Never regret. If it’s good, it’s wonderful. If it’s bad, it’s experience.~Victoria Holt
My fellow travelers and I set out mid-morning toward Victoria Falls National Park, a 15-minute walk from our accommodations at Shearwater Explorers Village. At the main street we turned toward the park and were joined by a Zimbabwean man named Excellent who we suspected would try to pressure us into buying trinkets or something. My travel companion, Martjie, is a marvel of charm and level-headedness with her years of travel and sunny personality so she played it cool hoping he would give up. Not only did he not, another friend named Enough materialized from nowhere, trying to sell me copper bracelets, explaining how poor he was and how hard Covid had hit his village. Now our senses were on high alert. And they were insistent. When a third man came from behind- bad vibes aglow- and kept coming closer despite my repeated glances in his direction, pretending to pee in the bushes to distract me, I feigned a pebble in my shoe so we could stop and let him pass and keep him in our sights. By now we were almost at the park and the man with Martjie had a mood that was turning dark when she refused to buy his $5 billion Zimbabwe note (it’s a thing and it’s worthless) because he wanted money. She wisely convinced him that she’d give him some money for safely guiding us to the park gate. We made it into the park but were rattled by the encounter all day, despite all of us being seasoned travelers and still getting surprised by this.
The park is a long pathway with nine gorgeous views along the gorge of Victoria Falls as well as an overlook of the bridge into Zambia. It’s definitely a sight worth seeing.
Unfortunately, part way through we noticed two men that kept crossing paths with us, like you do at the grocery store with another customer. Except we got bad vibes from them and at one point caught them filming us. Criminals often work in teams, notifying others in another location of details. Proactively, we decided to join a large group ahead of us- strength in numbers, right?- and then made friends with a lovely South African couple currently living in England. We confided our concerns and they were compassionate and sympathetic to our situation so we spent lots of time taking photos together to let the men finish their walkabout and leave the park. Thanks to everyone keeping a level head and some smart thinking all was well but we will be on extra-high alert from now on.
I napped, had a quick snack, and set out with my travel companions for our sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, the 4th longest river in Africa at 2400 km and runs through four countries to the Indian Ocean.
While waiting to get underway, we watched a huge elephant swim across the river! At one point his periscoping truck tip was the only part out of the water. Amazing. We also saw dozens of hippos including two babies (they live in groups of 15-20, weigh up to two tons, and can run 32 km/hour!), and learned that when they open their jaws it’s a sign of aggression. I certainly wouldn’t want to encounter them in the water or on land!
We floated into Zambia and saw crocodiles, baboons, cranes, herons, and other birds I couldn’t identify. Our captain was a comedian and the overall experience was lovely, watching hippos eat and play while the sun set. En route to our hotel, the transport bus encountered a water buffalo in the road (very dangerous) and we could just barely see the rest of the herd lurking in the shadows. This area is free range for game of all kinds so anything is possible and you best be paying attention. He moved to the shoulder without incident.
I’m grateful all worked in our favor and that we’ll be leaving tomorrow. It’s unfortunate because there are many shops offering beautiful African art which I’d love to peruse but the pressure tactics are a huge turn off and leave us feeling unsafe to walk around.
Always trust your gut and pay attention. I’m congratulating our inner knowing and experience that paid off.
Tomorrow we’re back to nature!
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