Words and Images Stephen Cunliffe
The lion roars grew steadily louder, echoing off the unseen Chilojo Cliffs. With no moon or stars visible above, the darkness beyond our campfire was absolute. Both Duncan and I pulled our chairs a little closer to the dancing flames, blaming an imaginary chill in the night air rather than the guttural grunts bouncing back off the rock face across the river. Taking a deep swig of Zambezi lager, I fumbled for the powerful torch next to my chair. The hairs on the back of my neck bristled and my heart thumped a little louder as the
king of the beasts continued to proclaim his territory loudly.
This was the raw and resurgent Gonarezhou at its very best. I could tell my travel companion felt the same way when, feigning indifference, he casually observed, “Well, it sounds like he’s getting a little closer… So, how far away do you reckon that guy is, anyway?”
Our exploration of the gloriously wild Gonarezhou had begun five days earlier, when we’d exited the rain-soaked Kruger Park at Pafuri, and taken a short detour through Mozambique before entering Zimbabwe: a welcome alternative to tackling Beitbridge! Leaving the paved roads at the South African border, we’d entered a maze of sandy tracks that soon converged on the south bank of the languid Limpopo. It was September, so fording the river involved little more than a short splash for our Hilux. Having negotiated the river, we’d traced the
Zimbabwean border northeast, with nothing more than a flock of crested guinea fowl and a rundown police checkpoint for company.
Wearing flip-flops, fatigues and a torn T-shirt, an ‘officer’ exited the bulletriddled old police outpost to remove the flimsy wire strung across the road. Utterly absorbed in his cell phone, he’d waved us on without even looking up from it. We’d driven on, thankful to have negotiated a notorious Mozambican police check with such ease.