I shall tell my daughter to go camping in Africa before she marries her man. Africa will push them to their boundaries and I reckon if they can tolerate the blistering heat, sleeping on hard ground in smelly tents, long uncomfortable journeys on pot holed roads and long drop toilets they'll be ok to tie the knot.
And so, we are nearing the end of our time in Zambia and we shall leave tomorrow with mixed emotions. We've met many wonderful people on this trip, most of whom have nothing in the way of education, material possessions or civilised infrastructure. And yet these people have everything. They are happy and kind and they have moved each and every one of us with their generosity of spirit and overwhelming hospitality. Africa has somehow made us all emotionally raw in the way that only devastatingly beautiful experiences can.
And the lower Zambezi is devastatingly beautiful; an enormous river dotted with small islands and shifting sandbanks hazy in the early morning sunlight.
Today was our relaxation day and we have canoed this wonderful place, 2 or 3 in a boat. After a short, but spectacular, sun rise we had our "safety" briefing including clear instruction on what to do in the event of a capsized canoe. Do not, under any circumstances splash or get hysterical but pull yourself on the top of the upside down boat and float calmly to shore. This seems like a highly unlikely response quite frankly. In the event of an elephant charge, do not, under any circumstances, run. Yeah, right. So...we set off in our parings, sticking tightly together and watching out all the time for crocs and hippos. And we stopped for lunch on a sandbank and our guide soon spotted an elephant grazing behind us. This was all very thrilling and cool. Until it charged Ben, Michael and Josh. And boy can they run.
After we'd all calmed down, we clambered back into the canoes and went in search of large crocs. We are serenaded by large and noisy pods of hippos on both sides and we spot several huge crocodiles as we make our way along the shoreline. The Zambezi is home to an incredible variety of birds. We see spectacular fish eagles, goliath heron, lilac breasted rollers, and pied kingfishers. There are white-fronted bee-eaters, their wings like spitfires spinning and twisting in the air to catch the flies and clouds and clouds of butterflies. We are the only ones on the river today and it is 99% bliss, calm and wonderment and 1% terror.
It is our last night of camping and we can hear the loud grunts of hippos from our tiny island, infinitely scarier in the pitch dark than when visible by day. We must not stray far from the group at any time. I wonder whether the group has noticed that we are being escorted by a man with a knife, which certainly adds a piquant frisson to the occasion.
The skies of Africa are, I think, the most beautiful of any place I've ever travelled. We can see the Milky Way and what must be millions of stars in the cloudless night sky. It's the skies that have truly got me this trip and over our nightly bonfires, sometimes shivering with cold, sometimes warm, we have danced and cried and shared food and stories and we have made lifetime memories and lifelong friends .
And, as for marriage, after 7 days camping with this group I can honestly say I'd marry any of them any time.
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Arriving in Zambia
13 Jun 2017
Giraffes, Batman & a bit of elbow grease
13 Jun 2017
Teaching, goat meat & football
13 Jun 2017