Zimbabwe - Victoria Falls Wedding
Wow.. Im not even sure where on earth to start with this wedding. Some of it sounds so absurd, that you are going to think I made things up. Maybe I will attempt to go somewhere from the start... and see what happens. Emma and Elmo live in Dunedin, New Zealand, but had their wedding (actually, they had two weddings) in Elmo's home country of Zimbabwe. For most people, organizing a wedding is a pretty stressful ordeal (all worth it of course). Organizing a wedding in another country is an even bigger ordeal.... organizing a wedding in Africa.... that steps things up a notch... but having your wedding in Zimbabwe sort of takes the cake. If you have not been watching the news for the last few years, Zimbabwe has been going through a bit of a rough patch - politcally, economically and socially. Inflation got so bad in Zimbabwe, that they had to introduce such ridiculous currency as "One Hundred Trillion Dollar" notes. Seriously (I have one for proof).
The country now operates in US currency, which has helped stabalize things. But, in a way, has also created a few other issues. For instance, they actually don't have too much currency available (expect to receive your change from the shops in "crisps" or "chewing gum". It also make travelling around the country an interesting prospect - not everything is as cheap as you would expect... and, never take for granted that the petrol station will actually have... petrol. Not to mention the potential safety concerns.
As it turned out, it was more viable for Emma and Elmo to buy a mini bus in Japan... and ship it to Zimbabwe to get their guests from one part of the country to the next. Yes... they bought a bus... in Japan... and shipped it to Zimbabwe. And hence, "Nash City Tours" was born.
Unfortunately, I was not there on the bus tour from Harrare to Victoria Falls (some thousand km's away) - but, for those family and friends of Emma and Elmo's... I think it will be the unlikely trip of a lifetime.
Driving in Zimbabwe should really only be done during the day time. Because of the potential issues with crime? Hmm.. maybe a bit. Because of the poor roads and lack of street lighting? Yeh.. that too. Because of the fact that there is a good chance of hitting an elephant at night? Yep.
But.. all these things were just the tip of the iceberg on the trip. Elmo's groomsmen (also from New Zealand) had come with his wife and very young son Ricky. Not long in to the long trip... little Ricky became unwell... really unwell. In fact.. it was so serious that many on the bus that felt it was a touch and go situation - it was serious. It was a rush to find the closest hospital... you know.. health care is not the same as we know it here. They got him in to be seen... and by all accounts, the standard of the hospital should make us extremely gracefeful for the public system we have available. Little Ricky and his parents had to get back to Harrare for additional care... Nash City Tours had to go on.
The wedding was not far away.. and they were now behind schedule... driving at night - all night, now became unavoidable. I think for most of them.. on this bus trip.. it was the first time and the closest they had been to African big animals.... just hanging out on the roadside...
Road block after road block.. and police inspections abound... Im sure this was not the leisurely bus tour across Africa maybe they imagined. But... unforgettable for sure.
They finally made it to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. I missed all the drama - and flew in directly from Johannesburg.
The wedding was held at the beautiful Victoria Falls Safari lodge - cabins nestled in amongst the bush. Unlike Australia, where all you need worry about is a possum stealing your food, or the odd snake - here, you have to be much more mindful of the fact that you could be eaten by one of many large animals! It's not surprising that they have guards circling the cabins - and insist on escorting back to your room past dark.
I think the saying goes "only in Africa".
Ill fast forward to the wedding. Held in an outdoor amphitheatre in the Zimbabwean bush, the setting was so beautiful. But, it was the people and the sounds that made this wedding something else. Each of the bridesmaids walked down the aisle with their own Boma drummer (African drummer). 5 drummers in total walked down the aisle with 4 brides maids and one very smiley bride. But, it was her arrival that sparked a brilliant frenzy of African drumming, dancing and trilling. So beautiful in every way.
Like all weddings, it was filled with touching moments, meaningful worlds and of course tears of happiness. But, unlike any other wedding I have been to, it was also full of spontaneous dancing and singing. Boy, can Elmo's family sing… such spontaneity.. and such beautiful harmonies. They say "White men can't jump" - also, I don't think we can dance and sing either…!
After a last minute change in plans, we did the majority of the bridal party photos in the town ship of Victoria Falls. Most people who get married here, do so to have photos taken by the famous Victoria Falls themselves… but, there was something about the town itself that really grabbed me. I think I can confidently say that we did the first bridal party shoot in Zimbabwe at a Petrol Station. But after the arduous bus trip these guys had.. It seemed somewhat fitting.
Of course we did photos also at Victoria Falls. After checking it out the day before.. and coming out relatively dry.. I opted not to go in with a rain coat this time…… ummmm, fairly large mistake. The falls are an unwieldily beast - and this time, the spray was so heavy that I came out drenched. On a good day, you can see the spray from the falls from miles away… as it goes hundreds of metres into the air.
The reception was held back at Victoria Falls Safari Lodge… where.. of course, there was more dancing! But, maybe the most beautiful dance, was the one that Emma had with her father, John Frew - to the Eagles sing "Take it Easy".
Only a few weeks after the wedding, Emma's dad John, passed away very suddenly. It was such a tragic and sad moment for everyone… Jess and I included (as we had spent time with them in Africa).
It is hard to really quantify the importance of what Jess and I do as wedding photographers. But…. I think this one moment, this one wedding has given us a lot of clarity. Emma and her family have some beautiful photos and memories of John - something they can hang on to for ever.
To say it was a privilege to photograph this wedding in Zimbabwe… is somewhat of an understatement!