Zimbabwe, Lake Kariba – on a houseboat back in August!

So stranded in the shutin (bush) not far from Kariba, with a broken prop-shaft and messed up gearbox wiring loom, I have informed people. Colwyn (my cousin) had phoned her friends, already in Kariba. They had arrived early with their boat to do some fishing. George and Shane arranged for AMC (Amalgamated Motor Company) to fetch me, but without GPS, they had to have good knowledge of the land I was in, and so I had to describe my location by proximity to rivers and villages. Whilst waiting for recovery, I met some of the locals, had them build me a fire, cook some sadza and share my nyama with them. I met Jacob (ZANU PF Commissariat) and Joesph (Village Headman) who were both welcoming. My primitive shona (local language) was earning me widespread acclaim as word spread of a mulungu, broken down who could tauora shona. Furthermore, he didn’t need assistance as his phone (with a big stick on top) worked even where there was no signal. Not only did he carry water, but he had cold beer. It was fantastic when someone would stop their bicycle, and enquire in english, whether I needed assistance and for me to greet them in shona – ‘maskati, maswera se’ (good afternoon – how’re you?) The astonished look on their faces was worth the breakdown.  These people rarely encounter vehicles, let alone some white man in a Range Rover who spoke their language. With a stash of magazines left by my fiancée,  I was keen to start the youngsters early.  See the little fella, reading as he walks…..in the pic on the right

 This little group managed to invade my pantry – believe it or not, tea bags are popular here, but in short supply. I lost all biscuits, tins of bully beef and pilchards – but smiles and pleading eyes meant I couldn’t resist. Besides, where I was going next meant I wouldn’t need those things. Rescue arrived the the next morning and the vehicle dropped off in Kariba. A mechanic set about sending the propshaft off to Harare for re-balancing and assured me all would be well on my return.

With members of family arriving, we set about loading the houseboat with supplies for four days. ‘Harmony’ as she was called, was to be our home on the water. Blessing was Skipper, Smart the Chef and Ed, the bar-tender. Colwyn, my little cousin, well known for her organisational skills (and also for for her rottweiler tendencies) oversaw the loading as the ship’s purser for the dozen or so people.  Looking at the amount of beer and rum, I wondered if others were joining the party at a later stage, but as the days wore on (in a hazy blur) I would see that my thoughts were unfounded  – the first thing I’d hear in the morning was a beer can opening!

We motored off into the distance, setting course for some remote spot (usually called Antelope Island or some similar description). It wasn’t too choppy if you’ve sailed from Tenerife to Falmouth in the Atlantic, but one or two of the landlocked Zimbabwean  group succumbed to the motion. Oops. I tucked into my 1st beer and headed up top for the view.  It was good to be out of the Range Rover and have some space. Colwyn and Ginge had planned far ahead and as the group of friends and family settled in, we were summoned to the central table on the top deck. Colwyn had ordered T-shirts: Name on front left and Kariba 2011 on the back. This was great for me, because I didn’t know everyone, and now I just had to look at their name before saying’ Ray – pass me another beer’.  The flaw in this plan, however, was that after a couple of days, people changed their shirts – so now how do you get another beer?

I can tell you that although fishing was the main sport, the little tender boats were used for other things.

These are called ‘sunset cruises’, although in Zimbabwe, we just call them ‘booze cruises’.

So early mornings were out fishing for bream and tiger. A cool box filled with beer, some fishing rods and worms.

I never really caught anything bigger than my hand, so my attention span diminished, and I spent more time chatting, getting to know everyone.

And photographing. The best time for photographing as we all know, is 1st light and last light. This is also when the wildlife tends to venture out before the hot sun becomes too punishing. Even the fish don’t bite at midday.

Over the 4 days we would stock up the cooler boxes and head out in enough time to get into position near the shore, in and amongst the dead trees (left from when the dam was built and the area flooded to create the lake (1953, I think). Here are a few of those photos:

 Because all the main rooms went to married couples, some of us found ourselves on the decks. Married ones on the middle deck and that left Rayand I  (less better halves) on top deck. I think this was actually the best spot. Ed would drag out the mattresses and bedding and at some hazy stage in the evening, you would weave to your pit and fall on it. Ray and I can both snore and I think we consistently woke each other up. On occasion, we even woke ourselves up.

However, one night it wasn’t the snoring that woke us up. ‘Harmony’ was anchored close to shore but the wind changed direction during the night, and a storm brewed. The flaps, battered by the wind, untied themselves and flapped and banged. Waves got up and every 3 seconds, Harmony would ground against the rock shoreline. No one downstairs slept properly. For Ray and I, we simply got further into our own bedding and tried to escape the racket and motion. By morning, calm was restored and George was off fishing again. It was also time to head back to port, and disembark. This was a good thing, because by now, the blood in my alcohol stream was thinning!

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Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Zimbabwe, Lake Kariba – on a houseboat back in August!

  1. Louise

    Very entertaining read 😉

  2. colwyn

    grrrrrrrrr!!!!! AND WHAT A GREAT TIME WE HAD!!!!

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