She rises once more in spectacular fashion over the river in front of our tent. It's our last day in Namibia. It's been an incredible time here. A land of contrasts, a land of beauty, a land of vast openness, a land where we must certainly return. But as for now it's time to move on. Soon we are off, through two borders and driving through the Chobe Game Park in Botswana.
Screech. “What?” says Nicky as I come to a sudden halt. “There, elephant,” I say pointing out the window. A large herd with midget elephant too is on both sides of the road. It's amazing, but while we are enjoying the sighting most of the other cars just fly by. We soon discover why. After snapping the photos we are off. “Eles!” I shout. “Eles!” I shout again…and again…and again. Ok, so that is why people don't stop. There are gazillions of elephant in this area. It's really amazing. They are crossing the road all the time.
However up ahead we notice two vehicles stopped. It can't be elephant, it must be something else. “Wow,” Nicky says pointing off to the left just on the edge of the road, “wild dog!” Or Painted Dog as they are now called. They've made a kill. A large kudu is lying in the road and the wild dog are all over the place. The trees are thick with vultures awaiting their turn. The wild dog are full, judging by their satiated postures and the vultures are hungry. Every now and then the vultures swoop in for a snack and the wild dogs go crazy chasing them.
Soon we are leaving Botswana, which is painless, and entering Zim. Eish! This is the most costly border crossing of all. It's all in U.S. Dollars. Crazy. And I just keep on paying. And of course I need to use cash - dwindling supplies. After about R900 on road taxes and I think I'm done. Only to be met by another dude outside who says all cars need reflector stickers - which they sell…and we need to pay the road toll too. So it's off to another office and another R250. Crazy!
Feeling fleeced we are finally through all the borders and headed to Vic Falls. We have low expectations of Vic Falls Rest Camp, where we are staying. The TripAdvisor reviews we have read have been bleak - “basic”, “poorly maintained” etc. Eish! However, we are pleasantly surprised. I think it's all about expectations and comparisons. We have come from 14 days of tents, outdoor ablutions and toilets, often no electricity, etc. For us this basic hut with communal ablutions is wonderful. Plus there are trees and grass. Aah, how we have come to appreciate the simple things.
After a quick reconnaissance of Vic Falls, which seems to be more modern than when we were here over ten years ago, we settle down for our first night under a real (thatch) roof for several weeks.
I awake. It seems dark. In wonder what time it is. I click the light on my watch. 5:40am. Excellent. The alarm was set for 5:45am. We’re going to Vic Falls today and we want to be there early, not in the heat of the day. By 6:10 am we are at Vic Falls. I think we might be the first people here. Amazing.
The scenery is incredible. As we race from view site to view site we are blown away. What's really amazing is the beautiful rainbow created by the rising sun. Each viewpoint we stop at looks more incredible than the previous one. While the falls are low, the volume of water and the scenery is still truly epic.
“Look there!” Nicky says pointing to people walking along the edge of the waterfall on the Zambia side. We look and see a group of crazy people walking across the top of the falls. It's madness. And then they get into the water. It looks like they could be swept over at any stage. A guy taking photos is literally running one the edge. We are sure he is going to fall. And what's even more crazy is we are planning on doing this tomorrow. It's called Devil's Pool.
At the end of the falls we watch a group way down in the valley below preparing to head out on their rafting adventure. It looks like fun as they plunge yelping through the first rapids. As we're leaving the falls the crowds begin to pour in as the tour groups arrive. We've spent close to four hours here and had most of the view points to ourselves. Definitely the time to come.
We've decided to finish off our day with a sunset river cruise. It's expensive but we need to experience some of the amazing parts of Zim…especially having come so far to be here. Nicky has managed to negotiate us a decent price from a roadside seller. Everyone here sells everything. This lady is setup in a little hut and sells the cruises. We finally get it for $35 per person. Apparently they will pick us up at our lodge, and so they do.
At 4:15 a comfy 7-seater car pulls up and soon we are delivered to a jetty inside the national park. A lovely double decker boat is moored there and no sooner do we board than she is off. This is efficient. What's really great is there are only about 10 other people on the boat - so it's not crowded.
What attracted us to this cruise was not just the excitement of watching sunset over the Zambezi- but that it apparently includes snacks and as many drinks as you want.
We seat ourselves on the upper deck and a lady arrives with three plates of snacks and a choice of drinks. I was dubious about the “free drinks” part, but it's true - beer, wine, whiskey, gin and tonic etc. it's all available. Not only is it available they keep coming and asking us if they can get us anything else. We are very impressed.
But that's only the part of it. What's ridiculous is the scenery. We cruise sedately along the river. It's like a game drive as we see Bush Buck, crocodile, hippo and elephant. And then of course there is the sunset. It's not possible to describe the sunset over the Zambezi. It's a huge molten ball of lava, red and fiery, slowly sinking over the distant trees across the Zambezi. Wow! A warm air blows in our faces as we soak up the tranquility, the epic beauty of this moment.
Smooth. Whiskey. Rich. Smokey.
That's how this feels. There is a resonance between the rich, smooth taste of the whiskey and the rich, smooth, smokey sojourn of the sun towards the horizon. Africa at its best. The sky turns red, orange, gold. The hippos snort. A pair of elephant pick at the trees on the river's edge. Africa, Zimbabwe, beyond words. Zwow!