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In the Land of Smoke-that-Thunders

Tags are difficult. Because we didn't just stay in Botswana, I wanted one easy word for this holiday, and used 'Africa.' But Africa's huge and very different from place to place. One day we drove more than 380kms  from the Okavanga river  through a burnt out  part of the Namibian Caprivi strip, to Livingstone in Zambia, a long trip on roads thinly glossed with tarmac and dramatic potholes that had me once finding myself at a 45 degree angle from the earth.  Arses took the kind of pounding some people would pay for in a London sauna. The Zambian border was full of smiling faces and anti-HIV posters. They held some kind of instrument like a mini-torch up to each of our necks; it's the ebola check apparently. Fail it and they take you into observation. But what does the little light show? Is it a temperature thing? It didn't matter, we were all fine, and we crossed into the land of the joyful giant Zambezi river.

How fine and beautiful is that river! Our Thames would look so small and grey beside it.The river smiled, the people smiled;  We got our laundry done, we ate, we drank, we watched beautiful sunsets. This was the utter chill out zone. Not that it was entirely without wildlife:


At one point, I saw what looked like smoke rising from a great fire somewhere across the river, to the East I think. larians reminded me that it wasn't a fire. We were close to Mosi-Oa-Tunya, the Smoke That Thunders, called Victoria Falls by Dr Livingstone. In Zimbabwe, Mugabe has ordered the Falls' indigenous name to be used; an easy order to follow, no doubt, as the locals were calling it that anyway. Mugabe seems to have become a reverse Canute - the tide came in and he decided this was because he had ordered it.

Zimbabwe featured in our conversations with Zambians. Some remarked upon the interest of Zimbabweans in moving to Zambia and Zimbabwean ladies wanted to marry Zambian men,then again, it was apparent that only a very ill wind blows no good. Zimbabwean farmers, having fled or been thrown out of Zimbabwe, had come to Zambia and brought their much appreciated skills with them.Words were always courteous and gentle, 'Our friends and neighbours,'  'Our brothers in Zimbabwe.' I could not imagine the English and Scottish talking about each other so kindly... And I wondered what happened to us, that we became so infatuated with the language of hatred.

A helicopter took us to see the Smoke That Thunders, and later we walked alongside it. The dry season shows it in restrained mood. Here, with thanks, I use one of larians photos, for mine are exceedingly lame, and my words can convey nothing of it at all.

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