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Victoria Falls: Zambezi Horse Trails
I had a morning, but my day really began at 15:30 when a man named Joseph arrived at Shoestring Lodge Backpackers Hostel to pick me up and take me to Zambezi Horse Trails. We stopped to pick up a Gail and Faye, a really nice American mother and daughter team, and then pulled into the Zambezi Horse Trails, one kilometer from Victoria Falls.
Horseback riding in Zimbabwe, Africa
Zambezi Queen Safari
Walking With Lions in Zambia
Joseph walked us from the car to a gazebo with gate made out of horse shoes, a fine artistic touch.
Yesterday I made a friend at the waterfalls who had strongly recommended such an experience. I took her word for it and got in contact with Alison who runs Zambezi Horse trails.
As Gail, Faye and I were suiting up in the rain-gear provided, Alison came to meet us and ask each of us about our previous riding experiences. Alison, an extremely charming lady who operates the company, has been running horse tours here since 1988 and most of her staff has been with her since the 1990’s…a pretty good testament of her character. After giving her information, Alison disappeared and then came back with information for us. She had three horses planned based on our three personalities. She described each horse to us as if she was about to introduce us to acquaintances of hers that she had friendship-matched with us.
Alison, Zimbabwe born, makes it clear in her voice that her horses are also family members. There are 10 of them at the place now but she will have 14 of them on the place in the next month. Some of the horses are rescues by Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe. Some of the horses come from the racetrack. Alison says that retired racehorses are extremely versatile and excel for her very often. All of her ponies are all Zimbabwe bred.
Some of the horses are rescues by Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe.
I was to get a horse named Castle Hill that she described as, “A perfect gentleman!” Gail was to get a horse named Campbell who she warned to Gail, “…doesn’t stop eating, but he does not stop to eat. So just allow him to hoover along the way…” I liked this lady and I wished I had more time to speak with her before we were to set off.
Well it turned out that I would be getting a mare named Flora rather than the Castle Hill, the perfect gentleman. Alison informed me that Flora likes people better than she likes other horses. Campbell, the horse that Gail was riding, had become a nemesis of Flora. Faye, Gail’s daughter, was riding a neutral horse named Scoops who would stay in between Flora and Campbell for our whole trail-time to act as a happiness buffer.
The ride would take us through Zambezi National Park, which is 12,500 hectares of natural beauty, bountiful with wonderful animals in their natural habitat.
12,500 hectares of natural beauty, bountiful with wonderful animals in their natural habitat.
I would soon realize that the last time I was on a horse for a significant time was before the mobile phone era. I would become aware of this fact as a phone rang while we were on the trail. It seemed peculiar to be cowboying with a mobile phone.
Within five minutes, Reason, our guide spotted a herd of southern impalas. I found it amazing just how close we were able to get to the wild impalas. Reason explained that the impalas do not recognize us as humans on the horses. They only see the horses themselves with some kind of extension on their backs. However, if we were to dismount from the horses the impalas would recognize danger in a moment and they would be gone. Amazing! Animals respect animals, but they wisely do not respect man because usually man does not usually respect them…
We came across several warthogs along the journey. Did you know that warthogs walk with their tails hanging down, but when they run they lift their tails straight into the air? No, me neither. It sure looks funny now that I am aware of it. Warthogs are very busy and funny creatures. They barely stand still long enough to get a clear photo. The warthog is that boy that was always up to something in your elementary class who the teacher was always yelling at to sit down and remain in his seat…
On the journey, we passed a tree full of vultures looking down on an elephant carcass. I wanted to get closer to the carcass, but Reason said that the horses would not react well to close perimeters to the deceased elephant. I guess that is pretty understandable. My stomach does not react well to such things either, though I was willing to chance it. But, I could understand Flora’s unwillingness to be in such proximity for what would seem to be of no reason to her. When you are not used to spending so much time driving an animal anymore, one sort of neglects to think that there is another mind underneath of yours that has to be in total agreement with the decisions you are making…
I just found this Wikipedia elephant information… Fascinating:
Elephants can live to 60 years of age if everything goes well for them. According to Wikipedia, “Elephants have four molars; each weighs about 5 kg (11 lb) and measures about 30 cm (12 in) long. As the front pair wears down and drops out in pieces, the back pair moves forward, and two new molars emerge in the back of the mouth. Elephants replace their teeth four to six times in their lifetime. At about 40 to 60 years of age, the elephant loses the last of its molars and will likely die of starvation, a common cause of death. African elephants have 24 teeth total. Six on each quadrant of the jaw.”
As we passed by the Zambezi River, Reason warned us to not let our ponies close to the shore for a drink of water. Why? Crocodiles. Yikes! Point noted! There was no way I was letting my Flora anywhere near that impending danger.
Suddenly, Reason motioned for us to be silent as our ponies slowly kept on moving through the African bush. In a moment, we came upon a full grown male giraffe snacking on the tall branches of a tree. The giraffe kept a watchful eye on us as we ventured in his direction. He ate a little more as he watched, then uneasiness found him and he headed off in a graceful-gallop that appeared to be in slow-motion because of his length. It was wonderful to be so close to such an exotic and majestic animal in a natural environment while on a horse. On our 2:30h journey, we also came across a few kudu antelope as well as a pack of mongooses (yes, mongooses, not mongeese!). It was truly fantastic how much we were able to see and enjoy on the ride.
It was wonderful to be so close to such an exotic and majestic animal in a natural environment while on a horse.
In the background, always there, is the roar of the Victoria Falls. It is gentle and continuous that you soon get used to and forget it is there until someone says something that reminds you of the sound and brings it back to your attention. I told Reason that when I hear a roar like that, it usually means I am back in a city with a lot of traffic.
Darkness was setting in as we arrived back at Zambezi Horse Trails and we were all much better off for the afternoon in nature that we had just experienced… The peace. The solitude. The nature. The animals. Ah, life is good. Some experiences are just so wonderful. A horseback ride through the nature of an African national park is pretty special and something never to be forgotten in your life. And once you return with happiness from interactions with the wild animals in Zambezi National Park, there is more to come. The snacks Alison has sitting out for you when you return with ice your day-cake. Who knew that cheese could taste so good on fresh fruit?!
The peace. The solitude. The nature. The animals. Ah, life is good.