Saturday, May 14, 2011

No Longer the Last White Rhino in Zambia

If every day were like today, I could probably do a MariesWorldTour in a month. And I'd have to, because that's how long my money would last.

Livingstone has taken over where Zimbabwean sister-city Vic Falls left off a decade ago. In 2001, Livingstone was a sleepy alternative to rollicking Vic Falls. Now, after years of poor government and political stupidity across the river in Zimbabwe, tables have turned. Going into Zimbabwe hasn't crossed my mind in years, though I did encourage Amanda to go and spend money in the crafts market when she was in this part of the world.

Nowadays, on the Zambian side, you can raft, quad-bike, canoe, ride elephants, kayak, bungee jump, jet boat, microlight, abseil, ride horses, go on safari, helicopter over the falls, and walk around with baby lions. Or, of course, just look at the falls.

Rafting was out—it wasn't running due to high water levels. And I would have done it again, because whitewater rafting on the Zambezi is fun. And I don't find genuine fun in that many things. I usually reserve a small part of myself, for whatever reason, and fun is something I seldom embrace wholeheartedly. But fun is to be had left-and-right in Vic Falls. I wouldn't dream of doing the bungee jump alone—it just doesn't seem like all that great a solo project. But I did sign up for activities for the entire day.

Fawlty Towers has its own game drives, so I went on one at the crack of dawn, joining a pair of Australian primary school teachers who were volunteering in town. We drove up towards Victoria Falls, turning off into Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. I hadn't bothered with this park before, as in 2001, I'd just come from Namibia's Etosha and Botswana's Chobe, and in 2005, I'd just lived in Murchison Falls National Park all summer. We'd had baboons in the yard and warthogs on the carport. But I like animals as much as everyone else and I wanted to see a few while I was in Africa.

My expectations were low, so I was surprised that we saw elephants, buffalo, warthogs, giraffes, and zebra as well as various types of antelope. We didn't see much more of the hippos than a little bit of the top of one poking his head out of the water to take a look, but we heard some.

And when we left the park to go back on the main road to town, our driver asked what seemed to be a strange question.

"Do you want to see the rhino?"

The Aussies and I were confused. When we'd booked our trips, we'd been told that the way to see the rhino was to go on the walking—not driving—safari. I'd stuck with driving. I had a lot going on today and I'd seen rhino. I'd probably head back to Chitwan National Park when I got to Nepal and see lots of rhino again, something I'd previously done in 1998.

But none of us had expected or planned to see the rhino. It wasn't a zoo. Could he just stop and show us rhino?

As it turned out, yes. That's sort of how it works since the one free-roaming rhino in Zambia is under 24-hour armed guard since assholes shot his mate for its horn. He's never out of sight of one of several naturalists who happen to know how to use semi-automatic weapons.

As my friend Edward said in his brilliant and hilarious piece—he'll never win—"One wishes there were an open market on asshole noses."

Zambia has purchased more young rhino since the poor single bull was left alone. But the others aren't even allowed out of the house yet.

The bull was just sleeping when we saw him. Snoozeroceros.

Then it was back to the lodge to await pick-up for my next activity. But really, was there any point? What could be better than spending a morning listening to hippos and watching a rhino sleep?

1 comment: