A car filled with gear, past snow on the Drakensberg Mountains in the distance, we set off for Zambia. A man. A woman. A yellow inflatable boat. Steve had followed rivers in the past but, to me, this was a snaking line of water on a laptop screen and a dream - and, God knows, when it comes to building experiences worth talking about, Africa is the keeper of dreams. I had lived wonderful African adventures in the past, but this was a new territory, a new test of grit. Here, the threat would be greater than radioing for help if you broke down in a muddy field. Here, we would be testing our resilience in a setting which was wild, beautiful, and threatening in equal measure - and we would have to rely on each other for the best possible outcome.
The road trip took us along the wildest strip of highway in the world in Botswana - one where, rather than billboards, elephants lined the roads and hornbills flew up in a blur of yellow, white, and black as if in procession as we passed. Life reset on the banks of the Chobe as elephants passed us in huge herds and lilac-breasted rollers rolled in lavender skies. I followed the man who follows rivers over the Zambezi into Zambia and wept in time to the fall of the Smoke that Thunders. The road to Kafue was dotted with famous names - monuments to why we explore - and no amount of fame took from their ability to stir.
We drove into Kafue National Park in the late afternoon, chiaroscuro over golden forests and a window of dirt roads otherwise covered in water for months on end. We chased the sunset to get to Nanzhila Plains on time - along white sandy roads in dimming light - our first introduction to the Moorish haze of the plains we were to experience over the coming days - an African Wuthering Heights where Heathcliff roamed amongst the waterbuck in the setting sun and where a puff of dust in the sunset marked the presence of serval in the distance.
We sat among the leather buckled chests and the smell of the potato bush that night →