Africa can be a very beautiful place, but it can also be filled with danger. In Part 4 of our interview series, adventurer Chris Collard talks about Africa’s beauty and out-running a huge wild fire.
What was the prettiest place you visited?
That is a tough one. Each place, while completely different, has its own unique beauty. If I had to pick a single spot, Victoria Falls would have to take the prize. Floodwaters from the Lungwebungu and Dongwe Rivers join the mighty Zambezi before it cascades over the 100-meter precipice at Victoria Falls. The area is a world heritage site and forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. The view from standing at the edge of the cliff is one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen, right up there with that of Iguazu Falls, Argentina and the glacial fiords of northeast Greenland. Mist swirls high overhead and the morning sun cuts through it to form double and triple rainbows. For a small fee, you can sit in the natural pool at Devil’s Point. Just two feet from the edge of the cataract and with the waters of the Zambezi flowing around you, you can peek over into the abyss.
Did you ever fear for your safety?
Fear for my safety? A few times with the animals, but the biggies were in the Kalahari fires, in Botswana and in Livingston, Zambia. I’ve always been a bit of an adrenalin junky and was shooting an article on local adrenalin sports. When I was a kid I jumped off bridges, rocks and quarry walls for the thrill. I think our local spot, Rainbow Bridge in Folsom, California, was about 80-90 feet. But at age 45, in the midst of stepping off a 300-foot cliff and falling backwards 150 feet with a rope attached to my harness, I was looking up at the sky, the fading faces on the jump platform, and the face of the rock wall streaming past my feet like newspaper off a printing press, I realized “I just want to live.” In short, it scared the shit out of me…. That made the next day’s 330-foot Bungie jump (over water) a real cakewalk.
I was also in the Kalahari during one of the biggest fires in recorded history. Allen and I were camped near Deception Pan and got chased out in the middle of the night. Smoke and ash swirled through our headlight beam as the road darted towards and away from the fire line. This was one of the fastest moving fires I’d witnessed. In the chaos, it was a debate to turn back or not, but the fire had surely crossed the track behind us. If it were not for the Tracks 4 Africa GPS map that depicted the route out, we would have hunkered down in the middle of a salt flat and let it burn around us. As it was, we raced north clearing the advancing fire by less that a seven hundred meters.
Part 5 and the conclusion to our interview coming soon!