An abortive bungee jump, replaced by a (very) quick trip to Zimbabwe; Sunset cruise on the Zambezi; High-school drunkenness and drama ensue.

We didn’t have firm plans for today - I figured that Sheryl would be in rough shape after the physical punishment of the rafting the day before and would need the morning to recover, and so it proved. Around 11:30 we accompanied Gabby down to the Zambezi Bridge to watch her go bungee-jumping. It was a 15-minute taxi ride to the bridge. I hate taking taxis everywhere, they’re expensive and I’m just not a taxi person - but it’s too dangerous to walk since tourists get mugged daily, we’re told. I’m not sure this danger isn’t exaggerated, since it directly benefits the local economy to have tourists spending money on taxis because they’re too scared to walk. I have no way of testing this little hypothesis except by walking myself, though, and I’d rather not find out that the danger is real the hard way.

We had to cross the Zambian border into the no-man’s-land of the Zambezi Bridge which runs between Zambia and Zimbabwe. This was beyond easy - we just told the border guard that we were bungee-jumping and he gave us a scrap of paper with a stamp to get back into the country. The bridge is a bit decrepit but still standing, nd it’s full of Zimbabwean hustlers trying ery aggressively to sell you various junk at inflated prices. It was stinking hot out on the bridge with no shade, and we were instantly soaked with sweat. I couldn’t shake one particularly persistent hustler, so I got him talking about Zimbabwe’s recent election fiasco instead. I didn’t venture an opinion since I wasn’t sure if he was a supporter of Mugabe or not, and althouh he said he’d voted it wasn’t clear to me for whom.

The bungee-jumping was a washout, unfortunately for Gabby and the others from our tour who were there as well. The power was out (and has been known to stay out for two days at a time) and no one could jump. We haven’t seen any power failures here in Zambia, so they must be getting their electricity from Zimbabwe.

Since nobody could jump, we all decided to walk over to Zim instead. The border is semi-porous, it seems. There was an army checkpoint at the end of the bridge, but the guy on duty told us we could go quite some distance into Zimbabwe (400 meters) before we came to the actual border-control post. He was quite friendly and nice, but I couldn’t quite forget the news stories about the role of the army in supporting Mugabe’s bloodthirsty tyranny. We didn’t want to cross into Zim formally, because we’d need visas to get into the country and, since we only had single-entry Zambian visas, we’d need new ones to get back into Zambia too, so it would have cost each of us $100. We saw enough on our quick 400-meter jaunt, though, and none of us had any real desire to see more of Zimbabwe anyway, so we all crossed back. We could feel the bridge bouncing rhythmically as a heavy truck crossed. It won’t surprise me in the least to read a news story about its collapse someday soon.

Signs on the Zambezi Bridge

The evening’s entertainment was a sunset cruise on the river. These are quite popular. They have dinner and an open bar, and so are more often known as “booze cruises”. Our crew didn’t disappoint, but stepped up to the plate and took full advantage of the bar. I indulged, of course - I’d paid $45 for it and I was determined to get my money’s worth -but I stopped short of gross drunkenness. I’m very glad I did, because after the two-hour cruise ended and we all got back to shore, the evening got very strange. Sheryl popped up out of nowhere demanding that I find two of the people from the rafting trip yesterday and use their computer to copy the rafting photos for them and for us. That meant I had to go back to the truck, find the keys, unlock the storage cage, get into my pack and then find their campsite, during all of which I began to sober up. I wa thankful for that because by the time I got back to the party everything had erupted into a half-dozen different cases of gratuitous drama, hurt feelings, drunken seduction attempts and rejections, and one fistfight. It was as if, having behaved themselves (more or less) for a whole month, everyone had just snapped at once. Damage-control, back-patting and hand-holding took all my attention for the rest of the night. I don’t think any lasting harm was done - everyone’s being mostly polite to each other today - but it’s possible that none of them remember any of it. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to us at the time, a bunch of the new people who are joining the tour tomorrow were watching, and we didn’t make a good first impression at all, I don’t think. Sheryl had to go to some lengths to convince one woman that it wasn’t the normal evening behaviour.

Sunset on the Zambezi

The infamous Booze Cruise

So I was exhausted by the end of the evening, and worn out from all the drama. It wasn’t made any better by the fact that I couldn’t remember where I’d put my camera and was afraid that I’d lost it during all the scuffles. So nothing would do except that I find the keys again, unlock the truck and get into my pack again, just to check if I’d absentmindedly put it there and forgotten about it. I had - my subconscious is often quite a bit more intelligent than my conscious, I’ve discovered - so I could sleep soundly. Except that when I finally got back to the tent, Sheryl had fallen asleep with the flap open, thinking I’d only be gone for a second, and the inside of the tent was swarming with mosquitoes. I spent half an hour killing them all, but it was too late for her - her legs were covered with bites the next morning. We’ve both been pretty good about taking our anti-malarials, though, so she should be fine.

Flourish

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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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