A Travellerspoint blog

February 2019

Out of Africa


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Friday and Saturday, Feb 8 & 9

Currently 20,000 feet up just outside of Paris, we are on the final flight of our journey. It all began about 28 hours ago when we woke up in Zimbabwe. It’s hard to believe we are this close to the end. I know I’ve said it before, but this really was the trip of a lifetime...even though I am already pondering where I should go next in Africa 🤷🏽‍♀️😉😀 We’ve gotten so many tips and ideas and stories from fellow travelers, I can’t help but start to fantasize about all the possibilities.

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But back to the beginning of this two day ordeal. We took our time getting to breakfast Friday, and enjoyed having the veranda all to ourselves. Having heard such glowing reviews of the Victoria Falls Bridge the night before, I was really pulling hard for us to get there. Thankfully Brenda agreed and our hotel clerk said it was only a short cab ride followed by like a 500m walk to the middle of the bridge, so we should have plenty of time before our 10:55 airport transfer pickup.

We quickly finished packing while a taxi was called for us. And would you believe our luck to end our Zimbabwean taxi adventures the same way we began them: with Clever 😀 We gave him the scoop on what we’d all done, filled him in on our long journey home, and devised a plan for him to meet us a half hour later to whisk us back to the hotel. He was so funny when we told him how different the weather would be and he started asking about what snow is like and how we could possibly live where it’s that cold (oh Clever, I am asking myself that very same thing right about now 🤦🏽‍♀️🙈). Brenda had him laughing when she said “it’s like in your freezer, only on the ground.”

So he had to drop us off outside the border patrol zone. He gave us strict instructions to just show our passports, ask for a bridge pass and don’t pay any money. He would be right back there waiting for us around 10:15. And off we went. Yet again the immigration officials saw our blue passport covers and had absolutely no interest in looking any closer. They shoved a stamped piece of paper at Brenda and we headed toward the bridge.

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Ya know how it is when you’re in a hurry and not sure where you’re going and it seems to be taking forever?! Well that’s exactly what it was like. And then we became oh so interesting to two of the guys on the bridge trying to sell us jewelry. Not thinking, I said we were Americans and that made them even more interested and wanted to talk about Obamaland. Finally Brenda got rid of them by saying we were just trying to enjoy our walk to the middle of the bridge and we are NOT buying anything.

Whew...dodged that pair only to be picked up by the guys trying to convince people to do the bridge jump/swing thing. That would be a big NO from us. Unlike Cape Town’s milk money beggar though, these guys all listened and left us alone, which was very nice.

And then we got to the middle and I went into full on photog mode cause it was incredible!! You can see straight into the middle of the gorge and really see the height of the Falls. Plus from that vantage point the mist isn’t overpowering so you don’t have a hazy, clouded view. I am super duper glad we ran into those two couples and got the inspiration to get over there. Had I gotten home and realized it after the fact, it would’ve been a repeat of the Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair incident from Sydney, and I would’ve been oh so bummed and ticked off.

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Naturally we had to snap photos with both the “Welcome to Zambia” and “Welcome to Zimbabwe” signs, standing with one foot in each country. And kudos to Brenda for spotting the crossover spot so we could take a look down the river on the side opposite the Falls. And double kudos for her quick thinking and telling the next guys to ask: that we were Canadians, from Manitoba. Yep, that confused and shut them up quickly 😝🤣

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A quick glance at my watch and we knew we needed to hightail it back. As soon as we stepped out of the immigration office, I could immediately see Clever’s big smile as he furiously waved to make sure we spotted him. Now that is some mighty fine door to door service right there. He said we need to come back and visit or send all our friends there so he can drive them around (take note Julianne, and tell him HI from us if you see him in June 😀).

Back at the hotel we headed to the room to cool off in our a/c for a few minutes. We hadn’t quite thought through our humidity filled dash at the start of our long journey (oops...and thanks again Brenda, I know I owe you for that one 😉). Cooled off and ready to go, housekeeping showed up just in time to offer to carry our bags and we headed to reception to wait. In no time at all we were on the road to Victoria Falls Airport, bidding a fond farewell to Batonka and Zimbabwe.

With some time to kill at the airport, there were a few cute shops to look in and we each picked up a little something (I mean we didn’t come all this way to not have physical proof of it). Yet again South African Air wins the day by one lady hustling through a meal service on a flight that lasted about an hour and a half. We landed in Johannesburg with over 5 hours before our flight to Paris. The only logical thing to do is shop and eat of course!! And now that we’re back to rand and a foreign currency, it all feels like more of a bargain. The shops are just so bright and colorful and draw you right in. Not to mention this airport is like one giant mall. Purely by chance, we both liked the same tee shirt and bought it (with no plans to wear them at the same time of course 🙊). I also couldn’t resist a little stuffed giraffe keychain with a butt tag that says “Made in Africa,” and who has subsequently been named Sabi to honor all the giraffes we saw in Sabi Sands. Next order of business was dessert for dinner - banana chocolate fudge ice cream cone for me and a double chocolate muffin for Brenda.

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By that point, our carryons were getting heavy so we headed to the gate to stake out a seat. Good thing we did as we discovered our plane to Paris was one of thee largest double decker jumbo jets, with a capacity of 516 passengers. We’re not sure if there were that many people on board, but it was pretty dang full. Regardless, they did a great job of organizing and boarding all of us (quite possibly better than our flight to Chicago, which is half the size).

The flight again was long and the food was the worst we had on any flight. I ended up in a middle seat with a rather interesting Frenchman on the aisle next to me (and not in a good way 🙊). After 10 or 11 hours, however long it finally took, we were so ready to be off that thing. Five hours in Paris was enough time just to eat something, walk around some and get a few of these posted. And at long last we boarded our final flight to Chicago, aka the crying room 😝 We don’t have an official count as to how many tiny ankle biters are on here, but enough to make quite the chorus of crying as we waited on the tarmac. No matter the nationality, the high pitched squeal and screeching seems to be the same in any language 🤷🏽‍♀️ The poor flight attendants were basically herding cats as people en mass were attempting to move seats. But alas we are surrounded. Thankfully it got better once we were in the air...scratch that as here they go again 🙉🙉🙉

And now we are two hours in to yet another almost 10 hour flight. I am so NOT looking forward to the weather in Chicago (nor sitting in a car for another 3 hours), but a shower and good nights sleep in my own bed does sound delightful. I’ve basically only napped a few hours intermittently since this day began what, 30 hours ago?! The not so glamorous part of travel. But I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat for the incredible experiences we’ve had.

7 flights...5 hotels...3 countries...2 friends spending 2 amazing weeks in Africa 😀🐧🦒🦓🐆🦏🐵🐘🦁🌳🐛🐍🦎🌍😎

Saturday, Feb. 23

And here we are, two weeks post Africa, and I figure it’s about time I wrap up this final blog post.

As a quick recap, we arrived fine and on time in snowy, cold, cruel Chicago. Brenda’s friend Kyle was ready and waiting as soon as we got through customs and grabbed our suitcases. The drive back went well and amazingly we both stayed awake (well until I started dozing off at the very end when they were talking about work stuff that I had no clue about). I think having someone else asking us questions and commenting on the trip was the only reason we looked alive. If we had been left to our own devices to drive home, I think we would’ve been in a world of hurt. So thanks again for the driving services Angie and Kyle!!

Basically they dropped me off at 6:30, I dumped my stuff just inside the door, showered, brushed my teeth (twice for good measure 🙊) and by 7:15 I was out cold for the next 12 hours 😳😴 And that kicked off an entire week full of exhaustion and intestinal and germ issues. In all the trips I’ve taken, I’ve never been hit quite so hard by the jet lag as this one. But I finally got through it, as did Brenda with her not sleeping issues, and now it’s time to sort through the pictures and videos and purchases. And for me at least: start planning the next adventure 🌍🌎🌏 Thanks for coming along and partaking in my ramblings, and here’s hoping you join me in the future. Have passport...must travel 😀 🛩 😍

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 12:00 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged africa safari zimbabwe victoria_falls jet_lag Comments (0)

Water, water everywhere


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Thursday, February 7

This morning was a little bit later start, getting up at 6:45. That gave us plenty of time to eat breakfast and be ready for an 8:10 pickup for our tour of Victoria Falls. This time it was a group tour and we were the first ones on the little bus with Jo. After quick stops at two other hotels, we were on the way.

The drive itself didn’t take long before we arrived at the National Park entrance on the Zimbabwe side. There were 6 of us with Jo (myself and Brenda along with two English couples) and then 2 other couples went off for Spanish or French tours. First order of business was getting our rain ponchos (oh boy, here we go again). Between the sky not looking the best and the mist that can blow off the falls, it was a pretty sure bet we were in for another wet morning.

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We saw the map of what was referred to as “The Smoke That Thunders” by the indigenous tribes and got the lowdown on the walk. There is a path that runs along the Falls for about 2 miles and contains 16 viewing points. Some were better than others and some were drier than others. At the last Danger Point spot, you can see across to the Zambia side.

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Most of us started off descending the 38 steps to Chain Walk where you get your first real look at things. By this point you’ve already been hearing the mass of water and imagining what it would look like. Basically it’s a giant wall of never ending foam and water smashing down and throwing up some serious spray (upwards of 60 feet in some spots). Over to the left you see where the calm waters are coming from the river and start speeding over and down the rocks. It’s unreal how quickly it changes. Although it’s not the highest or widest waterfall in the world, it is classified as the largest based on its combined height, width and flow rate.

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Then we backtracked a little to avoid the other tour group that was near us. We needed to see the statue of David Livingstone, the first European to see the Falls and share news of it with the world back in 1855. He’s also the one that renamed it in honor of Queen Victoria. From there we headed to the path, which takes you through the rainforest to the viewing points. The final stop (well besides the gift shop of course) is a point overlooking the bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe. 116 years old, this is also the bridge where people bungee jump and swing over the Zambezi River...but that is definitely not on our to do list.

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The walk itself is pretty much a blur, from one photo op to the next. Between the crashing water and the intermittent rain and the winds blowing the mist all over us at times, it was hard to focus. Not to mention trying not to slip on the wet rocks and keep the camera relatively dry. The pace itself was good, with all of us sticking together and chatting and Jo giving info and pointing out some of the best places to snap a pic. He even played photographer for everyone at a few points, but sadly some of those pics turned out all blurry 😭 Thankfully we do have one of the both of us at the Danger Point and I am hoping I got at least a few nice ones of just the Falls themselves. But unless you are a professional, probably with a drone, I just can’t imagine being able to truly capture the scope of things. With no sun, we also weren’t blessed with any rainbows glinting off the mist either.

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All in all, it was a good morning and quite the sight to see. Knowing what we know now though, I’m not sure if the extra time and money was worth the trip here or if extra safari days or a trip to Blyde River Canyon would’ve been better 🤷🏽‍♀️ But it doesn’t pay to second guess things now as we’ve seen it, can put a pin in it and scratch it off our maps...with no desire to come back. The town itself isn’t what we had envisioned either. So we’ve just been chilling at the hotel, eating lunch here and waiting for our 3:55 pickup for the Zambezi River Cruise. Here’s hoping that utterly dazzles as we have heard very good things from other people.

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I am happy to report that the cruise was fabulous! Luckily we were on one of the smaller sunset dinner cruise boats, which has little tables with four chairs each and just one deck instead of the packed boats with rows of chairs. We made several hotel stops on the way to the dock to pick up other cruisers. Around 4:30 or so, the boat finally got all loaded and shoved off.

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The captain introduced himself, as well as the chef and bartender and assistant. It was cute that every time they had an announcement to make, they’d get our attention by saying, “hello good people...” really loud. The captain also told us about the river and its history, but all I really caught was that we will keep a safe distance of at least 2km (1.25 miles) away from the Falls.

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Through out, you could order drinks from the well stocked bar and they kept bringing around little snack sampler platters for each table (all of which was included 💃🏽🥂). We tried quite the variety of things, from meatballs and chicken wings to mini veggie quiche and fried halumi cheese (very close to giant cheese curds 😋). And then they had to throw one odd one in there and bring out crocodile skewers, which just tasted like chicken. But I found it a bit rude to be eating crocodile right in front of an actual crocodile 🤷🏽‍♀️😝

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The Zambezi River and it’s surrounding area is home to quite a few things. They pointed out so many different birds, I just zoomed in and snapped the shot having no idea what I was seeing. In the one spot along the river, there was an elephant just snacking on some leaves. As noted above, we did see a crocodile. But the biggie for the Zambezi is the abundance of hippos. It is fairly shallow in spots, which is perfect for them as they aren’t very good swimmers and need to walk along the bottom with their little legs. Then they’ll jump or bob up to the surface to take a breath (or give one to any babies riding on their backs) and just keep on walking. We had two really cool encounters - the first of which was seeing a hippo on land getting into the water. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before! And second was on the way back, when we had two big groups (pods did he call them?!) of hippos on either side of the boat. They were making their “look at me and how big I am” grunts & noises, as well as flashing their giant mouthed open move. It was quite the sound and sight to behold.

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And while all that action was going on, the sky was giving us all sorts of creative looks. There were the puffy clouds and the various shades of blue. And then we could see these sections of rain off in the distance that really played with the colors and the way the sun shown through, but which thankfully never brought rain to us. Part way through the bus ride back to Batonka, a proper orange, pink and magenta sunset broke out over the tree lines. Zooming along there was no way to capture it, so just sit back and take your mental photos for future reference 📷

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We decided to go check out one of the oldest hotels in town (built by the British in 1904 for railway workers), Victoria Falls Hotel. It’s this gorgeous place with all these great photos of British royalty visiting the area lining some of the walls. They also have a gallery for Larry Norton, who paints amazing animal and landscape images from the area (and only paints things he has seen with his own eyes as we were informed by Alice at Batonka). While we were walking around, we actually ran into one of the ladies from the tour this morning, the one who’s birthday it was! We chatted a bit and she told us how that afternoon, they walked to the center of Victoria Falls Bridge, which had some incredible views.

And the real reason for our cab ride here was to check out their most reasonably priced restaurant, Stanley’s Terrace, to grab some dinner. I went with the lamb shawarma (similar to a gyro) and Brenda opted for the toasted cheese and tomato sandwich. We both had the delish fries that tasted just like McDonald’s. And since it would be our last dinner out in Africa, we split the sundae with chocolate croutons (basically shortbread cookie chunks), toasted marshmallows and caramel or butterscotch sauce. Just before it arrived, the other couple from this morning came walking by (both of the couples were actually staying at this hotel) and they too raved about their bridge crossing in the afternoon. Dang it, why didn’t we think to do that with our free time?! Epic fail...but maybe, just maybe we’ll have time to squeeze it in quick in the morning 🤞🏽

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 16:04 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged victoria_falls river_cruise zambezi Comments (0)

Zimbabwe or Bust


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Wednesday, February 6

We got to sleep in today until 5:45...but I was still up by 5:15 🤦🏽‍♀️ Oh well, extra time to lay there and listen to the sounds of South Africa. Dale, the Nottens manager, had arranged breakfast for us at 6:30. We had plenty of time to finish packing and head up to the lodge.

We kept hearing about all these monkeys in the area, but never saw them. Turns out they are very busy early in the morning when no one is around. Brenda opened the door to walk in, and two of those little monkeys dashed out from a corner. I was standing outside trying to pick up the WiFi when three more scampered by me...the cutest of which being the mama with the baby hanging on for dear life around her middle. And then we kept hearing the amarula bowling league as they would knock the fruit off the trees and chase them rolling down the roof.

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We sat down and the brigade of dishes started coming out. I don’t think they got the memo that there was only two of us as they had enough food for our entire Jeep. By the time we finished, it didn’t even look like we had eaten anything 🤦🏽‍♀️

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We were handed off to Collin and headed toward Mpumalanga/Nelspruit Airport. Dale had told us to keep a look out for the first hour as we may still encounter animals. Sure enough there was an elephant standing right along the fence line just munching away, and surely wishing us a fond farewell. The drive itself was far less bumpy and death defying as our trip in, and Collin was an absolute delight chatting with us the entire way. So interesting to hear about his life with his wife and 3 sons in the village of 180,000. Ummm...in the US we call that a city, except we all have water and electricity 😢 He said he’s in trouble with 3 sons as the boy’s family is required to pay 15 cows to the girl’s family in order to marry. We heard about his 10 room house and how hard his wife works at home to take care of the children and everything else. Once a month when he gets paid, he treats the family to KFC...and if he forgets, the boys will definitely remind him 😀 He pointed out the banana fields and eucalyptus trees and macadamia nut farm, telling us things about each. When we told him things about the US and how we live, it was great to just sit back and watch his reactions. We covered everything from kids, marriage, drugs and police corruption to weather, geography, cars and animals. These kind of interactions are what make travel truly priceless.

The airport itself is very nice and checkin was done in seconds. But alas it was only 9am and they don’t even open the security checkpoint until 10:30. There were a few shops to wander by, but now we’re just sitting here waiting. The flight is at 11:35, with a 1:10 arrival into Livingstone Airport, Zambia. From there we’ll be whisked across the border into Zimbabwe for our final 2 nights on holiday. We were talking last night that it has gone so fast yet in some ways Cape Town feels like it was a month ago. Not to start getting all nostalgic before it’s even over, but this has really been such a trip of a lifetime (thanks again Neil!! And we got your message from Riaan.). I’d like to think it won’t be my only time here, but ya just never know. And on that note...I’m out! Off to fill out my immigration form. Catch you from Zimbabwe. 😍

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Well I’m not exactly in Zimbabwe right now, but actually somewhere in the sky between Johannesburg and Paris. Let’s take a little detour back to that time period though shall we?!

Yet again our flight went off without a hitch. We even hit the jackpot with our seats and were on the side of the plane overlooking Victoria Falls. It is one incredibly massive sight to behold, that’s for sure. The helicopter rides above it would probably be so phenomenal, but we are passing on that and keeping our feet firmly on the ground (plus we already did a helicopter in Australia, so been there done that 🤣).

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We arrived at Livingstone Airport which is on the Zambia side of the Falls. No problem getting through immigration and buying our visas. Our transfer driver was right there waiting for us and we were on the move. Driving through the streets of Zambia, it was like ok, we are now truly in Africa Africa. Here’s the people walking everywhere and carrying their belongings on their heads. You could just sense the poverty, even while they are some of thee happiest, nicest people you will ever meet. But yeah, there’s no mistaking that we don’t blend in in the slightest.

Coming up to the border crossing is quite the experience, being just this jumble of cars and semi trucks and people. At the one stop our driver got out and we had guys coming up looking in the van windows trying to sell us stuff. At the second stop, we had to get out and get our visas stamped to be able to cross into Zimbabwe. Both of us had the same nervous, “you’re not gonna lock that van with all our stuff in it” thought. But it took no time at all and we were back in the van. I think we interrupted the immigration officer’s texting as he could barely be bothered to look away from his phone long enough to acknowledge us. And just like that, we were in Zimbabwe, which looks just like Zambia did. I don’t know exactly what I was envisioning, but this wasn’t it 🙈 Being such a touristy place I guess I thought it would cater more to that, but then again that’s what all the resorts and lodges are for. The town itself is more just regular African town.

We pulled up to the green gate that blocks off Batonka Guest House from the road, and it opened to reveal quite the little gem inside. The place only just opened in mid-2016, so there are lots of upgrades and modern conveniences. But at the same time it looks and feels like an old manor house. And here is where the hospitality really shown through. I don’t know how many of the staff, from security guards to maids to bartenders to management and the desk staff that came up and introduced themselves that first day. Every one of them with a big smile and questions about where we are from and where we have been and how we like Africa. Just beyond welcoming.

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And the leader of those greetings was Teach (for teacher since he was going to instruct us all about our visit). We were on information overload by the time we got to room number 20, an absolutely fabulous place with a huge bathroom, giant ceiling fan, and nice little patio. The best way to process all that info was a quick walk about to see the property for ourselves and then partake in a little relaxing outside on our patio.

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Before I go on, here’s a little background on Zimbabwe. Their economy is not great at all. They have no real currency of their own, aside from a local note that has no value for foreigners. Most things are carried out in US dollars, which we needed to bring in small denominations with an issue date of at least 2009. There are fuel and supply shortages, which have lead to unrest in the capital and other major cities. Since they need the tourism dollars, Victoria Falls is pretty removed from all that (well for us tourists at least). Just some reference points we picked up while talking to Alice, one of the staff: gas is about $13.90 per gallon; eggs cost 30¢ or so each, roughly $3.60 or more per dozen; butter can run you about $15 per pound.

Anyhoo, we decided to follow one of Teach’s restaurant recommendations, a place called Three Monkeys. The easiest way to get there is by taxi, so we had him arrange that. One of his instructions was to only use one particular taxi company. We had a card with their name on it to have people anywhere we were call them for us. It’s the only way to ensure a pre-established rate. So off we went with Clever to the restaurant. It was this cute place with outdoor seating, tasty pizzas, and wonderful drinks. And yet again, thee absolute warmest, nicest staff you could ever imagine. We Americans could really learn a thing or two from them, that’s for sure.

Drink number one was just to give us time to inspect the menu. Drink number two got us through the spring rolls and pizza we decided to split. Tasty food, fun music, and a great spot for people watching, with every one and anyone walking up and down the railroad tracks. From mamas with their cute babies scarf wrapped onto their backs to the businessmen in their dress shirts to every age of child imaginable. Talk about making a person feel like a fool for driving three blocks to work every day 🤦🏽‍♀️

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Dinner over, we had them make our taxi call. Turns out it wasn’t Clever, but someone else coming back to get us. A tad confusing in the dark, but luckily we didn’t get into the random cab outside. $3 later we were back at the hotel ready to relax after our busy little travel day. Tomorrow we are off to see the Falls!

Posted by JackiesJourneys 00:20 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged zambia zimbabwe south_africa victoria_falls batonka Comments (0)

“Circle of Life”

Our final game drive 😭


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Tuesday, February 5

This morning started out pretty rough, but by the end of the day I was literally dancing and squealing, having had an absolutely amazing time. I may have spoken too soon yesterday when I said the Nottens game drive probably wouldn’t live up to Kwa Mbili 🙊 Different sights, different sounds, different crew and different guests, but both top notch and phenomenal experiences.

Monday night’s deluge provided a lovely pitter patter for sleeping. However come Tuesday morning when the rain continued as a fairly steady drizzle, it was not so lovely. But when you’ve traveled all this way, you’re not about to let a little rain keep you from what you came for. So 5am wake up and off to the Jeep by 5:30. Once Veronique joined us, everyone was on board looking oh so chic in our ponchos, and we were off.

I don’t even recall a lot of that morning drive as it was so rainy and I was getting increasingly chillier and chillier. Sandals and short sleeves under my poncho may not have been the smartest option. And by the end, I was shivering under what felt like a wet blanket thankful when Riaan would blast the heater for a minute or two. I didn’t even bring my camera out the entire first half and really wouldn’t have minded just cutting the whole thing short.

But thankfully we didn’t cut it short, but actually stayed out longer than anyone else, bonding our crazy little group and getting some phenomenal shots in the process. The first thing to warrant a wet camera was the zebras and giraffes (those giraffes get me every time). Eventually we took off hot on the trail of a leopard tip. There was a large male hanging out on a rock just chilling. It was pretty cool, but I was having issues seeing him and getting the camera to work right. So mental photos it was. But not to worry as there was yet another leopard waiting for us.

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Thankfully by this point the rain had pretty much ended and we got an ideal parking spot to observe this leopard, with his kill, up in the crook of this fabulous tree. I have no idea how they are able to get the kill up there with them, but it was mind blowing to see (even if all we could see of the other animal were his poor little limp, dangly legs). Sometimes the light worked just right to perfectly spot the leopard in all his spotted glory, and other times he’s just this perfect silhouette against the sky. Riaan figures he may have had another kill on the ground as he leapt down from the tree at one point and was hidden in the long grass feverishly doing something. But that’s when we realized we were the last Jeep out and still a decent distance from Nottens. So time to hightail it back.

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Upon our return we trudged to breakfast. It was yet another over the top display of anything and everything you could ever want, and that was just the stuff sitting on the buffet. Each table had a hot breakfast menu for you to order from too. I really think I’m going to need bigger pants before I leave this place 🙊🤣

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Brenda and I opted to forego the bush walk (along with pretty much everyone else it turns out). Having spent several hours already cold and wet, plus the fact that we did two heart stopping bush walks out at Kwa Mbili, we didn’t feel the need for another. Turns out that was a good decision as Julia and Zack said they didn’t see a whole lot anyway. And possibly most important of all, Brenda and I still had our bottle of Muratie’s Amber Forever dessert wine to drink. There was no way we were packing that thing for another flight, so drink it we must.

Back at the room we dried out and set up our wine drinking photo shot before cracking that baby open. Then Brenda lounged and napped inside while I sat on the deck typing. Once we reconvened and realized there were snacks to be had right in our room, we polished off the rest of that bottle along with salt & vinegar Pringles. It may sound like an odd combo, but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it 😀

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By the time our pre-lunch snack was over, the sun was out again so we went down by the pool and chatted with Sue and Simon for a bit. Ya gotta love a good discussion about the royals (well we do at least) 😝 And even better is one with people with more first hand accounts straight from England. Or maybe as Simon suspected, I was loopy from too much dessert wine and Pringles 🤣

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In no time at all they were setting up for afternoon tea and yet another grazing session for the humans. Seriously, I don’t know where all this food comes from or what they do with all of it that doesn’t get eaten, but I’m starting to feel a bit guilty. We had time to pop back to the room and grab our things before the afternoon (ie our final 😭) game drive. It was at that point that from the bathroom, Brenda spotted a little deer looking animal hiding in our shrubs by the outdoor shower just nibbling away on the grass and leaves. We left him to his dinner and headed back to the Jeep.

This time we were the last to arrive, taking our seats in the middle row. Like I mentioned earlier, by this point we were one big, happy, international family, ready to tell Riaan exactly what we wanted to see: lions and rhinos and a big orange sky for me. And from there it was a lot of talk and laughter and so many animals and trees and sky and stars that it just makes me smile to think about it.

I kinda wish I had a go pro documentation of the whole night just to fully capture and remember it all. There’d be numerous episodes of laughter from Surge, causing the rest of us to laugh and try to shush him. Then we’d hear Simon doing all zee accents from French to Australian, with a bit of American thrown in for good measure. There would be political and animal discussions, and of course me being mocked for my tree and sky fascination. All the while I’m not sure if Riaan knew quite what to make of all of us.

I can’t name everything we saw that drive, but I do know the prize for cutest spotting goes to the 4 little mongoose we saw right off the bat. I actually had Riaan stop the vehicle more than once for a tree photo op 🤷🏽‍♀️ But hey, hopefully he will always think of Jackie’s Jackalberry every time he passes it. There were also quite a few rare and beautiful birds he pointed out (Neil did warn us we may become bird watchers as a result of this trip). Then we came around a corner and there was one of our requests: 3 white rhinos just lumbering toward us. They really do look like some kind of prehistoric animal that doesn’t quite fit in. But oh my gosh...so cool!!

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Next up was the watering hole excitement (we really have had a lot of luck around these watering holes). Anyhoo, this time it was the cute elephant grabbing a drink in the corner. And then a big old hippo decided to get in on the action, doing one of his dislocated jaw, full on mouth open moves so Surge could get a look at his teeth. Then from the elephant corner there were suddenly two teenagers fighting and going at each other, before the adults chased them away. And that left us to hang out with the not one, but two hippos who continued to put on their mouth open show.

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The request list was moving on to lions. Riaan already had us pointed out toward their usual stomping ground, having warned us that it was quite a ways out. I was sitting back soaking in the scenery mentally belting out “The Circle of Life,” lest I sing it out loud and have them think me a complete nut job. In the midst of my rousing rendition, Brenda says, “look, there’s Prides Rock.” Guess we both had the same vibe going on. More fun trees, even some flowering ones...and you know those warranted a stop request. Then we found what we’d been looking for: three female and one male lion, just lounging by the side of the road. We admired them for a while, until the male finally opted to wander off.

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Hmmm...this afternoon is going so well, what else should we request?! 🙈 Well there is still the matter of that red African sky, but I keep being told to be patient (not one of my strong suits). Then Riaan gets this strange look on his face and stops the Jeep. He says something to AB who shakes his head yes and proceeds to pull his feet way up on to his seat. That’s when we noticed the Cape Buffalo like a foot or two from my side of the jeep, just laying in the muddy ditch. Please don’t laugh now Surge, please don’t laugh 🙊

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To celebrate surviving that, it was time for our drink stop. Riaan found thee perfect little clearing to park it with a long view of the big, open sky behind the most bee-you-tee-full line of trees. Cue the angels singing as I was at long last going to get the red African sky moment I have been hoping for for months 😍😍 The only way it could’ve gotten better is if a stray giraffe or elephant had wandered into the shot. But let’s not get greedy. Riaan did proceed to show me a bunch of shots just like that which he has had the opportunity to take (show off 😝).

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But back to my sky moment. I took well over 50 photos from almost the same spot. But you know, some of them were zoomed in and some of them were more wide shots, and with the sky continually changing colors, they’re all very different and necessary (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it). I guess someone asked Brenda at one point if I was for real and she was like oh yeah, just let her be. Simon mocked me...until he realized I was the perfect height to use as a camera bipod and decided to join me. After the orange came these glorious colored cloud striations and Sue joined me for that portion. I was a bit sad to miss out on the drinks and conversation, but this is thee thing I was obsessed with seeing, so I didn’t have much time to be distracted.

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Day made (let’s be real, trip made), I was even giddier and more squirrelly on the ride back. And then I laid my head back and saw all those bright, beautiful stars doing their thing without any light pollution. Ok, time for Riaan to dazzle us with an astronomy lesson. When we finally arrived back at Nottens, the last Jeep yet again, we burst into applause. The perma grin was still squarely on my face, and would be for the rest of the night 😊 I was one very happy tree lady.

After a quick break, we all reconvened for dinner. Tonight the table was even longer, and just as packed with food and drink. Our Jeep crew sat together, continuing the laughter and good times, handing out travel advice and sharing stories. We were the last to leave, finally saying our goodbyes with hugs and talk of future visits (and Simon insisting they’d make sure to come wake us up early the next morning). Sue & Simon and Veronique & Surge had another day at the lodge, while Brenda & I were pretty jealous of that fact. More than once that next day we commented about wishing we could be in the Jeep too...but alas Victoria Falls was calling.

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 22:08 Archived in South Africa Tagged sunset africa safari sabi_sands nottens Comments (0)

Lion King


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Sunday, February 3, 2019

I am currently sitting by the pool with the little lizards during our Sunday morning break. Brenda is off napping and I think lunch will be served soon. But I’m hoping to get at least some stuff typed up about this morning’s exciting game drive and bush walk.

So as I mentioned yesterday, wake up around here is 5am. I had asked Tyrone when the sunrise was cause I want to see the red African sky. He said it would be a little before that and he could get us up in time. But wouldn’t ya know, this morning was overcast so no red sky 😢 Good thing I’ve got a few more mornings to get it 🤩 By 5:30 we're all at the Jeep and ready for the morning game drive. With it overcast, it was a little cooler than anticipated, so I’m glad I grabbed my long sleeves.

Early morning is when a lot of the animals are more active. They had actually been tracking a pride of lions yesterday before we got here, but by the time they found them they were already lying there napping and looking half dead. So that was this morning’s mission...to get a good lion sighting.

With no animals to look at, I was focused on the sky. It started to clear and get a little colorful, but we were heading in the other direction. Tom told me to just ask Tyrone to stop anytime and he would. He spun us around and I nailed it! Still hoping to do better, but this is a good start 😍

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Onward toward the lions we went when Tom spotted a leopard hiding in the trees. We were able to stop and not scare her away. Make that our number 4 of the big 5. And pretty impressive since leopards are good at hiding and there aren’t many black rhinos (we did also see white rhinos yesterday too. I have pics of both, but I’m not sure if I can actually tell them apart 🤦🏽‍♀️).

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By markings and paw prints they could tell there had been quite the gathering of cats overnight. Surprisingly, no one in our camp had heard them (they did the night before). We have an actual enclosed “chalet” with air con and a patio and a cement block bathroom, although still no actual door on the bathroom. But the other couples are staying out in the thatched roof tents. There is also a hide or observation platform that overlooks a small watering hole. Brenda & I haven’t seen anything the two times we went up there. But we did see two nyalas in camp that had wandered in to munch on the grass.

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Anyhoo, back to the big cats and our lion search. We spotted a female standing up in the distance. We had to go a little out and around to get by her, and there was the big old male just laying there minding his own business. Tyrone said that since the females and the cubs were up and moving, it was only a matter of time before the male got up and followed them too. And sure enough, there he went; first needing to spray and mark his territory, which I actually captured (score!!). Tyrone positioned our Jeep so that we could get the male walking right toward us, and at one point it looked like he was going to walk right up onto Tipple’s lap. It’s a pride of nine: 2 females (probabaly sisters), the male, and 6 cubs (3 from each female) all about 4.5 months old. We sat there a bit watching the cubs play a little. And then of course they had to go bother mom. Brenda got a great video where you can actually hear them purring...just before they walked around the car and started sharpening their claws on the tree by me. Just incredible stuff. It was time to get going when they looked to be sizing up a warthog for breakfast. But then one of the cubs mucked it up and scared him off anyway. Later on we saw the same pride in a little different spot just sprawled out sleeping. The life of a cat doesn’t change much regardless of the size 😝

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Somewhere in there we also had a little coffee stop, make that hot chocolate for us. And they had these delightful lemon poppyseed muffins to snack on. And by shortly after 9:00 we were back to the lodge and ready for our proper breakfast. We skipped the chef’s special flapjacks and just went with eggs and bacon, served with the usual mushrooms and tomatoes on the side.

Tanks refilled and not too hot out yet, we were off on a bush walk. Tyrone drove us near one of the damns and then we got out of the car to go get a better look around the water. Or that was the plan at least since you never know who or what you’ll find and how they will react to you. Rules for a walk: stay behind the rifle, keep it quiet (snap or slap your leg if you need his attention), walk in a single file line, only take pics when he says it’s safe, and do NOT run! Yeah, what can go wrong there?! 😳

He had spotted a hippo, so that’s what we were headed toward. Problem is you can’t come at them where they have a chance to run straight at you - cause that’s not a battle you’re going to win. Once the hippo picked us up, he kept moving in the water to make sure he would always know where we were. He’d go under, then ploop, he’d pop up and there were his beedy little eyes on us. So in the process of trying to get closer to the hippo (who seemed to be a mama and baby combo), we ended up coming upon a pair of cape buffaloes. Yet another animal you don’t want to tick off. And when Tyrone was like “let’s back up and just give them more space,” I think we all got a little nervous. I heard Annabel say something about her heart pounding, and I was feeling the same. He then elaborated and said if they charge, he’d have to shoot and hit just right and even then sometimes it takes 2 rifles (which we did not have). We did get to a place where he let us snap some photos. Being directionally challenged in a place that appears to look exactly the same everywhere I turn, I was looking at my watch wondering how long it was gonna take us to get back. Thankfully we were actually mere feet from the Jeep, everyone having survived!! As Tyrone pointed out, we were stalked by a hippo and avoided a Cape buffalo, so not a bad morning walk.

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Walk over we drove back to camp for our midday break. And that’s how I’ve been able to get this all typed 💃🏽😎 The couple from the Netherlands left and another one showed up (he’s French and she’s Dutch and that’s where they live). Lunch was served: a barbecued beef sandwich with carmelized onions and a coleslaw type salad. Now we’re all sitting in the outdoor living room waiting to hop aboard the Jeep. Hopefully my request for giraffes and elephants will be fulfilled 🤞🏽 But considering how quickly we were able to see all of the big five, I can’t complain. 😊

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Turns out we were waiting for another pair of Germans to show up, a mother and son. So this afternoon game drive was a little cozier with 8 guests on board the Jeep. The first place we headed was back toward the lions. The heat of the day upon us, they were all lounging under trees just trying to nap. Next thing we knew, we were back in the middle of a herd of elephants. Those are some very large vegans right there!! Then there were trees to photograph (for me at least; that’s my go to when there aren’t any animals to look at). Yet more elephant sightings...this time shaking the amarula tree to grab some tasty fruits. A stop for some sundowner drinks and snacks, and then we were heading back to get ready for dinner. Wow!! Such a crazy exciting day.

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We got back to camp and were in the boma for dinner around 8:00. The fire was stoked and going strong and the staff was ready to dazzle us. It was just 6 for dinner though as the German couple were off dining alone. The meal tonight was even better than last night (Neil and Ian weren’t kidding about the abundance of food we were in for on safari). So first up was some kind of flat bread with avocado, bacon, tomato and a sauce on top. That’s a two thumbs up right there. Then the main course was yet another fresh, summery salad. This accompanied roast chicken stuffed with spinach and cheese alongside some basmati rice. And what’s an amazing meal without a delctible dessert?! That consisted of a meringue base topped with fruit and a berry sauce. After such a successful game drive, it was only right that we washed it all down with the local Savanna cider. Everyone was feeling relaxed and chatty so we hung out in the boma for a while. But finally they needed to clean up and we needed to get to bed in order to do it all over again tomorrow. How is this my life right now?! 😝😍

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 12:49 Archived in South Africa Tagged safari krueger kwa_mbili big_5 Comments (2)

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