I once read that hartebeest (or rather the tribe Ancelaphinae) are among the most evolutionarily derived bovids. I don’t really know if it’s true (subsequent investigations into bovid phylogenies make me think I’m not too crazy for remembering this bit of trivia) but I do know that they are remarkable animals blessed with goofy long face, an efficient loping gait, and remarkable hooked horns. In watching the males fight, they jostle for a lower position, often resting their metacarpals in the mud to give themselves better leverage. They then force themselves into their opponents and lock those hooked horns in a violent embrace. It’s loud and it’s raw
These two particular male Jackson’s hartebeest in Uganda’s Murchison Falls National Park fought for well over 5 minutes, and the exhaustion was evident in their heavy breathing fatigued charges.
This trek was only meant to be a 3 hour jaunt, but I didn’t curl up in my sleeping bag until 2 am. Earlier that afternoon, I had arrived in New Zealand’s Aoraki National Park and was looking to stretch my legs in the area around my basecamp before heading out on what I thought would be some more ambitious treks in the following days. Having arrived on the South Island a few days earlier, the chill of the southern hemisphere late winter was new and refreshing. Layered up in my down, I headed on a quick sunset hike to some nearby glacial lakes. As the last of the rosy hues reflected off the snowy mountain peaks, I donned my headlight and made my way back towards my tent. As the red sky turned dark, though, my pace slowed to a near crawl. The heavens over the mountains were lit up with more stars than I knew existed. The combination of crisp mountain air, a novel environment, a stunning sunset, a sense of freedom, and an unimaginable stellarscape led me to a near a near euphoric bliss. We all experience these moments when circumstance meets mindset and we are able to appreciate the beauty around us. Often, it takes a grand landscape to jar me into the spectacular reality, but on my best days, it can be experienced through intentional focus on surroundings and experiences. On this symbolic day of thoughtful self-improvement, I aspire to appreciate and foster for others more moments of bliss in nature, community, and self. I hope that 2022 will be a more blissful year for everyone.