Sunday 11 September 2016

A spectacular end - and a spectacular beginning

With thanks to Adventure World for this tailor-made holiday.

Through the gauze of the mosquito nets draped over the bed, I watched the sun rise over the river on our last morning at the Royal Zambezi Lodge, curtains moving gently in the breeze, birds hopping over the thatched roof, doves murmuring, hippos grunting from the water. A couple of fishing canoes headed upriver, sending ripples through the sun's reflection on the water. When they'd gone, I had my shower outside on the deck in plenty of solar-heated hot water, with a distant audience of hippos. It was a lovely way to begin the day, even if it was a bit of a sad one. It's been such fun here.
The sun was so red today because there are a lot of bush fires burning - each night on our game drives we've watched a line of fire slowly moving along the escarpment - and the air is full of smoke, as well as dust. Both are especially bad because of the extra-dry conditions, though they're pretty much a constant feature in Africa, and when we finally met up again with pilot Rajith (there were, we were now unsurprised to find, elephants in the road holding us up and even a big bull wandering across the airstrip) he complained of poor visibility.
Even so, I could see the lodge and its reserve, the nearby National Park where we had so much fun bumping along through the bush spotting the wildlife, the tributary we crossed each day where we'd seen elephants, baboons, antelopes and herons in and by the water, and of course the great Zambezi itself.
Then we flew back to Joburg, and on to Durban, and hired a car to drive into the city. This was the end of our Adventure World-sponsored part of the trip, but they arranged one last treat for us: a night at the Oyster Box Hotel, the third South African Red Carnation property, and the most theatrical. Our introduction began with white-uniformed doormen in turban and pith helmet, continued with marble, orchids, curving staircase, mirrors and chandeliers, and ended with a shuttered room where robes were laid out on the comfortable bed and we fell asleep to the sound of breaking waves.

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