Saturday May 19- Safari Lodge and Moscow Mules

With our newly acquired bus tickets in hand which would be returning Alex and I to Antelope Park on Sunday, we slept easy that night and woke up early in the morning to have a final group activity.  Part of our fee to Victoria Falls was the park entrance fee to the park itself on the Zimbabwean side of the border, which would allow us to explore the paths along the damp cliff, which skirted around the falls and the opportunity to visit the sister project of Antelope Park.

So we made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (our staple food while in Victoria Falls), packed our luggage and left it near the door, as we loaded into our African chariot for the short trip to the Victoria Falls lion and breeding program.  It was 6am in the morning, and it was dark and cold out in the middle of nowhere and we were led towards a chain link enclosure.  Inside the enclosure were two little cubs, each about three months old who were pacing along the fencing looking for food from the volunteers.  we passed this enclosure on our way to our lion walk with the older cubs, who were about 9 months old.  We set off on our walk through unfamiliar territory but felt right at home with two lions at our sides.  Our walk was cut extremely short as were short on time so we stopped in some tall grass and took some pictures as the sun was just starting to make an appearance.  After our quick photo op, we went back to the enclosure with the cubs and went to go for our snuggles.  I won't point figures, but some of the volunteers in our group monopolized the cubs and made it difficult to even get close to the cubs.  The cubs on the other hand didn't care who was around them, as they were busy entertaining each other, climbing on the platforms and being just adorable.  They would walk up wooden ladders to make it to platforms and would fall through the breaks in the ladder and get all caught up in their dangly legs, which they still didn't know how to full control.  They ade cute little noises, with their cute little faces, and had the cutest little spots, on their cute little bodies.  They were pretty cute (just incase you didn't pick that up...).  We didn't get to spend nearly enough time with the cubs and we were being ushered back t our chariot to make our way to the park.
We parked just across from the park entrance which is when people selling ponchos bombarded us.  We each donned an enormous plastic jacket for a small price and made our way to the park entrance.   With Kailos playing the role of the guide, we started at a bronze statue near one edge of the falls.  The pathways were all damp and covered by dense tree growth. Vines hung down from the trees, the trunks of trees were covered with moss, there were small pools on the path at every turn and occasionally, a breeze would send a wall of mist towards us.
I have never been so thankful for a poncho.

Each member of our groups continued along the paths at our own pace, and when the vines, branches and leaves along the cliff ledge thinned out enough for us to see the falls, we would each take our turn trying to take pictures through the mist.

The thing about the world's largest waterfalls is that they produce A LOT of mist, and sometimes it was so thick and heavy, it would come down like heavy rain.  Water + camera = not a good combo.  So needless to say, I took very few pictures and the ones I did take do not accurately capture the beauty of the falls.  Anywho, I took what I could get.
We finally broke through the dense tree cover to find ourselves near the mid section, and most powerful portion of the falls.  We had encountered a fork in the path, one leading away from the cliff edge and into the tree cover again, and another leading dangerously close to the cliff with NO railing.  Up until this point, there had been a railing a couple of feet off of the cliff edge where the trees had thinned out and so we could peek through and see the falls.  Now, we were looking at a fork in the road with one arm leading to a bare rocky surface, with no railing and no trees.  Even more daunting was the fact that the end or curve in the path which would return us to the trees if we chose the more precarious path was not visible through the mist of the falls and the mist was now coming down so heavy that it was like standing in the middle of a downpour.  And then, like the visual was not enough, there was a sign that read: "Caution, you are now entering the area characterized by slippery rocks, no barriers, windy. Please exercise caution".  It also told us that we would encounter the "Danger Point".

Enough warnings telling us to go running for the trees? Heck no.  Off to the Danger Point we go! It was incredible though and a life-threatening risk I am glad I took.  The wind was blowing, the mist was flying and we were SOAKING.  It was basically raining down on us and we had our little plastic ponchos falling down to our ankles to protects us.  Our cameras were all safely stowed in our bras (how handy those things can be sometimes!) while we ventured to the edge of a giant cliff and listened to the roar of the world's largest waterfall.

Soaked to the bone,  we ran for the trees and started back towards the entrance to the park so that we could return to the Rest Camp and so that the rest of the group could return home to Antelope Park.  

Back at the Rest Camp, Alex and I said our farewells to the group and sent them on their merry way for the 7+ hour drive. Meanwhile, Alex and I called ourselves a taxi, grabbed our luggage, said goodbye to our mosquito netted beds and set off on our quick trip to the Safari Lodge to meet our other amigo, Celine.

We snuck in the back door, because we all know that hotels anywhere are not forgiving for over packing rooms with more adults that they can comfortably fit, and settled into our humble adobe.  Immediately the view was outstanding.  As mentioned before, the Safari Lodge has two floors of rooms, all which face the same way.  The layout of the hotel is very open and anything that can e open, is (ie: the bar).  The rooms themselves all had glass doors at the back and every room backed onto the man-made watering hole.  Beyond the watering hole was your typical African scenery; fairly flat land with bushes and shrubs, which gradually elevated.  The room was beautiful, as was the hotel, and we were staying in the biggest, squishiest and most comfortable beds for the night and would be able to have a shower IN AN ACTUAL SHOWER! 

After settling in, we decided to head towards the market.  We all were supposed to go to the market the day before but with our jam packed schedule, we had not made it there, and were itching at the opportunity to scoop up some souvenirs before heading back to Antelope Park.  We made our way to the lobby, where Celine went and spoke with the front desk to get a shuttle into town, while Alex and I tried to keep a low key appearance.  The thing with Celine is: everyone loves her. Seriously.  And I don't blame them!  She is one of the most genuine people I have ever met and when someone can make a lasting impression in the first few days in a foreign country, you know for sure that they are the bomb.  So Alex and I had to be somewhat low key because everyone in the hotel knew Celine and knew she was "supposedly" on her own.

Shortly thereafter, our mini coach arrived and drove us into town near the market. Immediately the size of the market was overwhelming.  There were probably (I am not a good guesser but I will try not to exaggerate) about 50 vendors, each with a shack/room/building that was open in the front.  All of the merchandise was either o the ground or attached to the walls, and then it would spill out the front of the building and onto the gravel and sit in the sun.  Most of the goodies were  were stone and wood carvings, anywhere from the size of a coin to life sized representations and they were baking in the sun.  And the vendors... oh those vendors, they were desperate.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, swarmed us like vultures.  They were very nice and kind and if you showed zero interest, they left you alone pretty quickly.  However, I felt bad not taking the time to look at everything they were showing me and my parting line was usually "It's beautiful, but I am going to look around some more".  Well, they took this to mean that I was coming back and so they would either follow me or make sure that when I passed by again, and you had to because of the layout of the market, that they would come back to me.  Celine and Alex went on their merry way and kept me in their sites while I dealt with my throng of followers.

I did end up eventually buying bracelets and figurines and I made sure to purchase it form oas many different people as I could because I felt bad!

After spending too much time in the market, we walked onwards and down the main strip of town which was home to the boutiques and more shops that had severely marked-up prices.  All three of us purchase our fair share of postcards, pictures, ornaments and other goodies and went back to meet the shuttle to take us back to the Safari Lodge.  

When we returned to the Lodge, it was nearly lunchtime, so we changed into some bathing suites and headed towards the pool.  The pool was on the opposite side of the hotel and backed directly to the watering hole, which was surrounded by impala.  The pool itself had large, comfortable lounge chairs around, and featured lots of rock and waterfall.  It was beautiful.  We took our places poolside, and ordered a Moscow Mule (thank you Celine for making me an addict) and our lunch.

Side note: Moscow Mules are delicious.  Order it the next time you are out.

Laying poolside, drink in hand, looking out over the watering hole and the Africa backdrop, we all had a little cat nap (my only nap in Africa while I was there... so it must have been special).  We went back to the room, and took advantage of the hot shower with water that never went cold and made our way to the hotel restaurant (separate from the Boma).

Of course all the people at the hotel remembered Celine and were truthfully, some of the kindest people I could meet.  I swear, I never met a local that was anything but pleasant.  We all ordered a plate of Pumba after acquiring a new found taste for game meet, particularly warthog.  

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVED the Lion King.  And Timone and Pumba were the best.  But Pumba tasted really good.  
The watering hole

After enjoying a few more Moscow Mules, pina coladas and other drinks, we went back to the room, pushed the two beds together and settled in to watch a movie.  Don't ask me which one we settled on because we hardly through the opening credits when everyone started to fall asleep.

Here is a little unrelated, but somewhat related note.  I recently went for coffee with my boss' friend.  My boss, originally from South Africa graduated with this gentleman that I went for coffee with and the gentleman's wife graduated with my boss' wife.  My bosses came to Canada and their friends remained in South African but came to Canada on business.  Long story short, by the end of the meeting, the man has told me that when (note the use of the word "when" and not "if") I returned to Africa, I was more than welcome to stay with his family.  Truth is, this may have seemed totally odd to me if I had not travelled abroad this summer.  Someone was offering me a room in their house and all they knew about me was my first name.  But now, after travelling abroad, someone offering up their home and any resources that they can share with you when you are out of your element is 100% normal.  It is a North American thing for us to enjoy our little bubbles and whatever is familiar but anywhere else in the world, locals and travellers alike are sharing what they have.  So what may have seem like a far fetched plan to me only months ago and sharing a room with a person (now friend) that I had met only a week or so ago in a foreign place was normal.  Maybe this is why I love travelling now?  You learn so much, how to fend for yourself, how to enjoy your surroundings and how to make do with what you have.  You take absolutely nothing for granted.

So here is a note to you current and future travellers who think I may be crazy: let loose a little bit, okie dokes?

No comments:

Post a Comment