Adventures in Zimbabwe

Every elephant has to carry its own trunk around- Zimbabwean proverb

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Zimbabwe land of wonders maybe? Home to the 7th natural wonder of the world this beautiful land locked, southern African country is remarkable beyond belief. Just like Angola, it had a turbulent political past but has since been making efforts to rebuild its country. Our trip there was one for the books as it brought out a daring side of me I didn’t know existed. 

This particular long weekend had just flown over both our heads, we had no idea the Thursday and Friday were holidays until the Monday of that week. Tuesday we talked about visiting Victoria Falls and Wednesday we were on the evening flight to Harare (3 hours from Luanda). Little did we know that we were about to embark on a crazy, adrenaline filled adventure for the next four days.

Harare: Duration: 1 night 

             Accommodation: Cresta Lodge

             Restaurant: Victoria Twenty- Two

We arrived in Harare when the sun was about to set, so we really did not get to see much on the way to the hotel. It really didn’t help that the entire city was in darkness, barely any street lamps and if so, very dimly lit. We got to our hotel and was very disappointed, but was excited for what was ahead. We settled in and then headed out for dinner. The restaurant however, was a gorgeous garden restaurant with an old world charm and fantastic fusion food. There were not many options for great restaurants in the city but this was recommended as one of the best and it definitely lived up to that. 

Victoria Falls: Duration 3 nights

                       Accommodation: Victoria Falls Safari Club

                       Restaurants: Restaurant at lodge, The Palm Resturant and The

Boma Dinner and Drum Show

It was a 30 minute drive from the airport, on a road that seemed too stretched for miles with forests lining both sides. The driver explained that to the right there are settlements and to the left there are animals (including lions) and that they sometimes cross over and kill the cattle in the villages. One thing that was absolutely admirable in Zimbabwe was that animals and people lived together in harmony. Driving through the little town you’d see elephants having a feast on the surrounding trees and baboons running around and everyone was so unbothered. 

We arrived to the lodge and it was just stunning. The deck overlooked the jungle and a watering hole, where you could sit and have afternoon tea and watch herds of animals go by (not a bad way to spend your day). The rooms were spacious and luxurious with your own private patio gazing out into the surrounding mass of trees and wildlife.

Day 1: We didn’t waste any time, we quickly changed and headed out to the Victoria Falls Park. The sound of the force of the water falling makes your heart beat a little faster and the anticipation was endearing. From the Zimbabwean side facing the falls the spray was so hard, it was just as if it was raining. I guess you can say it never stops raining in Victoria Falls. 

Later that evening, we took a sunset game drive through Livingstone Private reserve. There we were up close and as personal as you can get with a wild black rhino (critically endangered species) and herds of water buffalos making its way across the reserve. The evening ended with sunset drinks and dinner back at our lodge.

Day 2: The next day we started early as we had to cross the boarder to Zambia. It was actually quite funny because we went through immigration then walked (or in our case took a taxi) a mile through “No Mans Land” and then you go through immigration on the Zambian side. A ten minute drive took us to Victoria Falls Hotel where we were about to do something that I deemed insane. When I first googled that you can swim to the edge of the waterfall I tried to hide it from my husband (damn you internet) that didn’t work! Now that we were there and I ran out of all my “Hell NO”s” I just had to put all my fears aside and go along with the plan. We got to Livingstone Island on a little motor boat and was asked to change into our swimwear and follow the guide.

We walked out onto the island’s edge where the water was rushing past both sides with such force you could barely hear what the guide was saying, but for some strange reason all my fears went away. I was cautious but not freaking out like I was before. The guide got down into the raging water and then told me to follow. There was a short area of rushing water to cross and I was nervous that I would be pickled up and carried away by the falls. Somehow though, I felt anchored and held on tightly to the surrounding rocks and using my feet to wedge into every nock and cranny to make it across and over another rock into the main pool. I couldn’t concentrate on the instructions being given to me to me at that point because little fishes were nibbling at my feet and I was laughing hysterically. “Oh great, death by laughter”! I eventually made it across and closer to the edge of the falls, and to be honest I felt great, it was so exhilarating! After that AMAZING experience we had lunch on the island at the edge of the falls and headed back to the Zimbabwean side.


We got back to the hotel in the afternoon and got ready for our next daring activity. At around 3pm a bus picked us up and headed back to the direction of the airport. Walking with lions was actually a lot calmer than all the crazy things we did this trip. If you followed the rules and respected the lions they were good. Penga and Pax are brother and sister lions and we spent the afternoon getting to know them. You really got to know and appreciate their personalities. Penga was very playful, always up to mischief and seemed to like her own way. Pax was just chill and cool, but didn’t like to be crossed the wrong way (very lion of him!) Honestly, what else could you ask for out of this experience… we spent an afternoon with Lions! That evening we had dinner at The Palm Restaurant, which was also set out on the garden of a hotel and in the distance you could hear the faint sounds of the falls. 

Day 3: Well nothing in this universe could have prepared me for this one! Firstly we had to sign a contract stating they were not liable if we died and there’s a 50% chance something could happen. Oh lovely!!! We drove for about an hour to a location on top of a mountain and I was super confused as I thought we were driving to the water, where we would get on a raft and then figure it out after that… but noooo! We had to hike one and a half hours down a gorge (and I was wearing sandals… tsk tsk!!) to where the rafts were being assembled in a little bay. We were separated into groups, given very strict safety instructions especially about our life vests (it has to be extremely tight because it can slip off in the rapids) and a tutorial on what to do in certain situations.

As we got out onto the river my heart was about to combust as I was now hearing our first rapid approaching. This is called “The mother”  the guide said, it’s a category 4 so brace yourself. I almost considered trying my luck swimming back in the crocodile  infested waters after hearing that. Let’s just say we barely made it through the first one successfully…. I was now petrified. Rapid after rapid it was more and more difficult (we had maybe two easier rapids that felt more like a ride at a water park). We eventually got to the rapid called “The Terminator”. At that point, in the blink of an eye, I saw my husband fly over me and I was trapped under the raft as it flipped. I was now underwater as the water tossed me around (I felt like I was in a washing machine.. literally!), I then reached around for the edge of the boat and pulled myself under. The water was rushing and pushing me so hard that it was hard to stay above. The guide flipped the raft over and pulled us all onboard. Meanwhile my husband and another guy were being carried away by the rapids arm in arm.

Thanks to God we were all okay but we were far from done yet. We still had another 2 hours to go before we got of this raft and there was no way out! We eventually made it (I could not have been happier to be on land) and started the climb back up the mountain. It rained F bombs from everyone because we were all tired and beaten up and it wasn’t over yet. That took another 2 and a half hours and we were finally DONE! Lunch was provided and everyone was happy to get back on the bus, feeling very accomplished that we survived the Zambezi river. 

That evening after soaking my sore muscles in hot water for hours we were off to a dinner and drum show. This was another fantastic experience, very touristy but great food and the entertainment was fun and light. That night we slept like babies and awoke the next morning ready to make our way back home.

In all my life, I have never had a trip this adventurous! Zimbabwe is the place to go if you’re a thrill seeker. Like I said in my first post, Africa forces you to be outgoing and pushes you out of your comfort zone!

Kisses

Take me to Namibia

Learning expands great souls- Namibian proverb

Cue ‘Africa by Toto”. Since I started this blog in Africa, why not start with one of my favorite countries on this continent. I still talk about my 9 day visit there with such passion and excitement you would think I visited just last weekend. 

Firstly, Namibia boarders Angola to the North but these countries could not be more different. Very dry, this country is home to some of the tallest and most stunning sand dunes in the world. Although the landscape is ever changing… its also good to note that Namibia is home to some of the most  honest, nicest people you would ever meet.

Windhoek- Duration: 1 night 

  • Accommodations: Hilton Windhoek
  • Restaurant: Stellenbosch Wine Bar and Bistro 

Windhoek (the Capital) is a charming little German town in the central highlands. The streets are quiet, lined with rustically beautiful houses, pubs and churches. One popular landmark is a gorgeous little church called Christ Church reminiscent of a ginger bread house in the center of the city. 

The first morning of our road trip our journey began at 7am. We did what we thought would be an easy breezy 5 hour drive to Sossusvlei. However, we couldn’t be more wrong, as most of our drive was not through gloriously paved roads but through gravel roads and rocky mountainous regions. Besides the lingering back ache from my husband flying over every dip and rock and the heat stroke from the blazing sun it was the most beautiful drive I have ever done. We didn’t even mind the blown up tyre in the middle of a reserve with only a blue wildebeest as company. All part of the adventure right?

Soosusvlei:  Duration: 2 nights

  • Accommodation: Soosusvlei Desert Lodge
  • Restaurant: candle lit dinner under the stars on the lodge’s premises 

Nothing can really describe the moment you spot those magnificent mountains of brilliant orange-red sand. It is just breathtaking, we opted to do an ATV tour through the dunes at sunset. (This seems to be a tradition in every country we visit, apparently we have a need for speed!) However, there is no better way to see the landscape than drive through it yourself. 

The next day we did a full day tour to the major dunes. We stopped for a quick picnic breakfast which was beautifully planned by the tour company, the chance to chat with the others allowed us make great friends (bonus!). Simply put the dunes was formed around 5 million years ago. The Kalahari sand was washed from the Orange river into the sea where the currents drove the sand north forming the dunes. Besides the beauty, the thrill of climbing the dunes (Big Daddy) and sliding down to Deadvlei was all worth the heat! (Deadlvei is a salt pan in the middle of the dunes… its white hard characteristic contrasts perfectly with the red mountains around it).

After our 2 day adventure in the Namib desert, we hopped back in the car, made sure our tyres were as impenetrable as can be and started on the next 5 hour journey to Swakopmund. The landscape changed constantly as we exited the dunes, we were driving through Canyons and over beautiful bridges. Just surreal!!

Swakopmund: Duration: 1 night

  • Accommodation: The Strand Hotel
  • Restaurant: Jetty 1905 (unfortunately I fell ill, so my husband was on his own for dinner)

Swakopmund is another quaint little German town on the coast with fun bars, German breweries and crafts shopping. A wonderful transit point to the next location.

After I got well acquainted with our bed and absolutely gorgeous room trying to fight off the fever, we drove another 5 hours to Etosha National Park. This drive was all smooth paved roads through lush greenery and fields with mini Dust devils (sand tornados) left and right. 

Etosha: Duration 3 nights

  • Accommodation: Onguma the Fort
  • Resturant: personalized menu on a gorgeous wooden deck overlooking a watering hole. Dinner with the lions, elephants and giraffes anyone?

Every day at Etosha was like playing hide and seek with the animals. It was fun to race around trying to track the animals and find the herds. No matter how old you get when you see a lion you’re 5 again. After letting our inner child out, the last night we did a sunset game drive through our hotel’s private reserve. Even after my 500th giraffe I still squealed (and will forever continue to fangirl) every time we came across one. We ended the trip with delicious snacks and a full bar laid out on a beautiful clearing with lanterns, for just us both as the sun set in front of us. We sang Skeleton Move at the top of our lungs and cheers’d to a wonderful adventure and the blessing it was to experience this country.

The last drive of the trip was a race to the airport, 4 hours in and 10km from the airport our tyre was busted again. We missed our flight but we were all smiles as we got to spend another night dining at Stellonbosch Bistro, enjoying our last bottle of Rust en Vrede in Namibia!

Saúde

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step- Lao Tzu

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I thought it would be fitting to inaugurate this blog moon walking to a year ago when the journey began. Firstly, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought I was ever or ever willingly going to live in Angola. Needless to say we backed our bags, newly married and dived into the unknown of life in Africa.

I had so many conflicting emotions surging through me, at that point in time it was dizzying. I was sad and nervous to be away from the people and place I have known all my life. I was scared of the “what ifs”… what if i get sick? what if its unbearable? what if I don’t make friends or fit in? However, as scared as I was things began to get real very fast, as I watched the movers clear our house, while my husband and I cleared out COSTCO like we were preparing for Armageddon, I was also extremely excited.

There is just something about the unknown that is thrilling and the ‘what ifs’ became an exhilarating challenge. In the blink of an eye we were in Angola, I was 6000 miles away from everything I knew. Fortunately, it’s been and continue to be a wonderful, eye opening and exciting journey. Life in Africa forces you to become extroverted and adventurous yet somehow calm, collected and cautious… and I’m just going with the flow,  figuring it out along the way!

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