Rachel: 6

Three months later and after a hard, wet drive from Livingstone on the way back to Rachel’s village, I once again reached the now familiar crossing point on the Zambezi River.  As it was the monsoon season, torrents of water were rushing headlong towards the Victoria Falls 250 kilometers to the east, while a horrendous thunderstorm raged overhead.

The crossing looked ominous – especially as the pontoon was only a matter of a half meter above the water line.  Its two engines were billowing forth clouds of acrid black smoke while a rather minuscule pump worked furiously bailing out water from the hold.  To reach the other side the conveyance had to make its way upstream for about half a kilometer before launching headlong into the mid-current and angling itself down stream in such away that it would arrive – somewhat precariously – at its destination on the western shore.  I thought about what would happen if these engines were to give up the ghost, leaving us to the mercy of the currents and the crocodiles that lurked on either bank.  As if that was not enough there was also the possibility of a lightning strike – a not uncommon occurrence in these parts.

In any case I made it across and began a torturous journey of 140 kilometers over bush tracks that were dissected every now and again by seasonal water holes, mud baths, swamps and back waters.  Around five hours later, tired, hungry and feeling like I had been shaken like a cocktail, I arrived at my much-anticipated destination.

Scanning the village for signs of life, I noticed that Rachel’s shop was deserted and even the lean-to had been removed.

‘What could have happened now?’ I wondered.

‘Could yet another misfortune have fallen upon this young lady?’

As if regenerated by the vigour from a shot of single malt Irish whiskey, I hastily made my way to the shabeen to enquire after Rachel’s whereabouts.  The bar girl informed that she had recently moved to a new location somewhere behind the main street. Without hesitation, I walked with some urgency in the direction indicated while deliberating upon why she had moved from what seemed to be an ideal position.

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