I’ve been reminiscing a lot lately. It will be 20 years next month since I got together with my husband. We had been work colleagues and friends for two years. Then in the year 2002 BK (before kids), when we had cash to spare, a group of us went on a long weekend trip to New York.
There are many things I could thank for us getting together (and by thank, I mean blame). Was it being away from home in the city that never sleeps? Was it a thunderbolt of electricity? Er, not exactly. It was basically vodka and red bull. A ton of it. And then me falling over but being caught at the last minute by what turned out to be my future husband.
I still wonder sometimes how my life might be different if we’d done what I’d suggested that night, which was to go to a bar frequented by NYC firemen. For some reason the boys of the group weren’t keen, and the idea was vetoed in seconds, damn it.
So that was our beginning. Two years later, he took me back to New York and proposed, and we were married a year after that. The reason we live in a house only slightly bigger than a hamster’s cage, is because we decided to blow most of our deposit on an amazing honeymoon instead. And I don’t have a single regret. We went to Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia and it was the trip of a lifetime. Obviously though, being me, it didn’t come without it’s embarrassing encounters and near-death experiences.
One day at the beginning of the holiday, we headed out on a snorkelling trip. There was only one other couple on the boat with us. The water was clear, and it was idyllic. We’d been swimming alone, but at one point I reached out and grabbed my new husband’s hand under the water and we swam together, with me pointing out the various colourful fish.
After a while we surfaced, and I glanced up at the boat, and clapped eyes on my husband, sitting on the boat casually drinking a can of coke. I turned my head to the right, and came face to face with the man from the other couple, whose hand I had been romantically holding for the past five minutes. A slow dread began creeping up my body when I realised that the man was in fact the senior partner of the firm I was working for at the time. Luckily for my career, he saw the funny side.
The safari part of our trip was incredible. The wildlife we saw and experiences we had were unforgettable. Every night we would stop somewhere to have a ‘sundowner’ – a drink at sunset, surrounded by such beauty. One particular night, during our sundowner, our guide pointed out some lions. They were a couple of miles away, but he remarked that they had definitely seen us and were sussing us out as a potential main course.
We were told not to worry and that we had plenty of time. I needed to go to the loo, so I nipped behind a nearby tree. The shorts were down, and I was busy trying to fight off the stage fright that I always get when I’m not in a situation where there is a toilet, surrounding walls and no human within a five mile radius who might be able to hear me.
Then out of nowhere came an enormous, and extremely loud roar. I just knew that a lion had to be right behind me, and I had to run. First I had to get dressed of course. Although I didn’t want to die, it would be infinitely worse to die with my shorts and knickers round my ankles – I am British you know. So I hauled everything up as fast as possible and bolted back round the tree towards the jeep, only to find my husband and our guide happily opening the picnic box and taking out nibbles without a care in the world. It was then that I learned how fast and loudly the sound of a lion’s roar can travel, and that the lion in question was still in fact two miles away. Although I still insisted on holding it in for the rest of the trip.
The following day we made it to rhino territory. We waited patiently for a while but there was no sign of any rhinos so our guide started the car. Except it didn’t start, and after twenty more times of trying, it still didn’t start, and we realised we’d broken down. Our guide went off to get better reception to call for help, leaving us in the vehicle with the words ‘I’ll be back very soon, but if a rhino starts charging at you, climb a tree’.
Ok, great, we have options I thought. Until I looked around me and saw that there wasn’t a tree in sight. Only some rocks and a handful of bushes, which were about three feet tall and wouldn’t even support a bird if it had had a big breakfast that morning. I think we might be the only couple to go on safari and pray to God that we don’t see any rhinos. Thankfully, he listened and we made it out of there safe and sound.
When our safari days were over, we headed to Zambia and did some fantastic things – went to Victoria Falls, had a helicopter flight and we even booked a day’s horse riding. The plan was to go riding, then kayak on the Zambezi back to our hotel. All was going well until our horses reached open ground, where they both bolted and were galloping uncontrollably. Apparently the best way to control a horse and get it to slow down is not to cling onto the reins, scream solidly for ten minutes, and briefly wonder whether you really should have made a will. Nor is it to close your eyes and put one arm over your face as the horse charges into woodland and drags you through a load of thorny Acacia trees. But I went with that tactic nonetheless.
After that delight it was a relief to get into the kayak and head for home. About ten minutes in, one of the guides called across to us from his own kayak in a stage whisper, suggesting that we might want to shift over to the left a bit. Actually a lot, and right now. It turned out that on the right-hand side of the river, there was a maternally outraged hippo, who would be on the warpath if she so much as caught us looking in her direction. We were instructed to row as fast as we could, but at the same time to go very slowly indeed so we didn’t draw attention to ourselves. The result was us moving at a snail’s pace whilst only our faces looked like we were running for our lives.
I know it sounds like the honeymoon from hell, but we loved (almost) every second and it’s given us some great memories to share. We were grateful to make it back safely that day, and even more grateful to receive the gin and tonic waiting for us at the bar. And I have been drinking to recover ever since.
Bring on Bedtime!