Special Spots, Magical Moments: No. 1 – Matusadona

1 09 2008

 

It is a perfectly still night save the most imperceptible of breezes barely strong enough to breach the mosquito net and whisper on my warm skin. The silence is disturbed only by the gentle lapping of water against the hull of the moored houseboat and the occasional plop of an unseen fish. As I turn my head and gaze through the open window, I spy the light of a tilapia fishing boat: the only sign of humanity in 360 degrees of velvet blackness. The unforgettable scene is completed by the low, rippling roar of a distant lion resonating through the hot air.

 

Zimbabwe’s Matusadona National Park on Lake Kariba is a remote spot in the northern part of the country accessible only by water. It has taken us the better part of a day to drive to the town of Kariba from Harare. Once there, we board a small outboard-motored vessel to cross the lake to the houseboat which will be our home for several nights while we explore the park by canoe and on foot.

 

In Africa, I have slept in tents and in the back of a truck, in rough cabins, mountain huts and even out in the open protected by nothing more than a mosquito net tied to a tree branch, but nothing felt or tasted like this. The walls are wooden and the bed is the same as any anywhere. There is nothing remotely nautical yet it is distinctly if not tangibly different, even when the lake is still and there is no perceptible movement.

 

Perhaps it’s the isolation: the lack of electricity, telephones, roads and vehicles. Or possibly the mesmerising sunset that painted the sky a few hours earlier, or the fact that it is quite literally only us and the wildlife. Possibly it is just that I am so far removed from my normal existence that I could be on another planet or the first person ever to set foot here.

 

I lie on my bed beneath only a sleeping sheet and gaze upwards into the darkness of my rustic cabin. Despite the screens, I can hear the buzz of mosquitoes as they dance around my ears, having evidently skimmed the water between the large pontoons and flown up through the gaps in the erratic wooden floorboards. A chorus of hippo snorts and trumpets suddenly echoes across the lake, answered by the panicked whinnying of zebras. I drift to sleep eager for the next day’s discoveries yet relishing every single instant of the present.

 

It is a moment that has stayed with me ever since and which I would re-visit in a heartbeat…although this time I’d bring more insect repellent and avoid the mosquito bites that caused the swollen hippo-boy face that greeted me in the mirror the next morning!

Photo and post by:  Simon Vaughan
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