With Kalomo, district of last site visit, only being a two hour bus ride from Mosi-o-Tunya (The Smoke that Thunders in Tonga), otherwise known as Victoria Falls, I had no choice but to make the journey. I hopped on the bus and arrived in Livingstone close to 6pm. The first backpacker was full. A group of three recent college grads from Texas offered me the fourth spot in their four-man tent, but as tempting as it was to stay in a tent with three smelly boys who had been driving across the continent, I had to decline. I hauled my pack to the next spot that was recommended and found plenty of space – however, they suggested that I stay at their affiliate backpacker down the street. (There is a reason for all the details – I promise). I bought a beer and sat by the pool, waiting for a lift to the new spot. A half hour or so later, my ride was leaving and I went to collect my bags in the bar area. There was another American woman at the bar asking about her money that was locked in the safe. She looked familiar…
(Now a little more background…. Two very close friends from SF (Debbie and Carolyn) were traveling through South Africa and Namibia for three weeks in June. We had tried our best to make a plan to meet somewhere, but given my crazy schedule and their limited time in Africa, we weren’t able to make it happen. Debbie’s good friend from college, who I had met ONCE in January, was the third travel companion.)
Anyways, I figured I was wrong, but decided it was worth a shot to ask…. “Ashley?” I said. The woman turned to look at me and said, “Karen?” Then we both screamed. Turns out they were evacuated from a 6 day hike along the coast in South Africa because the swells were too high. In a very last minute decision, they bought flights to Livingstone to see the falls. Debbie knew I was out in the bush and therefore couldn’t be reached, so she didn’t bother emailing the last minute change of plans.
Deb and Caro were outside in a shuttle that had picked them up from a sunset cruise and I charged out the door of the backpacker bar and banged on the window. Screams, jumping and hugging quickly followed….I was shaking for a good twenty minutes afterwards. I don’t think I was aware of how much I was in need of a familiar face.
I never speak of fate or destiny – but truly the stars aligned to make this reunion happen, as they were far too many necessary pieces for it to be pure coincidence.