There are only a few things in this life that beckon my soul. Three of these things are my loved ones, music and nature. This past week at Royal Zambezi Lodge has been a trip that combined all 3 of these loves, creating a cocoon of happy nostalgia.
Loved ones – The recollections of my soul
Royal Zambezi Lodge holds a special place in my heart, as it is a place that keeps many fond childhood memories in its soil of my sorely missed father, who passed away a few months ago. The lodge is nestled on the gentle slopes of the pristine Lower Zambezi River, under tangles of Natal Mahogany and Apple Ring Acacia trees that dominate the park. In the distance is Mana Pools National Park, with not another lodge in sight, but only endless clusters of trees that seem to intertwine with each other and mimic a never-ending mesh of green cotton wool.
My heart was stricken with a hot knot of anxiety and a dozen other emotions showed their face as we made our way to the lodge by charter flight. The moment I stepped foot onto the soil, a stream of memories came flashing back, and I could feel my Dad’s presence. I pictured my brothers and I bouncing out of the car, over-whelmed with excitement, rushing down to the river, creating a whirl-wind of joy and energy through the lodge, and my Dad and Step-Mum reprimanding us to calm down. When I think about my memories here, nothing but happiness and bliss come to mind.
I remember the friendly greetings and happy faces of the staff, and that is certainly one thing that has not changed after all these years. However, just like the rest of the world, the lodge has evolved and grown dramatically over the past 20 years, yet it is still enveloped in the essence of a bygone safari era. One thing I can profoundly recall is the wooden bar area that extends over the river, with a colossal sausage tree that protrudes through the middle of the deck. This was and still is one of my favourite features.
The main deck has been expanded and turned into a contemporary masterpiece, with a clear view of the river. However, the original part of the building still stands there, protecting my memories within its walls. I can almost hear the echos of the excited patter of our feet sprinting across the top. I can envision my brothers and I battling each other in card games and scrabble near the toasty fire place squabbling over who won. The lodge was small back then, but to me, it seemed enormous. I guess everything seems so much bigger than it actually is when you are little.
I remember the rooms being smaller and set further back from the river, set neatly at the bottom of the slopes. The rooms, now twice the size and spread along the rivers banks, have immaculately transformed into luxurious canvas en suite chalets. Each room is resplendent with stylish furnishings, enhanced by an indoor and outdoor shower, a day bed and a private plunge pool. They are all so elegant and charming in a unique way.
Music – The rhythm of my heart
The Zambezi River is very dear to me, I feel like it is a part of me, like a vein that gushes through my body. Mostly because it reminds of my Dad, but also because I feel I can connect with it through every stage of my life. In this current phase, it imitates the motions of grief, like music to the ebbs and flows of my soul, sometimes it’s calm and hushed, and other times it’s over whelming and deafening, but you can’t let yourself drown in the depths of it, so you continue swimming through each ripple.
Among the sounds of sorrow, there is a tempo of happiness that accentuates it. The footsteps of the elephant that walk heavily across the plains, splashing in the puddles in front of the lodge, the warthogs grazing on the lush vegetation, while making the occasional grunt, the Woodpeckers’ beak pecking vigorously on the bark of the old Apple Ring Acacia above me, and the deep symphonies of the wallowing hippos echoing across the river all produce a melody that are so in tune with the rhythms of my soul. As I sit here and type this, I can visualise my Dad boogying on the banks of the river, twisting and jiggling like he used to when enjoying a good party.
Nature – Deep in their roots, all flowers keep their light
Nature, to me, is the key and light to my soul and spirit. Without it, I would feel off-track and empty. Nature is particularly important to me in this chapter of my life. It reminds me that every single tree, and every single flower has endured the hardships that we put this planet through every day, yet they still stand resilient and graceful, with each annual ring and imperfection unfolding a different story.
Royal Zambezi Lodge is indisputably one of those places I can really ‘disconnect to reconnect’. The vegetation is rich, the trees are vibrant, and an abundance of birdlife and wildlife have made this oasis their home. I love the remoteness the lodge offers, and the vast open spaces in the far distances gives me a feeling of freedom and emancipation, as if the stress within my body trickles out of me and flows with the currents of the river, through all of its winds and bends, as it meanders its way through the immeasurable interspaces between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and other parts of Africa.
I feel that the river captures and imprisons the souls of hundreds of people that live in Africa, and travellers world-wide that come to enjoy its beauty. As they say ‘you can leave Africa, but it will never leave you’. You have to experience the magic of it to believe it. I strongly believe that this is the reason the river possesses so much life and soul, it is alive, with every present and lost soul that have connected with it. I am in no doubt that my Dad has left segments of his soul flowing through the waters of the Mighty Zambezi River.
Dedicated to my Dad, Mike Sherren.