Here I am in Victoria Falls. I can hardly believe it. After all my African reading and careful planning I’m actually here. Moreover, I’ve just had a very scrummy donut and am still enjoying a surprisingly good cup of coffee (percolated no less). I say surprisingly, as I had been warned about the poor quality of coffee here and that they use a lot of chicory. Not in this case. And all for the bargain price of $ZIM10 (70p)!
It’s a nice little bar too – ‘McDonuts Coffee Shop’ would you believe – exceptionally clean and adjoined to a craft gallery (of course) and all done out in white, dark green and ultramine blue.
The people here seem lovely so far and I’m on my politest behaviour, I’m so thrilled to be here. Even though it was raining, my very first impressions of Zimbabwe were heady. During the ride to the hostel, previously known as the Con-x-shon, I couldn’t help but feel I was looking at familiar countryside. The colours and foliage look very Australian. Even the rain seems more Australian: thick, heavy drops; not the whiney drizzle you get in England.
The Backpackers Hostel was a wonderful surprise. Its surrounding garden immediately reminded me of the neatly trimmed garden of Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. The rain only made it feel more romantic.
Inside, four people were sitting around a benched table with steaming mugs intent on a game of Scrabble. I felt at home at once. Trevor, the Australian owner, showing me to my room of three beds, explained that as it was quiet at the moment I would probably be on my own. Bargain! But there was even better to come: as well as a few roomy showers, there was also…a BATH!
So, smelling like a dewberry, I later went into the kitchen to investigate. There I met Lazarus the cook, who I’d already been told was a marvel. Just as long as he didn’t bring anything back from the dead I didn’t mind. The kitchen too, was impeccably clean, and in no time I had a large mug of coffee with me as I strolled around exploring my immediate surroundings. Quiet and peaceful outside too, even with the rain. The garden was trim and neat, terraced with stone and even included an inviting pool. In contrast however, the land encroaching upon the garden was farm and bushland, which made me think of Meryl Streep saying ‘whenever I turn my back it just goes wild again’.
The rain was even heavier the following morning when I went to catch my flight to the Falls. Up above the clouds there was nothing to see but the sun, but once we began our descent, the pilot drew our attention to the site of the Falls in the distance. Peering eagerly out of the window I was expecting to see an open gash in the ground with water seething into it. Instead what I saw was further distant and resembled a battle line more than a natural wonder: a line of smoke piled up in various shapes where fighting and colliding was taking place.
But I’m here now. Less than one kilometre from the actual site, putting off that moment of euphoria just a little longer, while I prepare myself for the full appreciation of the event. Besides, the coffee and donut were too good to have only one serve…
I wonder if my English fellow travellers still think they would have been better off in Bognor?