ZAMBIA and ZIMBABWE – After participating in last year's Tour de Tuli — Wilderness Safaris' annual four-day, 300-km (186-mile) mountain-bike ride across some of southern Africa's toughest terrain — I recovered by going on safari for a few days and nights at Linkwasha and Little Makalolo Camps in Zimbabwe and Toka Leya Camp in Zambia. But even off my bike, my heart kept beating fast.
Behold the Cat. The Lioness. One of Cecil and Jericho's pride in Zimbabwe's Hwange National Park. Forget the tongue. The teeth are like an arrow through the heart. No, perhaps you shouldn't forget the tongue. There is no violence in its pinkness.
There is only a kittenish glance and doe-like eyes. In the presence of an actual doe, the situation would be different.
Tomorrow we hunt. Today we play.
The secretarybird is a beast of prey. There's nothing as savory as a snake or mongoose. When the secretarybird needs to make a sound, it croaks and clucks. When it's time to kill, it stomps.
The kori bustard is the largest flying bird in Africa. The male can weigh 40 pounds and stand 4'6'. It flies reluctantly, and only in private.
The white-backed vulture has access to many fine meals and spirited companionship at the table.
The ostrich's eyeball is two times larger than its brain.
One day, in Africa, a boy walks into the bush with his mother, and they come across an elephant. "What's that long thing hanging down between the elephant's legs?" he asks. "That's his trunk," his mother explains. "No, farther back. By his hind legs." "Oh, that's nothing," his mother says.
The next day, the boy goes into the bush with his father, and they see an elephant. "What’s that long thing hanging down between the elephant’s legs?" he asks his father. "That's his trunk," his father explains. "No, I mean farther back. By his hind legs." "Oh, that's his penis!" "But mom told me that was nothing." "That's because she's spoiled."
This isn't the only bathroom at Wilderness Safari's Little Makololo Camp in Hwange's Makololo Concession, but it is the one with the best views.
At Wilderness Safari's Linkwasha Camp, which opened in May in Hwange's Linkwasha Concession, the "luxury" isn't the tented suites but the 8,000 acres of private land per guest.
"If you're looking for the bathroom, I marked it for you."
In Zimbabwe and Zambia, men have English names like Bigboy, Smart, and Gift.
This is Clever.
Between the two countries there's a river. It's the Zambezi, and consequently it's home to hippos, whose closest living relatives are whales.
The fearsome crocodile, with its dagger teeth and dragon tail, dreams of its idyllic youth when all it had to do was straddle a branch in the sun and slurp at tadpoles.
Consider the Zambezi from the wooden decks of Wilderness Safari's Toka Leya Camp in Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, the UNESCO World Heritage Site whose name translates as "the smoke that thunders." In this particular case, the smoke is spray from Victoria Falls, which starts just seven miles away.
Angel Falls is taller, Iguazu is wider, and Niagara has more water, but the combination of all its various dimensions makes Victoria the "largest" waterfall in the world. That's like being a Olympic gold-medal decathlete, which is why it's popular on the cover of magazines.
And among some Kardashians.
A security detail keeps lookout.
And calls the muscle when necessary.
But if you linger on the Zambezi into the night, the sky burns beyond the sun, and the grunts and calls from the bush seep through your skin. That's when the stars and scents are your only guides. As you sleep coccooned inside your bed, the metamorphosis will start.
PLAN YOUR TRIP
In Zimbabwe, stay at Wilderness Safaris' Linkwasha and Little Makalolo Camps.
In Zambia, stay at Wilderness Safaris' Toka Leya Camp.
In Johannesburg, stay at Tintswalo at Waterfall, an eighteen-suite equestrian estate, or at the InterContinental Johannesburg O.R. Tambo Airport Hotel, which is exactly 68.7 meters (or 225.4 feet) from the arrivals hall.
Count on Journeys Unforgettable to arrange your travels. Its owners, Steve and Brennan Rimer, are cousins of one of Wilderness Safaris' three founding partners.
And if you dare going on that four-day mountain-bike ride yourself, you can sign up for it here.
WHAT ARE KOANS ANYWAY?
They're the paradoxes that Zen Buddhist monks ponder to achieve enlightenment.