We were in the middle of another long stop in Zimbabwe. This time we were pulled over on the road through Zambezi National Park on the short drive from Victoria Falls to the Botswana border where we would spend the night before crossing into Zambia. There were rumors that the police hadn’t been paid for several months so nobody was surprised that this bribe was taking a particularly long time for our driver to negotiate. I was gazing out the window hoping to see some animals in the park when I noticed prints in the sand immediately beside the road that I’m pretty sure belonged to a lion or two. I wondered if the police had seen them.
It had been a long flight in darkness from London so I was happy to see the sunrise over Africa because it meant there was only a few hours to go before we landed in Johannesburg. The year was 2001 and as the cabin crew were about to serve breakfast the Virgin Atlantic Captain spoke to us about a delay. Thanks to an early departure and a strong tailwind we were now arriving too early; basically Johannesburg wasn’t ready for us so we’d have to circle somewhere. By way of apology he explained that he had secured permission to take us on a little scenic flight in the meantime.
We had pulled over on the side of the road minutes after crossing the border into Zimbabwe. The cab of the truck was surrounded by police who were collecting a fine from our driver for an infringement. Except there was no infringement and this was a bribe not a fine, something that everyone including the police were well aware of.
Elephants were everywhere and as far as the eye could see. Next to us they looked huge as small herds made their way past us to the river for an evening drink. In front of us they looked smaller and glistened black in the late afternoon sun as adults and babies frolicked blissfully in the mud using their trunks to spray water on themselves. Further away they looked like tiny toy elephants as they receded toward the horizon. If Africa’s national parks were a network of train stations then Chobe would be Elephant Grand Central.
There are few places on this planet as dreamlike and tranquil as the Okavango Delta. The experience of being gently propelled through the reeds on a Mokoro with the sound of birds, droplets of water from the poles gently dipping in and out of the water and if you are lucky some gentle African singing, easily beats any spa experience I have ever had.
True democracy might be a rare thing but diamonds certainly aren’t. They are one of the most commonly found gem grade minerals in the world. Tanzanite on the other hand is a rare gem. It is a beautiful stone that is only found in a small region near Arusha in Tanzania yet it fetches somewhere between US$700 and US$1,000 per carat compared to diamonds which can cost anything from US$3,000 and US$27,000 per carat even though they are in much larger supply. Continue reading “Botswana Part I: Diamonds & Democracy”
Giant meteorites, vast sinkhole lakes and beautiful minerals characterise the road between Etosha National Park and the Botswana border. We weren’t to see any of these on the two full days we had left in Namibia after we left Etosha National Park but there were plenty of interesting experiences nonetheless. Continue reading “Namibia Part VII: Goodbye Desert. Hello Humans.”