Not being entirely an eclipsaholic but knowing that any trip with Chris is special, and feeling the need for a short holiday, I decided to become the sole member of Chris's eclipse trip. Franc Andrew & Jason on refection decided that Zambia was a tad far, and so joined us also as did Pete and Sandra (also posinging as her sister Sonje).
Myself and Chris departed on Tuesday afternoon, a few times before finaaly were on the great North road. We stopped in Pretoria, where Chris bought some very very expensive "tin-foil" and I bought some very cheap Vitamin C's(thanks for the tip Vanessa) , both were the two most important eclipse items of the trip! We breezed along and reached the lion and elephant at around 10:30, and went looking for Franc, Andrew and Jason. We never in our deepest thoughts imagined these hardned, heavy drinking roubgh and ready types to be cosily ensconsed in a comfortable little bungalow, A Bungalow!! Not finding them we unrolled our sleeping bags and went to kip under the stars.
As we cruised into Harare, Chris opened one eye and mentioned that we should first pull into the Harare South Country Club, as there was some cricket match on the go! Lots of Big 4x4's abounded and we drove up to the gate. "Are you Mr Kirchhoff?" asked the gate attendant, "Yes" said Chris. Well here are your tickets, your programme and your beer money! ( Zim$900-18 beers) When we thanked John for the money he said "what money". It was the ticket collector who was so impressed to see us from SA. The match was between Zimbabwe Country Districs and the West Indies Yes the Windies. In we went and found the best seats in front of the main clubhouse where waiters continually plied us with beers (It was 10$ cheaper to get them served than to go into the bar itself ?). and Brian (Lara) and Carl (Hooper) chatted alongside us!!.
The Zim side with about half the national team convincingly thrashed the windies, and the spectators, 99% white farmers drank all the booze (they had expected 10 times the turnout). We went on to John (Angus' Cousins farm) where Franc lit an awesome fire and Andrew, Franc and Jason provided us with a utterly delicious meal (It was the last time we saw and ATE vegetables on the trip). There is enough carbohydrates in beer we gathered. Angus rustled up some Viennas of a colour that was very very bright. John our amazing host returned and made us Irish Coffee's and regaled us with stories, told over and over again, late into the night.
I again slept out under the stars and was treated to that special African sunrise, and Pete brought me coffee in "bed". It was a beautiful day. The Zimbabweans again treated us fantastically, giving us their comfortable speedy landcruiser while they travelled on the back of the slow bumpy truck, and we joined the convoy of cars to Nyamapanda. Four hours and a bit (mainly looking for the Brad-lee's) later we turned onto the track that led up a small mountain. Chris (who was driving) saw lots of brilliant spots, and was being far too practical, but Andrew and myself could see a brilliant spot up the mountain where it was possible to turn around and up a narrow, steep windy track we went, and then there it was, A spot of note!
Out came parafanalia, telescopes, cooler boxes, binoculars, cooler boxes, cameras, cooler boxes, eclipse glasses, cooler boxes, chrises foil, cooler boxes, the essa flag and some more cooler boxes. The truck joined us shortly with another five vehicles the Brad-Lee's etc.. Andrew and me four by foured everyone up to "THE SPOT OF NOTE" finising about ten seconds before Pete anounced that he could see touch-down as the moon and sun met!!
Slowly the moon crossed the path of the sun, the temprature dropped (it was 35 celcius to start and about 20 degrees at 100% eclipse). the light got softer, the leaves of the trees worked as tiny pinholes, making 1000's of tiny eclipses on the ground. We joked, took foties, drank beer, ate apicnic, life was beatiful. We saw 70% and thought of our friends in South Africa, then it got cooler and darker. We were expectant and exited as 100%
approached. It happened!
It was as if someone in the sky had turned a dimmer, it got dark in a few seconds. I looked at the moon-sun two huge solar flares were visible The whole spectrum of colurs appeared on the edge of the moon, I looked around, it was like the most beatiful sunset, but all 360 degrees. I looked up, I saw a bright "star"
This was truly beatiful amazing incredible
Then the dimmer was turned up again. The second amazing sunrise of the day happened!! It was day again. Kids were hauled off binos and telecopes, the moon went on its way!!. Someone said "Thanks God- that was amazing",
Andrew said "That was TIT"