Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Zambia, the Only Place Where . . .

Zambia is the only place where you can fall asleep in a riverside cottage in a bed without walls, wake up enveloped by the chorus of thousands of birds and vervet monkeys, and go to bed with the bellowing of grass-grazing hippos, the roars of lions across the river in Zimbabwe and the bone-chilling harrumphing of elephants in the dark.
Hippo found outside of our room at Tongabezi
Zambia is the only place where you’ll be warned 5 minutes after arriving not to swim in the Zambezi at any cost because you would likely be eaten by one of thousands of resident crocodiles and hippos; but still be invited to steer a fiberglass canoe down that same river regardless of your level of expertise and then watch hippos waddle by your cottage at night when they stumble out of the water in search of food.

Zambia is the only place where the stars are more intense than even the crystal-clear country views of Iceland or the vast expanses of the western U.S., where they seem so close and unfettered that it’s not rare to see shooting stars voyage across the sky’s black carpet. 
Thanks for the great service Nyambe!
Zambia is the only place where people can put your tips to such good use but are too modest to even discuss the necessity of your leaving one (even when the average worker makes less in a year than most western workers make in a week). 
Zambia is the only place where you are instructed to protect yourself from lions that can take down a giraffe or young hippo with a walking stick.
Zambia is the only place where your guide can come from a small village without electricity and still be able to detail the history of Victoria Falls beginning at 150 million years ago, and it is the only place where a 5,000 year old waterfall is universally described as the “new” one. 
Zambia is the only place you can fly with a former air force pilot as your guide over by far the world’s tallest waterfall in a micro-light slightly larger and more secure than a moped with a big kite attached to it.
Zambia is the only place where you can step off a bridge straddling two remarkable countries and drop into the ether nearly 300 feet in 6 seconds, just a few weeks after a bungee jumper’s cord snapped in the very same place (she lived!), have the locals nonchalantly assure you that “we have that under control now” and for some reason not bat an eye.
Zambia is the only place where you can “swim” two feet from a current that if breached will whip you 300 feet to an epic, premature death (a sadly common occurrence with unsuspecting hippos and elephants) and not have anyone think you’re crazy.
Zambia is the only place where you return to your hotel from an exhilarating day of adventure travel and your personal valet has already drawn a lilac bath for you on the off chance you might like one (thanks Nyambe!).

Zambia is the only place where your driver might speak English and 7 other tribal languages; where he might have driven the likes of Bono and the Prime Minister of Britain; where he might have lost ¾ of his classmates to an AIDs epidemic so severe that there is a “missing generation”; and where that same driver won’t think speaking 8 languages is a big deal, where he promises that you receive the same treatment as the world’s greatest dignitaries because that’s the way they do things there, and where he is not bitter but hopeful despite all of the unfair loss he and his neighbors have suffered. 
Zambia is the only place where Mkouni Village craftsmen enjoy bargaining down to 50% of their original price for exquisitely handcrafted goods made of quality local wood, copper and stone (except maybe Thailand, where bargaining is even more of a sport). 
Zambia is the only place where they will take you on a 10-minute boat ride to the deserted Sindabezi Island where just two guests are greeted with a staff of five and the meal could have been prepared the best French or American chefs; and where you’re served dinner in a candlelit platform resembling a child’s dream tree house 15 feet off the ground and affording views of endless river and stars. 

Zambia is the only place you will fall hard in love with a country in just three too-short days. 

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