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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.


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)

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.


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 🤦🏽‍♀️


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. 😍


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 🤣).


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.


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.


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 🤦🏽‍♀️


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)

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