Monday, August 29, 2011

None of the Comforts of Home


I stretched my stiff and aching body. I had slept in some pretty rough places during my travels, but last night’s nest on the ground was certainly one of the least comfortable places that I could recall retiring to. My thin orange sleeping bag added little comfort from the rocks, roots and rivets that served as my bed. The view held little to be desired either – a chain link fence topped with barbed wire, the dusty ground with a few sparse patches of grass here and there, and the rare tree for shade. I had managed to secure a spot underneath one of those trees to shelter me from the morning sun’s glare, but I still awoke shortly after dawn. I hadn’t slept much anyway. And while there certainly were none of the comforts of home here, I managed to retain a smile. I was in Victoria Falls. I had made it to Zimbabwe. Despite my lack of creature comforts, it felt like coming home.
Before crawling out of my cocoon to face the day, I reflected on some of the pleasant memories that I held of Victoria Falls. On my first trip here, I fell in love with the adventure sport of white water rafting. With the gang from my first overland trip, we had also explored the beautiful, misty park that surrounded the top of the gorge, watched friends plummet towards the water on bungi cords and tipped a few beverages on a booze cruise. That was followed by my canoe trip along the Upper Zambezi with Miki back in March. We had paddled along the river with not a care in the world, and been pampered with soft beds and mosquito nets after our outdoor showers to wash the toils of the day off our bodies. Once Brett and Oliver joined us, we also partook in a booze cruise of our own that had us all reeling the following day. On my last trip through, I again arrived with an overland company, but this time as part of the crew. I was treated to another white water rafting trip and of course the obligatory booze cruise that were a staple of all those trips. Alcohol seemed to play a factor in the fun, but that did not seem so bad from the security of my retro-wrapped bed.
This visit to Victoria Falls was different though. I wasn’t with an overland truck, neither as a passenger nor working. I had no friends by my side. I had parted ways with Eddie the night before, so no longer even had his company or guidance to lead the way. In fact, after walking away from his land cruiser on the bridge from Zambia to Zimbabwe, I had a moment of panic at being solely responsible for my own actions once again. I was the only one to guide the way and was fearful of the path that might unfold. Thankfully, the morning sun burned some of those trepidations away.
“First things first,” I thought, as I scrambled out of my sleeping bag and made my way to the bath house. My present abode didn’t offer much, but at least the campground’s bathroom was reasonably clean. The other perk was that they would safely store my backpack, while I wandered around town for the day. That was a bonus that would at least help to save a few more knots in my grateful back.
I rolled up my “home”, strapped it on top of my pack and headed out to start my day. Once my pack was safely stowed, I crossed my fingers and headed to the bank machine that I had been urgently seeking since Tanzania. I was down to little more than dust in my ravaged money pouch, as I had been forced to break my last traveller’s cheque in order to pay Eddie for the food I had shared en route from Dar es Salaam to Livingstone. I did not begrudge him the money in the least, but was at desperation’s door now. The remaining Rand that I held didn’t amount to enough to get me to Cape Town. I couldn’t think about that now though. 
Not daring to wonder what I would do if my card got rejected again, I slid the card in, punched in some numbers and held my breath. There was what seemed like a painfully long wait, as the machine processed my request. The sweet sound of gears grinding finally released me from the tension that had threatened to overwhelm me, as money slowly slid out into my waiting hands.
It worked! I had money again! I could access my account and in turn, continue to travel. Even better,  I could afford breakfast!

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