Tell me that you too can never sleep on the last night of a holiday. Tell me that you also stay up thinking about all the things that have been and all the things that could still be. Because while it may seem like a burden, it’s surely the only rational thing to do.
Every last night at Royal Chundu, lying beneath the mosquito net and looking out over the Zambezi, I’m kept up by the hundreds of conversations I still need to have, the river cruises I still want to take, the birds I still have to find and photograph and the slow, afternoon hammock picnics on the riverbank that I can always do with more of.
Because you can never have enough of paradise.
Sometimes the hold of the last night is strong enough to impel me out of bed and onto a chair on the deck, hugging a big Chitenge cushion as my voodoo doll, willing it to delay my flight… The words from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road play through my mind, “What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”
I stare up at the starriest of night skies and wonder why anyone would sleep through this…
Above: Thanks to our guest, Jacqui Hemphill, for capturing the beauty of the night sky at Royal Chundu for us
I tell myself I’m being overdramatic, but isn’t that the purpose of travel, the beauty of it? Travel stokes the heart, saying, “Wake up, wake up, let’s go play.” It’s what it does. It’s why we do it. In the hope that some great emotion will be stirred within us.
It’s difficult not to feel yourself becoming a little softer while watching the movements of the sun, the rituals of the river, and when handing over the hours between the sun’s rise and fall to new faces who lose their newness almost as soon as you meet them.
Tell me you too sit up in the dark listening to the hippos call out, watching the moon continue its rise, both in defiance of slumber, both unwilling to waste the night. Tell me you get to see the world before sunrise. The entire river belongs to me; this sky is my sky, I tell myself. When the sun finally rises, I decide that I’m not being histrionic at all. It’s all quite reasonable. A Zambezi sunrise demands nothing less than awe.
On the final morning cruise, as though it can sense the goodbye on the way, the sky delivers its best show, calling the morning birds out to join it. The mist rises around the boat. I photograph the skimmers and fish eagles I still hoped to capture and I have the conversations I still needed to have. I don’t get in another hammock picnic. But, I tell myself, again, you can never have enough of paradise.