The five weeks of summer just flew by; I’ve already been back at work for over a month! Somehow, I convinced myself that I had a quiet summer planned and that I would be in Prague. It’s amazing that I managed this delusion given that I had tickets to spend 2 weeks in Southern Africa, a few days in Orleans outside Paris, a few days in Berlin, and a week in Slovakia. Add to this the fact that a friend and her two and a half year old daughter were staying with me for 2 months, and 5 members of my family (not staying with me) would visit for a few days, and my only excuse is that I had originally planned a quiet summer.
Southern Africa was wonderful. I didn’t have the best start with over $600 being stolen from me. I didn’t go anywhere with the money except my hotel (Faircity Mapungubwe Hotel), the hotel shuttle and the airport. I’m just lucky that not all my money was stolen, and I still had my wallet for the rest of the trip. Needless to say, I have no desire to revisit Johannesburg! In the interest of completeness however, I must say that the Apartheid Museum was very educational. Upon entry my ticket indicated whether I should use the entrance for Whites or Non-Whites. Wow, what a powerful way to make the point. The tour to Soweto was interesting, especially Nelson Mandela’s first house and the Horace Mann memorial. However, a large part of the trip was uncomfortable for me as I felt pressure to donate funds to local people who we visited on the tour, and I felt a bit like I was visiting a zoo. Not pleasant …
After Johannesburg, Cape Town was a treasure. Wonderful food, and the freedom to walk everywhere. My hotel in Johanesburg had advised me not to walk anywhere. In contrast, the wonderful staff at Parker Cottage in Cape Town had a map for us and encouraged us to walk around the area. I could easily get sidetracked here speaking about the wonderful staff and delicious breakfasts at Parker, but that would make the post too long! Oh, what fabulous seafood! And high tea at the Mount Nelson… I would visit again just for the food! It may not have been the best idea to go to high tea after a trip to Robben Island however, since I do get motion sickness but I managed to overcome the nausea to enjoy a fabulous high tea with great savory bites and unlimited sweets, teas and coffees.
Robbin Island had mixed reviews on Tripadvisor but I thought that the visit to the prison and tour by the former inmate was poignant and interesting. The bus tour around the island was less interesting to me; the only point of interest to me was the stone quarry where Mandela had toiled for many years.
From Cape Town, we flew to Maun and then on to Kwara Lodge which is a private concession. I saw my favorite sight of the whole trip here: a den of wild dogs with 15 puppies, and over 7 adults in the pack. That was incredible! We also saw some mating lions, a cheetah, hippos, elephants, giraffes, numerous birds, zebra, warthogs, etc. Chobe Elephant Camp was our next stop, which we used as a base to visit Chobe National Park where we saw the most spectacular sight of a leopard in the trip with its (impala) kill, a pride of lionesses eating a baby elephant, and a fish eagle snatching a Egyptian goose from the water. Both places were all inclusive. They struggled to support my friend with her primal diet for snacks and first breakfast, but the selection of food was good and plentiful. From Chobe Elephant Camp, we travelled a short distance to Ichingo River Lodge in Namibia. This was my least favorite place. There was nothing more to see from a safari perspective as we had been on a river safari from Chobe Elephant Camp. We did go for a pleasant hike and saw a huge baobab tree. However, the feel of the lodge was much more old colonial/imperialist than the others. I did catch a tiger fish, on my first (and only?) fishing expedition, which is small consolation.
The final stop was Zimbabwe, which we travelled to by land from Botswana. Victoria Falls Park is wonderful; the walk across the Victoria Bridge to Zambia to see the bungee jumpers and zip liners was worth it. I wasn’t interested in either of those adventures; the helicopter ride that I did instead provided great panoramic views of the falls. I highly recommend it. I found people to be friendly in Zimbabwe. Many people were plying their wares but were not nearly as pushy as in India. In fact, their seemed quite adept at consoling themselves for a missed sale by saying “maybe later”. The Stanley Terrace at the Victoria Falls Hotel has great views of the falls but we were disapointed in the high tea; the bread was stale and the tea selection was sparse. Jungle Junction restaurant had great food, and decent entertainment. I much preferred that over the overpriced, touristy show at the Boma, which was expensive and disappointing.
It felt good to visit Africa again. Living in Sudan was a long time ago but I have some good memories. This trip was well organized (thanks Mark at Gondwana Tours & Safaris) with prompt transfers and smooth travels. A trip to remember!