Every now and then the Luangwa Valley will give you a break from wonders. Not often, mind, but occasionally the place allows you a quiet hour or so when you can draw breath and remind yourself that amazing things are not, after all, a basic human right.
Not that it was the dreariest afternoon of all time: ground-feeding carmine bee-eaters, four lions whose doze we barely interrupted, a lone bull elephant crossing the river as we took sundowners. We then drove back through the darkness by way of a giant eagle owl. So all good, all more than good – but a little short on drama.
A beer then, on return to camp. A few others took the same option. And then, damn it, why not? — another. So we all had one more and then in the space of a heartbeat everything changed.
One moment it was calm and clear and dry, the next it was raining like an upturned bucket. The rains — the longed-longed for rains – arrived in one great lump and it was like Piccadilly Circus at New Year but better: the relief of it, the joy of it. The Tafika staffers, Christa, Betrand, Julius and Mwambe had been out here throughout the long, dry season and they felt it deepest of course, but we were all caught up in a contact high and so we clapped shoulders, wrung hands, embraced, laughed and cheered every clap of thunder.
The bar was under a kind of big top, so we used a broom to hoosh the water to the ground in great Niagaras –great Victorias, I should say – and we poured again and clashed glasses again and laughed again and acted as wild as if we had drunk the place dry. In truth we had merely drunk the place wet, but it seemed that every trouble in the world had been washed away and as we raised our glasses we knew that every elephant and antelope and giraffe and zebra felt the same.