Africa Stole My Heart

123[1]The last few days have been insane. I’ve actually had wifi to send emails, but what I didn’t have was time to write. Our days have had early starts (5:30) and because I knew I only had so little time left with the group I felt like I had to maximize the time left by staying up as late as I could. So here I sit in the plane in Livingstone, Zambia writing my last email.
After leaving Elephant Sands we made our way to a town near the Chobe River. This whole trip we’ve been traveling through towns and villages but places to stop to use the washroom have been few and far between. If you can picture a bus load of tourists getting off in the blistering heat and told to watch for snakes and scorpions while we pee you can only imagine how funny we looked. In Namibia it was so desolate that we were all basically just squatting in the open. So the other day I found a tree/bush and popped a squat but I somehow lost my balance and with my shorts around my ankles I fell over into spikes. With my bare bum in potential snake territory, I was stuck and one of the ladies had to pull me out like a turtle on its back. Again, this is an example of becoming extremely close with someone that only weeks ago was just a stranger. When I got out of the bush I had thorns stuck into my shoulder that we had to pull out one by one. Only in Africa! 118[1]
Chobe is this beautiful  National Park with jungle like trees that slopes down to the river. And where there’s water there’s definitely animals!!!! That evening we got our own boat for a river cruise. We had a cooler full of drinks and we were set. There was so much wildlife that you didn’t know which way to turn.  On one side of the boat there were loads of hippos and crocs and the other were everything else. And I mean everything! Dumbass (me) forgot to switch her camera battery so about 15 minutes in I was cameraless. Thankfully we were so close to the animals that my iPhone got quite a few good pictures. By the end of the cruise I was so tipsy from brandy that I couldn’t tell you what I was taking pictures of! 115[1]
The next morning it was another early start as we set off on our last game drive of the trip. I think this was probably the best safari so far because we got so unbelievably close to the animals. At one point we followed a pride of lions. There were 8 of them and they came right up to our vehicle. Elephants were everywhere and many had babies with them. Of course we saw all the other African wildlife, but what stood out the most for me was when we found one massive lone male lion. He was literally maybe 2 meters away at times. He looked like Scar from the Lion King as we was completely disheveled and had a squinty eye. He didn’t look happy and when he growled at us this looked even more true!104[1]
Later that day was more travel. This time we crossed the river by ferry to the border of Zambia. Once in Zambia we drove to the town Livingstone. This is where one of the wonders of the world is –  Victoria Falls.  Basically Victoria Falls straddles two countries. On one side Zambia and the other Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe side is said to have better views so I decided I’d pay the big bucks to get a Visa and go into Mugabe territory. 132[1]
I don’t know what Canada did to piss other countries off in the past, but buying a Zimbabwe Visa cost more than double any other country. I remember this was the same when I traveled to Laos a few years back. And to make matters worse the Zim currency doesn’t exist any more so they have to use American Dollars. My trip to see the falls ended up costing me $185 US!!!!!! I have to say that the views were absolutely spectacular and definitely worth every penny. Before we got to see the falls we had to do another death march to cross the border. Between the Zimbabwe and Zambia border you have to walk for about 40 minutes in zero shade. This would be fine on a cool day but Africa is not cool…it’s hot! With the sun beating down and it being mid day, by the time we reached the gate entry we were completely soaked in sweat. Thankfully we were there to see waterfalls and soon it was like we were standing under a mist shower. Victoria Falls is massive. Based on its width of 1708 metres and height of 108 metres,  it measures as the world’s largest sheet of falling water. The view is like nothing I’ve ever seen, and the icing on the cake is the massive rainbow that stretches from one side to the other. I can see how it became one of the wonders of the world! 146[1]
My passport pages were in full use yesterday as we traveled to three different countries. Imagine Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe all in one day!
And that brings us to today. Again, so much to do and such little time. I was up again at the crack of dawn to squish in my last adventure before heading to the airport. This adventure was swimming in pools that were literally on the edge of Victoria Falls! So we got on a boat that was part of the Zambezi River on the Zambia side and drove towards the cliff of the falls. Right before the drop there was this little island. We docked and walked across the island. From there it became rocky and BAM, there were the falls. I don’t know what idiot first tried swimming there first to test if you wouldn’t get sucked over but stupid tourists just play along. We jumped in the water that had mini rock pools, and once you are in them the current pushes you to the edge but you are stopped by a wall of rocks. So basically you get bashed into the rocks high above a death drop. It was so cool! You could peer over the edge of the falls and see the water crashing down below. On the way back to the dock I got to see one last hippo. So surreal. 
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Sitting on the edge of the world with my two Swiss friends.

So as you can probably tell the last three and a half weeks have been a life changing adventure. Traveling through five countries and experiencing the different cultures has been fascinating. Seeing all the wildlife up close has been unbelievable and never gets old.  But what stands out the most are the friendships I’ve made. I haven’t laughed this much in a very long time and leaving today has literally been heartbreaking. I’ve cried enough to fill the Zambezi River! One of the closest friends I made here is from South Africa and it is so difficult to leave someone that lives on the exact opposite side of the world. You just never know if you’ll see each other again. But we’ve promised to skype and keep in touch so thank goodness for technology. 
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Sitting on the edge of the world with my two Swiss friends.

I urge all of you that if you ever have the opportunity to travel to this part of the world, do it! I’ve enjoyed every second and to sum it up, Africa always steals a piece of your heart!
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Elephant Sands

Yesterday we left the delta as dirty pigs and had to get back on the bus for a five hour journey to our next destination. Let me tell you – layers of sun block, bug spray, sweat, dirt and leech water makes a girl feel pretty dang nasty!
Scenery on the Kalahari Highway (if you can call it a highway) is getting very different. Animals roam across the road at all times. During the drives we’ve had to stop for cows, horses and goats to cross the road, but yesterday it was like we were in a movie. Elephants who trumpeted their trunks, giraffe in herds and a lone ostrich passed right by us. Unfreakingbelievable! 99[1]
But what is truly unbelievable is our next destination. It is called Elephant Sands and it’s just that.Elephant Sands For years and years this area is has been a route that elephants pass. It usually has an abundance of water and elephants pass through constantly. This isn’t one or two elephants, it’s hundreds! Unfortunately there has been a massive drought and the Elephant Sands Lodge pumps water into the holes for the elephants. In a big semi circle there are about 15 luxury tents. The tents are on stilts and contain beds, furniture and a washroom just like any other hotel room. You unzip all the windows and you have a 360 view of the wildlife. On the other side of the semi circle is a restaurant, bar and pool. And right smack in the centre of it all is the water hole!
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So as we pulled up there were about 5 elephants right in front of our eyes. This ended up being nothing because as the evening went on we had more and more elephants come out and put on a show.
After the most glorious shower of my life we all sat at the bar with front row seats to the latest installment of National Geographic. The grunting and pushing and screeching these animals were doing truly gave us the best show ever. At times they would face us head on and start flapping their ears as if they were going to charge. You’d have to slowly stand up and walk backwards so they wouldn’t think you were aggressive. 102[1]
They can sense the water from the pipes and the facilities have to shut the water off in our tents at 9 because elephants frequently have come and pulled out pipes and toilets with people in the tents. As well, the swimming pool is often empty of water because the elephants will just step up to the bar and drink it all. I’m not exaggerating when I say you could literally touch them.
At one point during the night we had a visitor from a special elephant named Ben. Back in October this elephant walked right up to the bar/lodge and was clearly injured. It apparently had an abscess on one of his feet. The owner decided to risk it and try to help the elephant. He got a hose and tried to clean it out and the elephant let him. They called Rangers and had the elephant tracked. By the next day they found the elephant laying down and really sick. They tagged it and got the elephant to some sort of vet(not sure there’s an elephant clinic, but you get the idea). After they nursed the elephant they let it back out into the wild. Ever since Ben comes to the lodge every single night for water from the owner. He won’t let anyone else touch him or feed him and even charged another guy when he tried. The owner has a special bond with Ben and feeds him from the water hose while talking to him and petting his trunk. These elephants are migratory so they’re never the same ones coming back, but Ben clearly won’t leave now. So after dinner Ben came up to the dining area and stuck his head in. For over an hour we had an up close and personal show. Other elephants then saw what was happening and they would try to push their way in. The owner, Mike has this special grunt and was able to shoo them off. It was absolutely unreal. Ben’s eyes would just look in at us and his trunk would be right there. 103[1]
As the night went on there were at least 20-30 elephants at the hole all jostling and pushing for their chance at the water hole. As I lay here in my bed right now the sun is starting to rise and I see elephants right in front of me. I can’t think of anywhere else that I’d rather be. This is completely surreal and something I wish you all could experience first hand!!!
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Okavango Delta

IMG_0242This next adventure took us deep into the bush. We had to 4×4 it for about an hour deep into the Okavango Delta. Once we reached the water we were met by a team of locals who were going to take us deeper into the delta. Boats are the traditional mokoro, which is a dug out tree…basically an African canoe. We sat two to a mokoro and each had its own ‘poler’. The poler (a local), steers the boat standing up from the back with a really long stick. It was kind of like the African version of Venice. The delta waters are full of wildlife and some would say we are crazy because these were especially full with crocs and hippos. You could see the hippos blowing water and grunting from afar. The scenery was beautiful with lily pads and lotus flowers everywhere. We traveled by mokoro for about an hour until we reached land. From there it was time to carry the camp supplies further inland in the excruciating heat. We are so deep into the delta that we have about 10 locals staying with us and basically protecting us. 90[1]
Once we were all set up it was on to our next death trap. We traveled by mokoro to another water area that looks…pretty much just like everywhere else and then was told that it was ok to swim. Did I mention that these are hippo and croc infested waters? Yes, yes I did! But the locals said we would be fine. They checked for crocs and it was clear. As we all got in they were probably laughing and thinking ‘you stupid *&%ing white people!’  Some parts were super sludgy and others had lovely sand bars. We played volleyball in the water and after our fingers turned to prunes we headed back to camp. The whole time I was in the water I couldn’t help but keep looking over my shoulder with fear that a croc was right beside me.89[1]
The most wonderful thing happened when we returned. You see, there is this British couple – lets call them Eep and Ork – and they are pretty much disliked by everyone. They are pompous, vulgar, loud and obnoxious. When we clean up camp they always bugger off. They constantly have a cigarette hanging from their lips. And yesterday at one of the road side pee breaks Ork whips out his dong right in front of the bus and facing us starts pissing while smoking his ‘fag’. Eep is one of those women who straighten and blow dry their hair even while camping in the Namibian desert, as well as crouches down next to begging children she gave food to smile and pose for a photo… So you get the picture of who these people are right? So anyway guess who finds a leach stuck to his ass? Yep, Ork! After burrowing itself into his lovely cheeks Eep had to pull it off and he was left with a bloody ass! Karma’s a bitch! Our guide swam with us and she has never seen leaches in there before. So the next thing you know we are jumping in our tents pulling our pants down checking if we also have any stuck to us. Nope, it only found the best ass hole of all! 96[1]
After this we were all exhausted from the sweltering heat so many opted out for the next effed up activity. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try everything so I went on the bush walk. Others named this The Death March. Still extremely hot out, a bunch of us went with the locals to find wildlife by foot. Did I mention that the Big Five are residents of the delta? Meters from our camp were fresh lion prints. But we kept on … For three hours we walked in search of anything that moved. It was amazing!!!! Our first encounter were some warthogs and springbok. But soon it was giraffe and then an elephant. We got so close by foot that we were given instructions of what to do if the elephant starts charging. I don’t know if it’s a combo of adrenaline and stupidity but it was so cool.95[1] As our march continued we heard grunting from the waters. Here in front of us were easily 50 hippos. Incredible!!! Yawning and showing us their massive mouths we got quite the show. But not after long they turned towards us and we’re coming closer and closer. Because they’re not the swiftest on land we left at the last moment and continued on. When we thought we were done we walked right into two massive male giraffes. They are such calm animals but gigantic!!! With their heads well above the tree line they just towered over us. It gives you a whole different perspective to see the animals on foot. It was hard to walk away from them but our guide needed us to be back to camp before the sun set.
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The night didn’t end there. After dinner the locals sang for us. As well, one local took two of us out of our camp and close to the shore so we we could see fireflies. Thousands lit up the sky around us. This was simply breathtaking and made for a perfect end to the night!
Oh wait… Did I tell you about the toilets? There were none. So the locals made this make-shift toilet. About fifty yards from camp they set up a toilet that hovered over a hole. When you’re finished your business you shovel dirt on top. I felt like a cat in kitty litter. Sitting on a can under the stars with the frogs croaking is unreal! I had to make my friend Hannelie come with me because there’s no way I was going out there alone!
Anyway, I survived to tell the tale and this is one that I soon won’t forget!

Bushwhacked!

Meet the Bushman Tribe of Botswana
Over the last few days we’ve moved on from Namibia and crossed the border into Botswana. This is where our tour group changes and we start the second leg of the adventure. Because the tour is so long sometimes G Adventures splits it up and we get different people half way through. Most of the group is staying, however the people that I’ve become closest to including my Germanator roomie have left. We lose 5 and gain four more. I pity the four newbies. With all our inside jokes it would be hard to start half way through. The running joke of our group is who will take care of me now that the Germanator is gone. Apparently I’m one hot mess who walks into disastrous situations, so the torch has been passed and a dude from Winnipeg has stepped up to look after me. I keep telling them that I get through life just fine every day at home but they don’t believe me.
As we crossed into Botswana you could immediately feel the difference in countries. It’s much poorer here and instead of being in a relatively western style country you can tell it’s third world. Animals run everywhere and the ‘Kalahari Ferrari’ is driven among the cars. (It’s a donkey)!!! To be honest, I love this so much better. People on the side of the road stop and wave and it feels like the Africa I knew when I was traveling in Tanzania. The pace feels slower, and the people are friendlier.
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HIV AIDS is rampant here and they literally have a slogan that says ‘If you don’t play alone, cover your bone’.  Love it!!!
So today our stop is the Bushman Huts. Literally it’s just that. In the middle of nowhere there’s this place with about 15 stick huts. No need for a key because the door is a bunch of sticks wound together and you just move it out of the way (no hinges). Black mambas and pythons are regular visitors, but don’t worry – they give you a mosquito net. Ha!
This evening we got to meet real tribal  San Bushmen. It was such an amazing experience. They speak with ‘clicks’ and they are the tiniest little people. When introducing ourselves they place their hand on your shoulder and you the same. There was a translator and these sweet people had such a great sense of humor. They took us into the bush and showed us what roots and sticks they use for medicine and other ailments. It’s absolutely fascinating how these people have survived for all these years. What is a sad reality is that this tribe is quickly becoming obsolete. Just a few kilometers from here most of them were born and would hunt and live off the land. But in 1994, the government moved them from their land to a settlement. Because of international pressure the government does not allow them to hunt anymore. They have to buy their meat and live in a western way. Ironically the foreigners can come in and pay the big bucks to game hunt. So because the lack of hunting, these bushman are becoming something of the past.79[1]
This is where traveling just opens your eyes like nothing else can. I love it!
So I just experienced my first ride in a 6 seater plane. I got to go up for an hour flight over the Okavango Delta. At first you couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, but it soon turned into somewhat of a grimace as the motion sickness set in. Below us were tons of hippos and other wildlife but all I could do was look inside the inside of a barf bag. It truly was beautiful but by the end of the hour I had 3 barf bags full. You can dress me up, but can’t take me out.83[1]

And the One-man show has left the building

Some of you are new to my adventure escapades, while others have been around the block (or world) with me a few times and have shared in my travel blunders and highlights through my personal emails. Whether you are new or old, I hope that I can share a piece of the world with you and entertain you in some capacity.

 

Tomorrow I venture off on a 25 hour journey to the other side of the world. I will start off in Cape Town, South Africa where I will be on my own for the first 5 days. I am planning to meet up with a friend of a friend of a friend named Marlan, who has said he will show me around. I am looking so forward to seeing this city, as it seems like there is so much to do and experience. Next Wednesday I will meet up with a G Adventure Group. From there we will take off north up through Namibia, then Botswana and finally Zambia.

 

It is perfect timing that I leave, as I just was informed that I opened a major virus onto the University system. I am actually at work right now, trying to finish all loose ends when the IT team flew in and took my computer away from me.  Why not leave with a bang right?

So here I go … and I look forward to you joining me on this crazy adventure!
The G Adventures Tour that I will take – G Adventures Cape Town to Victoria Falls