A Travellerspoint blog

Southern Circle: Day 20

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

sunny 30 °C

18 July 2017

A free day in Victoria Falls. I’m feeling exhausted and should be having a sleep in but there’s a good reason I was up at 5.00am. Jude and I and three Aussies were picked up just after 6.00am. We wasted a lot of time picking up from other hotels and waiting for a Chinese group to pay.

Eventually we arrived and were divided into two groups. We were given a big stick and started walking and crossed a creek. Then the excitement started as two lions came bounding across the creek and playfully wrestled in front of us. The lions, a male and female, are still cubs, just under two years old. We were given a briefing about how to walk with the lions – never go near the head but stroke their back and rear. There was a guy with a rifle shadowing us at a distance … just in case.

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Everyone in the group had a turn at walking alone with the lions while the group walked behind. The staff take your camera (can’t have anything dangling around your neck) and they took lots of photos of each person.

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The female was a bit flighty and kept running off – maybe the hunting instinct kicking in. When I was walking the lion deciding to lie down so I got to kneel down and stroke the lion. Then the two lay down together and everyone had a turn of kneeling down for photos. Sorry the colours are off in the photos but that's what happens when you give your camera to someone else.

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This was absolute joy … I can’t believe I walked with lions!

We were out for 45 minutes and it was time to go back. A cooked breakfast was waiting for us and then we watched the video of our walk. Of course I bought the video. Another USD30 on top of the USD150 for the walk. This type of experience doesn’t come cheap but I’m so glad I did it.

After we were dropped off we had to pack up and change hotels. Then we walked to the markets. At regular intervals along the way there were men trying very hard to sell their wares and they won’t accept no. My standard reply was ‘Australia, no wooden things’.

The markets were hot, dirty and exhausting. I found the markets overwhelming and claustrophobic. I would have bought some things but the constant hassle was too much for me. I couldn’t look at anything because as soon as you stop they start bringing out more and more things- you want lovely scarf, bag, table runner, carved animals – best price in markets. I started walking around with my arms behind my back so they couldn’t place things in my hands.

The stalls are crowded in so about every metre is a new person saying hello, and asking where you’re from. I got so many ‘down under’ and ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’. A few people asked if we had pens, insect repellent or clothes to give them, I was also shown Australian dollars and asked to exchange for USD – one guy said the bank won’t take AUD. I thought that AUD was one of the legal tenders in Zimbabwe, anyway I wasn't going to get stuck with fake AUD - I later found at a café that we could actually pay in AUD so it is accepted in Zimbabwe.

We had a late lunch and went back to check into the hotel and meet the pick up for our next activity, a helicopter ride over the falls. The ride was only about 12 minutes long (yes, another USD150 ... an expensive day) but tit was great to see the full length of the falls from above. i got to sit with the pilot and could also see straight down.

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So this was supposed to be a relaxing day but once again I was exhausted (I'm also battling on with a horrible cough and chest infection). At 7.00pm I met Jude for dinner but I was overtired and decided not to eat ... at that point sleep was more important than food.

The lion walk program is controversial because of the interaction with humans they cannot be released into the wild. However,when they get older they are released into a reserve. The male lion that we walked with had an unusual gait because of surgery, He was rescued because he couldn't walk and would have been abandoned to die. Originally I had reservations about doing the walk but I loved it ... it was one of the most exciting things I've ever done

Posted by MissWalker 13:10 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (1)

Southern Circle: Day 19

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

sunny 30 °C

17 July 2017

Aaaaah …. I need a sleep in! Another 6.15am breakfast and on the road at 7.00am. Clever cooked bacon and eggs for breakfast.

The exit through the Botswana border was very quick – we filled in a form and got an exit stamp in our passport. It took much longer to enter Zimbabwe. We had already filled out the forms and had the visa money ready, we handed it over and they kept the passport, which was a bit confusing. William said to wait outside until they had done all the visas. I did a single entry visa for USD30, the fee for Canadians is USD75 so it was cheaper for Jude to get a visa for both Zimbabwe and Zambia but it meant she had to cross into Zambia. We waited nearly an hour and I got a pretty visa page in passport for my USD30.

It wasn’t far to Victoria Falls, we reached there around 10.00am and went straight to the booking office to learn about the options for tomorrow. I booked two exciting things …. no, not bungy jumping … you’ll have to wait for my next post.

From there we had a quick drive around the small town. It’s very touristy with lots of markets. Then on to see Victoria Falls. William bought the entry tickets …. ouch, it’s USD30 to enter the park. You could get a view of the falls from the bridge or from Zambia where it also costs about the same to enter the viewing areas. Judging by the number of people in the park this is a good source of revenue for Zimbabwe.

We had two and a half hours to visit the falls, which was plenty of time. Victoria Falls are spectacular, not a long single fall but lots of falls spread over a wide area. They are called the smoke that thunders for good reason. You need a raincoat or poncho because the spray from the falls is incredible. This is the time of year when the water flow is at its highest. Jude took off to quickly walk across the bridge into Zambia, take some photos from that side and then cross back into Zimbabwe – there’s a fine of USD100 if she didn’t cross into Zambia after buying the visa.

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Back on the BB King truck for the last time, this is the end of this leg and everyone else is going their own way tomorrow. We are staying at a beautiful hotel/resort (best of the trip) called A’Zambezi, right on the Zambezi River. The rooms are pure luxury, warthogs roam the ground and apparently a hippo sometimes makes an appearance at dusk.

We had a group buffet dinner (terrible value at USD35). It was sad to say goodbye to William and Clever. Clever has an infectious smile and William is the more serious chief organiser – whenever he made an announcement he said ‘I’m going to make some noise now’, which meant everyone had to listen; and ‘Tomorrow is another day and if tomorrow comes …’; and ‘If there are no further questions my office is closed and I’m going in to the village to get married’. Of course once his office was closed to us he still had daily reports and accounts to do. These guys work very long hours!

Jude and I didn’t have to say goodbye to JP because he’s coming back to Johannesburg with us and maybe all the way to Capetown.

Posted by MissWalker 11:29 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 18

sunny 28 °C

16 July 2017

Of course I woke up around 1.00am after such an early night but at least I was feeling better. Breakfast was at 6.30am and I really enjoyed some toast and jam. We were on the road just after 7.00am.

We had some good animal sightings along the road. But I had the best sighting … I saw a leopard jump out of a tree and run into the bush. He was gone so quickly that I didn’t have time to yell out to everyone. Next was an elephant, some giraffes, some ground horn bills (a very large bird) and some rare sable antelope in the distance. That’s before we even got to the national park.

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We only had a ‘bushy bushy’ stop along the way and had to be wary because of the wildlife. We arrived at the Thebe River Lodge around 11.00am and had a quick lunch … not my favourite, hot dogs and salad.

The game drive in Chobe National Park started at 12.00 and we all piled onto the open truck. A short drive brought us to the Chobe gate and we drove along the river and stopped to watch the elephants, hippos and crocodiles. I would have preferred that the guide drove further away from the river because we would be doing a river cruise straight after the drive. I really wanted to see lions but realistically we didn’t have much hope in the middle of the day … you have to go early morning or late evening. The track was deep sand and we nearly got stuck a couple of times. There was an eagle and heaps more elephants. This was a big elephant day.

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We were on the boat at 3.00pm and went down the river. I was disappointed that there weren’t more hippos, but we did see one next to the boat and he snorted and opened his mouth before disappearing underwater. We saw some baboons, crocodiles and heaps of elephants. Is it possible to see too many elephants in one day?

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After watching the sun set we were back at the dock at 6.00pm and William took us back for the last truck dinner for this leg of the tour. A good dinner of steak (some sort of steak, it’s best not to ask) sausages, potato, pumpkin and coleslaw followed by apple crumble and custard. It’s so good to be eating again.

Posted by MissWalker 20:57 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 17

sunny 28 °C

15 July 2017

Not my best travel day!

I was awake around 1.00am and started vomiting. Not easy when you have to unzip the tent opening and walk across the walkway to the bathroom with a torch. I was up and down several time when I heard Pony asking if I was okay. She was very concerned about me and got me a can of lemonade.

No breakfast and I was still sick just before we got on the plane at 8.30am to return to Maun. The day was a blur, it was just a travel day, bouncing around in the truck all day. No lunch and I was still sick throughout the day.We had to stop at a check point where you have to rub your shoes on a mat to stop the spread of foot and mouth disease - had to wear a pair of shoes and take an extra pair in case they think we have shoes in our bags and they want to go through our luggage.

We arrived at Pelican Lodge in Nata around 3.30pm and I went straight to my room to lie down. No dinner and I was in bed around 8.00pm. And that was my horror day - that wasn't in the itinerary!.

I think it was the water at the lodge. They provided drinking water for us and Pony said it was filtered but she didn’t actually know how it was treated. Nobody else got sick but I didn’t feel well after drinking the water yesterday.

Although it was difficult being so unwell on a travel day I was thankful that it was just a travel day and I didn’t have to miss out on any activities.

Posted by MissWalker 20:34 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 16

sunny 28 °C

14 July 2017

I didn’t close the flaps on my tent last night, just had the mesh zipped up so I could hear all the night sounds. I didn’t sleep very well because the moon was very bright. When Pony came around with the wake-up call at 6.40am I had already been awake for a while watching the brilliant pink colour light up the horizon … didn’t even have to get out of bed to see it.

We had coffee/tea and fresh muffins and were ready for another mokoro ride and bush walk at 7.00am. We hadn’t gone too far in the mokoro when we could hear the hippos splashing in the water. We came in a little closer and eventually we could see there were five hippos - couldn't get a great photo because we were so low in the mokoro and you can't move or you'll tip over).

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After crossing to the main island we started walking and walked for about two and a half hours. We saw lots of birds and a mother and baby warthog and a couple of herds of impala. Moja was always on the lookout for animals. He really wanted to find us a lion – there were fresh prints but we never found the lion. As we walked along Moja told us about the trees and bushes, the footprints he saw on the track and the different types of animal dung (he even knew if it came from a male or female).

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It started out lovely and cool but quickly warmed and I was getting very tired by the time we got back to the mokoro. Even though we wandered all over the place Moja knew exactly where he left the mokoro.

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We made our way back to the camp for a late breakfast. We were eating breakfast (a big breakfast of cereal and eggs and bacon) at 11.00am and it felt like I’d been up so long it should be evening. It was good to have a few hours of down time to rinse some clothes and load my photos from the last couple of days. Lunch was at 2.30pm – spinach quiche with salad.

Once again I decided not to do the afternoon mokoro and walk. I really enjoy the walks but a couple of hours of walking through long dry grass is not good for allergies and asthma. This is such a lovely place to sit and do nothing. After lunch we saw a couple of giraffes and an elephant in the distance and there are a variety of pretty birds. I tried the bucket shower again but all I could get out of the hot tap was some very brown cold water … at least the cold tap was running clear so I had a cold shower again.

Once again we went to the next camp to watch the sunset – no elephant today. By dinner time I wasn’t feeling well and didn’t eat dinner. I was feeling cold and shut up the tent flaps tonight but could still hear all the animal sounds … hippos, elephant and baboons came in very close during the night.

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Posted by MissWalker 08:55 Archived in Botswana Comments (0)

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