First things first….Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to everyone.
Well I survived 8 days in the BUSH and let’s just say it was not so easy. We arrived in Zambia to see Victoria Falls. What a spectacular moment. The Zambezi River comes roaring down from the mountains to create a blast of thunder and mist that extends well into the clouds. After 24 hours and seeing one of the 7 wonders of the world, we headed out of Zambia to Botswana for our safari.
Getting to Botswana was a story in itself. At the border in Zambia, our group lined up to exit customs with about 1,000 other locals. They saw us from afar. We filled out our names and had our passports stamped and we were on to Botswana no questions asked. The speedboat across the Zambezi River border was quick and we went through customs in a place called Kisane. Not that I want to offend any locals but officials had us walk through a “cleansing process” which consisted of mud and sand and that apparently purified our shoes to prevent foot and mouth disease. Let’s just say it was interesting and I’m fairly convinced it does nothing but it’s the thought that counts I guess.
We arrived at our first stop camp SAVUTI and I would like to point out that I have new found meaning for the phrase middle of nowhere. We took the buddy holly special about an hour and a half to get to the bush. This is truly the bush of yesteryear. No signs of civilization except for our small camp. We were on the animal’s turf.
Each morning we would wake up at 5 am have breakfast and head out on a game drive. Imagine an unshowered me packed into a 4X4 heading into the bush at 6 am every morning bumpity bump through terrain and rivers. It was all in the name of finding Big Game as they call it. Our guides were incredible and I cannot do them justice. They would look into the bush or the sky and see a specific bird or plant or animal from miles away. It was the craziest thing ever. I could barely see the red eyed dove and they would point and say 2 O’clock red eyed dove which incidentally is the one bird I hate. It woke me up at 3 am every morning with a whistle that went like this, “I am the Red Eyed Dove.” I am happy to sing it to all of you so you can experience the annoyance.
At camp Savuti, we had Noku(Nick) in charge….Spike our guide and tourists hungry to see lions and cheetahs. Should you worry that I was roughing it, I certainly was living with the bugs but I am fairly certain they do not serve 8 meals a day when you are rough and tumble. The fresh baked bread was to die for and the homemade muffins and meals were incredible. I have to note that in between drives you can either sleep or eat and I think I did a fair amount of each activity.
There are several couples on their honeymoon and I will add now that if I was on my honeymoon I am certain my husband would have divorced me and left me in the bush. I was a bit stir crazy in between game drives. I mean really you could not walk anywhere unless accompanied and I was about to jump out of my skin.
We encountered birds of all kinds, monkeys, baboons, giraffes (my favorite), zebras, wart hogs, elephants, lions – female and male, cheetahs and last but not least the HIPPPPPOS. It was an incredible feeling to know you are seeing these animals in their natural habitat and to realize you are in their world and they are king of the wilderness. For miles and miles and more miles, I saw nothing but bush. It was insane. One day we did have an opportunity to take a walk with a “walking guide” who carried a gun and is specialized in these walks. We didn’t really walk as much as we learned about certain trees and plants and followed “tracks.” Apparently, all one needs to stay fit in the wild is the sausage tree. The fruit on the tree is sometimes bigger than a 20 lb weight. It’s actually a fruit tree but the objects are so large they resemble sausage. After walking about an hour, our guide got a bit unsettled when he saw a fresh Buffalo print and we immediately rushed back to the car. Did you know the Buffalo is the most dangerous animal out there. Who knew?
The tourists were from all over….of course the token New Yorker, Edinburgh, Quebec, the wonderful mother son team we were partnered with on our game drives, Dylan and Hazel. Thank goodness for Dylan who dealt with our Americanisms and pointed out every animal in the distance. Dylan and his mother were dears to explain and answer every question we had and being from the city we had many.
Off to Xidra (pronounced Kidra) where we met Ka-bee-so (Kgbso or something like that), Anton, Marlene, and last but not least our infamous guide ACE. We had a lovely time here. This is known as a water camp and we were slam dunk in the middle of the Oktavanga Delta and home to many hippos. We met a fabulous family from Luxembourg, a hysterical couple from Namibia, a beautiful family from the Italian part of Switzerland 3 girls–the twins are musicians and Amber gave us a violin performance one night, a lovely dovey couple from UK/Jo-burg and then of course Jill and I filled out the group as the annoying Americans who talk way way too much.
We had deep conversations at our group dinners discussing my favorite topic the 22 year-olds today but also HIV, American politics, African culture, the economy, different travel adventures and so much more. Yes safari is all about the animals but sometimes the memories that last the longest are the people you meet. We swam in the Delta with the crocs, took a mokoro ride amongst the reeds, saw the hippos just a few yards away in our boat (at water level I might add), laughed about all the bug spray chemicals we had consumed and ate more meals. It was a true African adventure and Wilderness Safari’s does it right.
I’m back in Jo-Burg figuring out my next move. Jill is on a plane back to the US. We had an incredible time and shared so much that I cannot imagine what I will even do next. I guess relax and get some exercise.
Wanted to also mention that a childhood friend of mine Dennis Berkibile passed away last week so please keep his family in your prayers.
Thank you for the birthday wishes. Much love and I’m thinking of all of you.