Africa Day #25

**Pictures will be uploaded on better wifi

Late start this morning, with breakfast at 8am. With the early morning yesterday, I only managed to sleep into 6am, but it was nice to wake up, do some writing and drink a cup of coffee in peace and quiet before the hustle and bustle of packing up. I always enjoy these moments in the morning.

We thankfully have a short drive day today, to South Luangwa National Park. We will be staying in a campsite in the park, without any gates or fences. Another one of these once in a lifetime experiences! However, this site also has a lot of monkeys, and they make it challenging as they are always trying to steal any food or other items left around the camp site! Some of them are very cute, but you come to dislike them very much!

We arrive to camp in the afternoon, and have some time to do some much needed laundry, as well as enjoy the pool. The pool overlooks the river bed and I manage to relax with a cold beverage under some shade by the pool. The power has been out in most of Zambia for the last couple of days, so cold has been in short supply, as most places are using generators.

Once again, the rain came in for the afternoon, and this one was a real soaker! Not ideal, since my laundry was still drying and it made all the paths a muddy mess. It also brought out all the bugs and the bathrooms were crawling with beetles, flying termites, lizards and spiders. During one of my visits, I witnessed a huge spider grab one of the flying termites off the ground and drag it away to eat. I must say, I have been tolerating all the spiders quite well, and although it was a fascinating site, this spider was far to big for my liking!! Made me think of the scene from Emperors New Groove! 

Thankfully the rain let up, and we were treated by the owners to a lion sighting right outside our camp. I kid you not, there were two female lions who were headed back to a previous kill, less than a minute drive from where our tents were set up. A couple days ago, they brought down a baby elephant. The camp owners recently had burned the remains once it began to rot, and all the animals seem to be done feeding on it. They suspect that the lions had not made another kill and were headed back to the elephant, that was no longer there. It was really awesome to see, but also made you aware how “in the park” you really were, and the likelihood of meeting a lion at your tent! 

For dinner we had a brie with chicken and sausage, butternut squash and corn. Our CEO also made a pudding dessert with custard, which I think was my favorite part of the whole meal. After dinner we had a safety briefing about the overnight hours. There is a guard on duty overnight, and because animals, like elephant, hippo and rarely a leopard or lion, walk through camp, it is important to be aware and on the lookout if or when you must leave your tent in the night.

I did have to leave my tent in the middle of the night, and thankfully I did not run into any wildlife.

Tomorrow I am booked for both a morning and an evening game drive which I am so excited for, in hopes of completing The Big Five with a leopard!

Africa Day #24

Starting before dawn was not that bad, especially since it wasn’t raining! It is a bit hard having breakfast at 4am, but you manage!

We sucessfully got on the road by 5am, and we were on our way. Another uneventful day of driving. We did stop at a villiage market to use toilets, and had the oppertunity to buy some local products. One of the girls purchased these dried crab apples, which she let us all try. The were okay, not something I would choose to eat. I bought a couple mangos, as they were so cheap, and another guy bought a dried out fish. I did not try that, but he said it was okay, a bit salty and oily, but fine. There was also some local fry bread, but it would be much too heavy for sitting on the bus all day.

In the late afternoon, when we arrived to the town where our campsite is, we stopped off at the shops, and I was able to buy some $3 flip flops! I broke my original ones 2 days ago, so this was so great to be able to get some more and not have to use my sandals for everything!

Camp was basic, but really nice. They have a really nice bar and bar area in which we hung out in. It was a good night to get to know the new people a little better. It is quiet and peaceful, and the bugs were sparce which was so nice.

Tonights dinner was shepards pie and salad, and it was so good. I think this was one of the first times there was no leftovers. I even ate it with cheese on top! I told our CEO she must make it again, it was such a big hit. She also made us a special hot chocolate for dessert which was so delicious! Probably one of my favorite meals thus far!

This week is Thanksgiving back at home, and even though I have an amazing family that did an early Thanksgiving with me before I left, I am a little sad to be missing the day. We talked about it a bit before dinner, and we may try to do an African Thanksgiving this week. It will likely not be Thursday, as I believe that is one of our long drive days, but we are on African time, so if it is a couple days late, it will still be great. We will substitute stuffed chicken for turkey, but I think it will be great if we can pull it off. I am actually a bit excited to share this with people who don’t celebrate!

Tomorrow we are off to another National Park, where in the following days we will be going on some game drives! So excited!!

Africa Day #23

It rained through the night and into the morning. It was one of those mornings you didn’t want to leave your tent because you know as soon as you did you would just get wet and muddy for the day! Packing up in the mud and rain is always an experience, but we do it and it is manageable once you get over the fact you are going to be dirty. If we were being honest, I am pretty sure I have had a layer of filth on me since we began! Even right after a shower, which is one of the best parts of the day, you either are spraying on bug spray or walking out into the dirt, so clean only last so long. You just start to get used to it, plus we are all in the same boat! This is Africa, right?!

Being as we are only 18, we now have extra seats on the Lando, so every third day we have our own seat. Today was my day and it was luxurious! It rained or was overcast for the better part of the drive, so it really wasn’t that bad. I do need to wash my pillow, but I need to do it in a place I know it will dry, and that hasn’t happened lately!

Our drive was pretty uneventful. We passed a lot of villages along the way,  had a couple bushy bushy stops, which are actually a bit nicer sometimes than the actual toilet stops. I realize I need to photograph more along the way, the villages, the markets. There are some growing pains with the new group, but we are managing, and they should work themselves out hopefully.

We arrive at camp in the early evening, and thankfully things have dried up a bit. The shower is a amazing after all the mud in the morning. We have sausage sandwiches for dinner, it’s impressive how many sausages I am eating, and we are told that tomorrow morning starts at 3:30am. We have one more long drive day, and we need to leave camp by 5am.

This means a really early night for myself and most of the group. The hope is that it is not raining again when it is time to pack up!

Tomorrow will be the last long drive day for a couple of days, as we are headed in the direction of Malawi.

Africa Day #22

This morning we had breakfast and goodbyes at the campsite restaurant. It was nice and relaxing, and was able to have some final chats with people. We had a group of three Germans that joined us just for the last 7 days, and they were some of the nicest people. I am going to miss them, as well as the two Kiwi girls. I am going to miss the rest of the group as well for different things. It will be so different!

After breakfast, I went to the markets with the Kiwi’s, at the national park. They had brought stuff to trade that they didn’t want to take home with them. There were about 50 individual shops, each the size of a walk in closet. All of them had hand carved items, some similar, some a bit different from each other. Each vendor wanted you to go into their shop, so that is what we did, as it was easier. Some of the vendors were pushier than others, and you learned not to touch anything unless you were really interested, because otherwise the vendor will start negotiating a price with you. We spent the better part of 2 hours here, and it was exhausting. There was one shop that put me over the edge of what I could handle with all the selling and haggling, and I finally ended up finding a seat in the shade and just chatting with one of the vendors while my friends finished their shopping. I really enjoyed the chat, and learning more about the locals.

We grabbed a taxi back to camp, had lunch and then said my final goodbyes to the Kiwi’s. They will be missed on the rest of the trip for sure! At this point it started to rain, apparently it rains a lot in East Africa this time of year, so I went back to our tents to close them up, before running over to the hotel bar to pass the time before our welcome meeting.

One of the girls had gotten her eyelashes tinted at the spa at the hotel, and they looked so amazing, that while I was here, I decided to do the same thing! Best $12 spent! I have yet to wear makeup since I have been here, but it was a nice treat to make my eyes look nice for the remainder of the trip.

Tonight at the welcome meeting, we gain two guys from Germany, a girl from Australia, a girl from the US, a girl from the UK and a girl from Mexico. This makes us a less than full group with only 18 for the next 20 days. It is important and challenging at the same time to be open to the new people, especially since we had such a great group for the first part of the trip.

At dinner I was able to get to know the girl from Australia and UK better, and they both seem really nice! My fingers are crossed that our group will be just as good as the old one!

Tomorrow we have a long drive day, 8 – 10 hours to head to camp, so it will be an early morning which means an early night in this rain!

Africa Day # 21

**Pictures will be up when I am on better wifi

I am still buzzing from the hippo last night, and I am so excited for my activities today! A group of 11 of us are off first thing to Devil’s Pool. I am feeling a mix of emotions about being on the edge of the falls, but mostly excited.

To get to the Devil’s Pool, we hopped on a boat to an island, where we were at the edge of Victoria Falls, Zambia side. Next we walked along the rocks to the water where the falls are. We had to swim across a section of water, I have video, to another section of rocks and walk over to where the pool was. There was some anxiety in the air, as we will literally be sitting/swimming at the edge of Victoria Falls.

Once we get to Devil’s Pool, our guide gets in and shows us how to get in, and avoid the section that would literally send us over the falls. You swim through the pool and hop up on the rock edge. I think the anticipation was more nerve wracking than the actual experience. It turned out to be quite peaceful, with the sound of the falls in the background and the rainbow. It should be noted there were a ton of fish in the water nibbling on the dead skin on our feet. It is such a weird feeling, and some of them got a bit over zealous sometimes!

I am so glad I did this activity. It was so incredible to be sitting on the edge of the falls, and the views were amazing. We got some great pictures and videos! As part of the activity we were served breakfast on the island. It was eggs Benedict (I asked for my sauce on the side). It was really good! I am not a huge fan of the sauce, but everything else was really good. I may have to get that again! After breakfast we were put on a boat and headed off the island.

At this point, I opted to go back to camp, while the rest of the group went to Victoria Falls Park. I was going to be seeing the falls from the air, and I figured I should have some down time out of the sun before my flight. I spent my time writing, as well as time at the hotel bar, utilizing their wifi!

At 3:30p, myself and one of the other girls headed out to do our flight. The Microlight is basically a hang glider with two seats and a propeller in back. They give you a helmet and strap you in with a lap belt. I was in the rear seat, and the pilot seat sits between your legs. It was a bit terrifying, but awesome!! I pretty sure I was more nervous in this, than I was skydiving, as there is literally only a lap belt stopping me from falling to my death!

My GoPro was not allowed, but I did get the video of the 15 minute flight. The falls are incredible, and I think this was the best way to see them! The pilot was telling me that the current falls is actually number 8, and he was showing me where the rock was cutting in, and would eventually be number 9. I can show it on the video. The falls are best seen from the Zimbabwe side, so it was great in the air being able to see it from both sides. This is the low water season, so it was not as much water as in the high water season.

After the falls, we flew a bit lower and saw some hippo, buffalo and elephant. I asked him if he could find me a leopard, as that is the last of the Big 5 that I have yet to see, but no such luck. He was telling me, that he has actually never seen one from the air.

After the flight, I went back to the hotel for a swim before we had our last current group dinner out at an Indian restaurant.

Dinner was hard tonight. Everyone was hungry and tired from a full day of activities. We arrived around 7:30p but did not get served until after 9:30 when most people were a bit hangry, and we did not get back to camp until after 11pm. The food was fine, but most people were a bit cranky by the time we got back.

I made the decision to pass on rafting for tomorrow. The full day was 6 hours, and I felt that would have been too much, and the half day was only $10 less than the full day, and I felt like that was too expensive for what you were getting.

Tomorrow I have a free day, we say goodbye to 10 members of the group and that night we gain only 6, so we will not be a full group, which will be good for some of the long drives! I am a bit sad, as we really have a great group of people, I just hope the new people are just as good!   

Africa Day #20

**Pictures will be uploaded on better wifi

I think I made the right decision last night, as I am feeling a lot better. We also have a really late morning this morning, as some of the group went on a game drive this morning, so breakfast was not until 9am. I opted to not go on the game drive, as I still have another month in Africa, and I really need to get on the upswing. I was a little bummed I didn’t when they came back and told me about the baby lion, elephant and hippo they saw, but I know I made the right decision in the long run.

We leave camp in the early afternoon and head to the border and stamp into Zambia. There are a lot of vendors here, and I ended up buying a wooden Hippo. I am happy with it, even though I was not planning on buying anything this early in the trip.

Once we all have our visas, we are off to our campsite in Livingstone, home of Victoria Falls! I cannot believe we are here already! This is our second transition point. We will be losing 10 of our travelers in the next couple days, and gaining new ones. I have become good friends with the two girls from New Zealand and I will miss them the most! It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were dealing with the bed bugs together, and now they will be leaving.

We arrive at camp in the early evening and head to the activities department to book in for the activities for the next couple of days. We have 3 nights here, so two days for activities.

Tomorrow I am booked in for Devil’s Pool, a pool of water you can swim in that is right on the edge of Victoria Falls, as well as the Microlight flight over the falls. I am really excited for both of these activities. I am contemplating rafting on the second day, but I will wait to book it, as it is a full day in the sun, and a lot of work, I want to see how I am feeling.

Sharing the same waterfront, but on the other side of a gate that is left unlocked, there is a fancy hotel. A couple of us headed over there to the bar, and went swimming in the infinity pool. It was so awesome, and we actually watch sunset from the pool while watching the Hippo across the river. It was so nice and relaxing.

Tonight we have a group dinner at our campsite resturant. It is the second to last night as the current group of travelers. After dinner, a couple of us return to the hotels bar, as it is a lot nicer, the drinks are a bit cheaper and they have great free wifi (for Africa anyways).

While we were there the most amazing thing happened! A hippo had swam up and was in the little pond by the bar (the bar was along the Zambezi River). It was so crazy to have a hippo so close! I watched it for a while and then went and sat back down at the tables. After about a half hour the hippo decided to emerge from the water, so I got back up to go see it, and while I was watching him, he decided to cross over the boardwalk and walk through the bar! It made me feel a bit uneasy, as he was massive but it was so incredible! Most likely a once in a lifetime experience! The best part is I captured it on video!! I am pretty sure my whole trip was made tonight!

After the hippo, we headed to bed for a early start and a busy day of activities tomorrow!

Africa Day #19

**Pictures to be uploaded on proper wifi

This morning we were able to “sleep in” which means we had breakfast at 8am! Most of our morning/afternoon will be spent driving to Kasane. Along the way we had a couple set backs, like a traffic stop that in the end set us back over an hour.

We are headed out on a evening game cruise on the Chobe River tonight, and with the set backs on the road, we only just made it on time to board the boat with our lunchs.

The cruise was so great! I ended up sitting next to an older woman on another tour that was from California, and we had a good time chatting for a bit.

We saw a ton of Hippo, which as you know, I was absolutely thrilled about! One of the hippo actually swam out away from the rest and launched out of the water! It was quite a sight, that I unfortunately did not capture.

We also saw elephant, and one of the lone elephant actually swam back and forth across the river! I managed to capture that on video, it was so incredible to be so close and watch.

We saw water buffalo, and crocodile and birds. I really enjoyed this activity. I do not think I will ever get sick of seeing all these animals! It really is such a different experience seeing them in their natural environment.

When we arrived back at camp tonight, I was feeling a bit worse than I had the night before and ended up deciding to book a room, as it was quite a hot day, and the night was showing no signs of relief. I spent the better part of 2 hours in the room just trying to rehydate, and I was thankful for my private bathroom. Hopefully having a recovery night will work, as I do not want to have to go to an African clinic if it can be avioded, and I have so much time left!

Tomorrow we cross the border into Zambia, and we are headed to Livingstone.

Africa Day #18

Woke up still a bit off, but we are packing up and heading out early, which will be good so I can get some rehydration back into my system. The trip back on the Mokoro was just as amazing as the way up. The still and quiet of the Delta is just so amazing. It took us only about an hour and a half to get back to the village, unpacked and packed the vehicles and said thank you to all of our guides, to again travel 45 minutes back to town. We arrived back at the lando, to once again unpack and repack to head to Gweta.

Our camp is under Baobab trees, and our site has an amazing pool! I spent most of the afternoon rehydrating and sitting in the pool. The pool had a shallow round pool attached and I taught the other travelers how to make a whirlpool.

Tonight we had a punch party, but in my current state I was not able to partake, which was a bit of a bummer. I still had a lot of fun with the group, even being the only sober one!

For dinner we had rice with vegetable curry and a banana topping, which I ate as intended all together, although I was not much of a fan of the banana topping with the other flavors.

Another early night for me, as I am trying to stay ahead of feeling a bit under the weather. Tomorrow we are in Kasane, home of the Chobe River, for our last night in Botswana.

Africa Day #17

Last night the rain came in, as well as a proper African lightning storm. It didn’t really start up until 2am, but then the storm really stirred up around 4am. I don’t think many people slept after 4am, as the storm was right above us, and at least two times lightning struck you could feel it hit the ground, which was thrilling and a bit scary all at once. The only unfortunate thing was not being able to watch it, as our tents were all closed up to keep out the rain. It was nerve wracking at times, as we were just protected by a tent with metal poles, but also incredible.

Our morning was suppose to start at 7am, but with the heavy rains, it has been pushed out. We are all wet and dirty, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for the world. At 9am, we were finally picked up for the overnight on the Okavango Delta. This is one of the seven natural wonders of Africa, and it is argued one of the world’s largest inland deltas. We drive 45 minutes on a dirt road to a village where we meet our pollers. This village is so secluded, and it really got me thinking about how some of these people live in these villages in Africa, so far away from modern conveniences. We are traveling by Mokoro (dugout canoe), two hours down the delta, to an island where we will be spending the evening. There is two of us per Mokoro, with a local guide/poller in back to push us along the delta, by using a long wooden poll.

Waterlily that could be found the whole journey on the Delta
Waterlily that could be found the whole journey on the Delta

Right off the bat, our guides spot hippo right by where we are entering the Delta. I am beyond excited! I was so excited seeing them from the sky, this was even better seeing them in the water. We hop in our Mokoro, and pull off almost right away to watch the Hippo from a distance, although we were still pretty close. This was absolutely amazing, and my day was made!!

Hippo we spotted when we entered the Delta
Hippo we spotted when we entered the Delta
The Hippo on the Delta with his mouth open! Cannot believe I got this shot!
The Hippo on the Delta with his mouth open! Cannot believe I got this shot!

The Mokoro ride was so peaceful and relaxing as we went down the Delta. Our poller’s name was Isaac, and myself and the other girl had a great chat with him. He told us a lot about himself, and his village, and the different uses of the delta and the plants. Like the reeds they use for the siding of their homes. There was a moment, when he asked us what we use in the traditional homes from where we are from. It caught me off guard for a moment, and I found myself trying to answer with as little information as possible. I was a bit embarrassed by how much more we have, and things that are standard like indoor plumbing are not a thing in these villages. These thoughts stayed with me most of the rest of the day, but this is part of the reason I travel. To see how other people live. The difference is, these people survive and thrive and are happy, and they make use of the natural resources around them, where I would not be able to survive out on my own in this environment. A bit of a ramble, but just some thoughts.

Zebra grazing along the Delta
Zebra grazing along the Delta

Along the way we saw Zebra and there were two Elephants that were grazing right by our island, and when we went to go for a swim, we could seem them!

Elephants by our island at the Delta
Elephants by our island at the Delta

We set up camp on the island and had lunch, and our guides dug us a poop hole! If we were being honest, it was actually not bad at all, and I can say I used a poop hole in Africa. Only down side, is being careful you do not run into an Elephant in the middle of the night. After swimming we had some down time before going out on a bush walk. This was my least favorite activity thus far. It was hot, and what I thought was only an hour bush walk was actually 3 hours in the sun, and our guide was not great and barely showed us anything. We saw a couple Elephant and a warthog, but nothing much else. The only redeeming part was the moon after the sunset, it was absolutely amazing!

The Moon just after sunset
The Moon just after sunset

I think this was the activity that also put me a bit over the edge and I ended up a bit dehydrated. Feeling down and out and dehydrated, I skipped out on dinner and went to bed while trying to hydrate with water. This was not the night I wanted to spend feeling this way, but that is the way things work out usually!

Thankfully, from my tent, I still could hear the singing that the guides did at the campfire, and I saw some of the dancing on a bathroom run. (Sorry for all the bathroom references, but I couldn’t describe this day without them!)

My favorite song was the last one… It went like this:

Oh Beautiful Africa (Africa)

Oh Beautiful Africa (Africa)

We Shall Never Forget

Oh Beautiful Africa (Africa)

And then you change Africa to Botswana, or really anything. The voices of the locals were amazing, I am glad I at least was able to kind of enjoy it.

The night was interesting, but thankfully I did not run into any Elephant on the way to the hole. It was definitely an experience I will never forget!  

Africa Day #16

And we are off again to Muan, the tourist capital of Botswana. Although our next site is a campsite, the location is at a hotel with a really nice pool and a bar. Today was very hot, so once camp was set up, most of us set out to the pool.

Today, 11 of us set out to do an optional scenic flight over the Okavango Delta. We were split into two groups, and I was in a 6 seat plane with 4 other travelers. We were able to fly over quite low, but it was also quite fast. I tried to capture some pictures with the GoPro, but most of them, it is hard to make out what they are. For the most part, though, I just tried to enjoy the experience, as I was told ahead of time, this wasn’t the best opportunity for pictures.

Flying over the Delta
Flying over the Delta – first sighting of Hippo

We saw a ton of Elephant, some solitary, some swimming and some in herds. I also saw my first Hippos!! As you can imagine, I squealed with delight! We saw a bunch of them by the water, but I also spotted one moving in the water, and nearly lost my mind. We also saw a giant herd of Water Buffalo by the water, which makes number 4 in the Big Five!

I really enjoyed the experience, and it was a really neat way to see the animals. I think the fact that I saw Hippo made the whole thing!

When we arrived back at camp, I helped make dinner, which was a spaghetti bolognese, and delicious and then packed up for our night tomorrow at the Okavango Delta. This is where we will be sleeping in the bush, no running water, no toilet, just a hole that will be dug for us! I initially thought we would be digging our own poop hole, but apparently the local guides will dig out one big one for all of us. We are told that it will be absolutely worth it! There is also a chance for animals to come through our site.

We were treated to another lightning storm off in the distance that was absolutely stunning. I did not have my camera with me, so I unfortunately didn’t even attempt at capturing the lightning, even though I doubt my abilities to do it again!

I am really excited for tomorrow, but I would be lying if I were to say I wasn’t a bit anxious about the poop hole! I guess we will have to wait and see.