VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE – As global tourists descend into hotels, safari lodges and other facilities around the country’s breath-taking landmarks, the feeling is that one is entering crime free zones, away from robberies, poaching, smuggling, murders and other forms of vice rampant in bustling towns.
What with the professional receptions that greet leisure lovers from well-groomed waiters, porters and front officers.
But there are smugglers, poachers, drug dealers and other criminals in the resorts as well.
On a recent tour of Victoria Falls, a story was told of a daring smuggler who had made it a habit to risk attacks by vicious predators in the expansive forests between the resort town and Kazungula border post.
Every night the man took off for Botswana to trade in anything, spending long hours dodging elephants, lions, hyenas and buffaloes.
But on this fateful night, his luck ran out.
As he weaved through the thickets, everything looked normal.
But suddenly, and unsuspecting, he was confronted by the hostile eyes of the king of the jungle — the lion.
It was lying straight on his path.
Without him noticing, it starred straight into his face, wondering why a bonny man of his stature appeared so “defiant”.
By the time the man realised he had orbited into harm’s way, the king was only a spitting distance away.
He could not raise a finger. And for the next 20 minutes, they starred at each other — the lion still baffled that there were creatures on earth with the cheek to look him straight into his eyes —and him still thinking he would wake up from a dreadful dream.
Then suddenly, the lion jumped and disappeared into the nearby straw yellow grass, the chin of a vast barren sun baked land stretching yonder, a trail of its siblings in pursuit.
The smuggler fell unconscious. Twenty minutes later, he woke up, looked sideways, then remembered his encounter.
For the next 10 kilometres, he was sprinting like an Olympic champion across bushes, stepping on unsuspecting snakes, smashing rock outcrops and flying across gullies, his speed unrelenting.
Many hours later, he confessed.
The scenic Victoria Falls-Kazungula woodlands form a corridor of silent environs, which is pregnant with mindboggling incidences.
Just be unfortunate to have a breakdown at night and you will live to tell horror stories.
There was this very fortunate, or unfortunate, man.
He drove his ramshackle Nissan Sunny into a herd of impalas at breakneck speed, knocking “dead” one unfortunate mother.
He hesitated to come out of the car, fearing that lions would maul him, or Parks and Wildlife Management Authority rangers were within the vicinity.
On second thoughts, he remembered the high cost of meat in the resort town and just jumped out, grabbing the impala and throwing it into the boot.
Those who remember the incident said he was already counting the number of days he would not step into a butchery.
At home, he confided with his wife about the fortune incident. But on opening the boot, they got the shock of their lives. The impala was alive.
It caused a scene that attracted neighbours, and the police as his wife screamed.
Fifteen minutes later, they were sitting in holding cells.
There are unprintable things that happen elsewhere in Victoria Falls.
It is not always clean when those people who brave the 100 metres down the dry basalt supported U-shaped valley come out.
We just cannot print!