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Out of Africa

View Africa 2019 on JackiesJourneys's travel map.

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.


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.


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.


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 😝🤣


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.


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 😀 🛩 😍


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

“Circle of Life”

Our final game drive 😭

View Africa 2019 on JackiesJourneys's travel map.

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.


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.


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 🙊🤣


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 😀


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 🤣


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!!


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.


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.


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 🙊


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 😝).


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.


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.


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

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