Thursday, November 08, 2012

We are four days into our road trip in Africa.   We took off from Richards Bay with the aim of driving to see Victoria Falls.
A jacaranda tree in full bloom, the huts are modern African living quarters on Zulu land.
We are travelling with Brian and Dorothy from Tagish another Canadian cruising couple. The first day we headed north west up through South Africa, it was a gorgeous drive. At times there was mountainous vistas and we wound through a picturesque pass on a very good road. The only draw back was that we were told not to stop unless it was in a populated area because of the risk of car jacking, it was a bit off putting but it didn't deter us.  The second day we entered Botswana and drove north to Kasane which is at the apex of four countries, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The drive through Botswana was totally different.
Driving through Botswana
The land was flatter than a pancake, mostly along the road is scrub bush with acacia trees and the iconic flat top trees that you see on all the posters about Africa. It got progressively drier as we went north and the temp climbed up to 35 degrees, the heat was so dry I had to buy lotion to stave off the onset of alligator skin, the Kalahari dessert is just to the west of us. There was about  15 km of cleared land, we thought we were back in Sask; it was so flat, no trees and it had been plowed ready for this year's crop when the rainy season sets in.  We finished the drive in the dark which is pretty dangerous because there are no fences and wild game including elephants wander across the road. We adopted the strategy of letting a car pass and then sticking to him like glue, thank heavens were arrived safe and sound.
This is called Devil's Cataract at the far east end of the falls.
The next day we took a tour to see Victoria Falls in Zimbawe( We could not take our car in because the rental agency would not let us and it would have been way too expensive, they charges taxes for everything.) WOW, what can I say, the beauty and history of the area was stunning.  
The main falls being obscured by the mist that rises from the gorge
It is at the end of the dry season so we saw the falls at the lowest levels of water, but there was tons flowing over and I am sure the mist when it is high water must obscure your view. We imagined canoeing along the river and hearing the thunder of the falls and catching glimpses of the mist, then pulling the boat ashore to go and check out the sound and seeing the falls for the first time. I could have stared for hours at the changing panorama that was taking place as the water spilled over the edge and thundering about 100 meters to the gorge below.

Looking down  the gorge towards Rainbow Falls
 There were 12 viewpoints on a lovely  2 km walk along the escarpment. It was really hot but the mist would cool us off as it rose from the Zambezi River.Afterwards we went to the Victoria Falls Hotel which was built in colonial times and oozes elegance and sophistication. 
We visited the Stanley room and had lunch of the famous terrace which has a superb view of the bridge that crosses the Zambezi River from Zimbabwe to Zambia.
Barry in the Victoria Falls Hotel, the Stanley room in the background
There were linen napkins and the ladies wash room was the most elegant I have ever seen. Next we were taken to the curio market where Barry proceeded to make almost all the vendors happy, our Christmas shopping is now complete!!!

This morning we went on a 3 hour safari to the Chobe National Park.  There are no fences there and animals are allowed to roam free.  There is a wet land area within the park and at one point we spotted a hippo and then noticed there were a lot of safari vehicles on the other side of the water.  As we got closer we spotted the lions, they were feeding on either a water buffalo or a wildebeest. There was a pride of 8 with a matriarch and youngsters.Our guide told us that the males start developing their mane at about 2 and ½ years and then they leave the pride.  They were ripping their kill to bits, there legs muddy to up beyond the first joint because they were right beside the river.  Rambo (our guide) speculated the animal (otherwise known as lunch) was trying to escape the attacking lions by fleeing into the water.
Notice the crocodile swimming by in the foreground

Right beside the lions were a pod of hippos.  There were enormous, standing in water up to their eyebrows they would submerge at will. I was fascinated to see their gigantic mouths when they opened them.  We could hear them vocalizing and saw some play fights.  .They stayed in a close group while crocodiles cruised around the outside, apparently crocs are only dangerous to baby hippos and will not attack an adult.  In Africa they talk about the big five, being the rhino, the elephant, the water buffalo, the lion and the leopard, we have seen four  of the five and it is quite unlikely we will see a leopard.  At the moment we are heading south in the car, once we reach South Africa we will jog east to see some of Kruger National park and then head back to Richards Bay through Swaziland. I am so glad we took the plunge and headed to the falls, they were a once in a  lifetime experience.