Beautiful Botswana

Last day in Zimbabwe and first day of the final leg of my big African journey!

We had a slow start to ease the newbies in and to meet our new cook for the final leg, Henry.  Straight away he was in my good books because he made the best eggs I’d had in Africa yet, nice runny yolk!

We left the campsite and by 10am we were stamped out of Zimbabwe! Before crossing the border into Botswana we had to walk across a wet sponge thing to clean our feet before entering.  Didn’t see the point…

We drove another hour to a small town to get money and snacks.  All 3 ATMs in the town were not working!  Victor had just been telling us that we would have no issues with getting money here, Botswana has a strong currency and they are very proud of it – hah! There was meant to be another ATM near our hotel that we could try out, fingers crossed!

We arrived at the camp which was on the grounds of a big resort in Chobe National Park.  Victor told us that last time he was here he had lions walking around the tents at night!  After lunch we walked up through the resort, very nice pool and bar area and we walked past some warthogs, monkeys and mongoose!  Just around the corner was a supermarket, liquor store and ATM, had success at this ATM so we hurriedly went to the liquor store to lighten our wallets.

At 3:30pm we hopped into a jeep to go for our game drive in Chobe NP.  Chobe National Park has the highest population of elephants in the world – over 150,000!

We drove along the main street before turning into the gates, the next 3 hours were spent driving on sand and boy was it bumpy!  We drove down to the river and wow, I have never seen so many elephants in such high concentration! I mean hundreds, hundreds and hundreds of them, they all come down to the river in the afternoon to cool down before heading back into the bush at night.

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Driving down to the river

As well as the elephants we saw impala, kudu, giraffe, warthog, hippo, waterbuck, baboon, water buffalo and I was so excited to see giraffe bending over eating and drinking! I had wanted to see one bending over because they look so funny, I was super happy with that!

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We stopped after 2 hours to have tea and coffee before starting the drive out of the park.  On the way out we saw 2 lions way in the distance, too far away to get any decent photo of them but it was exciting that we got to see them!

Got back to the hotel and had time for a quick shower before dinner, peanut butter chicken curry, pumpkin soup, rice and mixed vegetables. Henry is still impressing me so far with the food!

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Sunset

After an early night to bed we were up at 5am to start our 5:45am game drive.  It was pretty cold heading into the park so we were given blankets to wrap around ourselves, which I was grateful for because within 10 minutes I was freezing!

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Sunrise

We got to the park and drove the same trail down to the river.   The game drive was pretty good, we saw all the same animals we saw the day before (minus the lion) and I reckon we saw at least 50 giraffe! What was exciting though was that we saw 2 male giraffe fighting, they were wacking their necks around hitting each other, it was intense!

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Had been trying all trip to get a good shot of this one!

We got back to the campsite just after 9 and I was shivering like crazy! Henry gave me 2 cups of hot tea to warm up and I stood in the sun for a solid half hour, finally felt like I was getting some life back into my body!

I went up to reception to try give dad a call for father’s day, I hadn’t had a chance the day before because of travel and bad internet and I wasn’t having much luck now!  Spent a solid hour calling home and dad, mum and Jetlyn trying to call me.  By lunch time still had no luck so decided to come back and try later. Lunch was burgers and chips, yum! Few of us went to the shops after lunch to stock up on beer, snacks and toilet paper (my Africa essentials).  Had 2 hours before our evening river safari so went to the bar for a drink and to attempt to call home again.  The internet worked well enough and I FINALLY got through, call only lasted 5 minutes before it cut out but I was able to have a quick chat with dad!

At 3pm we piled onto a big boat with about 100 people on it!  I wasn’t overly impressed with the size of the boat but once we got going it was perfectly fine, we were able to pull up to the waters edge a number of times and get good views of the animals.  We saw hundreds of elephants! Getting only metres away at some points and right at the end we saw a family of elephants crossing across the river! Super cute seeing the little baby elephants with only their trunks visible out of the water trying to cross.

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So many elephants!

As well as the elephants we saw a lot of Nile crocodiles, hippos, water buck, water monitor, impala, giraffe and lots of different birds.  In the middle of the river is a small island which is disputed territory between Namibia and Botswana, both countries want the international court to settle the issue but for now there is a Botswana flag there.

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We finished up the cruise just on sunset, very beautiful seeing the silhouettes of the elephants against the sun.  Enjoyable cruise, I’ve seen a lot of elephants along my Africa trip but not in those numbers which was really special.

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We went back to the campsite, dinner was a delicious steak, the meat has been getting better the further south we go in Africa!  Went to bed with a full stomach!

Up early enough in the morning to watch the beautiful sunrise over Chobe river.  We had breakfast and packed up the camp to head off. I was walking over to the truck and then noticed in the dirt in big letters it said HENLY. Henly?? I looked around and our cook Henry was smiling at me. Is your name Henly not Henry? I half yelled at him. He just laughed. I asked why he didn’t say anything and he said he didn’t want to be rude! Far out! I went around telling everyone in our group that his name was Henly and not Henry! The confusion was because of his accent he pronounces L’s with an R sound!

Off we went just after 7am, now knowing everyone’s correct names!

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Sunrise! Amazing colours!

We drove to the border to stamp out of Botswana, we would be overnighting in Namibia before heading back into Botswana.  If you look at the map below we travelled from Chobe north into Namibia to stay at Bagani and the following day we accessed the Okavango Delta at the most northern part, much easier to cross into Namibia rather than drive all around the Botswana country to get there.

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Map of Botswana/Namibia border

We continued on our way into Namibia, stopping along the way to get money and groceries.  We stopped at about 1pm to have lunch on the side of the road, kept on going and at 3pm we arrived at camp!  The camp was next to a river, no swimming allowed because of hippos and crocodiles!

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Don’t need to tell me twice!

Spent the afternoon sitting by the bar over the river, very pleasant! Got chatting to the bartender, 24 years old and just finished secondary school!  He said that in Namibia you only go to school when your parents can afford it, so he only started primary school when he was 13 years old!  He said he wanted to study nursing but he couldn’t afford it, he was hoping after 2 years working at the bar he would have enough money saved to start his degree.

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Kingfisher seen from the bar

We watched the sun go down and then went for dinner, everyone went off to bed after dinner so I decided to head back to the bar.  Had a drink while looking out over the water it was quite pleasant!  My peace was interrupted by a Brazilian guy on another tour called Jose.

“WHY ARE YOU SO SAD?”. I’m sorry what?

“You are just sitting there crying looking at the water”. Woah… definitely not crying and definitely not sad!

Started chatting with him and his friend Rafael, it was nice to chat to some other people outside of the group but my God did he complain. Too hot, too cold, people in his group too old, not enough animals, too many mosquitos, don’t like the beer, don’t like this, don’t like that rah rah rah. He went on and on!  His friend went to bed after a while and we were joined by one of the staff members Bonky. Bonky brought beers and interesting conversation! He was from a town near the border with Angola and as such could speak Portuguese (did not realise they spoke Portuguese in Angola!) as well as English, Afrikaans and his tribes language.

The more Jose drank the seedier he got, so after a while I decided it was time to go hide in my tent, said goodnight to them both and raced off to bed.

Woke up before 5am the next morning, poked my head out of the tent and saw an otter splash by in the river! Out in the distance there were a bunch of hippos as well! This is my favourite part about camping in Africa, being surrounded by the wildlife!

My least favourite part of camping is the anticipation of whether the showers are going to have hot water or not! It was a pretty chilly morning, I hadn’t showered the night before because there had been no power so fingers crossed as I walked to the shower block it would be hot… success! Had an amazing hot shower to wake up!

After breakfast we drove about half an hour to the border, stamped out of Namibia and walked over to the Botswana side to get stamped in again.  We had another 10 minute drive to the river where there is a free ferry provided by the government until the bridge is constructed.

Once on the other side we had an hour of bumpy roads before getting to the Okavango Delta.  We had lunch by the water surrounded by cows, donkey, horse and in the far distance was a herd of elephants!

A short while later our polers arrived, the polers would be driving our mokoros (dug out canoes) for the next 2 days. They are called polers because that is what they do, they push the boat with a pole – simple.

Once they were all there we did introductions, the head poler was Siga, the rest of them had names like Hustler, KV, BBT, Lizard etc. Reason being their real names are too complicated for us to pronounce! Steph and I are had BBT as our poler, out of curiosity I asked him what his name was, I reckon it had about 30 letters in it and had some of the clicking noises, we’ll stick with BBT.

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Loading up the mokoro, you can see how the sleeping mats have been turned into seats

We got into the mokoros, loaded up with our overnight bags we had packed, sleeping mat (now turned into a seat with back rest) and in another mokoro was our tents, chairs, cooking supplies for the night.

We had about an hour ride along the delta in the mokoro, it was so peaceful! Gliding past the livestock on the river bed, going through the water lilies and lily pads on the water.  We saw tonnes of birds, can’t remember the names of them all, but what I do remember was the cormorant, African Jacana, knob-billed duck, spur-winged goose. I like birds… I just can’t remember any of their names! At one point BBT steered us up to a plant sticking out of the water and asked if we could see it, see what? There was a tiny little frog about 3cm long, apparently it is the smallest frog found in the delta and poisonous to all animals!

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We eventually pulled up to a small island, Kau Island, which is where we would be spending the night. We emptied out the mokoros and went and put our tents up, we had a safety briefing as hippos, elephants and lions regularly walk through the camp (definitely believed him as there was a lot of poo around).  Our toilet on the island was a hole dug in the ground with a toilet seat on a frame hovering above it.

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Five star toilet!

Once set up we went for a walk around the island, saw monkeys, elephants and hippos out in the water.  Our guide kept showing us different poop and telling us which animal it belonged to. After the walk we got back into the mokoro for our sunset ride, went to deeper parts of the water where there were hippos bobbing up and down in the water.  Bit nerve racking surrounded by massive hippos when you are in a tiny boat, hippos can move so fast and I know we would have no chance if they decided to go at us.  As we glided by they had their eyes fixed on us, they weren’t letting us out of their sight!  We pulled up against some thick reeds to watch the sunset and the hippos bobbing around.  The sunset was beautiful, once it was down we raced back to the island before it got too dark!

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We had dinner and drinks around the campfire that night which was fantastic, looking up we could clearly see the beautiful stars in the sky.  After dinner the polers did a bit of a performance for us, they sang 4 different songs, the one that has been stuck in my head since then is Beautiful Botswana (this is a link to a video I found on youtube of the song, different people singing of course https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CoMVIqzSo1E ). They also did a couple of dances which involved dragging a few of us to dance along with them.  Once they were done a few from our group told stories and sang songs, I had nothing to contribute whoops.

Everyone slowly went off to bed after that, I stayed up a bit longer to speak with Siga.  He said you have to do a 2-3 day course before taking an exam, you have to learn about the flora and fauna in the area and then also how to pole properly.  He had been poling for about 4 years (officially) but he said he grew up using mokoro and most of the other polers had been doing it their whole life.  However for them to take tourists out they had to pass this exam.  While we were sitting there we heard a lion growl, Siga said it was probably about 1km away, scary!  Went to bed shortly after that.

Woke up at about 6am, had breakfast and we got dressed to go for our morning walk. We rode in the mokoro for about 20 minutes to another island in the area.  As it was a walking safari we had a few rules for safety, main one being we had to walk in a straight line as it is less intimidating to animals than a big group walking.  For a while we were tracking lion footprints but no luck!.  Siga told me that the lion we had heard the night before had killed one of the villager’s cows!  Halfway along the trek we came across a herd of elephant blocking our path, so we had to turn around and head back. On the way back we saw four red lechwe in the distance, asides from that we didn’t see much else on the walk, but I did enjoy it anyway.

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We got back to the campsite and packed up our tents and got back on the mokoro, we went back the way we came the day before but continued a further 10 minutes up the river to our new campsite.

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En-route to the new camp

We got in and were surprised to find we would not be camping we actually had beds!  They were set up in big tents, 2 single beds with a light as well, fancy!  We settled in for a chilled afternoon, a few people went off for mokoro lessons, I read a book and had a drink by the bar.

I decided to test out the outdoor shower and was pleasantly surprised with hot water!! Not that I needed it, it was a stinking hot day!  In the afternoon there was to be another walking safari, only about half the group went off for the walk, I stayed behind was feeling especially lazy that afternoon.

When the others got back from the walk we sat around a campfire near the water, really nice sitting out and again the stars put on a good show for us. I attempted to get some photos of the sky but didn’t have much success.  For dinner Henly and one of the polers KV had both cooked dishes so we had a massive feast!  The flavours were amazing, had a variety of vegetarian dishes as well as 2 beef meals.  After dinner we sat by the campfire before passing out in bed just before 9!

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Campfire at sunset

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My best attempt at capturing the stars

From 4am onwards I kept being woken by the sounds of hippos grunting and moving in the bush just outside our tent! It went quiet at about 6 so I decided it was safe enough to venture to the bathroom.  A fire had just been lit for the shower so I was one of the lucky few to get a hot shower! After breakfast we got back in our mokoro and went 10 minutes down the delta to get back to the truck.

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Steph and I with BBT

We said goodbye to our polers and headed back towards the Namibian border.  Along the way I was really enjoying looking at all the bee-eaters on the electric wires.  It’s such dry brown landscape so these beautifully coloured birds just stand out!

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Bee-eaters on the wire

We had to cross the same river on the ferry, this time there was a bit of a queue so we had to wait about 40 minutes.  As we were crossing the river a fish jumped up onto the boat from the water! One of the locals was quick to stamp his foot on it to kill it and then put it in his bag, guess he’s having fish for dinner!

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Dinner

We left Botswana behind and entered Namibia, back to the same campsite we had stayed in previously.  The afternoon was spent relaxing by the river and watching the sunset.

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Another gorgeous sunset

We only spent about 4 days in Botswana in total, but they were definitely highlights from the trip.  Botswana is on my list of countries to come back and visit, I think it has a lot more to offer!

 

Eight days in Zimbabwe

After South Luangwa National Park we just had transit days to get to Zimbabwe.

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The first day driving was only about 6 hours, so we got into our camp at Petauke just before 2pm. At our campsite there were goats with their kids, and so many different birds, apparently the owner likes birds!

Nothing to do in Petauke so we spent the afternoon relaxing at the bar, had an early dinner then in bed!

The following morning we had an early start at 5:30am.  We arrived in Lusaka around 11am, interesting driving through the city as it is the most built up city we have seen on the whole trip. Victor told us that when the Zimbabwe economy crashed, Zambia boomed. Largely due to the fact that the wealthy Zimbabweans moved across the border. Lots of international companies around and heaps of new shopping malls and houses, I even saw a Jaguar car dealership (must tell dad).

We got into the campsite, and there were giraffe at the entrance! Then after putting up tents we had zebra walk through the camp! Turns out the camp is owned by a man who used to own a zoo, however as Lusaka grows he has had to sell off his land and most of his animals, he only has a few animals left.  I asked why there is a zoo in Zambia when there are wild animals everywhere and Victor said not everyone can afford to go to national parks, the zoo entry is a lot cheaper!

After lunch we hopped back in the truck to go into town for groceries. There were so many familiar brands in the supermarket, but no hummus (the great search for hummus continues)! We wandered around the rest of the mall to kill time before we headed back to the camp.

When we got back there were about 5 other overland trucks there, heaps of other travellers around.  It’s almost intimidating seeing all the tourists having been away from them for so long! I loved watching all the drivers, cooks and guides catching up, they are like little kids running around chatting to each other! I guess part of being on the road for months at a time is that you don’t know when you will see your friends next!  I spoke to one of the other guides, apparently they had seen another truck that had hit a ute. Truck overturned, 1 dead and majority of people in truck had serious injuries. Apparently only the driver was wearing a seat belt at the time, scary!

Headed to the bar after dinner with Kate and got chatting with a few locals.  First guy we spoke to asked straight away: Do you have a husband? Subtle! He asked Kate if she went to church and when Kate said no I don’t believe in God, he looked gobsmacked! He didn’t know how to respond, he just stared at her. He asked me the same question and I got a similar response when I said no.  The next 10 minutes was him telling us why we should believe in God, he wasn’t getting anywhere with the conversation so I changed the subject.

His friend came over and joined us and they started asking us if we liked Africa, yes we do. The response of course was; well then you should come back and settle here with a nice husband.

No thank you.

He then told us that in Africa that if he asked us to be his wife we wouldn’t have a choice and we would have to accept and in his hometown girls are taken away when they reach womanhood to be taught how to be a good wife. Which is essentially cooking, cleaning, home duties and how to keep your husband happy. If the girls don’t submit then they are beaten by the women who are training them.  Lovely.

The two of them started telling us about how they were cousins even though they are from different towns because one of them grew up in the north and the other in the east of Zambia. They don’t like people from the south or west. They also told us that apparently in the north they eat bush rats (definitely know it’s true because earlier that day we saw them for sale on skewers) and in the east they eat monkeys (don’t know if it’s true but wouldn’t be surprised!).  Apparently, the tail of a bush rat tastes like popcorn and is the best bit… ew.

The first guy asked us where we were staying, when we said we were camping he asked if he could share our tent with us that night. No thanks. I was done with the conversation so I went and sat on the couch to watch some local music videos, which was amazing.

A song came on I really liked so I asked the bartender the name of it, got started chatting with him about Zambia which was super interesting.  He said the current president is a bit like a dictator and he doesn’t like him. He has been in power 3 years and has only just started doing good things for the country.  Copper is their biggest export, but unfortunately it is being mined by foreign companies so the country isn’t reaping any real benefits from it.  He said that they also sell a lot of cotton to China and India which is then made into clothes for big international brands. He said Zambia had the potential to earn a lot but they are constantly being taken advantage of by foreign countries.

He then told me that the night before he got pulled over by a cop for drink driving and he had to bribe 45USD (a lot in Zambia) because if he got a fine he would lose his job straight away and would not be able to be employed again because of his reputation. He said it was his first time bribing a cop and it was super easy.  I was pretty tired so I finished up my drink and went to bed.

Up at revolting 4:30 the next day, bit of a slow morning though, we didn’t leave until 6am.

We got to the border at 8:30, very quiet border! No one selling anything and no cars lined up, just a huge building we had to walk into. It was a one stop border so we stamped out of Zambia then walked across the hall to fill in visa forms, handed over $30USD then waited. While waiting I was looking around the room at all the signs about anti-corruption.  Kind of funny one of them said the steps to take if you want to report corruption, the fourth step was if you didn’t hear back from management to post it on their Facebook or Twitter account, make it public!  Visas and passports got handed back and we headed off just after 10.

Shortly after the border Victor asked us to gather around, he had been very quiet all morning so I was a bit worried. Turns out the night before his boss had called him to tell him that our cooks mother had passed away and last night he had told our cook, Emmanuel.  Emmanuel would be flying back to Nairobi once we got to Harare and at this stage we didn’t know if we would have a replacement cook until Victoria Falls (5 days time), Victor was waiting for an update.  Really sad news, Emmanuel had been the sweetest friendliest guy the whole way and it was terrible to hear.

As we drove into the city centre of Harare we could see the influence from the previous English settlements. Big Victorian houses, wide streets, front gardens, very different to everywhere else we have been.  We had an hour free time in the city before heading to our campsite, honestly I wish we skipped it.

Harare was the first place we had been where I felt uneasy walking around – bit of a seedy city.

We decided to go in a group, walked a block around to get to the supermarket, lots of stares and not friendly. We had a number of people yelling things at us and very persistent beggars following us and demanding food and money.  When we finished up at the supermarket a man outside selling onions was half yelling at us saying that it is safe here, we don’t need to worry he doesn’t have a gun like how in South Africa everyone has guns so he won’t shoot us. Oh ok then I feel much better! Couldn’t get back on the truck fast enough!

We drove out of the city for camp that night, when we got there we found out that Cosmos (my cook from the first leg) would be joining us for the rest of the leg. He was flying in that night to take over from Emmanuel.

We had our last meal with Emmanuel and then we all went inside to have a drink with him. I ended up falling asleep on the couch (standard), shuffled off to the tent and went to bed!

Woke up after a restless night, so damn cold! The days are getting hotter, but the nights are getting colder! We were greeted by Cosmos at breakfast, we said goodbye to Emmanuel which was real sad and then we headed off.

We had a short drive that morning to the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

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Saw lots of dairy farms on the drive!

Arrived at 1pm and had lunch before starting our guided tour.  We started the tour by walking up the ancient path to the top of the hill that has the Kings residence, at times it was very steep and narrow.

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Great Zimbabwe Ruins

At the top we explored the Kings residence and a monastery dating back to approximately 1400BC.  Only the King and priests lived up the top, everyone else lived down the bottom including his 200 wives… yes 200 wives.

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We walked back down to the bottom this time taking the modern path.  Stopped in the museum, there were lots of artefacts collected from the ruins, and a lot of carved wooden totems.  There was also a big collection of items that had been traded with other cultures from around the world which I found most interesting. They had found things from China, Iran, Italy, Persia, Indian, amazing that they had made peaceful contact with so many other civilisations all those years ago!

From there we went to a cultural village to see how the wives would have lived.  The number 1 wife lived in the big “enclosure” (as they called it) and the others lived in this village. Wife number 5 was the favourite wife apparently, didn’t quite catch the reason why she was favourite or how they know that.  Our guide said part of the reason the King had so many wives was so he could have a lot of children (he had approximately 1200 children) and these kids he would marry off to people in other tribes. By doing this he maintained good relations with everyone and he was not at risk of being attacked by other tribes… hate to say it but I guess it’s kind of smart!

After a traditional dance we went to visit the big enclosure of wife number 1.

It was huge! 11m high and the wall was 4m wide in some spots. Inside there was a 10m high cone shaped tower, which is a completely unique structure that was built during that period. Our guide told us that wife number 1 had all the power, if the King asked for wife 57 to be sent to him she could send wife 94 and he wouldn’t complain.  She had the final say in all matters involving the other wives and children.

After the tour we drove another 20 minutes to our campsite perched up on a hill. Beautiful! Really nice gardens, after putting up the tent we went for a walk around the gardens, went to a lookout over the lake.

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I decided it would be a great idea to get a photo of me jumping off a big rock. It was not a good idea. I cut my hand open in a couple of places, and boy oh boy did it sting!

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Cut my hand open for this gem of a photo!

Had a nice hot shower and then we all sat around a campfire with a drink.  Dinner was delicious, the after dinner conversation got a bit tense. Our guide was talking about cultural differences. He was saying how in his culture if a husband can’t get his wife pregnant then his brother will come in and do the deed. It is not romantic or emotional in any way, it is just to get the woman pregnant so that she can have a child that is as close to the husband’s bloodline as possible.  This caused a bit of outrage from a number of people in the group, our guide tried to explain that that was normal for them.  He then tried to use an example of something that is normal for us that isn’t for them which was homosexuality.  He said that that was something that his people did not understand and also did not accept, but he knew it was different in our society.  This really just made the situation worse I reckon, I sat quietly sipping my beer while the conversation exploded.

Finally everyone agreed to disagree and everyone slowly went off to bed.

The following day we got up at 6am and headed off, uneventful drive arriving at camp at 1pm.  We were greeted by the owners two dogs, super friendly!  Had lunch and then most of us hopped back into the truck to go explore the city Bulawayo.

We got dropped at city hall and were given 2.5 hours to explore, we walked into the tourist information and an elderly woman jumped up from the desk and said: “Ooh! Tourists!”

Guess they don’t get many tourists!

We got a map then headed up the street, stopped at a street market selling handicrafts. I was very restrained and didn’t buy anything! We continued up the street, checked out a few shops along the way. Went to an art gallery but we decided it wasn’t worth the entrance fee. Wandered a bit more around town, I bought a newspaper to get all the local gossip!

Big drama in Zimbabwe at the moment!  The first lady on a recent trip to South Africa assaulted a model who was hanging out with her sons. She is back in Zimbabwe and South Africa is demanding she go to South Africa to face charges but the President is refusing, so bit of tension between the two countries! DRAMA!

We ended up spending our remaining hour at a bar, the town was quite nice but really not a whole lot to do! We got back to the campsite and had dinner. A cat showed up halfway through dinner and once I cleared my plate he decided my lap was the place to be – no complaints from me!  One of the dogs showed up though and spooked it so I went off to bed!

The following day we had a full day tour, (send me an email if you are interested in the first half of the day).  We went to a national park with the most unusual landscapes, massive rocks all around, piled up on each other.

We stopped for lunch by a lake, had yummy salad, bread and meat.  Just as I finished making my sandwich I heard a rustling next to me looked over and a damn baboon was coming at me!  I jumped out of the way at the last second it knocked my plate to the ground and grabbed the bread rolls.  My heart was racing! If there is one animal I’m scared of here it’s baboons, vicious buggers!  I looked down at my sandwich in the dirt, no bread left I just had salad and meat!

After lunch we drove further up the road and hopped out to walk up to a cave, went through the bush and clambered over rocks to get up to a giant rock that overlooked the park, beautiful!

Walked a bit further to get to the cave, there we got to see 36,000 year old San Bushmen painting! Incredible! Apparently in the park there are thousands of cave paintings dating from 200 years old to over 150,000 years old!  He said the newer paintings had clear drawings of English and Dutch (you could tell by the clothing that had been drawn) and in some caves there were paintings that images of the typical alien (big head, small body etc).

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36,000 year old paintings!

He pointed out different animals and scenes of people preparing for the hunt, hunting, cooking etc.

He then gave us a bit of information about the Bushmen.  Physically they have dark skin, high cheekbones, tight curly hair which is fast growing and they never grow taller than 150cm.  They are also the only people in the world where the man always has a semi-erect penis and women have some sort of flap over their vagina.  Anthropologists believe it’s for hygiene reasons living in the bush without clothing. Their body shape is unique to them, they are incredibly strong and lean but have a large bum that stores fat, he said when you see a Bushman who has not eaten in a while their bum sits flat with loose skin drooping down but as soon as they eat the fat goes directly there.  There bodies over time became this way as it was always a long period in between meals.  In one sitting a Bushman could eat up to 25kg of meat!  The Bushmen do not waste anything, so when they killed an animal the family would sit there eating non-stop until every part of the animal had been eaten, occasionally breaking for naps.  They use arrows to hunt, the arrow is not used to kill but to inject a poison, some poisons would take up to 48 hours to take effect.  They cooked all their meat to draw out the poison so it was safe for them to eat.

They were monogamous, only had 1 wife and no more than 2 children.  They believed more than 2 children would have an impact on the environment.  Part of the way they controlled this was they knew of a plant that caused abortions and another plant that could suppress menstruation for up to 13 months.

They live in small groups of 6-8 people as this caused less disruption to the environment, and they were nomadic for the same reason.  There is no status, everyone is equal, man, woman, elderly, children.  They only bathed twice in their life, when they are born and when they die, water was for sustenance not hygiene.

Really fascinating culture!

We headed back down the mountain and hopped back in the jeep to head to the local chiefs house.  On arrival we had to wait outside to be invited in by the chief, Onponde.  Once we had the invitation we walked in the fence area, lots of small huts and so many chickens!

We went into his hut and he was there waiting for us in his finest, porcupine spike necklace, leopard skin, other big cat skins, mongoose arm and leg bands. He had a spear and shield made from a hard leaf or something.  Next half hour we sat down with him while he told us a bunch of stories, his face was so animated the whole time.  He would tell us a story and our guide would translate for us, as he translated he would watch our faces for our reactions and get super happy when we laughed!

One of the stories was about how he got the leopard skin he was wearing.  When he was 23 years old his cows were being killed so he set a trap, went out one day and there was a leopard with his paw caught in it.  He went over to kill it but ended up in a wrestling match with the leopard, his dog was nearby barking going crazy.  A white man driving by heard the noise and came to investigate and saw what happened, he pulled out his gun and shot the leopard saving Onpondes life.  He put him in the back of his ute and tried to get the dog to come as well, the dog had never seen a white person so it freaked out and ran away.  The man took Onponde to the hospital and left him there with the dead leopard, he still does not know who saved him.  He showed us all his leopard scars, big gashes on his arms and legs and a massive one on his back about 30cm long!

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Chief Onponde

After story time we went out to the garden where he showed us his prized possession, a leopard skin given to him by another chief with a matching mongoose hat.  A bunch of villagers had appeared and set up their handicrafts for us to buy, I spotted a stack of old Zimbabwe money from when the currency was super inflated. I couldn’t resist buying a few (25 billion, 1 million, 50 thousand, 10 thousand, 100 thousand).  The afternoon finished with a dance performance, they were looking for volunteers… I moved further away.

The sun had gone down so we hopped in the jeep to head back to camp, we had been warned about the cold ride back so we had brought extra clothing.  I had 3 layers up top and a beanie and gloves, and oh my it was freezing! As we went through valleys we would have a slight relief with a warm patch, but it would go straight back to freezing! I was keen to get back to camp and have a hot shower!

Got back to camp and paid the 95USD for the day trip (our most expensive extra activity, but worth it!).  I had my hot shower then sat down with the cat on my lap waiting for dinner.  While I was waiting Victor came over and was asking everyone how much they had paid, because the guide was short. Turns out someone in our group had thought 95USD was too much and decided to only pay 50USD… yeah that’s not how it works.

Dinner was delicious that night!  Had coconut lentil curry, chapatti, grilled lamb chops and polenta. Yum!

After dinner I was sitting with the cat on my lap again, the owner of the campsite came up to settle everyone’s drinks bill. I asked him what the name of his cat was, he said it wasn’t his cat it was a stray that appeared a few months earlier and just never left.  Oh… well hopefully he’s clean!

Up early for our drive to Vic Falls, said goodbye to my lap warmer and we left at 7am.  The first 3 hours of driving we were pulled over 7 times by police! They are just random checks, but tourists are targeted because they try to get any bit of money they can! Every time they would check the headlights, indicators, brakes, make sure everyone is wearing seat belts. I think across the whole morning we were pulled over at least a dozen times.

We arrived into Vic Falls just before lunch, set up camp, had a bite to eat then we got dropped at Victoria Falls.

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Vic Falls Entrance!

Victoria Falls is one of the natural seven wonders of the world, 108 metres tall, 1737 metres wide and borders both Zimbabwe and Zambia.

We walked along the path to the furthest part to start the walk.  We spent the next hour and a half walking all along the falls stopping at the different lookouts. Incredible the amount of water going over the edge and we were there in dry season! We were getting light sprays of water every now and then, apparently in wet season you are drenched walking along the paths and you can see the spray of water from miles away!

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Lucky to see a rainbow over the falls!

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We finished up at the falls and walked towards the Lookout Café, the whole town is in a national park so we were on the lookout for animals on the way. The café was amazing!

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Views from the cafe!

Views overlooking the falls and I had the most delicious chocolate milkshake ever, I was super happy! We were about to leave when the waiter came running in and said there were elephants in the carpark, we all rushed out with our cameras to look.

Four male elephants just strolling by, I was keeping my distance because you know elephants can trample you and stuff. But there were a few people that I think forgot that it was a wild animal and were getting up real close! It was only when one of the waiters told them to back off because one of the elephants was getting agitated that they reluctantly left them alone.  We paid our bill and headed back to the campsite, had to walk very close to the elephants to get past them.  You suddenly feel a lot more vulnerable when you are standing near an elephant and not in a jeep, I know I wouldn’t be able to outrun an elephant!

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Had to walk up this path when we left!

We had our final dinner that night at the restaurant at the campsite, super delicious food! There was a dance performance as well which I got sick of after about 5 minutes.  After dinner a couple of us went out in search of a bar, nothing! It was a Thursday night and everything was dead quiet. Walked back to the campsite, Kate had upgraded for her last night on tour so I went to bed by myself in the tent!

Had the first sleep in for a while (7:30 wow). A couple of us went to a café up the road for breakfast, wanted a change from the breakfast we had been eating for the past 5+ weeks! Afterwards we strolled down the main street to do some souvenir shopping, I left the girls behind to go chill out at the campsite. Got back and Victor asked me to sweep out my tent because my new tentmate was arriving that day. Damn it. Cleaned up the tent then said goodbye to a few people from my group that were leaving. A couple of us decided to go back to the café from the day before, along the way we saw bushbuck, baboons and warthogs!

Had another delicious chocolate milkshake and shared a plate of chips! After lunch we went to one of the markets, I had been on the lookout for a giraffe wooden carving and I finally found one I liked! The price started at 90USD and I got it down to 50USD hooray! While the man was wrapping it up for me he started to chat, conversation went a bit like this…

Seller: I’m Paul, what is your name?

Me: Shannon

Paul: Where you from?

Me: Australia

Paul: Is he your father (pointing at John my travel mate)

Me: No, he is a friend

Paul: *smiling* I am not married

Me: OK

Paul: I am single

Me: OK

*Paul staring intensely*

Paul: Say something

*Me standing there like I know where this conversation is going hurry the hell up and give me my damn giraffe*

Me: Nice to meet you! *grabs giraffe and runs away*

Yikes!

We left the market behind and went to the campsite to meet our new group members for the last leg of the trip. Continuing on for the next 3 weeks there would be 9 of us, 5 Aussies, 2 English and 2 Americans. My new tentmate was Stephanie from San Francisco. After the meeting I was super unsociable and raced to the bar to use the WiFi so I could finally watch the rest of Game of Thrones, was devastated when the WiFi wasn’t working.

Went to dinner that night with a mix of people from the old and new group.  There was a guy playing saxophone at dinner who was getting super into it, going up to tables and getting in their face. I could’ve slapped him I couldn’t hear anything over his stupid saxophone. Am I becoming a grumpy old woman? MAYBE! But stop with the damn sax! Went straight to bed after dinner!

Woke up and had breakfast, last one cooked by Cosmos, he did not have the documentation to come with us to South Africa so we would be joined by a new cook later that day.  Said goodbye to him then went and met up with a couple of people to explore another market, finally bought the ten trillion dollar note I had been on the lookout for. I ended up paying $7.50 for it but that was the best price I had been able to get so far, most were asking $30USD, crazy!

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Ten trillion dollar note looks like this

Bought a couple of other things then went back to my favourite café for lunch! Chocolate milkshake of course and I stupidly ordered a cheese and meat platter that was definitely for 2 people, but you know… challenge accepted!

There were warthogs grazing on the grass for our lunch company that day! Headed back along the main street stopping by the supermarket along the way, sunscreen was $30USD, I guess I can get burnt for a few more days… Got back to the campsite and the WiFi was working! Sat down and watched Game of Thrones finally!

For the last night in Zimbabwe I went to dinner with a few people from the new group, had a delicious trio of sliders (impala, crocodile and beef).  Was good getting to know the newbies.  We went to bed reasonably early, big day tomorrow!

Vic Falls was the longest I had stayed in one place since arriving in Africa and I was keen to get started on the next leg! Botswana here I come!