Thursday, October 25, 2007

Back to Civilization

We are finally back in Johannesburg and real internet services. The rest of Africa either has nothing at all or what they call high speed is really like our old dial up -- way too slow for us to add any pictures.

So here's the highlights of our trip so far....

Saturday, October 13 -- After an early morning departure from Cape Town to Jo-burg, we transfered to the Federal Airport for our meeting with Mary Ann and Naz and our charter flight to the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, which is near the Kruger Park. Sabi Sabi has four camps, and we stayed at the smallest, Little Bush Camp, which only has 6 chalets. We knew we were in for some pampering when we saw all the staff waiting to serve us and only two other guests besides the 6 of us!

After a fabulous lunch, we were treated to the first of our 3 hour game drives. We got close up and personal with elephants, monkeys, rhinos, buffalo and many species of birds. We returned to another wonderful, intimate dinner, then retreated to our private chalets, which overlooked a small river and featured an outdoor shower. Mary Ann said she was afraid to use it because she thought the hyenas would show up and laugh.

Sunday, October 14 -- A 5:30 wake up call the next morning and we met for our 6:00 am game drive. Today we saw lions and tried to track down a leopard and her cub that had been spotted earlier. We never found her that day.

After breakfast, while Rhonda treated herself to a massage at one of the other resorts, we did a walking safari. It was so hot, the animals were smart enough to be hidden somewhere in the shade. We're obviously not as smart as the animals or as Rhonda!

On our afternoon drive, we found the leopard and spent some time trailing her through the jungle. It was amazing how close she got to our vehicles. She was inches from the tracker sitting on the front of our jeep.

Monday, October 15 --- After our morning game drive, we had the "Brian's Banana Incident" at breakfast. He waved a banana at the always hovering Vervet monkeys, set it on the table and turned his back to get a cup of coffee. Quick as could be, the monkey ran up and grabbed that banana and ran up a tree.

After breakfast, we were transferred back to the airstrip for our return flight to Jo-burg and our one night stay at the Michaelangelo Hotel in Mandela Square. The hotel is beautiful and Augie and I were treated to a two room, two bath suite.

Tuesday, October 16 -- Up early with no time for breakfast for our flight to Victoria Falls. The airport is in Zimbabwe, but our first stay was in Botswana, so we had to pay for a double entry visa. We were driven to the Chobe Safari Lodge, which overlooks the Chobe River. This lodge was very different from our Sabi Sabi experience. It had many rooms in buildings which had 6 rooms in each. We did an afternoon boat cruise on a boat that was packed with tourists. We are so spoiled! This just won't do!!

But the wildlife was incredible. We got our first view of hippos and crocodiles. We also saw herds of Cape Buffalos and elephants. Dinner that night was buffet style. We only had one night at this place, so we're off again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 17 -- After breakfast, we were transferred back through Botswana customs, into Zambia and the long drive through dusty, bumpy, hot roads in an open vehicle through the town of Livingstone and on to Songwe Village. Just when I was beginning to think you would never send a client to this desolate place, we came upon this enchanting village, which is perched on a cliff overlooking the Zambezi River. It is designed like a Mukani village, with all 8 huts facing each other in a circle. The views from each hut are breathtaking, and each has a shower which is open to the view.

After we settled in, we were taken to the local village to see how they live. We saw their clay huts, outdoor and indoor cooking areas, and met the matriarch of the village, and sweet little 80+ year old woman who settles disputes and administers punishments (such as making the offender walk the distance up the hill to the well with a cup, fill it and return to the village to pour it into the barrels, and repeat until the barrell is full). We were then taken to their crafts center where we were all encouraged to "support the local economy" and happily did so.

We returned to our village, and there are also two extra huts which have only a claw foot tub and a shower which are open to the most stunning views of the river and are meant for sunset viewing. Rhonda and I took advantage of these, and I must say it was a spiritual experience. I stayed in there until way after dark.

When I finally emerged, I found all the guests and our host, Dorothy, gathered around the campfire, where she told stories of the Mukani people and their history. She showed us how to wrap ourselves in the sarongs the people wear from dining. The men tie theirs on their right side and the women on their left. We all got a good laugh because Brian looked like Barney Rubble and Augie looked like Fred Flintstone.

We moved into the area for our dinner (called a Boma) and found a small fire in the center of area, surrounded by many small black cast iron pots, each with a different local dish. One was even a weed! We were told that the natives eat with their hands, and the one dish that looked like mashed potatoes (but was actually a type of grain) was used to form into a scoop for eating the other dishes.

We sat in a circle and one of the staff came around to each of us with a water basin and pitcher so we could wash our hands. Then the men were invited to fill their plates first, followed by the women. The food was delicious, even though the only seasoning they use is onions and tomatoes.

After dinner, the staff played music and sang and invited us all to dance. We had a great time. Later, we retreated to our huts and got under the mosquito nets.

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