The Luangwa River does bends. A 180 is nothing. Just routine. A 270 is more the river’s style, as here: vast beaches of sand either side of the life-giving dry-season trickle. Dry lagoons either side of the river show where the river has performed a 360, joined up with itself and created a new route and a new lagoon.
Stop at the bend, then, and look upriver: the eternal Luangwa view. Capsized trees that were once the river’s play-things, now perches for kingfishers. The long exposed beaches: site of the perilous daily walk to water and life.
Who’s here today? Seven elephants, crossing in one direction, pausing to suck thirsty trunkfuls as they pass. Eight giraffes crossing in the opposite direction, pausing splay-legged for their drink, the only time in their lives that giraffes look inelegant. Up the heads go again, and from their lofty towers they survey left and right before drifting on, stately as galleons.
A little distant, almost vanishing in the brightness of the sun, a group of zebras – a dazzle of zebras, I learned. Behind them a herd of delicate impalas, picking their fearful way to the water and back: sometimes so anxious they can’t quite bring themselves to lower their heads and drink.
Lions on the banks, crocs in the water, and all of life depending on the daily slurp. Triple-piping of greenshank across a unique vista – one faithfully replicated around the next bend. Life and death both seem suspended in the breathless heat.