A Day in the Life

One day was spent visiting a village and the Jabulani Primary School outside of Victoria Falls where we had the chance to interact with the students who though on school break had come in to perform some of their folk dances before leading us on a tour of their school.

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I was led by a young man named Learnmore Tawanda.  He proudly showed me the classrooms, playground, office, a slaughtered goat hanging in a tree, the water pump, the new high school building and a flower garden, wanting his photo taken in each place and I was happy to oblige.  I will send photos to the headmistress and she said she would distribute them to the children.  Learnmore wants to be a teacher when he grows up as did most of the children.  A few of the boys wanted to be pilots no doubt influenced by the proximity of the Vic Falls Airport and one girl wanted to be a fashion designer.  I can only hope they realize their dreams.

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The children walk 1-3 km from nearby villages, through the bush each day.  Because of the dangers lurking in the bush young children without older siblings may not start school until the age of 8-10 when they are big enough to walk safely by themselves.  There is an effort to build more schools so no one has to walk more than a couple of kilometers but that takes time, money and teachers so some children are left behind.  This school complex includes primary and secondary classrooms, they classrooms are bare bones but the buildings are in fairly good condition.  Education is “free” but as in many countries the burden of providing uniforms and books rest with the parents and many simply cannot afford the expense.

From the school we went to the neighboring village and were greeted by the head man of the village and by some of the women who wrapped us in colorful pieces of cloth they traditionally wear.  The women thought it strange we wear pants and an explanation about comfort didn’t seem to make sense to them. The head man talked about his village structure and daily life for the residents and explained that most of the men were away working in town or one of the mines.  The women were eager to show us how they prepare their meals so after a tour of the head man’s small two-room home, we joined the women in the outdoor kitchen where meals are prepared.  A small fire was burning in the center and there was a work table for chopping.  We were given the opportunity to help but had a hard time dealing with smoke from the fire.

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For lunch the women made a starchy white “pap” that tastes like polenta and is used as a vehicle for the other foods.  Utensils are not used, the pap is rolled into a ball and used to pick up the other foods.  Lunch also include cooked greens in a peanut sauce, very good, chicken, also good, tiny whole dried anchovy-like fish used as a salty accompaniment.  The only thing that I couldn’t eat were the dried caterpillars.  They were big and plump and I really didn’t know how I could get them down so passed.  Others partook and were instructed not to chew them rather just swallow.  I couldn’t do it even though they said there really wasn’t much flavor, just a protein source.

When the meal was ready to be served we were seated, women usually sit on mats but some of us were given hand carved stools on which to sit.  One of the women offered everyone water for hand washing, always starting with the headman,  then the head man was served lunch followed by the rest of the men, served by their wives then the female guests and last the women of the village who sit together on the reed mats and eat communally from one plate after everyone else has been served.

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It was an interesting visit, the women in this part of the world work very hard, pretty much taking care of everything in the village while the men working off site.  The men or children tend the cattle and they do work the fields together, it is a hard life.  A plow sat idle under a tree and we learned recently a lion had come into the compound and over the course of a week killed both oxen.  Until the head man can afford to purchase new oxen he will have to borrow or rent oxen from a neighbor in order to plow his field.

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As we thanked our host and said our goodbyes some of us removed the cloth skirts and to the delight of the women offered them as tokens of thanks to the women.

Sprayview Hotel

Poolside

Poolside

http://www.crestasprayview.com

https://goo.gl/maps/HQwld

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

After breakfast we traveled overland back to Victoria Falls aka Mosi-oa-Tunya “the smoke that thunders”. We caught a glimpse of the falls a few days ago, as we drove across the bridge from Zambia but today we hoped to see it in its entirety.

We settled into our hotel and then regrouped for the short drive to the falls where we first had lunch.  Ponchos were passed out for the walk.

On a clear day it is said you can see the mist from these crashing waters from more than 50 miles away. A trail runs through the lush rain forest to different view points along the falls.  Ebony and fig trees provide a canopy along with many flowering species, vervet monkeys, and other small animals roam the forest. Today the wind was not in our favor, we walked out to the end of the trail where a small portion of the falls was visible but as we walked back toward the beginning of the trail each viewpoint became more and more shrouded in mist.  By the time we reached the middle of the falls, even with ponchos on, we were soaking wet and couldn’t see a thing.  It was a little disappointing that we couldn’t see through the mist but the volume of water flowing over the falls was impressive.  We are at the end of the rainy season and flood waters come down from Angola and swell the Zambezi River with 1.4 billion gallons of water per minute passing over its edge at peak flood creating a thunderous roar.  There are five main cataracts including the most dramatic, the Main Falls and Devil’s Cataract, nearly twice as high as Niagara, one and one-half times as wide, Victoria Falls generates three times as much water and is the largest curtain of water in the worlds.

Victoria Falls

A small segment of Victoria Falls

The city of Victoria Falls is a major tourist destination complete with restaurants, shops and a lively market area where you will need all of your will power.  The vendors in the market are quite aggressive and follow you tirelessly offering their wares, sometimes 3 or 4 vendors at a time encircle you hoping to wear you down.  It was exhausting even though we did find a few things that we simply could not live without.

We did get to see Victoria Falls in all its glory by helicopter, my first ride in one and it was a gorgeous, clear day, we had a smooth ride with magnificent views of the falls and the swollen Zambezi River.

As we neared the falls you could see the spray rising and the river swollen by flood waters.

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The pilot made 5 or 6 passes over the falls from both sides so everyone was able to get good photo ops.  It is an amazing sight and from the air it was easy to see what the mist had obscured during our walk.  All I can say is AWESOME.

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Rainbows in the Mist

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What a spectacular day and it wasn’t over yet; as we gathered for Dinner our guide said he had a surprise for us.  Dinner would be about a 10-minute ride out of the city but that was all he said and so we loaded into the van and asked no questions.  When he pulled into the heliport we were a little puzzled, it was dark, not a good time to be flying helicopters, but we followed him and as we rounded the corner of the building a candlelit pathway led to a candlelit helipad with a long elegantly set table also lit by candles, it was magical and combined with the star-filled sky a very romantic setting.

Thompson had talked to the restaurant in town where we were to eat and because of the clear skies they were able to come out and set up this magical dining experience that I will never forget, it was over the top beautiful so sorry the photos do not really capture the mood.

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Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

From Nelspruit a flight to Livingstone Zambia then a short drive through Livingstone and across the Zambezi River bridge to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we were met by a new driver and transferred to our lodge near the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe’s largest park, bypassing Victoria Falls for now.

Zambezi River at Victoria Falls

Zambezi River at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

The drive from Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park passes through beautiful grasslands, acacia and teak forested woodlands, there very few cars on the roads mostly people walking or moving herds of cattle and goats.  We pass little subsistence farming villages where the people grow squash, melons, peanuts and sorghum.

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 En route to the lodge we reveled in the  unspoiled beauty for which this area is famous. Hwange is comparatively undiscovered, a bush country park, known for its herds of sable antelope, an elegant animal with large, graceful horns.

Our pattern of early breakfasts continued and we set out just at sunrise for a morning game-viewing drive or a bush walk, returning to the lodge for lunch and some leisure time before heading into the bush again for afternoon game viewing.

Sunrise at Sable Sands Lodge

Sunrise at Sable Sands Lodge

One morning, just out of camp, we came across this large troop of baboon taking care of their early morning grooming.

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Inside the park we came upon a family of lions, two adults and two cubs, spread across the road; the cubs were nursing and by the time we were in position it was all they could do to keep their eyes open, adorable. We just sat and watched them for at least one half-hour  – AWESOME!  The two adults were very calm and gave no indication that they wanted to move so we turned around and followed another road, leaving them in peace.

We spent one long day in the park  and the remainder of our days were spent exploring the preserve around the lodge where one afternoon, returning to camp we spotted a cheetah very near the road, up against a tree marking his territory.  As soon as we approached he took to the bush but we followed for a time until he was no longer visible.  We were told this was a rare sighting and it was amazing, beautiful cat – power and grace.

Cheetah sighted marking his territory.

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A couple of days following our cheetah sighting a young couple from the Cheetah Society came to camp wanting to see the photo I had taken, hoping to identify the cheetah and they were able to from a scar on his lip; he was  #18.  There are about 80 cheetah in Zimbabwe some who have not been seen for a number of years, either they have moved out the country or been killed, there whereabouts is unknown.

Returning late one evening we ran into an enormous herd of Cape buffalo that spread across the road and down the valley.   There were hundreds of them, all ages and sizes.  In order to continue we finally had to drive through them as it was getting dark and time to return to the lodge, that was a little tense, these are very large animals and can be very aggressive – we were in an open sided vehicle. Our guide reassured us that the would not charge us because in a large herd they feel safe but beware  a lone male, very different story.  They will charge and they do not fake charge.

Cape Buffalo

Cape Buffalo

Each day we saw something new and wonderful, it was never the same, perhaps the same animals but in different locations or exhibiting different behaviors, in different numbers it was all amazing, not just the animals but the variety of beautiful birds large and small, birds of prey and song birds.

Lilac Breasted Roller

Lilac Breasted Roller

Tawny Eagle

Tawny Eagle

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Crowned Crane

I never expected to see so many animals, both varieties and numbers, what a privilege to see them to see them in their own habitat.

Wart hogs

Wart hogs

Zebra

Zebra

Ostrich

Ostrich

Sable Sands Lodge

Our hosts and the entire staff at Sable Sands were charming and gracious; I felt like a guest in someone’s home.  I have included an article about the couple who are creating a beautiful lodge from what had been abandoned for a number of years and inhabited by baboons.  It has been slow going but obviously a labor of love.

http://us7.campaign-archive1.com/?u=8921f91e444aadf2959773c33&id=4b4c91fbb1&e=41cde23104

https://goo.gl/maps/opYPR