Friday, February 19, 2010

KWANDO - the new truck

It is time to leave Zambia and we started our last day by joining our new tour group. The eight of us continuing to Cape Town have joined 3 people that started their trip in Johannesburg, plus another 6 people just starting out. There is a more international flavour to this truck with 2 Germans, and 2 Dutch adding to the mainly English group. Our new tour leader and driver (Jacques & JP) are both South African and set about explaining how the truck works. First things first, girls are not to lift anything heavy! Good news for Claire, bad news for Steve who is put in the 'dog's body' group for the next 3 weeks. The rest of us rotated through the standard cooking/washing/cleaning duties as before.

Before leaving for the border we took the opportunity to also visit the Zambian side of Victoria Falls. Unlike in Zimbabwe where we were able to see the face of the falls, from Zambia we were able to look down the length of them. We had heard that you could almost walk along the top of them but when we tried, there was an armed guard preventing us. Back on the truck we headed on towards the border.
Zimbabwe is on the left side
Wise words!
The bridge that spans Zambia (left) to Zimbabwe (right)
This border is actually a river crossing where the Zambezi River meets the Chobe River. While crossing you can actually see four countries, Zambia to the north (behind us), Botswana to the south (ahead of us), Namibia to the west, and Zimbabwe to the east. If we had been on foot the crossing would have only taken around 30min but it took over an hour for the truck to make it across. The other side is literally river bank so we waited in the shade of trees until JP and Kwando arrived. At camp there were 2 other Acacia tours there. Our old truck (Limpopo) was continuing down to Johannesburg with the 3 remaining people, as well as a small group tour that was also making its way down to Johannesburg. This was the last time that we would see Fiona and Blessed, but we would travel alongside the small group for another couple of days. This particular camp site (Thebe River Safari) had been recently flooded and was in the final stages of rebuilding the pool and bar that a wayward Hippo had destroyed.

Up very early the next morning for a sunrise game drive in Chobe National Park. Unlike the game drives in Kenya and Tanzania the group stayed together in an open sided vehicle with bench seats. A couple of other peolple from the camp site joined us, so we had about 25 on vehicle. It was freezing! The windchill kicked in as soon as we started driving and it was at least an hour or so before we felt any heat from the sun. We were very jealous of some of the other groups going in that had blankets with them. Once in the park we headed straight for the river and found a large herd of Hippo. It was nice to see them a bit more active then those we have already seen. The remainder of the drive was uneventful. We saw lots of evidence of animals but none of them in person. We were quite relieved to return to camp and warmth, expecially as JP had cooked French Toast for us!
We think these are Rock Dussies. Whatever they are they are very cute.
That afternoon, we headed back to the river for a sunset safari cruise. It was with relief that we saw quite a variety of animals, including birds, crocodiles, giraffes, monkeys, buffalo and of course hippo. Finally we saw some hippos out of the water and they capture alot of photo time as everyone tried for the 'yawn'. Sunset topped off a great afternoon on the water.
Believe it not but this is the moon. We've never seen it so big or orange!
The following morning it was up at the crack of dawn again. This time it was for a 9hr day of driving down to Maun, and the Okavango Delta. Alot of that time was spent on a 100km stretch of 'road' that was ridiculously potholed. JP had a go at driving on both sides as well as the shoulders but nothing made it any smoother. At a supermarket stop Claire discovered the Botswanan version of Lamingtons. Naturally she bought it and the comment was 'I am sure it would have tasted great the day it was made'. Apparently it was rather stale.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Livingstone again...

The day we went to Zimbabwe was the last official day with the people of this truck. In tradition we headed out for a group dinner at Funky Monkey (a pizza place recommended by Lonely Planet). Sadly a couple of people missed the dinner as they were caught in an 'elephant jam' just outside the campsite gates. As well as the girls getting stuck on the wrong side of the gates, it meant that our taxi's couldn't get in to pick us up. The only option for us was to head through the electric fence into the fancy lodge style hotel that was next door and meet the taxi there.
The road leading to the camp gates.
The last full day at this campsite was an easy one for us. Lazing by the pool and sifting through some of the photos as well as starting to plan activites for our time in Cape Town. That afternoon we had our elephant safari! Our elephant encounter started a little earlier then we had expected. Just after we drove out of the camp gates, a femal elephant lumbered straight past us heading for the gate. The attendants quickly closed them and all the traffic on the way in, settled in for a wait. We got the impression this happens pretty frequently!
The safari was great. All the elephants used by this company have been rescued from Zimbabwe. Our elephant was called Mushimba and she was 25 years old. Her 5yr old baby was also there but was still in training for passengers. The smaller one kept coming up to Claire and touching her leg with its trunk. Each elephant has a guide that sits on the neck and then we sit behind the guide on the elephants back. Surprisingly the skin of the elephant was quite soft but the hairs are very wiry and scratchy. During the ride we were taken alongside the river about 10kms from the drop of the falls, crossing some of the shallower sections to the nearby islands. The elephants obviously don't like getting their tails wet as they were all raised to just above the water level. We were hoping to see some wildlife during the ride and 4 crocodiles were the highlight. Impala and mating chimpanzees rounded out the safari. After the ride we had the opportunity to feed our elephant, and she was definitely hungry. Unlike the others who waited patiently for you to place the pellets into the trunks, Mushimba would use her trunk to search you for the food. She had quite a light touch but was very insistent.
A section of the river that we crossed.
One of the crocodiles, quite alot bigger then the one we saw when rafting!
The feeding frenzy starts
What a way to end our time with Fiona, Blessed and everyone else on 'Limpopo'. Tomorrow we board our next truck....