Trip 5

Venturing to Victoria Falls

March 28-29, 2012

Wake up early so we can figure out which bus we need to take to Livingstone. Grab breakfast at the hotel and walk away from the hotel trying to find a cab. Now, this would be a time where wifey #1 gets frustrated with husband. Because before we left the hotel, I asked him to get the hotel to call us a cab. But, he decided walking would be easier. Well, we walked down the street about a block/block and a half to have some random guy pull over and offer to guy us a ride in his “taxi.” Yep. Sure. We will take it. Then, we drive back the way we walked, turn a few corners and land in bus station chaos.

Our “taxi” driver delivers us to the best bus leaving for Livingstone. I appreciate him doing that for us! It was leaving at 0900. We had about an hour to kill. We were told the bus would take 6 hours from Lusaka to Livingstone. Liam went to the counter to obtain our tickets. He somehow managed to get bus tickets without paying because he told them we wouldn’t pay if the bus took longer than 6 hours. And they agreed to let us pay when we got there.

Zambian buses are nice.

Decided to run to the restroom before we jumped on the bus. The bathroom was for a fee, so Emily and I had to go back and find Liam and get money. (He was the only one with any kwacha at this point). You know, I don’t mind paying to use a bathroom if it’s clean, working, and has soap and toilet paper. Keep in mind, working in my book includes a bucket with water that you dump down the toilet to flush it. That is a working toilet. If the flusher works, it’s like Christmas.

Jump on the bus. We sat three across. Poor Emily. She was squished into the window seat. Liam was half-a-cheek on and half-a-cheek off of his seat. I sat in the middle trying not to move because I didn’t want to take any of their seat space.  It was a cozy fit. The window was wide open because even though the bus had aircon, it wasn’t turned on. The fancier bus that we missed earlier this morning had the aircon. We are going to be a stinky threesome when we arrive in Livingstone. There was a little baby girl across the aisle who kept playing with us. She came and stood on my lap for a little while checking us out and watching everyone else. She was super cute.

Once we were on the road, the three of us konked out for about an hour to an hour and a half. There is something about public transportation that puts me to sleep. I think it’s the rocking. Regardless, it was a great little nap! Wake up feeling famished. We stop at a rest stop. (GASP. A rest stop. In Africa. Dude. Zambia is civilized). There is another fee bathroom that was immaculate. There was a “fast food” restaurant that was pretty legit and a store to buy drinks and other snack food items. Pretty impressive and a first since we moved to the continent.

Emily and I jump back on the bus and we eat our lunch. I ordered a flaky pastry with a warm chicken and veggie curry filling and three orders of French fries (chipsies). Besides being a little too salty, it was delicious.

The bus was stopping a lot more than we thought it was going to. Apparently, we are on the local bus that stops every three feet. At one of the stops, Emily looked outside and saw a guy selling popcorn. She bought a bag and it looked so good, I decided I wanted one too! I love the fact that I can stick my head out the window of the bus and buy snacks, music, DVDs, a phone charger, a broom, cold drink, and pretty much anything else I need. It’s fantastic!

Several hours later, we pull into Livingstone, Zambia. It’s about 3pm. Way beyond the 6 hours they told us it would take. So, our tickets were free. Kind of felt bad about not paying, but they agreed to the terms. Now, we need to find the bank that we passed a bit ago. Gather our bags and walk past all of the cabs to the strip mall. All of the backs are closed so we cannot exchange money. Liam pulls some money out of our account and away we go to Jolly boys.

Since we aren’t 100% sure where it was, we have a cab take us. We were literally around the corner but with all of our bags, it made it so much easier to take a cab. Get to Jolly Boys Backpackers and check-in. Since we were 24+ hours late for our first night, we lost our reservation but they had not sold our room yet. Thankfully. We added another day because we were still debating whether we were going to stay a few days longer since the train took forever to get here.

Walk into the 4 bunk dorm we rented. It was pretty nice. 2 sets of twin bunk beds. With mosquito netting, or own bathroom, and aircon. Total score.  Put our stuff down and try to figure out what we are going to do for the day. Took showers to get the bus funk off of us. Played around online to check school stuff, Facebook, emails. You know. The usual.

Figure out where we want to go eat dinner. Decide on Hippos. Well, we got to Hippos and it’s an Irish bar. I think they are in the process of changing the name. There were a few hippos out of wrought iron as the window screen. Probably should have taken a picture of it, but I was too hungry to think straight!

Enjoy a nice leisurely dinner with Liam and Emily. She took a minute to call her parents and let them know she was safe and we weren’t scary! Dinner was really tasty and it was nice to relax after days of rocking back and forth on public transportation.

Headed back to Jolly Boys and curled up into our respective bunks. What a wonderful night’s sleep!!!

Woke up on the morning of March 29th and decided today was the day we were going to head to Victoria Falls. We enjoy a nice breakfast at the Jolly Boys bar. There we also meet Jason and another guy Mitch. Mitch is heading back to Namibia today. Jason is American who is traveling the world with his wife, Erin. They have been in Southern Africa for a month or so and are camping out here and volunteering at a local school. He’s such a nice guy! I can’t wait to meet Erin later!  But, we need to head to the falls.

Hail a cab and off to the falls we go. We are going to view them from the Zambian side because we don’t want to worry about crossing into Zimbabwe because the customs agent sold Emily a single entry Visa for Zambia. Therefore, she would have to spend $50 every time she crossed the border to get back in. Not worth it to see the rest of the waterfalls.

We pull up into the parking lot. Pay our fees and begin walking towards the falls. There are several trails and a fair amount of people. We were warned that we were going to get wet so we came prepared. Sort of. All of my rain gear is back in the States in storage because I was pregnant and was not going to stretch out my outdoor gear. So, I’m going to get wet. Liam had his rain jacket and he had to wear the backpack with the good camera. Emily had her rain jacket and put everything on the inside. We stop at one viewpoint and take a few pictures in front of the falls. It’s pretty impressive. This is high water season so they were overflowing. The spray created a giant mist that would whirl up and spray you. And we were still pretty far away.

Everyone walking up from the falls is in their bathing suits and soaking wet. Why didn’t we think of that. Emily and I were shaking our heads because it never occurred to us to just throw on our suits and walk through the water.

Although we look superimposed, we are really standing at the top of the falls.

Rolling rapids

Continue down the trail and we come to the Zambezi River at the top of the falls. The river is moving pretty quickly and the clouds of mist loom omnipotently over the top of the falls. They are also quite loud. I’m not going to lie, it’s really impressive. Just the sheer magnitude of the falls is pretty mind-blowing. But, then again. I’m easily entertained by geology. I love rocks, water, and the way the Earth works. I wonder what is on the back side of the falls. I really want to come back when it’s low water season and look at the rock structures behind the falls. I have to see the small trickle of water that occurs during dry season. Another thing to put on my bucket list. At this rate I’m never going to die.

Back track a little on the trail and start walking down into the falls. Followed the curvy pathway to a footbridge. Emily and Liam were ahead of me and down at the edge of the falls getting soaked. I paused a moment to take their picture!

Wandering in the mist of Vic Falls

Here goes. Francis in the Mist. What a sensational feeling. The mist surged when the water poured over the edge of the falls. It was this powerful gust from below. It was enjoyable. I don’t know if that even explains it. There is a moment when you first feel the drops hit your skin and you catch your breath. Maybe it is from the power of the falls. Maybe it is from the coolness of the water. Or, maybe it is because you are standing so close to one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Regardless, I liked it. A LOT.

We crossed the footbridge and found ourselves completely soaked. For the record, what was I thinking wearing light khaki capris with purple undies. Clearly, not thinking about the wet bottom contest I was about to enter.

The footbridge over the falls.

Continued on the trail. I still can’t believe this is our life.  We get to spend as much time as we can stuck on this fantastic continent. I’m so excited to see what the next 10-15-20 years hold for us. It’s going to be such a ride.

Continue walking down the trail.  A few people follow us down the trail and ask us if we are going to bungee. Now, I’ll admit it. My sanity is questionable on most good days. But, I would still NEVER consider jumping off a perfectly good bridge into the gorge below the falls. Not my cup of tea. Especially after we have all watched the woman plunge into the river, because oops the line broke (check on youtube it’s everywhere). Yep. Not so much. Even though, two guys following us tried for a brief second to convince Emily and I it was safe. Still NOT happening.  Oh yes. This would also be one of the few times in my marriage that I have told Liam he was not allowed to do something. Because, the idea of him plunging into croc filled waters did not sit well. Luckily, he’s a good listener and decided he wasn’t that interested!

Self portrait at the top of the Falls.

Came to the end of the trail on the Zambia side of the falls, turned around, and began walking back. About a 1/3rd of the way back, the skies decided to pour more liquid on us, because obviously, we weren’t already wet enough. That’s when it started to become a little chilly. It was grey, cold, and rainy. Ick.

Make it back to the main gate and exit. Walk around the curio shops right outside the falls. It was a place to get out of the rain and see what type of wares were available in Zambia. We knew we needed a mask. But, it’s always fun to see what other Africrap stuff you can find. And Lord knows Liam and I love our Africrap. A little over half-way through, Liam found a long mask he really liked. It was about 3 feet long with a fish and a bird at the top. It’s mostly black (thanks to Kiwi shoe polish) with a little red and green. It was beautiful. We also found a wonderful hand carved chess set. Asked the price and it was 1.5 million kwacha (almost $300). Um. I don’t think so. I told him I would need to think about it! It’s probably worth the price he asked me to pay, but I live one country away and know these things don’t cost that.  Price out some Zimbabwean money. We need a bill and a coin for the Africa map. It’s not that expensive but since we want to look at the other shops in town, we will wait for the best deal. Oh how cheap we have become!

Headed back to Jolly boys to shower and clean up after becoming SOAKED. Relaxed for a while around the camp and decided what we wanted to do for dinner. Emily and I also decided we were going to go on a safari tomorrow at Choebe National Park in Botswana. Liam was going to have an adventure day and get some work done. My husband kicks arse. He lets me wander all over the globe so I can take pictures of all of the animals I love. Not only that, but he’s pretty cute too. That’s why I’ll let him have a second wife for this trip!  Hehehe.

Decided on the Mexican restaurant for dinner. There is a serious lack of decent Mexican food in Africa. It’s a reality that I have not quite accepted. But, at some point I’m going to have to. We had a nice dinner and headed back to Jolly Boys because it’s going to be such an early morning.

Categories: Africa, Trip 5 | Leave a comment

Chug-a-chug-a-choo choo!

March 23-27, 2012

We are finally taking the trip we have been looking forward to all year. Originally, we were going to go Indian Ocean to Atlantic Ocean via alternate transportation (trains, buses, taxis, etc). But, I had to be back in the States for so long, that we ended up cutting the trip short.  Basically, our year of wandering the continent is running out. We have way too much to do in no time.

We picked up another traveler. Emily is our friend. We met her through Jane and Kevin (yes the people from Here’s Your Sign – even though we do stupid stuff like that they still introduce us to new people!) She grew up in Birmingham, AL, went to Mississippi College, AND works in Alaska 5 months out of the year for Holland America. Oh and she has family in ATL and lived there for a while too!  Could we have more in common???? Needless to say. We like her.

Before the trip, Liam and a friend were chatting and decided that Liam should introduce us as his two wives for reaction only. Well, it was pretty funny. So, we went along with it. Insert Emily’s new nickname: Wife#2.

Back to the story at hand. We were scheduled to leave on the Friday train at 1350. I make a mad dash to Subway to buy a few sandwiches for the train ride while Liam finishes packing up. When I get back he is ready to go. We swing by Emily’s house and kidnap her. Then, off we go to the train station at 11am. Now did it occur to us to call and make sure the train was on time. Of course not. So, we show up and find out that the train isn’t leaving until March 24th at 2200. Well that would have been good to know. Basically, right at 34 hours late. Awesome.

Why didn't they just post this online? Then, we would have found it!

For those who can read Kiswahili.

Liam went to find the Station Master to find out the details and obtain some contact info so we could call tomorrow and make sure the train was leaving.  Turns out, the Station Master is a woman. And she prefers to be called Station Mistress. Insert your own inappropriate joke here. Liam sure did…but only after he giggled for a few minutes.

Once we returned home, we repacked our stuff a little better. I worked on schoolwork with a sense of urgency. I decided my textbooks were way too heavy and I didn’t want to lug them across Tanzania and Zambia I was able to dump two of them by finishing a bunch of homework!! Woo hoo. Went to bed. Spent most of Saturday lounging and resting. Around 2pm, we called the Station Mistress and she told us the train was scheduled to arrive around 6pm and would leave at 2200. At 8pm, went to pick up Emily. Smoker came over at 8:30pm and took us to the train station. We pulled in to the TAZARA train station to find out that the train wasn’t leaving until March 25th at 0300. Well, we aren’t going back home. Off to the first class lounge we go.

Needs a good scrub down...

If you want to call it a first class lounge. There were chairs, a few open windows for the breeze and a super loud TV that a few people had already turned down once. Then, there was the bathroom. First of all, I’m glad “first class” had it’s own bathroom based on what we walked into. Don’t close the door. It will touch your forehead or your cheek. Gross.  It also had an interesting odor. But, it worked to pee. There is NO WAY I would ever attempt #2 in there. This train thing is going to be interesting if this is the bathroom sans wheels.

Since we had nowhere to go for a few hours, we began to chat with fellow travelers. There were two Aussies, a couple from New Zealand a few other people. We spent the next 6 hours chatting it up with them. The Aussies, Prue & Liann, are traveling around Africa until they move to London in a few months! So, we are going to try to meet up with them in Europe! This is a perk of traveling around the world. You meet a ton of really cool people!

Emily took a nap on our bags. I’m still trying to figure out she slept with all those lights on, the amount of noise in the train station, and the heat. But, somehow she did and she woke up with an hour to spare before we got on the train. I warned her about the bathroom door before she meandered in there.

I still don't know how she slept.

About 0230, all of the Africans waiting in the first class lounge disappeared. Something was said over the loud speaker but we couldn’t understand it. Walked out into the main lobby and everyone was lining up.  Went back into the first class lounge and sat around for about 15 more minutes. Then, we saw people boarding the train and realized they just let first class people board. No one clued us in. Oh well. We walked into the main lobby into a world of chaos. Lines and people everywhere. We joined the back end of a line that was walking out to the train and the Station Mistress’s assistants held the other lines for the rest of the first class passengers.

And we are off. On another crazy African adventure. I mean really what sane people wake up and say “You know what today I’ll take a sketchy train through Africa.” And, we have been looking forward to this trip for months!!!!  So apparently, our sanity is questionable.

Find our car towards the back of the train. I would have thought first class was up front. Somehow manage to squeeze through the door with all of our bags. Between my gluteus maximus and the gigantic bag resting on it, it’s no surprise I got a tiny bit stuck trying to enter our cabin. So backed up (hear the Beep. Beep. Beep.), took the camera bag off of my front, took the bag off my back and tried again. One bag at a time. It worked. Emily and Liam followed suit and we were in. Our tiny little room for a few days. Now, hopefully we can get the window open and this thing starts moving quickly.

Imagine what 3rd class looks like....

The cabin consisted of 4 vinyl “beds/seats” each with it’s own prison sheet, pillow, and creepy shag blanket. Emily took one of the bottom bunks, I took the other, and Liam was above me. Every time he moved, I worried whether I was going to get squished from above. His bunk had a safety bar to keep him from falling to the floor. Emily’s and my bunk – not so much. There was a table in between Emily’s and my bed and a fan above the bed that didn’t work. There were also a couple of extra plugs. None of which worked. The fourth bunk was bag storage. Liam wanted to treat his “wives” extra special and bought the whole cabin!  Aren’t we special!!!

Opened the window. Sprayed for bugs. Off we went. The train was moving. The best part of this train is we get to go through two National Parks (Mikumi and Selous). Only problem is, it may still be the middle of the night when we pass through them. I really want to see a few animals.

Not my most flattering moment but my teeth were clean!!!

Went to sleep around 04:00. I woke up as soon as the sun decided to warm my face with her first few rays. I finally sat up and looked out of the window. We had to be in Mikumi or Selous. There should be animals everywhere. But, there wasn’t one in sight. Emily woke up about 30 minutes after I did and we brushed our teeth.

Shortly after, we began to see animals. Impala, wildebeest, cape buffalo, giraffes.  Emily decided she needed to run to the bathroom. Well, she walked away for a about two minutes and we passed two elephants. One of which decided he was mad at the train and began to charge it!!! I was hoping Emily heard it while she was in the bathroom but she said she did not! I was able to get a few shots for her. I wish she could have seen it!

Angry elephant...

Wildebeast...

Liam begins to stir and decides to join his wives down below! We each ate a ½ Subway sandwich for breakfast. Then, one the workers walked by and asked to take our breakfast order. Oh okay, we all ordered coffee or tea. I need to remember that African tea comes with lots of sugar and milk. It’s not bad, just not want I’m used to for tea.

Well, first meal is done. Our teeth or brushed. What are we going to do till lunch?  We all lay down and take a nap. I think Liam went exploring to see what all was on the train. He found the first class dining car. The showers and the “nice” toilet.  Apparently, we have everything we need.

Giraffe

Emily and I took about a 2-hour nap. Sleeping for a couple of hours was nice. The guy controlling the brakes on the train was not a gentle person. We went from full speed to 0 in a few seconds. Which meant you had to miraculously figure out a way to keep from flying across the cabin. Liam had a bar on his top-bunk. But, there was a good chance I was going to end up flying and landing on poor Emily.  Not only that, but every time the train stopped, you woke up. Sometimes you fell back asleep, and sometimes you did not.

Around 1:30pm, the waiter came back and took our order for lunch. We gave him the rest of the Subway sandwiches because they were starting to smell rank and figured that someone may want to eat them soon. (We were not willing to embrace a stomach bug off of a chicken tikka subway sandwich). Emily and I ordered kuku and rice, Liam kuku and chips. While the kuku’s had to be tiny while alive, they were absolutely delicious. Tanzanians can cook some kuku. It’s expensive. But, always delicious. (PS. Kuku is Kiswahili for chicken).

Our food! Yum.

After lunch, we walked around a little and read our books. We also took pictures periodically. I think there was another nap in there as well! Might as well sleep. Cause sleep is my friend and I didn’t really sleep last night!

Man, it was hot. Stinky boy hot. And, I’m talking about me here. I had sweat running into places I didn’t know could collect sweat. This was not the time of year to take the train. Not only was it muggy but it was just flat H. O. T. There is a reason I left Mississippi and it was heat like this. Now, I find myself in Africa wondering why I’m back in my own personal hell of heat AND humidity. The things you do for the one you love!  Plus, I wasn’t the only one suffering through the heat. We were all pretty miserable.

Liam decided he was going to take a shower on the train. I was thinking about staying stinky for the trip. Emily was sharing my idea and we both agreed to let Liam risk it first. He came back feeling all refreshed and happy. I can’t imagine that the train has a nice shower based on the condition of the bathroom. But, maybe I’ll take a chance tomorrow too. I think it’s going to depend on how nasty I’ll feel in the morning.  Prue & Liann stopped by and again we were all in stitches. They are hysterical!  I wish we could travel some more with them! It would be a lot of fun!

Ordered more kuku and rice for dinner. I guess I should explain. The other two options were a beef stew and ugali. I’m sure the stew was amazing but my tummy doesn’t always love beef so I had to pass. Ugali is a local dish that is made of maize. Kuku won out cause kuku is delicious.

Brush our teeth out the train window while one person served as spotter so we didn’t lose an arm or our head.  Snuggled into bed with a good book and back to “sleep” we went.

The train would randomly stop in the middle of the night for hours. I’m not really sure why. But, I would sleep really well for a bit, then wake up hot because we had stopped. Then, the train would jerk forward again and once it was going, we all slept well!

Woke up the next morning with the sun again. We had not gone nearly as far as I thought we would have by now. I’m sensing this is going to take a lot longer than we were expecting. Ate some breakfast out of our food bag, brushed the teeth and thought about a shower again. I’ve been in the same clothes for 30 something hours and I have a feeling they could probably stand up on their own. I think the train shower is going to win.

We ask about when we are expected to land in Kapiri Mposhi, the final stop. Yep, the train from Dar es Salaam to Lusaka Zambia actually ends 2 hours north of Lusaka (what happens when Mr. Chinaman builds it for you).  Found out it was supposed to be the following afternoon (Tuesday) around 1pm. Well, I guess that’s good news. We also caught on that the best time to go to the potty was while the train was stopped!  Duh. Sometimes, I’m not the brightest crayon in the box, when I should be.

How to obtain super strength thighs...

We had an uneventful afternoon. Stopped in Mbeya for a few hours. We walked around outside in turns. Someone had to stay in the cabin at all times to keep an eye on our stuff. Mbeya appeared to be pretty nice. It’s a beautiful part of the country. It will be fun to drive back through here in a few weeks.   I really like Western Tanzania.

Finally the train decides to leave and we eat a late lunch. Play a few games of go fish and black jack, read, and take another nap. As the dinner hour approached, I decided there was no way I could smell myself anymore and I had to shower before I ate.

Liam said it was actually nice and refreshing. Assuming there was no hot water heater, I asked how cold it was. He said it wasn’t bad and I should be okay. This is one of the few things I abhor. Cold water. It’s not comfortable in any fashion. Every time, I find myself in cold water I can’t catch my breath.

I head to the shower hoping for slightly chilly but tolerable. Walk into the bathroom and figure out how to place everything so it doesn’t get wet and I don’t touch any of the walls. The faucet for the shower was a tough one. Once I get it on, I do a test run of the water temperature. Uh. Oh. It’s FREEZING. Okay. Here goes cause I’m already in my birthday suit and sick of being stinky.  A splash here. A gasp there. A few minutes later and I am all clean.

The spicket is the shower.

Now, it’s Emily’s turn. I stood outside the door while she showered because someone tried to open it while I was dancing in the freezing water! But, she walked out in one piece and we were clean.

Dinner was delicious and then Liam disappeared to the land of the ice cold shower. He returned and bedtime began. We all read for a while. I had a hard time falling asleep and ended up reading until about midnight. About 2am, some ***BLEEP*** banged on our cabin door and frantically tried to open it. He was 100% toasted. Well, since I had just fallen asleep and was quite tired, little Mister drunkey-drunk poked the bear. Ask anyone in my family how it works out for someone who pokes the bear. It’s not pretty. Problem was, Liam wouldn’t let me out of the cabin to go put this ***BLEEP*** into his place. I was HOT. And then took it out on poor Liam because he wouldn’t let me go yell at this guy and he was not going to yell at the guy!!!! Probably a good thing in hindsight. When awoken suddenly, I’m not passive aggressive at all. Hehehehe.

Finally, fall back to sleep after my heart slows back to a normal rhythm (without counting it was probably up to 140 bpm). Wake up as the sun peeps out in between big white puffy clouds. I lay there and read and eventually when the train stops, I run to the bathroom and hope I finish before the train starts rolling again!

Our train

Relax for a while again. Find out the train should be in Kapiri Mposhi around 2pm. YAY!! I’m so sick of the train. In fact, I pretty much think I’m going to break up with the train. But, probably not forever. Around noon stop at a train station for a while. We are only two stops away from the final stop. And we sit. But, the scenery was amazing. It looked a little fake. But, Zambia’s like that. It’s all blue skies, big puffy clouds, and green rolling hills. Yep. Postcard fake!

Zambia. In every direction.

Finally, make it Kapiri Mposhi around 4pm. I think Emily and I were about to get out and push the train a little faster. Not that it would have done much good, but we would have done it willingly to arrive faster.

Liam jumps off the train and we push our bags through the window because it’s easier than trying to avoid being stuck in the skinny walkway again. Emily and I run out to meet Liam and then we gather all our bags and go hunting for either a taxi or a bus to take us to Lusaka. We walk out of the train station into a chaotic onslaught of people arguing over who would give us the best deal. In this process, I almost was backed over by a car (which I smacked the trunk of the car really hard and hope I left a dent. He stopped and didn’t back over me).  Then, some guy pushed a luggage cart into my left arm and left me with a nasty little bruise. Somehow the other two made it out without a scratch. See. I’m a klutz.

Liam decides the bus is the best deal and it is 40,000 kwacha per person (about $7). We were told the bus would take 2 hours. We get on the bus, with our bags in our laps. (I really need to learn to pack lighter). We sat on the bus for about 20 minutes. Once the bus was mostly full, we were finally off.  Here’s a short video of the ride: http://youtu.be/aXq8P3xeNOQ.

We stopped at two gas stations so people could buy snacks. Why we stopped at two, I’m still confused. Everyone was selling the same stuff. In fact, I think a few people followed us to the second bus station.

5 hours later. We arrive in Lusaka. Not thrilled with the typical African way of telling us what we wanted to hear rather than the truth. Grrr. Get off the bus and find a taxi. Head to the hotel, check in, grab some dinner, shower the train grime off of us, and fall fast asleep.

It's Uncle Fester...

Hi!

Emily's was the best!

Categories: Trip 5 | 2 Comments

Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

March 30, 2012

Wake up bright and early for a fun day in Botswana. Chobe National Park is about an hour away from Jolly Boys.  I don’t know who is more excited, Emily or I. Liam has a plan for the day that does not include “the wives.”  He says he needs to work, but, I think that is code for cold beer, relaxing by a pool, and playing online!

Leaving the husband to fend for himself, Emily and I jump in the van that will take us to Chobe. I’m so excited. Especially, when the driver tells us to watch for rhino as we drive. We passed through another park right on the Zambezi River in Zambia. Well, for the entire time we were in the car, my face was plastered to the window looking for a white rhino. I have animal issues. I could spend the rest of my life stalking them. I 100% understand animal photographers. It’s a game. To get the coolest shot of an animal in their natural habitat. And with each shot, you think of something new and exciting that you “have to have.” Don’t compare shots with people. This will result in jealousy and the need to capture another image on another safari. I guess it’s becoming my addiction. Unfortunately, safaris do not come with a cheap price tag. Can I just live in the bush for a few months and chase animals????

After about 45 minutes, we turn off the main road.  This road leads to the Zambezi river. Um. I’m confused. I didn’t know we were going to have to cross a river. But, I should have known this since the falls have to come from somewhere. My own stupidity often amuses me. It takes a lot of practice and hard work to be so ditzy!

We go through customs and have our passports stamped. Jump in a little boat and zip across the river. Someone was talking about crocodile infestation and the need to be careful because hungry crocs may attack boats. I didn’t know whether to believe them or just hope for a new purse and pair of boots with a side of croc taters.

On the other side, we go through immigration in Botswana. Now, at the border of Botswana, there is a shoe washing station. It’s full of black nasty water and who knows what else. But, in order to be polite, I wash my shoes and hop in the jeep. We are off on safari. WOO HOO!

How is this going to clean our shoes????

How is this going to clean our shoes????

We arrive at the office of the safari company. Try to pay, but of course their credit card machine is down. I was pretty excited to actually use a credit card machine. We have been living on a cash only system for MONTHS. Credit cards are almost a novelty now. Eat breakfast and find out that we are riding through the land portion of the park first and then the river safari after lunch.  The office manager tells me it will be okay to pay the fee over lunch as that should give them enough time to fix the problem with the machine. Fingers crossed.

Our car service for the morning...

Our car service for the morning…

On the way to the park, I hunt the town looking for an ATM. Just in case. Always good to have a back up plan. This is Africa.

I’m impressed with Botswana so far. It’s one of the more developed countries in Africa. The country is relatively safe and the exchange rate is stable.  The town we drove through was clean, the roads were tolerable. Botswana has potential.

We arrive at the gate and take an opportunity to run to the restroom. The roads on safari tend to be rather bumpy. Plus, I don’t know about you guys, but I always have this fear that I’m going to squat in the bush and a mamba is going to bite me. I’m sure it’s a silly fear and I’m probably way more likely to be bitten by a killer spider or a stung by a scorpion. But, who said fears were meant to be rational. Not I!

Get back in the car and away we go.

Now, the first animals we spy are warthogs. Now, most people who know me, would swear I would never utter the words below. I don’t know what has come over me. But, I desperately want a warthog hanging on the wall. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to kill it. That’s Liam’s job. And, I will eat the bacon and share with friends and staff. But, I think they are so ugly, they are cute. I will not be able to go back to Alaska without a pig on the wall. It may be the only dead animal allowed in the house because they are so creepy. But, the pig for some reason is okay. Shrug.

It's a warthog!

It’s a warthog!

After the warthogs, we passed a herd of impalas and then found some storks nesting in the trees. Maribou storks were nesting everywhere. They are rather large birds. I have not gotten close enough yet to confirm this, but, I am pretty sure that their wingspan is longer than I am tall. I’m also questioning the fact that the bird may be taller then me.  Yes, I’m that short and shrinking.

Maribou storks in a tree

Maribou storks in a tree

Maribou stork trying to catch a few fish.

Maribou stork trying to catch a few fish.

We continue a little farther down the road and arrive at the river’s edge. Okay. I’m impressed. The Chobe River is beautiful. We can see Namibia across the river.  There are elephants splishing and splashing. Hippos floating and talking. This is really, really cool. Again, I don’t know who is more excited. Emily or I.

Not far from us, there was a gigantic bull bathing himself. A small boat motors a little too closely and the elephant becomes annoyed and walks out of the river. As he continues to walk towards us, I’m impressed by his size. One of the biggest elephants I have seen to date. He is gorgeous! And, heading straight for us. When large bull elephants are approaching, the driver’s always enters a heightened sense of awareness. Bull elephants can be quite ferocious and will attack if they feel the need. But, our little friend was just looking to have a nice stroll without any invading his personal space. He walked right behind the jeep and then along side it. He was walking rather briskly so a lot of the pictures I took are blurry. But, I was able to get a few great shots of the lil’ guy!

Large bull leaving the river

Large bull leaving the river

That's a big boy!

That’s a big boy!

We continued along the river’s edge for a while. The truck in front of us was full of the China man. They started making all kinds of noise and ran a massive male kudu away. I was pissed. Why couldn’t they keep their little lips from flapping for five minutes so we too could enjoy the beauty of the giant male kudu. I managed to snap a few pictures as he ran away! But, GRRRRRRR, stupid China man.

Run, Kudu! Run!

Run, Kudu! Run!

Our driver went around them and we were in the lead. Good. Stupid China man. Well, we came across a beautiful water buffalo. I offered to take Emily’s picture with it. However, we had to change seats. I don’t know why I didn’t think to tell her to move slowly and crouch, but she stood up and took a step. Well, the buffalo freaked and ran away, the hippos soaking behind him freaked and all jumped. Our driver freaked and wanted to know what we were doing and we couldn’t stop laughing. Oops. I did feel a little guilty for the heart attacks we handed the water buffalo and hippos. Poor little guys all freaked out. Next time, I guess we should ask them before we try to covertly take their picture.

Hi. I'm a water buffalo.

Hi. I’m a water buffalo.

Continue along the river’s edge and see a female waterbuck, striped mongooses, and a herd of elephants. The river is beautiful. I’m really enjoying the safari along the river’s edge and looking forward to the boat portion of our trip. I just wanted to be chased by a hippo. A slight death wish, maybe. But, it would be GREAT for the story!

Head away from the river and take a pit stop. This would be one of those points that I realize my fear of snakes needs to be overcome. Emily and I STOMP our way through the brush to the lil’ girls room (a large tree had fallen over and we were using the root base as a barrier to the other people near us). We figure any critters that were here are now afraid of our size and power. It worked. We didn’t see anything.

Had a nice cold coke and a snack and away we went. Meandered through the bush and found a giraffe munching on some trees. Then, a rather large group of impalas. Then, all of a sudden, our car is barreling past a female lion laying on the side of the road. Emily and I are trying to talk without screaming because we are in the open seats and have a fairly good chance of being first one attacked. Now, this was not an easy feat. There were lots of hand gestures and STOP! STOP! STOP! as one slurred word interjections. About 50 m after the lioness, the driver realized what we were saying and stopped and backed up. I’m impressed she stayed put. Granted it was really hot. And she was hiding in the canopy of a tree, panting. About 10 feet away, there was a group of cubs playing in the bushes. What a score. Baby lions. They were pretty cute. I just wish we would have had a little better visibility for improved shots. The grass was really tall and they were hiding as they played. I’m thinking Simba & Nala type pouncing practice. Hakuna matata.

Munching on a few tree tops...

Munching on a few tree tops…

Surviving the heat...

Surviving the heat…

Little lion cub

Little lion cub

After the lions, we pretty much headed out of the park and back to the office. It was time for lunch. I do not know why but safaris make you hungry. It could be the constant core workout as you bump along the “roads.”  Lunch was quite a spread and rather delicious. Southern Africa is quickly winning me over. The credit card machine was working and I was able to pay my bill! Thankfully.

After lunch, we waited a little bit to sort through which group of people was going on the boat with us. Walk down the boardwalk to the boat and was disappointed. I wanted to be in a floating death trap. Nope. We were in a gigantic party boat. Note to self, make sure the boat is a floating death trap in the future. Es muy importante.

Our river barge.

Our river barge.

I told Emily as we got on the boat that I would cry if one of two things did not happen. Either I wanted a hippo to chase us OR I wanted the open mouth hippo shot. Well, I got the shot. The hippos were rather cooperative and according to the captain quite grumpy. We were far enough away to enjoy the show. I felt like we were watching a slow motion version of the game hungry, hungry hippos.

Look at those tusks...

Look at those tusks…

Coming to you live...Hungry Hungry Hippo.

Coming to you live…Hungry Hungry Hippo.

We putzed along the river. Passed a few crocodiles, hippos, and came upon a rather large herd of elephants. There were a few baby elephants in the mix. They were so much fun to watch. They stayed right by their moms and if there was any fear, they hid under their mom’s legs. There was on little guy who was leaving the river and was trying to climb over a log. He was so small, he was sort of stuck halfway over it. I had to giggle as he wiggled off the log. It’s such a pain to be little and have to crawl/wiggle over big obstacles. I get it little guy. And I had been allowed, I totally would have helped you out!

You can do it!

You can do it!

A gigantic male appeared on the bank and was strolling down to the river. He was an interesting fellow to watch. When he arrived at the bank, all of the other elephants walked over to him. He must be the guy in charge. Or his harem was excited to see him. I know the puppies and I run to greet Liam when he comes home. So, I’ll go with the harem and excitement.

Little one playing in the water...

Little one playing in the water…

Herd at the river's edge

Herd at the river’s edge

The BOSS!

The BOSS!

Continue on and enjoy the nice calm ride along the river. It was a beautiful day and the weather cooperated considering it was raining everywhere around us!

What a great safari day! I’m glad I was able to go with Emily! It was a neat park and I would love to go back one day!

Categories: Africa, Trip 5 | 1 Comment

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