Seventy five kilometers of red pot-holed dirt roads meandering through the African bush deliver us from the Mana Pools National Park and on to equally un-trafficked tar-seal; several hours later we make our return to the city limits of Kariba.
My plan from here is to continue my travels west to the Okavango Delta in the center of Botswana. In between this destination and where I am now stands one of the great natural wonders of the world, the adrenaline based community that sprang up in its mist, and the “Big Tree” upon which the famous explorer and first man to set eyes on the largest waterfall in world, inscribed his name in November of 1855.
My journey to Victoria Falls from Kariba I captured in my notes; written under both the sun’s glaring light and moon’s soft luminescence.
I’m obviously too hooked on travel through India as I feel once again a pang of disappointment upon booking my passage on the Sea Horse bound for Mlibizi. It is not the local vessel I had anticipated but instead a well organized, clean, touristy ship with water, meals, and chairs that convert into beds. The only locals on board are the waiters who attend to the needs of the very expectant Europeans. One lady strips to her bikini, bright purple, dons her gold rimmed sunglasses and begins the process of bronzing like this crossing was a Carnival Cruise ship somewhere in the Caribbean. After satisfying herself that she had become the center of attention to all other lake faring passengers she wrapped herself up in a sarong, whispered to the waiter, returned to her covered chair and waited for the arrival of her iced Castle beer. In twenty-one hours we will dock.
I have learned that every group has one of these people so to be able to identify the person from the outset was advantageous even though I didn’t realize it at the time. The journey across the lake was an experience and left an impression with me; just how spectacular nature can be.
The sunset and rise over the lake has made this crossing of Lake Kariba one of the most gorgeous spectacles Africa has provided me so far. With it’s petrified trees protruding above the water surface, to the many elephants and antelopes spotted on the shore. to the melting sunset, the blood red rise of the moon (a moon rise unlike any I have ever seen before), to the dazzling night sky that always intrigues me. I slept outside last night on the forward deck, as did a few others, and fell under the spell of the stars as they sent me into a fitful and comfortable sleep.
On waking, the sky was a cloudless pale blue and you can feel the heat intensify as every minute passes. Both Zambian and Zimbabwe shorelines are a lot closer now as the lake narrows and again I feel another pang of disappointment; the experience is coming to an end as we will be docking in one hour.
Lake Kariba was created in the 1950’s to provide electricity to Zambia and Zimbabwe. A dam was built in the Zambezi River and the lake formed behind it submerging the valley and destroying the villages of its inhabitants; the Tonga people. Operation Noah was put into place to save the animals who became stranded on the newly formed Kariba Islands. Trees are now petrified and in many places protrude above the lakes surface; a dry dead symbol of the life that once flourished in a valley now under the water line.
Leaving the confines of the ship I was fortunate enough to have a friendly encounter with a Scottish Missionary and her niece. The two of them offered me a ride onward to Victoria Falls as the chaos for buses, I think, appeared daunting and overwhelming to them.
They didn’t want to leave me having to deal with that.
I was dropped off in the center of Vic Falls, right next to the Mac Sadza’s cafe. To me it seemed to be teeming with life but apparently this is as slow as things got all year round. Hitch-haven hostel was my destination now and the 1km walk took over an hour and was not without incident.
The kind of incident that can only happen in Africa…