Sunday, 5 May 2013

The start of travelling in Africa - Harare to Victoria Falls

And so breakfast at a cafe (nice – where in the UK would you get kidneys on toast?) and then off.

The previous night's impression of the roads was pretty much spot on, with a very mixed quality of surface from as good as the best in Europe to ready for spelunking.

Come on, come on, enough small talk - what's this amazing African countryside like? Must be incredible, right?

I'm writing this sitting in the lodge we're sharing at Victoria Falls. The back of the lodge is open and the evening sun is just starting to shine in, while the leaves on the trees are going translucent in the golden light and the air is hazy with woodsmoke from cooking fires and braais (barbecues) everywhere. Earlier in the afternoon we had a family of warthogs and some baboons wander past. I've seen lizards and a couple of enormous grasshoppers. It's as lovely as any other wild bit of countryside we've seen, and the landscape constantly reminded us of places we've known in other countries. We've driven over 1000km at this point, and passed through at least 5 clearly distinct types of vegetation that were all good, yet not strikingly different from other places. If this land were mine and I'd fought for it then I might well be deeply passionate and in love with it, but for a traveller it needs to be enjoyed for itself and not compared to elsewhere.

But we've not yet seen Vic Falls, as it's known.

Monday we did a long drive from Chinoyi to visit another friend at a catholic mission station not too far from Bulawayo. We'd not seen her for even longer than our friends that we were travelling with, and it was really good to be able to 'drop in' on her, miles from anywhere. She made us very welcome in her house, and it was really great to catch up, eat together and spend time around an open fire as night fell. As the sun was going down she took us out for a walk around the settlement and it was clear that she was appreciated by the local people, shown by the constant stream of greetings and smiles. After our meal a guitar was brought out, and we spent an hour or so worshipping and singing the songs we didn't always quite know together. It was not like a 'church meeting' but instead a spontaneous time that was also relaxed and informal, flowing naturally instead of being organised and carefully arranged.

The drive on Tuesday morning to Victoria falls was uneventful, and we arrived around lunchtime. 

Our lodge at Lokuthula (Lokuthula means peaceful sleep) that had been rented was circular, divided in half to make 2 separate dwellings, and in a African style with thatched roof, lower ground floor with kitchen and livingroom, upper ground floor with bathroom & 1 bedroom, then mezzanine with a second bedroom. Construction encouraged a flow of air through the building, keeping it fresh and cool while it was very hot outside. The interior had painted brick walls, exposed beams and timbers and metal lampshades in the shape of guineafowl as well as 'African' artefacts on the walls. It felt cool, slightly dark and exciting. We spent time shopping, relaxing, eating and talking that first day, and it was good to just sit & talk without pressure in great company, enjoying beautiful scenery. There was a kind of curry prepared and we sat outside long after night fell using oil lamps provided with the lodge. We came to Africa because of our friends, and anything else we might have seen was a bonus.

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