With money in hand, it was time to celebrate. First stop, grocery shopping. I needed some staples in my depleted backpacking larder. With cheese, bread and cucumbers, I couldn’t go wrong. On my way into the store though, I bumped into Glenn. I hadn’t seen him since I left Harare, so we chatted for a few minutes to catch up.
After leaving the store with my purchases, I headed back to the campsite to drop off my fresh wares. Lo and behold, but didn’t I bump into some other old familiar faces! Craig and Nina were full of smiles to see me again. While I remembered them, it took a minute to remember where I had met them before. In fact it was right here in Victoria Falls last March, when Miki and I had gone canoeing. We happily recounted stories of what we each had been up to since last we met. While my wanders were an exciting tale to share, theirs were even better. They had just gotten married! The happy couple had found a most romantic spot on a small island in Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania and tied the knot with a small gathering of friends and family to witness their nuptials. Ten people were plenty at their intimate gathering and now they were on honeymoon backpacking through Africa. They even had Nina’s parents backpacking with them, which impressed me thoroughly for their fortitude.
We parted ways and I continued on with my day. I was in for yet another surprise though. As I walked down the stairs in the plaza, another familiar face caught my eye. Again I could not place it, but sure enough I did know this stranger. And who was this new person, but Barbara. Her husband Jap joined us and soon the three of us were excitedly chatting away in the middle of the street. Where do you suppose I had previously met these good folks, you wonder? It wasn’t Victoria Falls, Tanzania or even Africa for that matter. I had stayed at Barbara and Jap’s house in Enschede, Netherlands 2 ½ years before that. They were cousins of the ex-boyfriend of my travelling companion at the time, when I had backpacked through Europe. Complicated, but the short story was that Barbara and Jap had allowed their house to be my home base for a few days, while I poked about the Netherlands.
The middle of the street was not a great place to update each other on all that had passed though, so we agreed to go for a beer at the camp bar. As we laughed and joked about seeing each other in such a remote place, Nina and Craig, plus their parents, materialized and joined us. Soon enough the beers had flowed to make us all a little giddy. When some local entertainers took to the stage (or rather a clear space on one side of the patio), we had another round of beers, while we watched them sing and dance. I talked, laughed and had a marvelous evening, such as I hadn’t in what seemed like ages. I was amongst friends and it felt good. I had even seen Ndaba and Keith earlier in my wanders. They of course were easier to place, as they lived and worked in Victoria Falls. I had met them on previous excursions while white water rafting. I had yet to bump into Max, whom I had a soft spot for, as he had been my first white water rafting guide way back in December. Regardless, I was in my glory with so many familiar faces around me.
At the end of the night, I wobbled home to my sleeping bag on the ground underneath a tree. It was far from a luxury, but it felt like coming home none the less. A smile played across my face, as I drifted off to another night’s sleep in Zimbabwe.