CDN Couple’s Great Africa Adventure (Part Four)
Following is the Day x Day tale of Mr and Mrs L who spend between October 25 and November 28, 2012 travelling in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The retired but “young at heart” couple, who are ages 70 and 68 respectively, have travelled many long and taxing trips during the last 15 years. And now it was time to visit Africa.
Read on. In the final part of our four part series, we make our way through Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Leaving Botswana to enter Zambia, we crossed the Chobe River, where it joins the Zambeze River, on a very rickety looking ferry which was used to transport heavily loaded long tandem tractor-trailer trucks back and forth between Botswana and Zambia. Many of these trucks waited for up to a week to be processed while standing in their mile long queues. Fortunately, passenger vehicles went to the front of the line and avoided the queue (now able to use this word after being with Aussies for 3 weeks).
Now to Victoria Falls with the largest width of all major falls (approximately 1.7 kilometres). Unfortunately, the amount of water falling over the length of the falls was not at full flow resulting in water only at several spots along its width. During rainy season, then entire width is filled water and the mist obliterates the view and gives the area a rain forest effect.
A quick check in at our hotel was followed by a pickup to view the falls from the air. This flight was only taken by H. M stayed behind. Five of us arrived at the airstrip and were briefed on our flights, three on the helicopter flight and two on a micro-light.
H’s micro-light flight was outstanding … what an experience! Just the pilot and H. With a helmet, face shield, headset and secured by a seatbelt, it was up and away after a very short takeoff. Soon enough we were over the Falls viewing its wide expanse. One could hardly encompass the spectacle and only imagine the difference if the water were cascading down across the entire area. The pilot was so enthusiastic; hard to believe that he had been performing this flight for many years and still had such a love for its beauty and majesty.
The viewing of the Falls earlier in the day had been from a walk along the edge of the gorge on the Zambian side, passing along the virtually unprotected edge to see each section. No contest from the air, as the entire width was so clearly visible and massive from the perspective of the micro-light. As the flight continued, below us we could see swimmers in a pool just at the edge of the falls. Afterwards it was learned that they had been transported to the area by boat, and then swam to the pool. They had the opportunity to be held by their feet as their body hung over the precipice. Maybe next time!
Further along, about eight elephants were seen swimming in the river as well as hippos who were mostly under the clear water. A large hydro-electric facility was seen nearby, fed by water redirected through canals, just as at Niagara.
At this juncture, the pilot handed over the control of the wings to his excited passenger. H leaned slightly forward, placed his hands on the bars connected to the wings and took control, turning and banking from port to starboard and changing elevation. The pilot was told he was very trusting and had lots of gumption. Landing by the pilot, who took over reluctantly (reluctantly as far as H was concerned as he could have stayed up a lot longer) was so smooth and brief. Maybe a micro-light plane is the way to go.
As M had wished for a long time, we set out to visit the Falls from the Zimbabwe side. Off went the two of us in our Kiboko truck, with our guide Mishek, a Zimbabwe resident and citizen, who had needed to get to a bank to deposit money for his brother and father. As an aside, Mishek had lost all the savings from his bank account when the Zimbabwe currency took a precipitous dive. He lost his desired opportunity to start his own travel/tour company. We got our passports stamped with exits from Zambia, left the truck parked at the Zambian exit area, then the three of us walked across the gorge bridge (built about a century ago by Cecil Rhodes and still considered structurally sound). Some time ago, someone from Zimbabwe evidently had tweaked their nose the wrong way, so Canada imposed a $75 visa fee on Zimbabwe citizens. So tit for tat, we paid $75 each for our Zimbabwe visas. We also had to pay a double entry fee for Zambia as we crossed into their country twice.
A further walk past the border point brought us into view of the Falls as we walked the entire distance on the Zimbabwe side. On this side, the falls were nothing less than spectacular even though it was the dry season, but less so than from the micro-light. Sorry you missed it M.
We headed over to the local craft market. It was sad to be two of the very few shopping tourists wandering amongst the multitudes of stalls. The aggressive, sometimes bothersome ‘sales people’ were almost funny in that they used the same pitch stall to stall …”Where are you from? Oh, Canada. I have very good friend in Montreal (Toronto or Vancouver). See, my booth is Canadian (as a small Canadian flag is unfurled from its hiding place). Today is Saturday, it is a special day and we give you a very special discount price today. And so it went, until we were dizzy from seeing so many of the same thing (‘same thing only different’) and bargained out.
… Back to get the Zimbabwe exit stamp and the Zambian re-entry stamp on the other side of the bridge as we headed to our hotel.
A final gathering at breakfast, then we were back to wrapping our purchases securely, finishing our packing and into the truck for the final journey to the Livingstone airport for a flight to Johannesburg.
After a frantic search on arrival at JHB for a lost part of our baggage, we had begun our exit when an airline attendant ran after us with the lost piece. Relief!!
Dinner that evening found us again enjoying Melanie’s company as we easily chatted away the time and then bid our fond farewells – until we meet again.
A short ride from our guest house in Joburg got us to the Gautrain (commuter train). It is a brand new Bombardier (Canadian eh?) train system, that takes you to the JHB airport (YYZ you should be ashamed) and was a breeze to use. Shopping excursions were made at two large multi-level and expansive modern malls, one with a well organized and much less aggressive fully stocked African crafts market where we enhanced the SA economy. We collected our VAT refund, spend a few more rand at the airport shops and shortly we were up and away ‘Out of Africa’ on our flight to DC.
After a pleasant and uneventful flight in our comfortable full length bed style seats allowing us lots of sleep, we were greeted us at Dulles International by our son-in-law. After a few rest-up days with daughter, son-in-law and grandson, we departed DC for Canada with more memories than one can process! Our African Adventure was more than we could have anticipated or hoped for, and we are looking forward to processing several hundred digital photos into various albums.
We used a Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS10 14.1 MP 16x Zoom (Purchased expressly for this trip) and found that the photo / HD video was comparable if not equal to the photos / video of fellow travellers using large, cumbersome DSLRs (Some fellow travellers carried a bulky camera bag with two or more lenses and tripod). We were VERY pleased with the quality and especially the size of the camera (Which fit into a shirt pocket, shoulder bag or purse!)
Like this destination? You may also be interested in...