damn serene myself. But that’s not why I venture out to the wild. That's not why I contemplate the Luangwa river in Zambia, and it’s not why I have walked endless miles across many rich teeming landscapes, or why I have made pilgrimages to the world’s wild places.
I’m not seeking serenity: I’m seeking life. Serenity, when it comes, is a by-product: welcome enough, but hardly the point of the journey. Perhaps an unconscious self-healing urge drives me to the wild world to find this much-needed, this medicinal serenity, but it doesn’t seem that way to me.
Besides, sometimes the wild world is far more stressful than anything that happens in the press boxes of the sporting world. I get regular nightmares about lions after one close encounter too many. I have been ridiculously close to bears; I have been in a tiny open boat with a humpback whale a few feet away, the tail flukes making that great dripping Y in the sky above my head.
But serenity is there and part of it and good: sundown in the Luangwa Valley, the elephants moving into the river to drink, the dusk cries of the water dikkop and African fish eagle, the awaking frogs, the spine-tingling whoop of hyena, the distant crump of lion: give me one more Mosi beer and I’ll sit there until I can no longer see the bottle before my lips.
Serenity is a kind of completion to those of us who do exciting and stressful jobs. But the wild world offers a completion to all of us who, of necessity, have our beings in the tame world. We seek a wilder form of existence without being fully aware that we are doing so.
Walking in the country, with and without dogs, is the most popular leisure activity in the country. We move out to the suburbs, we spend weekends in the country, we garden, we fish, we spend holidays by the sea: we need the wild world because it’s what we evolved for and where we evolved to do so. City and civilisation are a frighteningly recent development and our secret selves are in constant revolt against it, needing the meaning, the challenge and the serenity of the wild world.
People ask: what do you like best, sport or wildlife? I love sport and I love writing about sport, because it’s a wonderful way of writing about humanity. But it’s not enough: not because sport is not enough, but because humanity is not enough. And if sport were abolished tomorrow, I expect I’d find another way of writing about humanity. But if wildlife were abolished tomorrow - alas, a far more likely scenario - then I wouldn’t want to live.
Hardeep Seeks Serenity is on Radio 4 from Monday to Friday this week at 1.45pm