Into Africa!!!!

Victoria Falls

I am in Africa!!!! The last few days I have been in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. I am in Africa!!! How cool is that?

All the flights were easy. British Airways gets an A for effort. I have learned to really like business class. The food was good, I had a bed to lay down to sleep. I also had time to catch up on movies. I don’t watch many in my RV lifestyle. Captain Marvel was great (I am a Marvel movie fan). Flying Solo is a documentary about a young man who free climbs Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. It was a great movie. Aquaman was just so-so. Two out of three isn’t bad. 

It has been an easy entry into the third world. Our guesthouse, Pennywise Cottages,  was delightfully tucked into a neighborhood quiet and clean. We could easily access downtown Victoria and walk to Victoria Falls National Park. Since Zimbabwe has very little money we were able to use US dollars for any financial interactions in town.

Victoria Falls, Mosi-oa-Tunya (The Smoke That Thunders) is one of the three largest waterfalls in the world. (Niagra Falls & Iguazu Falls being the other two) The Zambezi River feeds the falls.The falls highest point is 355 ft. It consist of eight points where the water drops. The volume depends on the season. Currently it has a pretty good flow moving over the top of it. Once in a while when a hippo or crocodile get to close to the lip of the falls the current can push them over the edge. 

Tricky Monkey

We entered the park around mid-morning and spent the rest of the day hiking close to six miles to view different areas of the falls. We hiked from a rainforest into a semi-arid desert. Along the way we met up with Baboons, Vevert Monkeys, Warthogs, Bush Bucks, and more. Then there were the birds….And the camera went wild. Not all was incident free. My friend Mary (Zee), warned us of the baboons but forgot to mention those pesky monkeys. My friend, Phyllis, who I am traveling with had her desert stolen away as we sat at an outside table in the National Park, enjoying, well, trying to enjoy a snack. 

The following day we hired a driver and continue to sightsee in the area.The Big Tree was first on the list. It is one of the largest Baobab trees in the world and is guessed to be 500 years or older. This is a big tree. I first learned of Baobab Trees for the book, The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, and have always wanted to experience one in person. This tree was large, very large. As I circumnavigated the tree I could not help but notice that I had to walk around Elephant dung. Elephant dung!!!!!!!!!!

 

 

“The ground on the planet was infested with baobab seeds. And if we do not remove a baobab seed on time, it will never be possible to be free of it. It will obstruct the whole planet. It drills through it with its roots. And if the planet is too small and the baobabs become large, they will make it shatter.”

The Little Prince

 

Later in the morning as we were driving to our next destination  a herd of Impalas walked in front of the car, Impalas! Imagine that? I have been delighted with all the wild life. There are new birds to add to my list, and it was pretty amazing to see animals I have only seen in a zoo or wild animal park. When we ask the local people about the animals they often don’t even acknowledge them. I guess it is similar to me saying “there goes another coyote.” Although I do like coyotes. 

Alpacas on the Move

Opheus, our driver took us on a tour of where he and his family live. There are 15 people living in a 5 room house. We met his wife and youngest daughter. It was a good insight into how the local people live and survive.

I ended the trip walking across the bridge that connects Zimbabwe to Zambia. There was a moment on the bridge when I stepped into No Man’s Land, about two steps wide that is owned by neither country. Near mid-span I was offered the opportunity to bungee jump or swing into the deep gorge. No Thank You! It was fun to watch others take off and experience a thrill I am sure like no other.

Now I am in transit, it is a flying day. I am heading to South Africa for the next five weeks.Travel days are quiet days. Days of waiting and practicing mindfulness and patience. 

Zimbabwe was an interesting visit. The country is bankrupt. They have no money. The head of the country is corrupt and it is hoped after this year that things will get better. The local every day people are not so sure this will happen. People wait over a year for a passport to travel. There is not enough money to buy the paper and ink that is needed to stamp a passport and fill out the paperwork. The type of money can change every day. It’s worth can change several times a day. The local people pay for very little, with cash. It is all done with cards. The poorer areas of Zimbabwe have had no electricity since 2010. While I was there we went a day without electricity. The hotel manager told us sometimes it is off for an hour and sometimes for days. There is a minimum amount of gasoline and our driver gets up at 5:30 a.m. to wait in a cue to be sure to get gas before the station runs out. 

As I walked around the town and into the park it felt a bit awkward to know I had enough money for almost anything I wanted. I could sit down to eat at a cafe or restaurant. Foods on the menu might not be available because of cost. I just order something else. I don’t have to worry about whether the money I am holding is worth anything now or in a few hours. When I said no to a street artist trying to sell his wares, even the few dollars might affect his family and his life for the next day. I could endure twenty-four hours of no electricity. It was a novelty. For the locals it is a reality they live with. 

My introduction to the third world issues, I am sure, is just beginning. I believe that travel is a good way to become aware on a local day to day level how life is lived no matter where I travel. I hope this awareness moves me toward compassion for others and for myself. 

As I move into South Africa I hope to carry the things I learned in Zimbabwe with me. I will be seeing amazing things and I know the political issues will surface again. I truly like the idea of journeying to see the wonderful and to create a more global perspective in my own life.

 

Into Africa

I am going to Africa. Saturday morning my friend, Phyllis and I board a plane at JFK International Airport and we are off.

How did I get to this point? First I agreed to go on this adventure. Early in March I moved into Phyllis’s condo for a couple weeks and we planned. Each morning after breakfast we moved to our computers and began to put this trip together. First we started with the photo safari and then moved on from there.

Pangolin Photo Safaris ended up being our Safari of choice. We will be traveling with professional photographers. I am excited to be able to learn from them. I am excited to see animals and birds  and learn how to photograph them better. I am excited. Our tour includes a hot air balloon ride. That excites me too. Kenya and this safari is the climax of this trip.

It was Phyllis who said “If I am traveling that distance, I want to see as much as I can”. We extended our stay to one month. Then we decided two months would be better. We got input from good friends who planned their own independent trip to Africa (thank you Mary Z) and decided we could do this as well.

Several blogs helped guide us to figure out routes, places to stay and things to do. With the ten hour time difference it took a while to put the trip together. I did have a few late nights so I could contact places when they were open.

And then in the middle of all the planning, I had surgery to remove my right thyroid for what everyone thought would be a benign nodule. Instead it came back positive for cancer. After a few shed tears and oh my God moments, I had discussions with my surgeon and endocrinologist and a second opinion at UCSD Moores Cancer Center. Everyone said go to Africa and so I am. I was started on Synthroid to keep my numbers low. The rest of the treatment is on hold until fall. I am turning the cancer shingle to the wall for the summer and am off on a grand adventure. I know that sounds easy yet, in reality I have to keep my anxiety at bay. It is good to do research but not too much.

Tuesday I picked Phyllis up at the airport in New Jersey. She came to stay at the lake for a few days. In the wee hours of Saturday morning we are climbing aboard British Air and flying off into the wild blue yonder.

Here is our tentative itinerary in a nutshell.

  • Victoria Falls is the first stop. I plan on getting wet in the mist of the falls. Did you know that elephants sometimes walk through downtown Victoria Falls? Elephants!!!!
  • Three days later we will fly to Nelspruit, South Africa and rent a car.
  • After one night in town, it will be time to explore Kruger National Park. We plan a week in the park. We hope to see the big five-buffalo, elephant, rhino, lion, and leopard. In Kruger you can rent cottages in different areas. We are staying in cottages in two different sections of the park. The other three nights we will be staying at a private reserve. Hikes and Safaris are included in our itinerary.
  • When we depart Kruger NP we plan to meander south along the east coast of south Africa. This is the most un-set part of our itinerary. We are going on a road trip.
  • It will be spring in South Africa. Flowers will be starting to bloom. I am looking forward to the gardens and the flowers and visiting National Parks as we travel.
  • Our next big stop is West Coast National Park. We will see more animals and wild flowers. We have registered for a day hike in this park and staying in Langebaan, a town just outside the park.
  • Next is Cape Town. We will be staying at the Parker House, again a recommendation. Sight unseen I have no doubt we will like our accommodations. The owners have been instrumental in helping us with some of the details of this journey, a rental car for one. It is nice to know that someone has our backs and we can touch base with them if we need to.
  • Finally we fly to Kenya and go on our official Safari. I am hoping to see many animals and birds. The Wildebeest migration is at the top of the list.

Elsie the cat and my rig are staying at my sister’s, on the lake in northern New Jersey. Ginny and my niece are taking the rig out for a weekend camping trip. We have gone through all the nuts and bolts on running the rig and turning on the house. The owners manual is close by and I told her that if she has any questions to ask on the RV Lifestyles or Roadtrek Hymer Facebook pages. People have always been helpful when questions are asked.

Here is my condensed summer adventure. I am excited and a little nervous. Hopefully I will remember to try to enjoy my journey just one day at a time. I will remember to breath and allow myself to open up to the experience.

There will be definitely more to come. I am planning to blog often and post photos, of course. I hope you will come along for the journey.