I downed tools a couple of weeks ago to take time out with my family on a houseboat on Lake Kariba. My siblings and our families are split across 3 countries, so opportunities to reconnect are a celebration. This reunion was particularly celebratory as we were gathering for my brother’s imminent wedding in Nyanga.
The journey up to Kariba was unremarkable with the exception of the fabulous signs displayed on the roadside by worm sellers trying to attract the custom of fishermen and women headed for the lake. Reading the signs, there are clearly different varieties of worms to be had – connoisseurs can choose from ‘red worms of note’ and ‘puffadder worms’.
We enjoyed 6 days together, spending each of our 5 nights at a different mooring along the seemingly endless margin of this giant body of water. Every morning a few of us would wake before dawn to meditate and reflect on our beautiful environment. Shortly after sun up the rest of the family would rise for a quick cup of something hot before separating for a few hours to windsurf, paddle a canoe or head out in a tender boat to fish and game watch. After a late breakfast we’d unmoor and slowly head back out into the deep water to enjoy another day in the sun, en route to our next berth. Because all around is national park, you’re not allowed to walk on the land unless you are accompanied by a park ranger. With so much fun to be had on and in the water, none of us were complaining.
Actually there was only one of our party competent to windsurf with hippo and crocs plentiful in the water all around us. The rest of us waited for a ‘nursery site’ later in the day – any deep water far offshore, somewhere on our daily journey between evening moorings.
In between swimming and eating we read books, played games and revelled in the warmth generally absent during the winter months in other parts of Zimbabwe.
We saw remarkably little traffic on the lake – a scattering of kapenta fishing rigs, a pair of yachts and a handful of other houseboats – all a clear sign of the decline in tourism to Zimbabwe. Also in less abundance was game. We saw plenty of hippo and crocs and some lovely sightings of elephant and impala – even one remarkable sighting of a rhino and its baby – but there were no buffalo to be seen at all. I expect this is largely as a result of the lake being incredibly full and grazing being in short supply.
I always have mixed feelings about the pleasure I derive from being on the lake. It is a magnificent expanse of water, but underneath lies a sunken world – once home to communities of people and a diverse variety of plants and animals – now displaced or lost forever.