Welcome to the first week of the winter season. We have to start getting ready for frost, cold fronts and sub-zero temperatures. At least we have Voting Day (8 May), the Cricket World Cup and the hunting season (for the hunters) to look forward too.
In this column I share with my readers all the adventures and experiences I had. This week I will write about the first time I left our country’s borders.
In 2008 I boarded a British Airway jetliner at OR Tambo International Airport in Jo’burg and I went to….Zimbabwe!
Yes, I know Zim had a lot of problems in those days (they still do), but I went anyway. For three days I stayed in Victoria Falls to see the falls the town got its name from.
We landed at a small airport near the town. It isn’t much bigger than Ladysmith’s Flying Field. There was a big consternation. Staff couldn’t locate my wheelchair in the baggage area. We thought it was still in South Africa. But luckily that wasn’t the case.
It was very hot and dry. The rain season hadn’t arrived yet. After getting my passport checked we met our driver/guide David who took us to our accommodation.
We stayed at the A’Zambezi River Lodge. The Lodge is located on the bank of the Zambezi-river. Plenty of animals were walking around. I got a huge fright one night when a hippo walked past our veranda.
My room was comfortably furnished and I had everything I needed.
That first night I took a sundowner cruise on the Zambezi-river. It was fantastic. As I floated along the river with a drink (I had a Coke) in my hand, I could see hippos and crocodiles laying on the sandbank, elephants swimming around the boat, fish eagles crying in the distance and the sun setting over the river.
The next morning we first went to the Victoria Falls Market. David was guiding us again. It was a huge market in town where tourists could buy curios. In 2008 the Zimbabwe Dollar had no value. So I traded my John Deere hat and my extra Billabong T-shirt for a statue of a Sable (National Antelope of Zimbabwe and a croc’s tooth.
It was tough times in Zimbabwe. Food was scarce. You ate what you got. Like back at A’Zambezi River Lodge they had no cheese, tomato or bread. One day at breakfast I ordered an omelet. When I received my order it was an egg-white omelet. There was no yoke in the eggs.
After our shopping spree we went to the Falls. From far away I could see why the Lozi people called it Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke That Thunders”. There was white mist like smoke in the air. As we got nearer we could hear the falls getting louder and louder.
From the car park we walked through a rainforest, (got soaking wet by the way) and suddenly there it was.
The Victoria Falls, named after Queen Victoria by the missionary David Livingstone. It was a sight to behold. The falls height is 108m and width 1708 meters. It is part of the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Large volumes of water from the Zambezi-river on the Zambian side were escalating downwards towards the gorge.
It is better to see the falls from the Zim side. There is a footpath you can follow to walk along the falls so that you can look at the falls from different viewpoints.
That night we went on a night drive in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Our guide drove 120km/h! We barely saw three buffalo and a spider.
We stopped at an old hunting lodge where supper was supplied to us. While we ate, our guide entertained us with stories about the Rhodesian Bush War. He was an ex guerilla fighter.
After travelling on the last day (read next week’s column to find out where I went to) that afternoon I did something cool. At Shearwater Victoria Falls I fed an elephant some pellets. It was a surreal feeling. It sucked the pellets out of my hand with its trunk like a vacuum.
While I was feeding them I was listening to an informative talk about elephants.
And if that wasn’t cool enough, I rode on one.
There was this ramp we had to go up, (I was light those days so I could easily be carried). The top was the same height as the elephant. It was made to stand next to the ramp by the guide who was sitting already. Another guide was walking next to the elephant with a gun to keep us safe.
I got on and off the same way. My dad and I shared the elephant. On the elephants back was an elephantsafari-saddlebag. It was incredible sitting on the back of a big old Tusker.
Our Elephant took us on a 30 minute journey through the Zimbabwean bush. I never felt afraid.
That’s it for this week. Read my column next week. I have more to tell.