Victoria Falls Trip Day 5: Kariba Ferry

Our fifth morning began early; we needed to make it to Kariba Ferry by 8:00am to board the ferry. We launched directly into the restaurant for a 6:00am breakfast and…waited. Fortunately the staff brought out our food in time, and we set off on the road just around 6:45. We sped along and followed the hotel staff’ directions and limited signage to make it to the ferry boarding point in time. We had booked passage on the ferry prior to arriving, so were nearly set, aside from boarding fees.
Jean and I took our passengers and over-night bags, and backed our cars onto the ferry.
Climbing up the stairs to the middle deck, we chose eight metal chaise lounge chairs in a row and set our baggage down. We stayed docked for another hour or so, waiting for the remaining cars to board, and one additional family to show. Our final car to board (the ferry is capable of holding up to 15, we had only a dozen) was a pair of Norwegian medical students who were serving in South Africa, driving an ancient Land Rover, constructed and patched with as many colors of paint and types of material as possible it seemed.
Once underway, we motored at around 10 knots, lazily cutting a north-east bearing along the length of the lake. We picked a table on the outer deck and sat underneath the sun shade. It was nice not having to drive to get to our destination, and for once Jean and I got to hang out during the day. The day wore on, and leagues of water passed beneath us.
We were served lunch, buffet style, with our fellow 30-40 passengers. It was tasty and filling, and we reveled in eating on the deck, the pleasant breeze and lack of mosquitos refreshing our spirits.
Around mid-afternoon, the captain brought the boat to a stop for a swim break! Yes, indeed, there are crocodiles in the lake, but the captain was betting (however erroneously) that there weren’t any here. Jean took a swim. I took photos.
By late afternoon, we came to a narrow point in the lake, and saw some game; hippos, eagles, kudu, elephants.
Pretty soon the sunlight began waning, and the staff cooked up dinner. We sat on the deck and enjoyed the view. Every few minutes the light changed and painted yet another beautiful impression of an African sunset.
Mom and Dad retired, Jean, Laura and I stayed up late into the evening, chatting on the deck.
The next morning we deboarded after a scrumptious breakfast and drove back to Harare. What an adventure!

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Victoria Falls Trip Day 4: Masumu Lodge, near Mlibizi

We began day four in Hwange, not having been disturbed by any animals. The landscape had all but soaked up the rains from the storm, leaving the red soil as dry as when we arrived. Packed and ready, we exited Hwange and got back on the road, coming to the same Total gas station whose mechanics saved us just a couple days before. They were quite amused to see us.
Unfortunately they had no power, so couldn’t provide us fuel, and diverted us some 10km out of our way in order to get said fuel at a nearby town. Fortunately our errand was successful, and we resumed our drive.

We pushed on through to Masumu Lodge (meaning “spear”), whose large game-proof gates parted to give us entry. The grounds were pretty spectacular, and we drove up a cobbled drive to reception. Our little “lodges” even had adjoining doors, so that the girls in Laura’s cabin could easily find their way to ours in the dead of night if need be. Within a few minutes we’d spotted a resident chameleon and arranged for a lunch, as we preferred something more than granola bars.

We ate lunch at the restaurant, a building situated on a point on Lake Kariba, with more than 180° views high above the lake. The pool was not in service, but the vistas were amazing. The kids discovered a docile cat who arranged himself artfully on the couches and then finally the rocks outside.

After lunch, the kids jumped and played on the rocks outside our rooms, and we made ourselves comfortable on the balcony seating, chatting. Dinner later was a slow affair, and as there was no power, the local generator feebly fed power to the electric stoves to cook our food.

Afterwards, we retired to our lodges for another mosquito-filled night, and again fortunately we had netting to protect us. I looked forward to something larger than a twin again.

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Victoria Falls Trip Day 3: Hwange

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We began day three a bit bleary eyed from having been accosted by mosquitos all the previous night. There really is nothing like being inside a mosquito net while the mosquitos hover around, banging up against the net. Like being in a shark cage, but a bit less conscious.
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We packed up and sped out of Jafuta and Vic Falls, intent on buying food in Hwange (Rhodies often pronounce this “Wanky”), and possibly refueling there. We arrived in Hwange town and promptly discovered that the local supermarkets weren’t open; “No ZESA!” which means no electricity (ZESA is the sole electric company for the country). No electric means no computer cash registers (“tills”) and no lights. Also no refrigeration. We waited around with the crowd of would-be shoppers for the doors to open for a while. The kids became restless. All we needed was some pasta at the very least, as our next destination had cooking facilities (the term is “self catering”).
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Leaving Jean and the girls behind, Dad, Lucas and I drove a bit further, looking for another supermarket that was open. We found one, and got some basic supplies, though still no pasta or sausages. We returned, still the first supermarket had not opened. Word on the street was someone was trying to find a generator repairman, for indeed they had a generator. Again, Dad and Lucas, and now Laura, and I pushed off, driving further still, finding a supermarket with some bread. We planned on grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner. We swung back around to get Mom and Jean and the girls, and fuel. Whoops, still no power, the electric pumps cannot function. For a country with such power issues, it’s amazing businesses still rely on electricity so much.
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Off we went, driving at 55, sometimes 60(impressive for the Maruti) MPH, along the expertly manicured highway, finally making our way into Hwange main camp.
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We made a short stop at the Painted Dog Sanctuary.

We just made the 2pm cut-off for entry (after 2pm, one doesn’t stand much of a chance to make it to a camp before dark, which could be bad with lions). After paying our entry fees we drove another 120 kilometers through the park, endeavouring to do a game drive. It was quite uneventful, unfortunately, the most exciting thing we saw were some bubbles and perhaps the snout of a hippo, and a few elephants. We also saw some emaciated carcasses of dead elephants, which we heard are typically ones that have starved. Unfortunately, the practice had been to artificially create or maintain water holes in order to attract the elephants and increase tourist traffic, though that contributed to a rise in population. Ultimately the government stopped providing money for out of season watering, and in the height of dry season, one can see many dead or dying elephants in the park.
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We made our way up a ridge to Sinamatella Camp, and checked into two aging, quaint lodges. Fortunately the ZESA was with us, enabling me to dish up some grilled cheese sandwiches (we’d brought cheese in the cooler, some ham too). We feasted on box wine and grilled cheese, overlooking wandering herds of elephants far below, the sun painting a collage of pastels as a backdrop. The wind kicked up and signaled a storm coming in, and we took the opportunity to bathe the children. Our ceiling fans blew away any mosquitos that may have assailed our nets that evening. A thunderstorm ripped its way across the low veld, but only woke us occasionally.20130125-123958.jpg