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Falling for Victoria – The Tenacious Travelers

Location: Chobe River, Zimbabwe, Africa

August 7, 2011

Whatever I write will not do this week justice, the last week has been one with a large amount of jaw dropping moments from huge herds of pachyderms to whipping down the Zambezi River.

After the Delta we headed for Chobe National Park which I will admit I wasn’t looking forward to in any way, seemed just like another national park, oh how wrong I was going to be.

Chobe sits largely along the Chobe River; it’s not the largest park in Botswana but has an estimated population of over 50,000 elephants and one of the highest concentrations of game in Africa. This is very evident as you enter the park and are swamped by all sorts of animals.

In the morning we did a game drive, which I almost didn’t do but changed my mind at the last minute and I am very glad I did. We set off before sunrise in the cold, using sleeping bags to try and keep the wind off. We quickly saw a few elephants and lots of antelope and then giraffe and as we reached the planes along the river heards of buffalo came into view, finally giving me the last of the Big Five.

We were treated to crocodiles, baboons, Kudu, hippos, and all the usual things, but the day was just getting started and later we got to see some of the big cats. First were two lionesses with a recent kill sitting about 10m from the road having their breakfast, we sat for awhile and tried not to interrupt before continuing our own hunt.

As we were leaving the park we were about to be giving a spectacular leaving present in the form of a mother leopard and her older cub walking next to the road in and out of the bushes, at some points maybe only 5m from the cars. It was amazing, to finally get to sit and watch a leopard that close, I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face for hours.

In the afternoon we did a boat trip down the Chobe River which runs through the park and of course is a major draw for animals. This being the case we say hundreds, and I do literally mean hundreds of elephants playing in the water, drinking, bathing, and relaxing with the calves having a great time. Giraffes came to drink with their comical stance as they tried to get close to the water.

Groups of hippos were everywhere, and we even got to see some outside the water grazing which I haven’t seen before. Even the coveted moment when the sleeping hippo raises its head and yawns was to be had as if the whole thing was a choreographed show for our amusement.

As the sun set over the river as we returned to port I could honestly tell you that this day had been spectacular and one of my favourite days in Africa, one that brought so much eye-popping sights that I thought would take a week in a game park to achieve.

The next day it was off to Zimbabwe and to Victoria Falls. Had a little trouble getting into Zimbabwe as it seems that Canada and Zimbabwe do not get on that well, we have some issues with the current administration or something.

But I found myself eventually standing on the Victoria Falls Bridge after getting to the town of Victoria Falls. And there in the distance was the mighty Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders) or Victoria Falls. It was spectacular, being the widest of all the falls, it’s the rainy period now so the falls are at their largest, throwing up a huge cloud of mist.

I sat in the No man’s land bar with Rosie, Louise, Naomi, David and Cinzia. David and Cinzia are Italians, a mother and son combination that works well. Their life is simply one of a kind with living in the USA, Kenya, Asia and Italy. Their stories match their life and range from David trying to suckle from a mother elephant in Thailand to Cinzia getting gored by a bull in Spain. I cannot do them justice in print, and even in person I think my telling would pale to the life that their versions have infused with the Italian over the topness.

We watched as Naomi flung herself of the bridge and then was retracted quickly but the elastic cord tied to her legs, stunning setting for a bungee jump, all though I wonder if you really can appreciate that as you hurtle head first to the ground.

After Cinzia, David and I headed into the Victoria Falls Park, with a park entry of $30, but you can’t not go right? We saw Livingstone’s statue and the various plaques commemorating him, the falls and other initiatives.

We walked along the opposite bank than the falls and saw the various falls that formed, the walk got progressively wetter and wetter as we went and the end which in true African fashion has no fences but is guarded by a sign warming very slippery and dangerous. We got very drenched here and lay down and looked over into the misty gorge below. We stayed until the sun set and then headed back to camp.

The falls are spectacular as you would expect, rainbows jump out from everywhere caused by the amount of mist that is kicked up. I don’t think you get a feel for how big they are on the ground. It’s not like Niagara Falls which you can see a lot of at one time. You are only allowed quick peeks at various falls. The Danes did the helicopter tour over the falls and say it gives you a completely different view of the falls. I would like to see them from the Zambian side and during the dry season when there is less water going over but a bit clearer of a view.

The next day a group of us had decided to do white water rafting down the “Might Zambezi” as our guide said, so we were it boats in groups of eight blasting down the river over up to class 5 rapids. It was thrilling, and our boat was very good, we didn’t lose it and flip or get stuck. A couple times our guide told us to jump out and form a chain or hold on to the boat, so we could get a feel for the rapids.

I love white water rafting, the feeling of adrenaline and unknowing as you hit a new rapid, the feel of the paddle as you pull hard against the river trying to obey the yield commands of the guide. Then finally the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment as you look back over the swirling white waves that you just conquered.

The afternoon was the opposite as Janus, Louise, Rosie and I sat down to high tea at the posh Victoria Falls Hotel. From small sandwiches, through scones with cream and jam onto small cakes, all of course server on fine china with the back drop of the Zambezi gorge with the bridge and falls in the distance. We had cocktail to finish, I had to the Cairo to Cape but while I was drinking I was thinking I would prefer Cape to Cairo.

The next day was my last day with the group, we lounged around and chatted and napped and said goodbye to people as the left for various locations, some off home, and some to new destinations, a good portion of the old group was swapping to a new truck and continuing north up to Kenya together, so they were preparing for this. But for me the time with the truck had come to an end and I was heading deeper into Zimbabwe to get back to Mozambique.

So that’s where I am now, waiting for the day to end. The Danes (Janus and Malene) have opted to join me and head through Zimbabwe, they are going to make their own way to Tanzania but hope to meet up with the truck on the shores of Lake Malawi. We leave tonight on a night bust heading into Zimbabwe to Bulawayo about seven hours away.

Oh, and good news, I’m a Trillionaire now, some silly man was selling a 50 trillion-dollar bill for $1, I’m just hoping someone has change for it, anyway cross that bridge when I come to it.

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