He was 100% for real.
You’ll recall from last week the strange meeting in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) of four Americans and a couple from Zimbabwe, and how that chance encounter led us to an adventure thousands of miles away in their little-known African country.
Yes, Zimbabwe - and how we put all our trust in someone we had just met. You heard that right. Was he for real? We’d know soon enough as our Air Zimbabwe plane touched down at the airport in the country’s second largest city, Bulawayo.
Into the little single story terminal we went. On a small shelf nowhere near any person, we saw a package with our name on it - just as promised. In it was a 19-day itinerary and a set of car keys. This guy was definitely for real… thankfully. Bulawayo is no place to be stranded.
We piled into the rental car and set off down the road - and were quickly pulled over for failure to drive on the left, which is what you do in countries with a British history. Avoiding a lengthy jail term, we got to Big Cave Camp about an hour later (less if you don’t get pulled over). What a fabulous place amidst some of the largest boulders you can imagine. We climbed up, joined the monkeys scampering about and had some wine while the sun set.
That night, we encountered our first really serious African animals. They made a racket all night as they walked through dead leaves just outside our window. I was pretty sure they were lions coming to eat us. They were certainly noisy. Turns out they were an animal called a dassie. They are about the size of your average backyard squirrel, not a lion.
A day or so later, we found ourselves in our first animal park - meaning critters bigger than your average dassie. There I was eyeball-to-eyeball with a rhino, in a grassy field where I shouldn't have been. Fortunately the big fellow had already had lunch. (Actually, I think I scared him off.)
We also had an encounter with something bigger than a rhino. We came around a corner and there it was. A large male elephant minding his own business. That's when we decided it was his zoo, not ours. To say he was huge would be an understatement.
On the way back to Big Cave, we encountered a puff adder, Africa’s most dangerous snake. There’s an old expression that goes like this. Don’t mess with a puff adder. And we didn’t.
A few days later we ventured to Hwange National Park, where we had several incredible safari days, starting with watching a hundred or so baboons get ready for night. The mothers took the little ones way up into the trees above where predators would climb. The dads stood sentry at the base of those trees.
While we were at Hwange, we encountered four of Africa’s Big Five - elephant, lion, cape buffalo and rhino (but no leopard). The lions were so close we could have reached over the side of our open Land Rover to pat them. You may be shocked to hear that we didn’t.
Later on an overnight ferry to our next stop, we watched crocs in the Zambezi River just hoping our ferry would have mechanical problems.
After eight or nine days - and more than a thousand miles of driving through this wonderful country - we pulled into Victoria Falls. A long bath and a good night’s sleep without dassies, and we were ready to explore Vic Falls. Much higher than Niagara Falls. You can stand right on top of them on a man-made path and watch the water go over into the river below that divides Zimbabwe and Zambia (which we would visit a day later). Trains go back and forth across the top of Victoria Falls all day long.
Our final stop was our host’s farm, a modest spread of 15,000 acres where he grew tobacco. No more serious animal encounters, except for a big ostrich he fortunately kept in a secure area. They are both wicked fast and very nasty.
What an incredible adventure. We hated to leave. So glad we put our faith in a stranger in the British Virgin Islands.
DY: In Just a Few Words is a blog that comes out when something needs to be said or every Tuesday - whichever comes first. Davis Young is a communications professional who adds 50+ years of experience and perspective to issues of the day. His emphasis in DY: In Just a Few Words will be humor (a touch of sarcasm here, a pinch of facetiousness there...). Once in a while, he will touch on something a bit more serious - but hopefully not too deep or depressing.
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