Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Victoria Falls! May 13. 2012

What a great week!  The first few days were normal routine for us.  Getting things done around the house and running errands.  The boys had two play dates.  One was our weekly playgroup and the other was an extra play time with some of their friends.
 In addition to the normal tasks I had packing to do for our weekend vacations.  Justin and Ryan were so excited about their first sleep over.  They were getting to go over to stay with Zak (Rob’s boss) and Amy and their daughter.  We talked up their vacation, and mentioned very little of ours.  I am not sure if they realize that we went anywhere.  We told them they were getting a vacation and we were too.  Who needs details?  Maybe we can even show them pictures someday and they will think they were there. J
Thursday after dinner we got the boys ready for bed and then took them over to Zak’s house.  Rob and I returned home to go to sleep.  The next morning while we were getting ready to leave, we got a text message from Zak saying that the boys had slept well.  I might have believed it if the message hadn’t come in at 5:15 AM!
Rob and I drove to the airport.  Long term parking was full so we parked in the regular lot.  Fortunately it is not horribly expensive the way it is in some places.  If you have ever been to the airport in Windhoek, you know that it isn’t very big.  They still want you to arrive early for flights, but when things are going well it doesn’t take long to get through. 
Our plane stopped in Botswana to refuel and pick up more passengers.  We got to wait in the lovely boarding area.  Back on the plane and onward to Victoria Falls.
Guess they don't have a large budget for airport decor at the Maun, Botswana Airport.

As we approached, we could see the spray from the Falls in the form of a cloud off in the distance.  Immigration left much to be desired.  Heaven forbid a large plane ever flies in.  The time it took to process each visa was considerable.  Our bag was waiting for us when we got through immigration and our driver was waiting for us.  On the drive to our hotel we saw baboons, monkeys, warthogs, and African wild dogs.
The rural area eventually leads to the town of Victoria Falls.  Tourism is definitely the business of the town.  Tourist police, markets full of souvenirs, hotels, and tour operator offices are all around you.  Our hotel was nice, but, like just about everything in town, overpriced.  Lodging in many places in southern Africa is expensive for what you get.  I had been nervous after reading some of the hotel reviews, but I think they were written by people who hadn’t travelled in Africa much.

We checked in and then went to look around the hotel area.  In the back there is a path that leads to the gorge viewing area and another that goes off towards the falls.  We saw plenty of elephant poop as we went along the path.  The gorge was amazing and we were able to see someone who was slowly being raised back up to the top after her gorge swing activity.  Lots of high adrenaline activities in the area.

We walked on as we went to pick up some groceries.  The main currencies used in Zimbabwe are the US dollar and the South African rand.  Everywhere I went I saw things priced in dollars.  Our groceries were overpriced and selection was poor.  My favorite part was getting change.  They only use bills, so we got our 36 cents change in the form of a lollipop and a mini menthos.  The guy in front of us was disappointed they were out of chewing gum change.
We went back to the hotel and ate and rested until it was time to be picked up for the sunset cruise.  Dancers stood on the shore while they had everyone get on the boat.  We were able to see a crocodile and some hippos in addition to a beautiful sunset.  It was a relaxing cruise. Since the dinner cruise options didn’t appeal to me, we ended up having pizza for dinner.  We ate way too much.

Saturday morning we got up and went out to some of the craft markets.  Bargaining is the name of the game.  It was interesting to look at the goods for sale and to see some of the artists at work.  While I admired a lot of the things, there was little that I wanted.  I did find a stone carving that I liked.  I liked the guy selling it too.  I ended up paying right around what I saw it selling for in the stores.  I also got some cheap little necklace things for the boys.  I think I got 10 for the sweater I had with me.  I intentionally took some clothes out of my donation pile for the purpose of bargaining.  The sweater was definitely worth more than the necklaces, but it doesn’t fit me very well anymore so it ended up a win-win deal.  Later someone tried to trade me something for my socks, but I liked my socks more than what he had to offer.

We went back to the hotel to freshen up a bit.  It might be winter here in the southern hemisphere, but the sun was strong, the temp in the mid 80s and no breeze.  After that it was to the Falls.
I don’t even know what to say about Victoria Falls.  They are just awesome.  The spray is so intense even across the gorge.  By the time we were finished there we were soaked.   It was hard to get any good pictures, but it was such an inspiring experience.  The noise of that much water pouring down was so loud.  I know why this is one of the natural wonders of the world.

The train ride we had hoped to take was cancelled because they didn’t have the minimum number of people.  I went back to pick up a few things at the craft market.  I wanted to get some keychains, but the starting price was $40.  At first I thought it was 40 rand (about $5) which I would have paid.  I had good things to trade as well as cash in US dollars and South African rand.  I wasn’t going to waste my time bargaining back and forth to get to a reasonable price.  Wouldn’t you know I found the same keychains in a store priced at $3?  Sold!  If you enjoy bargaining, the markets are great.  They are fun to look through, but so much of the stuff is the same and I think they are starting the prices way too high.  I found it easier to buy things in stores, not that I wanted to get a lot.
We decided to go back down the trail to see the gorge again.  We were rewarded with an elephant sighting.  We watched for awhile and then continued on our way.  When we were coming back to the hotel, there were still elephants in the area.  They can stay hidden pretty well for such large creatures.   With trees between us and them it was hard to get a good shot.
That evening for dinner we went to the dinner buffet in the hotel.  I did not try the mopane worms, but I did have some crocodile stir fry.  I must say that I like crocodile more than a lot of the things that I have had here.  I wasn’t a very adventurous eater, and stuck mostly to things that I knew.  More dancing for entertainment.  I imagine it is similar wherever you go in town.
Sunday morning we didn’t have to leave until 10 AM.  That meant a leisurely morning, something that I don’t have very often.  I was getting anxious to see my boys again though.  We made it back to Namibia and in typical Namibia fashion, no one was there at immigration to let us through.  An officer saw that some of us were lining up and decided to get some people to the counters to help us.  At least we didn’t have to wait forever for our bags like we did when we got back from Cape Town.
The boys survived without us.  In fact, they seemed to have a good time.  Guess that means that I can leave them again. J  Back to reality and to our laundry.