By truck, foot and canoe

Electronic updates are rare due to the vagaries of wifi, and reading back over posts reminds me how much I have seen. But this post is special. The old song goes “Regrets, I’ve had a few”; but in the last week or so I can truly say “Memories, I’ve had many”. But where to start?
Well, let’s start with Andy. A guide of both licensed game hunters and photo tourists. A man who has, in his words, had a charging rhino stop within inches of his stomach, and survived his game hunting clients shooting at him. A hugely knowledgable guy who displayed psychopathic tendencies. But he led us on foot through Matobo NP in search of rhino. Using all his skills including tasting dung to establish when the rhino had passed and it’s sex, he brought us within ten metres of a white rhino. Although Andy said it was placid, being stared down by a rhino raised emotions of both joy but mostly fear!

White rhino
White rhino

After an Andy prepared lunch that he hadn’t strangled with his own hands, he took us to a small village where the Headman regaled us with a story of when he once got trapped whilst trying to release a leopard from a trap set by poachers. The village children then entertained us with dances. The children also took pleasure in looking at photos of our trip including those of penguins (not often seen in Zimbabwe), though I think my altruistic self derived greater pleasure in showing them.

Village children (courtesy of Laura Grigjgs)
Village children (courtesy of Laura Grigg)

The following day we travelled to Hwange NP where we were joined by an unexpected visitor for dinner. During the group leader’s daily briefing a cry of cheetah went up. Rather than scatter, the ‘hunt’ began. Led by our cook, Mash, we tracked what turned out to be a leopard through the campsite with only our head torches and the weakest amongst us for protection. Sadly, no cameras were involved but a big cat in camp less the ten metres away…wow! Then, after this impromptu ‘hunt’, we went on a formal night drive where elephants, kudu, and others were spotted.
From here, Victoria Falls beckoned and an improvised ‘waterproof’ camera bag served me well. This was then followed by a sunset ‘booze’ cruise, dinner, and late night (11pm) bar. This was the first time the group, numbers swollen by new arrivals, had partied. Gin, gin as they say. Our UN representation now grow with two more Brits, a Brazilian, Russian, and Kiwi (or Aussie Lite). Sadly though, with new arrivals come early leavers, and two new friends will now have to be met in London or elsewhere.
Off to Zambia (country number five) we set, and the opposite view of the Vic Falls didn’t disappoint. Sadly, my camera cover did, and the camera body then spent two days covered in rice!
The mighty Zambezi river, the fourth longest in Africa and home to hippos and crocs…and canoes. After our trip on the mokoros in the Delta, I was apprehensive to say the least. But this time Canadian canoes were the transport of choice. Seated in a three-person canoe with Ross (tent companion and damned fine fellow) and the second canoe guide, CB (real name Cuthbert but apparently tourists struggle with this), we set off at the back. Within minutes, one of the canoes was raised by a submerged hippo, with us riding the resultant surf.
Being the rearguard often means you miss things as animals sometime scatter before you get there. And Ross and I also discovered the CB’s job was to run as cover for the other canoes. That meant when something came up that looked potentially threatening, we were the meat in the sandwich. But the reward of bringing up the rear was something that I’ll never forget. When approaching a family of elephants that want to cross a river, there is only one protocol…the elephants decide who goes first. This family allowed us right of passage before stepping off the bank to cross in line. With our fellow canoeists stopped ahead to look back, CB anchored the brakes turning our canoe alongside these majestic animals. Ross and I were in awe…nothing had prepared me for this moment and I struggle to see how this will be bettered in the next 41 days. There were other encounters whilst camping for two nights on the river, but that was special.

Elephant crossing (courtesy of Lorian Glatiotis)
Elephant crossing (courtesy of Lorian Glatiotis)

Speaking of camping on the river, with Zambia on one side and Zimbabwe on the other, it’s important not to stop on the wrong bank. We were caught and I was, for a short time, an illegal immigrant!

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