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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

― Precious Mwansa-Chisa

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Lake Chivero Recreational Park

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The dry hot air held the city in a tight, suffocating hug. In the midst of this intense heat wave, the car air conditioner was fighting a losing battle. We had to get away from Harare that weekend and trade the unbearable soaring temperatures and the dry, dusty air for a peaceful and cooling getaway. We had to escape to Lake Chivero.

My partner and I had driven down there countless times. We had been to the lake to unwind, party with friends, drink and watch the sun go down.

Lake Chivero is a reservoir on the Manyame River. As Harare's main water supply, the lake was opened to the public in 1952 with a dam wall that is 400 metres long, holding 250,000 million litres of water and covering 2,630 hectares.

At the entrance to Lake Chivero Recreational Park, we paid $2 each as accommodated visitors. We met a polite and friendly Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Authority (ZimParks) official who helped us locate the lodge we had pre-booked online, on the ZimParks website. We had chosen a standard lodge, called Stonechat, which cost us $50 and was pegged at $75 for non-resident visitors.

We were handed our key and given strict instructions not to disembark from our car as there were wild animals roaming around. During a rebellious streak, halfway towards the gravel strip ride to the lodge, after making sure that it was clear, we briefly got out the car and took a few photographs.

As we approached the lodge, I could smell the crisp, clean air from the lake, which was just below us. The self-catering lodge was cosy, clean and fully furnished. We threw open all the windows to let the fresh air into our room. Then we went outside, our feet against the soft, well-manicured grass and we sat in the provided white, wrought iron garden chairs, watching the vast aquamarine body of water below us. The silence of the place was punctuated by the faint sounds of water lapping at the banks and the shrill sounds of birds that flew above us. We caught a glimpse of fishermen’s dinghies. They were always present on the lake, which was rich with the Nile bream, the common grass carp, the read breasted bream and catfish.

We found a built-in braai stand a few feet from the lodge and we set up a fire to braai our meat so we could be indoors before night fell. By the time the sun painted the African horizon and trees with magical hues, we had extinguished the fire and carried our food into the kitchen. We stood outside, drinking in the beauty of the fleeting African sunset, which was soothing and mesmerising. A cool, salty breeze from the lakeside made the leaves and grass blades dance lightly. As the sky grew darker, we settled in the lounge, curled up, eating and listening to a wild symphony comprising of croaking bullfrogs, chirping crickets and hooting owls.

As darkness began to recede, giving way to a new day, all living things around us started stirring to life. We woke up to the breathtaking view of the sunrise, as if from the lake, bathing the horizon in its splendour. I could tell that it was going to be another hot day and I was glad that we were close to the lake whose fresh breeze was going to cool our burning frames. As we stood outside, taking in the scenery in the morning light, I spotted a rhino close to the banks of the lake. Lake Chivero Recreational Park, created in 1962, covers 3,470 hectares and is home to white rhino, eland, giraffe, zebra, baboon, warthog, duiker, ostrich and bush baby, among other animals.

We were presented with a wide array of activities. These included guided game drives (at $10 per person) and guided game walks, fishing (five fishing sites are open throughout the year), horse riding at $5 per person per hour ($2 for a photo shoot) and canoeing. We opted for a more relaxed scenic viewing of the lake, becoming one with nature, shutting out all sounds of the world out there.

It was mid-afternoon when we made our way out of the park area and the further we drove away from the lake, the higher the temperatures rose. We were going back to the city to start a new week, rejuvenated and hoping to drive back to the lake the following weekend.

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