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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)

Born Free [Safaris]

An African Adventure Awaits!!

Hello and welcome to the latest installment of “Where in the World is Jackie?!” Currently there’s not too much to report, as I’m merely sitting on my couch. But in less than 48 hours, I will be leaving on a jet plane bound for far warmer and sunnier conditions (insert dancing now) on the world’s second largest continent: AFRICA!! And since it is oh so large, there is no way to cover a lot of it in two short weeks time. But if you’re gonna go, ya might as well go all the way and just head to the southern most tip – cause really, who doesn’t think the idea of an 8.5 hour flight followed by 11.5 more hours in the air doesn’t sound simply delightful?! Tis the price one must pay to travel, but it will be oh so worth it.

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But before I launch into some logistics about what’s to come, perhaps a little backstory would be nice. First off, I will not be embarking on this journey alone. My fellow traveler is none other than Miss Brenda…who tackled Australia with me four years ago (yep, we’re all about the “A” continents!!). And well frankly without Brenda, I do not know if I would be hitting up Africa at all. It was never one of my bucket list destinations. I had plenty of other places to keep my mind preoccupied, but then she started talking about South Africa and Cape Town and safaris and all the animals and fun stuff…and well eventually I jumped on board. This all goes back to at least November of 2016 (as that is the date of the first item that is in my “South Africa” travel folder).

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So basically I’m saying this trip has been years in the making. There were other travelers that came and went from the conversation, but we just couldn’t make it work. Well more accurately, between Groupon, Travel Zoo, our own searches, and various random agencies and web sites, we could never get what we wanted for a price we were willing to pay. Then life happened and talk of Africa fell by the wayside. I went to Europe in August and had an incredible time. But as any good traveler knows, you’re mentally trying to book your next adventure before your current one even ends.

So after Europe, with one week of vacation left to use, I was on a mission to make something else happen. I was really looking for a New Year’s Eve/Birthday extravaganza, but I just couldn’t convince Brenda of that. Instead, she jumped back on board with Africa. Having been down this road before, as well as having my mind focused on other parts of the globe, I pretty much left it up to her to figure it out. First, she solved my only one week of vacation dilemma – just use my last week from 2018 and my first week from 2019. Next she was in contact with a travel agent who was coming up with some decent ideas. But then I went back to that trusty South Africa folder and discovered an email from Julianne, one of the other potential travelers along the way, and she had been working with this company called Born Free Safaris. On Monday, October 22, Brenda submitted a generic request for info and divine intervention stepped in to match us up with Neil…our Africa whisperer.

After one rather extensive phone conversation with Neil, Brenda was very impressed and practically gushing about him (if she were the type to gush that is). Being South African and having actually owned a safari lodge, Neil is a wealth of knowledge. She told him exactly what we were looking for and gave him our budget, and we left him to work his magic. He said it was gonna be tough – also considering short notice and it being summer there – but he’d see what he could do. About 30 hours later, we had a truly amazing proposal in which he was able to secure a lot of his favorite affordable (but still oh so splendid) accommodations, hitting all our requests and then some. So really the question wasn’t should we do this, it was how can we not do this?! That being the case, we were locked in and all ready to finalize things one short week after sending out that initial information request…and only 90 days from setting off on this adventure of a lifetime. And seriously, if anyone is ever thinking about Africa, let me hook you up with Neil. He’s awesome!!!! I just wish he was coming on the trip with us 😝

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It’s been kinda odd though not having to really figure anything out for ourselves. There was no master spreadsheet to create or hours of research to be conducted. There was the trip to the travel clinic and some shots and pills to procure, but thankfully nothing too crazy. And then there was the long anticipated wait for our final packets to arrive and to commence packing. I am happy to report that that is going well. One area of concern is the current situation in Zimbabwe, but we are hoping and praying to get in and out of Victoria Falls without incident.

On that note, here’s a quick rundown of where we’ll be focusing our efforts. First up is the Cape Town, South Africa area and their surrounding winelands. From there we are heading to northeastern South Africa and the game preserves around and including Kruger National Park. Finally we’ll be taking in the sights and sounds of Victoria Falls. Time and wifi dependent, I plan to check in here with some regular updates. Thanks for traveling along with us.

Have passport, will travel!!

Jackie 😎

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Posted by JackiesJourneys 21:11 Archived in USA Tagged waterfalls wine south_africa victoria_falls Comments (0)

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