"Zambezi" is the shortened and corrupted form of "Kasamba Bezi". The river is infested with crocodiles, hippos & other dangerous animals, so only those who know the river can bathe or swim in it without being savaged by beasts. It's the river where only those who know (bezi) can wash (Kasamba).
After sleeping for a solid 9 hours, I woke, showered, shaved, and chugged 3 large glasses of water. I left the room Caleb and I were staying in at the Ultimate Lodge, and walked to the outdoor dining area where I filled out my breakfast order form and gave it to an employee the owners always called Vulture. As I waited for Vulture to return with my meal, I consumed my first measurable quantity of news in two weeks, sipped on some instant coffee, and felt like a king.
Here’s a picture I took of the Lodge’s outdoor area:
A Zimbabwean Paradise
During the 20 minute drive to the Zambezi River, we saw a small herd of impala, and a troop of rowdy baboons.
The fishing for the day was not as abundant as we would have hoped. Here’s the tally:
Caleb: 3 small tiger fish
Me: 1 small tiger, one 14-lb. catfish
Brent: 1 small tiger, one 6-lb. tiger
John: —– (poor guy)
Fighting my catfish in was exhilarating and took seven or eight minutes to finally get the 3-foot monster into our small motor boat.
I fought this feisty gentleman or for 7 or 8 minutes to get him into the boat.
Our fishing guide, Musausu, suggested that Rambo may have been cursed by Yami Yami, the river god who has the appearance of a giant snake. Masausu said the Zambezi River likes Zambezi brand beer (which we had an ample supply of), and said we should pour a bit of our brew into its waters to procure favorable fishing luck. Rambo was the only one among us who didn’t, and his line alone was never taut.
But Rambo did not miss out on the chief excitement of the expedition which was seeing and interacting with the astounding amount of wild wildlife that we encountered on the river. Because it is still the dry season, animals are forced to spend their time near the Zambezi’s banks; water is not available anywhere else.
Throughout the course of the day, we saw around 20 elephants (including some calves that were so cute that to behold them made me flare my nostrils and grit my teeth), 50 hippos, 12 mongooses (mongeese?), 6 crocs, 2 freshwater crabs, 2 michelles…I mean 2 PLOVERS, 1 monitor lizard, 1 vervet monkey, 1 warthog, and more deer-type critters than we could count. Also, maaaaaaany fish.
Our guide Masausu called each hippo “Mr. Thomas” and avoided them with great respect. (The nickname comes from the last two syllables of “hippopotamus”)
Since our boats were registered in Zimbabwe, we weren’t allowed to step onto the Zambian side of the river. This elephant, however, had what Masausu called “dual citizenship,” and did as he pleased. Here he is standing on the Zambian shore after we watched him across from Zimbabwe. When the water was over his head, only his trunk was above the surface like a submarine’s periscope.
As captivating as the tiger fish is, Brent's luxurious blond beard really steals the attention in this pic
Our guides drove our small motor boats up and down some fairly serious sets of rapids, maneuvering deftly through the shallow, rock-fraught whitewater. It felt like yesterday’s fun all over again, with the difference being that this time, in the waters above Victoria Falls, if one fell out, he would have Africa’s deadliest animal, the hippo to contend with. Masausu told us that a few month ago, a hippo attacked his boat, knocking one client into the river and biting a hole in the bottom of the vessel. The client managed to swim/jump on top of the beast and leap back into the boat almost instantly, and they sped away to repair the breached hull (They were able to shove enough clay and mud into the hole to fish for another hour). Knowing all of this, and seeing hippos at every bend in the river made the experience of motorboating through rapids memorable.
Russel, who owns and runs the Ultimate Lodge, met us on the river at sunset. No one is allowed to be on the water after dark because the animals multiply in number and aggression. His SUV is equipped with a snorkel exhaust output, so he was able to back the boat trailers all the way down into the water to load up his two boats.
Back at the Ultimate, we enjoyed fish and chips, gin and tonic, and many shocking tales of adventure from the big game hunters who were staying there.
Africa feels like home, and I miss the Zambezi already.
(This was written on the evening of October 4, 2010 in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I’ll post more journal entries from this trip periodically. (All photos cannibalized from the public folder of the Dutch Dingo. (my camera’s batteries were dead by this time))).