Zimbabwe & Botswana


Tuesday 7 July, Schiphol

It's my first day off and Laura's flight from the US is supposed to arrive at 07:00. However there's a slight delay and the new arrival time is now 09:00. She finally arrives at 12:00. In the mean time her brother and sister-in-law have come to Schiphol too. They're travelling through Europe. The afternoon is spent in Leiden and it's my first chance to properly share the slides I took during our Australia trip in September 1996.

Wednesday 8 July, Zaanse Schans and Leidschendam

After breakfast we decide to drive to Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam. The weather is very nice and we take our cameras to photograph windmills. In the afternoon we drive to the three windmills in Leidschendam.

Thursday 9 and Friday 10 July, Schiphol to Harare via Johannesburg

We wake up late in the morning and drive in to town and plod around a bit. Our flight is scheduled for 23:35. Paula is so kind to drive us to the airport and we arrive there around 21:00. Our tripods are not allowed as hand luggage. We've got 45 kg checked luggage between us (40 is max). Fortunately they let it go. The camera bags are taken as hand luggage. We patiently wait for our flight to depart. We sleep very little on board; via Jo'burg we arrive in Harare around 14:00 and after exchanging some money we're picked up and taken to the Bronte hotel.
We dine for Zim$ 140 per person. (Zim$100 = € 5.25). Cheap!

Saturday 11 July, Harare

We wake up at 06:30 and it takes Laura 45 minutes to get dressed :-( At 07:30 we head for breakfast and we anxiously await our rental car, which fails to arrive. I call Nyati travel that in turn contacts Avis. Soon thereafter the car arrives. An old model Mazda 323 with 22.000 kms on the clock.
We leave for Mutare at 10:00. It's a 260 km drive and it takes us through Malwatte where we have a coffee and Halfway House where we decide to lunch. In Halfway House we see our first captive zebra's. I bought a book in Malwatte, which covers South African flowers. En route we photograph some local villagers for € 1.40. A sack of oranges (20-30) can be bought for just Zim$ 25.
At 15:30 we arrive in Musangano Lodge, 0.5 hour further lays Mutare.
The receptionist, Leonard, awaits us and takes us to our simple but very comfortable and big lodge. The 9 lodges were built in 1995. Our 5 course meal cost us Zim$ 125 per person.


Musangano Lodge

Sunday 12 July, Mutare

I have a shower at 06:30 and Laura follows later. English breakfast at 07:30 and we are given a lunch box. We drive to Nyanga National Park to see the Mtarazi waterfall but very soon we drive in to a large mist bank. Continuing with speeds between 15 - 20 kmph we arrive at the gate. All we saw was the gatekeeper. We didn't continue.
Turned back and arrived at a hotel around 13:00 where we have some coffee. We take pictures of the local flora. We drive to Nyanga village, photograph the surroundings and hand out a few pens to the local kids.
We turn around and drive to Mutare. I buy my first souvenir next to a BP petrol station in Mutare. It's a soapstone piece made up of 3 giraffe heads. It's approx 30 cm high and costs Zim$600. Laura had purchased an elephant for something like Zim$ 200 but it breaks when back at the lodge. We return to our lodge, our lunchboxes are untouched. We fill up with petrol for Zim$200, 38.6 litres for less than € 11. In Holland this would have cost € 37.
Both of us are tired, we dine and tonight I get my first taste of Sadsa. Sadsa (Zimbabwean name) or Ugali as it is called in Kenya is a well known staple food in Africa. I used to eat it a lot when I lived in Africa as a child. It ground corn cooked in water. The lodges are very nice; currently they own 7 and building another two. The estate is run by Germans. Every lodge has its own small garden and a parking place. They are all placed at a fair distance from each other so you don't see your neighbours.
During our stay there are 2 more couples at the estate. Our chalet has 2 beds, an open fireplace and a writing desk, a place to sit, a fridge and a large bathroom with shower. Zimbabwe is unlike Kenya and I have some trouble adjusting. The country looks very different too. You see a lot of people along the side of the road and the surprise on Laura's face has to be seen. As I grew up with it, it doesn't surprise me at all. So far we have spent Zim $ 1500.

Monday 13 July, Mutare

Again another early rise and breakfast. Around 09:30 we drive to Mutare. We visit the local market and on request I shoot 2 pictures of a market stall owner. A vagabond receives Zim$20, we leave Mutare around 14:00 and go to B'vumba. The botanical gardens (yawn!!) are visited. 45 minutes later we're out of there. Not worth the visit or the money. We continue our drive to Leopard Rock, a hotel with a golf course. From here you can see the hills of Mozambique. On our way back we buy some embroidered cloths from a roadside stall. It seems that Laura was interested in buying the cloth I had just purchased.
That evening the neighbours knock on the door and ask me if I would be willing to remove a spider, which is really frightening them. It's a relatively small harmless spider. Laura is just having a shower and I walk over to the neighbours and act the hero.

Tuesday 14 July, Mutare to Chimanimani

We drive from Mutare to Chimanimani in the Eastern Highlands. A route of 185 km and it takes us 3 hours. We arrive at the Frog & Fern B&B, where we are supposed to cook our own breakfast. En route we bought some sugarcane and ate some of it. Upon arrival in Chimanimani bought 6 beers at the bottle store. Here I develop a taste for dried mango, expensive but delicious.
We wander through the village and spend some time in the market looking at the long distance busses that bring and take various passengers and their goods throughout this country. Our lunch consists of a lasagne in the Msasa restaurant, very good and very cheap. That afternoon we drive over to the Bridal Veil waterfall to take quite a lot of pictures. Our Frog & Fern neighbours are from South Africa. That evening we eat another lasagne; have some beer, coffee and a desert. Around 22:00 it's lights out. It is freezing; we've managed to find the heater. It helps but not much.

Wednesday 15 July, Chimanimani

Wake up at 09:00 and prepare breakfast. I put the camera on the self-timer and take 2 pictures of us at the breakfast table. The rest of the day is spent doing nothing except for changing some money at the bank.
At 18:00 we dine at the Msasa restaurant, yet another lasagne, beer, coffee and apple tart. On the way back to the B&B we capture a grey owl in our headlights. We have a good look and drive on. We take a bath, as there is no shower. This helps in warming us up a bit as it is quite cold up here in the mountains.

Breakfast at Frog & Fern B&B

Thursday 16 July, Chimanimani to Masvingo

After an early breakfast I call Sunbird tours to book us on a Great Zimbabwe ruins and a visit to a Shona homestead. Also called Black Rhino safari's for a game drive, alas they're fully booked. Finally we're getting into second gear and start planning ahead. We are very lazy the first week and so far don't really enjoy the first week of this holiday. This week is more fun for hiking, neither of us are in to that. We leave Chimanimani around 09:00 and drive to Glen Livet near Masvingo.
Via Birchenough Bridge, which resembles Sydney bridge (same engineer) where we fill up the car again, 38 litres, and have a coke. We arrive in Glen Livet around 14:30. 15 minutes later we drive to Masvingo (30 kms) and visit the craft village. Laura buys a wooden giraffe (50 cm). I'm amazed by the asking price. In contrast to Kenya they're very reasonable.
Regardless of that we still negotiate a better price and Laura manages to bring down the price from Zim$3000 to 2200. I buy a soapstone drummer (45 cm) for Zim$ 600 (800). The artist was still waxing it over an open fire so I took pictures of him.
We proceeded to drive in to Masvingo but every shop had already closed so we went back to Glen Livet. This room too only has a bath so we sneak off to the shower of room 7. This bathroom is located opposite room 7, not in the room itself. Around 19.15 we dine and go to bed at 22:30. The drummer must weigh around 15 kg.


My drummer in the making and Laura's piece

Friday 17 July, Masvingo

Awake at 06:30 and have breakfast. Discover that sunrises here are beautiful so that means picture taking tomorrow morning. Early that morning we drive to Mutirikwe dam and Great Zimbabwe ruins hotel. Soon after we join the 'Great Zimbabwe ruins' tour. The tour lasts 3 hours and some climbing of steps is involved to reach the location where the king used to reside. All walls are built without the use of cement. Some stones are colour coded, if something should happen they could rebuild the site.
The lodgings of the queen are also visited. One part of her quarters has been used on one of the paper money bills. After lunch the same tour guide who will now show us a Shona homestead meets us. We tasted real peanut butter at the Shona homestead; it is really tasty. However its not like the peanut butter we know as your tongue gets stuck to the top of your mouth. We also tried our hand at crushing corn. Despite the fact that they have now started building rectangular brick houses the kitchen will always remain round as it takes up a very important place in life. Shona men will always sit higher up and the women will sit on the ground. During family gatherings they will form a circle around the opening to the kitchen. If needed they can summon the spirits of their forefathers should they need guidance.

Crushing corn takes coordination

Should a woman decide to be disloyal the husband will place a bow and arrow in front of the kitchen "door". She must prove her innocence by stepping over these and enter the kitchen. If she fails she drops down dead. Should the husband die earlier than the wife the wife will pick one of his younger brothers to marry him. She will take a bowl of water and place this bowl in front of the younger brother she wishes to re-marry. He accepts her as his wife by washing his hands in the bowl. He doesn't have to wash but he will remain responsible for her.

During lunch a couple of Vervet monkeys were enjoying the sugar-bags left on the tables. We are treated to some of the Shona culture and customs. Around 16:00 we drive back to Glen Livet. We must hurry ourselves to take pictures of the sunset. En route Laura buys some necklaces and some seeds at ridiculous prices. Oh well, it's her money. We leave some pens behind as well for the kids. The Great Zimbabwe ruins and Shona tour cost us USD 20 + USD 25 per person.
We sneak in for another shower and around 22:00 we write in our journals. Where possible I've used the tape-recorder to note the tech details of my pictures. Listening to the tape I can hear myself groaning with effort when climbing up the steps towards the king's quarters.

Saturday 18 July, Masvingo to Bulawayo

En route to Bulawayo we see the same broken down car again. In respect to the previous day it has only moved a few kilometres. We left at 08:30 after photographing sunrise. In the craft village near Masvingo Laura decides to buy 2 soapstone dancers carved out of 1 piece from the same person who sold me the drummer. Now both of us have a heavy piece and a lot of overweight. The road to Ingwe Lodge is long so I push the pedal to the metal. We arrive at 14:30. Ingwe Lodge lays approximately 30 kms south of Bulawayo.
That same afternoon we drive in to Matobo national park and look at some old rock-paintings of rhino's etc and we visit a craft village. We close the day by buying two tickets to Cecil Rhodes grave. He's found himself a very nice spot to be buried. We await sunset, which is stunning.
After dinner we got talking to the bartender, Noxmen, he introduces us to Amarula, similar to Bailey's but much creamier. I'm now hooked on the stuff.

Sunday 19 July, Ingwe Lodge

We rise early and ask for a packed lunch, this seems to pose a problem. We are visiting Whovi game Park, which is part of Matobo N.P. We don't see much wildlife this morning; this is due to the many kopjes and bush, very unlike some game-parks in Kenya.
We decide to leave the park and return later. We go to Malene dam but never get there as we stop at a lake. We see a heron and warthogs and we get some really good close ups. Upon our return to Whovi park we see a couple of rhinos, alas they're quite distant, even for the 500mm lenses we're using. We return to the lodge around 17:30 and clean our cameras. That evening after dinner we watch some TV, which is showing Nelson Mandela's 80th birthday. It is now nearly 23:00. Tomorrow we're going to try to ship out our heavy souvenirs.

Monday 20 July, Bulawayo - Victoria Falls

Wake up at 07:00 and have breakfast one hour later. Packed all our belongings and taken a few pictures of the lodge and of Noxmen. We're off to Bulawayo to ship our curiosa. We end up in an office that points us to a shipping company. All the stuff is weighed and measured. With this information in hand we need to return to the office to figure out how much it is going to cost us. This seems to be a bit of a problem. We decide to drive back to the shipping company to pick up our belongings. We give up. They calculate Zim$ 140 per kilo, we need to ship out 40 kg for 2 pieces that have cost us € 55. The shipping cost is Zim$ 5600 or € 295.
We decide to have lunch in Bulawayo, buy some newspapers and some rope to pack the items. The newspapers must have been recycled 500 times or more as it disintegrates when you look at it. The rope isn't much better. Again a bit of a disaster. In Cafe Cape to Cairo we have a beer.

We're killing time as we are taking the night train to Victoria Falls and we're supposed to take the car back to Avis. Avis drop us off at the railway station. A porter helps us with our luggage, which by now consists of 12 bags. We wait till 18:30.

How many bags did we pack? ... for two.

The train leaves at 19:00 and a really large group of people descend on the train. Thankfully we are travelling 1st class. Laura gets in the compartment and most of our stuff is loaded via the window. The top bunk and the floor are covered in luggage. This includes 2 bags with our blankets provided in 1st class. As we're organising our luggage a steward appears to make up our bunks. We tell him we will do it ourselves as the place is in total disarray.
After some hassle we've managed to sort out our stuff and we ask the steward to lock our cabin and we descend on the dining car. The food is not too good but we get more than our share of "entertainment" when somewhat later about 6 or 7 thugs run through the train chased by security. The problem is we can't distinguish one from the other. A couple in the dining-car is scared and decides to return to their cabin. We go to bed early. Sleeping is a bit of a problem as the train stops frequently. The toilets smell and cant be locked. Cleaning your teeth is a story in itself. In the morning we receive some coffee and we arrive in Victoria falls around 07:00. Quite an experience.

Tuesday 21 July, Victoria Falls

The minivan collects a few tourists, us and our entire luggage, and drops us off in our hotels. The Sprayview hotel doesn't honour its name. No spray and barely a view, but fair. The rooms are not done yet because of our early arrival. Around 08:15 we can dump our stuff in our room so we decide to have breakfast first. We walk in to town and see 3 elephants having a go at the vegetation in a garden. A lot of people enjoy this spectacle and we are shooting loads of film on this scene.
Both of us buy a T-shirt in a supermarket store and we return to the hotel to have a shower around 10:30. Then we try to find out what we can do in Vic Falls. We decide to take a sunset boat-trip that afternoon and book bungee jumping for the next day. In the craft village I succumb to buying a small giraffe and an elephant, one for me and one a present for Vilan. At 15:30 we are picked up for our sunset trip on the Zambezi River. We have some beer (drinks are free) and talk to 3 Shona men who joined our table. The tour itself is not exciting; we see 1 giraffe and an elephant. That evening we "dine" at Wimpy.

Wednesday 22 July, Victoria Falls

At 08.30 we walk to Vic Falls National Park, fee Zim$ 100 (the bible* mentions USD 20 but that's not quite right *Lonely Planet guide). For the first time we get to see the falls. There's a lot of spray so the slides will not show much. You don't really need a raincoat but you do get reasonably wet, especially if you decide to stay at a viewpoint for a long time. At the end of the walk we see the bridge that links Zimbabwe to Zambia, and it's from this bridge that I see the bungee jumpers.
My stomach is in my throat. As time is flying we hurry towards the bridge. I hand in all my money with customs and our passports are checked. We cross the bridge to the other side and register with the bungee office. Our weights are noted on our hand in felt pen. We walk back to the centre of the bridge where we find the jumping point. They tie me up using 3 towels per leg and I get to wear a harness. Then I hop on to the platform and get tied to a bungee cord.

Bungee from Vic Falls bridge, 111 metres.

The Kiwi leading this operation gives sound advice. "If you want to enjoy jump out", he says. I had a sneak preview of the depth and quickly look ahead of me instead, at least that's not deep, just far. Countdown commences, five, four, three, two, one, BUNGEEEEE. I keep looking ahead whilst I jump, a good decision. The jump is 111 metres deep and is over in a flash. In the mean time a number of videocameras register what it is you do. Pictures are taken as well. Later that day I was really tempted to jump again.
After wobbling to a "hang" still a guy comes down and hooks a lead to the harness and it pulls you in to a semi horizontal position. That's good as my ankles are really hurting by now, despite that it's only a very short time that you actually spend there. What a relief. It's absolutely spectacular to do. Having been unhooked, I need to traverse the underside of the bridge to emerge at the top of the bridge on the Zambia side. Having reached the top the ROVOS train has pulled up and is blocking my access to the appropriate side of the bridge to see Laura jump. The doors open and I climb on board and make my way to the other side of the bridge.

Laura has already jumped and arrives 5 minutes later. We pick up our things and make our way back to the office to watch the videos. We both buy a baseball cap, T-shirt and the video, USD 12 + 10 + 40. The jump costs USD 90. Oh, who cares, money must roll.
We return to Zimbabwe and I retrieve my money from customs. We return to the hotel by taxi, shower, and lunch and organise for some of our belongings to stay behind in the hotel. We are off to Botswana soon. We also need to make sure that our driver will actually bring the luggage with him when he picks us up at the airport for Hwange a week later as we will not be returning to the hotel.
I call Nyati Travel, as we seem to be missing a voucher for the Okavango Delta. We hand in Laura's video so it can be converted to NTSC. There's a power failure and we walk to the craft village again. Laura buys a chess game and manages to get it for Zim$3200 instead of the asking price of 12.000. We visit a shipping company but still can't get any decent packing materials.

I manage to find some odd pieces of cardboard and after more than an hour everything's packed. We return to the Shearwater shop in the hope that power is restored and the video converted. Alas at 16:30 still no power. We have dinner and return at 20:30, as closing time is 21:00. The shop is closed. Finally someone helps out and we are led through various alleys to a barn. Power has just come back on and precisely at that time they convert Laura's video. The pictures we never get to see as we are leaving tomorrow morning early to go to Botswana. I replay my audiotape to write down some technical details and to amend this report. Lights out at 23:40. Tomorrow is an early 06:00 start as we're off to Botswana, Chobe N.P.



Thursday 23 July, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe to Kasane, Botswana

The alarm goes off at 06:00, I shower and pack and ask a porter to store 5 bags for us. Breakfast is at 07:00 and it's taking a long time for toast and coffee to arrive. At 07:30 precisely we turn up for our ride to Botswana. The trip with Dabula Safaris takes 1.5 hour. We are taken to Chobe Safari Lodge, a hotel on the Chobe river. En route we accidentally hit and kill a honey badger. There's a Dutch couple leaving for Gunn's camp. It seems we are swapping places with them when we spot them at the airport a couple of days later. This time at the border no one seems to be interested in money, and we are carrying lots off it. We arrive in Kasane around 09:00, check in to our hotel and visit the bank to get our hands on Pula's. € 1 = 5 Pula. We also confirm our 2 game drives and boat trip for tomorrow afternoon.

After buying some picture postcards and an ice cream we check our coins to see if we each have at least one of each. We return to the hotel for a relaxing beer and a sit in the sun. It's now noon and our first game drive is scheduled for 15:30. My legs still hurt a bit from the bungee jump and my left ankle is still quite red. At 15:30 it turns out that its only Laura and me on this game drive. Entrance fee is Pula 30 per person. ( € 6). This park too is covered in bush but driving alongside the river we still get to see quite a lot of wildlife. We first see a Puku (kind of deer), which only resides in a few locations. They mainly keep near water. The return trip is hell, the driver remains a short distance from another truck and it's throwing up a lot of dust, which gets in to our cameras and eyes.
It's 18:30 and Laura hits the showers whilst I listen to my tape again and take notes. A lot of guests turn up for dinner and we join the line for P 35. It's somewhat chaotic. A quadruple Amarula and a few cigarettes later I return to the room. Laura has already gone to bed. I shower, it's 21:50 and the alarm is set for 05:30.

Friday 24 July, Chobe

The alarm goes off and at 06:15 we're back in the same truck. We drive to the camping site nearby and pick up some Dutch and Belgians. Now the truck fully loaded with 8 passengers. On this 2nd game drive we again see Puku, Kudu and our first lions. On the way back we stop to push a bus stuck in the sand. We arrive back in the hotel at 09:45 and sit at a table cleaning our cameras again. In front of our eyes a couple are making out. I believe the guy to be French and the woman Dutch. Unfortunately before they can really get steamy the proprietor turns up with a bucket of water and threatens them with it. They decide to go to their room to finish what they started.

We still need to confirm with Nyata our travel arrangements for Gunn's camp in the Delta. Around 15:00 we're expected to join the boat trip on the Chobe river. I fetch some new batteries and some dried mango and candy. Around 14:00 a couple of mongoose turn up in the hotel garden and we shoot some nice pictures. We gather for the boat trip, which I had confirmed twice but apparently we need tickets before we can board. My temper soars. The cruise is fantastic. We see lots of crocodiles, fish eagles, hippos, elephant's crossing over and an iguana. All this is finished off with a beautiful sunset.

The hotel has a fax for us from Nyati. Later on I try to call Vilan but I can't because the credit card machine is being serviced. After a shower and a shave, five days since my last one it's time to update this report and write up the details of 5 rolls of film shot today. It's close to 19:30 and we're about to go for dinner. Around 21:30 I call Vilan and ask her how she is. "Bad" she answers, "Amore has died" (her cat), and I'm startled, as I hadn't anticipated such a response. Anyway she's had a good time in Canada and 5 minutes later and P128 poorer I end the conversation. It was good to hear her voice again and I realise that I miss her. We retire for the night at 22:00.

Saturday 25 July, Chobe to the Okavango Delta

Laura gets up at 07:00 to call Betsy. The phone is down but fortunately it works again at 09:00. It's now 00:00 in Phoenix. We have breakfast and change USD 60 for Pula 128. It has taken quite some time to get to the front of the queue. As I step outside I witness a car accident, just a fender bender. From the local supermarket we purchase toothpaste and an ice cream. We are picked up at 13:00 and drive to the airport for our flight to Maun; it only takes 5 minutes. The flight is scheduled to leave at 14:20 and we land in Maun at 15:15. It's a two-propeller plane with seating for 44 passengers. It's half empty.
There's no one to meet us in Maun so I start asking around. Thankfully people help us and 15 minutes later there is someone to help us further. About an hour later we board a Cessna together with 1 other passenger. The Cessna we were supposed to board has been taken for a mercy flight, apparently to save a child's life. The child had swallowed a stone. We drop off our passenger and fly to Gunn's camp 5 minutes further out. It's paradise on earth and at 18:00 we have recorded our first sunset here. Dinner is served in semi darkness. All is inclusive, thank god because this trip to the Delta is costing us USD 240 per person per night.
During dinner a genet cat shows up, apparently a regular guest. The camp consists of 7 tents each with their own outside shower and toilet. Each tent has 2 beds, a dressing table and a balcony with some camp seats. The layout is spacious and electricity is provided by solar panels. In the afternoon the fire is lit to provide warm water for the shower. We will stay here for 4 nights and we are the only guests.


Our tent and open shower

Sunday 26 July, Gunn's camp

At 06:00 the alarm goes off again and we dress for breakfast. I only have one pair of pants with me, the rest is in Vic falls, and it's covered in stains. The sun shows up at 07:00 and we scout for the best place to take photographs. Seacompany arrives at 07:30 and he takes us for a cruise in a mokoro (a plastic one as the wooden ones tend to leak quickly). We also hike for about 3 hours and this results in seeing quite some elephants. We stop for lunch and invite Seacompany to share with us. Man can he eat.
We decide to cut our mokoro trip short and via a short detour we are treated to a crocodile up close. We return at 15:45 and shower and dilly-dally around a bit. Our cameras are set for tonight's sunset and the genet cat that sadly doesn't show itself. Jack's throat is bothering him a bit so he turns in early. We talk some more with Eve and return to our tent around 21:45. We listen to hippos and other animals and will go to sleep soon.

A tourist tries his hand at poling a mokoro

Monday 27 July, Gunn's camp

We rise early to shoot sunrise through some palm trees. Eve an Jack Drew , the camp managers, join us for breakfast. At 08:00 we're back in the mokoro and Seacompany takes us to another part of the Delta. This time the trip is shorter, till 12:30. We get to see some more elephants and a recent kill by lions of a buffalo.
We chase away the vultures to get some good action shots when they fly back in. Seacompany wants to cut out its tongue but we're not carrying a knife. Laura decides to lie on her bed upon our return; she's not feeling very well. I have a chat with Eve. Around 15:00 I spot one of the speedboats drifting off, luckily it get stuck in the reeds not far off. Half an hour later I wake up Laura and we're off with Diks in a speedboat to photograph hippos. We are treated to crocodiles, hippos and a fish eagle. On the way back we are nearly toppled by a hippo. Upon our return we pick up the other speedboat as well and tie it up again. Dinner is served at 19:00 and again we set up our cameras in the hope that the Genet cat turns up. Alas, it doesn't. Laura heads for the shower and I enjoy a coffee with an Amarula, My only trousers will be washed tomorrow so I will be spending the day in my pjays. Luckily it resembles a loose swimming trunk.

Tuesday 28 July, Gunn's camp

Today we have a day off, we have one every day but it gives us an excuse not to do anything. We take pictures of birds that appear nearby. A Lilac breasted Roller, a Golden Weaver and a starling. A couple of elephants have pushed over some palms right outside the manager's house and they're enjoying the fruit. Later that day Jack and Eve decide to sleep in a tent instead of going back to their own place. Around midday we decide to take a stroll and visit the nearby campgrounds. At 16:00 we leave with Diks in the speedboat and get up really close to the elephants that are still having a food fest. It turns out there's 9 of them. We are so close to them that the 170-500mm lens is no good and I switch to shorter one. Further down the stream we spot 2 fish eagles and we bait them. Great to see how it catches the bait. Got some really nice shots of it too.
We return at 17:30 to photograph sunset through a dead tree. Later that evening Laura's back in the tent and I'm enjoying a cup of coffee. We hear an elephant close by and retrieve a spotlight to try and locate it. It turns out the elephant is right outside our tent and Laura is frantically trying to find a torch to see what's going on outside. We calm her down. Just over 22:00 I decide to take a shower. Tomorrow morning we will be leaving. A hippo awakens us as it is feeding just outside our tent.


Wednesday 29 July, Botswana, Gunn's camp back to Zimbabwe, Hwange

Laura has a bit of a sleep-in, after breakfast we hang around and with some delay we leave Gunn's camp at 11:55 with another Cessna. We arrive in Maun at 12:30 and have a near connecting flight to Victoria Falls. A car awaits us with the luggage we left behind in the Sprayview hotel. It's a two-hour drive to Halfway House. We arrive there at 16:30. Here we unload our bags and the driver radios Simba Lodge, our next destination. It will take a driver about 0.5 hour to pick us up. It takes longer and when he does arrive we are informed that we are waiting for an additional 4 passengers. In total the wait is 1.5 hour. We arrive at the Lodge around 18:30. The four guests didn't turn up. Simba Lodge is made up of 6 luxury 2 person's lodges and is run by Cheryl (24) and Paul (45-50). Brent (21) and a student, Elaine, work here as well. The four missing guests arrive in time for dinner (Jim, Sue, Jerry and Thurman, an Iowa state senator). We now total 12 guests. After dinner we chat a bit and I go to bed around 23:00.

Simba lodge in Hwange

Thursday 30 July, Hwange (Simba Lodge)

Breakfast is at 08:00 and an hour later we leave for Hwange Game Park. It takes an hour to get there. We get to see Sable antelope, crimson-breasted shrikes, giraffes, crocodiles, wildebeest and some ostrich. No elephants or hyenas or lions to be seen. There's quite a breeze and the animals are not showing themselves. We drop the 4 American guests at the airport somewhere in the afternoon. Laura, Paul and I climb on to a lookout post around 15:30 to see if wildlife will appear near a watering hole. Alas nothing much shows, as it is still breezy. We return 3 hours later and I hit the showers.

Friday 31 July, Hwange (Simba Lodge)

After breakfast we say goodbye to Jim, Rosie and their (16-year old?) daughter Charlie. Jim is an English army officer. We go back in to the park with an elderly English couple and Brent and Elaine. These four will camp out in the park; Cheryl and Paul will pick us up later. We see zebras, elephants and various birds. Cheryl and Paul pick us up and we drive on to stop near a watering hole. We get to see two large groups of elephant's drinking water. That they communicate is easy to see even though you cannot hear it. One group waits patiently until the other is finished. We dine at 19:15 and earlier I had mentioned I would like to have Sadsa. We are the only ones for dinner. The sadsa and stew were delicious. They've got an excellent cook working for them. We talk a bit about the lodge, Paul is working on another viewing platform and a bunker for photographers and I give him some tips. We retire at 21:15.

Saturday 1 August, Hwange to Kariba

The alarm goes off at 07:15 and after breakfast and packing our 13 bags again we leave with Gilbert at 09:30 to visit his village. Gilbert lives near Simba Lodge and he explain how his house was built. He also shows us a Marula tree and what use their fruit have (e.g. Amarula). We also see the storage space for their harvests, chickens, dogs, goats and pigs and cattle. At 11:30 we meet Cheryl and Paul at Halfway House and we enjoy a large hamburger for lunch. Jacob takes us to the airport. Our flight leaves at 14:40. There is one shuttle flight, which lands in Hwange then carries on to Vic Falls and returns to Hwange. Finally at 16:00 we can leave Hwange for Kariba. We manage to get our entire luggage on board including a huge weight as hand luggage.
The airplane, a BA146, takes 102 passenger and we're 0.5 full. In Kariba, UTC awaits us, 5 younger guests, Laura and I and our entire luggage is taken to Kariba Breezes hotel. Tomorrow we will go for a canoe trip of several days; we repack again so we can leave behind most of our stuff. I call the tour operator later that afternoon to find out when they'll pick us up tomorrow. I order a rump steak for dinner and it takes quite a long time. When it does arrive it's extremely well done. Desert is extraordinarily expensive, Zim$ 50. Our last week has now definitely started. We think we've got 60 kg. of additional weight.

Sunday 2 August, Kariba to Chirundu

This morning we are picked up at 08.30 and left behind at a nearby gas station. A truck with 5 canoes is parked outside and they're packing. The group consists of us two, 1 young guy from the UK, a young chap from Singapore, 4 young Australian blokes and a middle aged Australian couple.
It's very unclear what needs to be done and we find out that we have to buy our own drinks on this trip before we leave. I really think we're on the wrong cruise. The only thing the organisation has for beverages is wine and lemonade. We buy 4 cans of Coke and 4 Sprites. We leave for Chirundu at 09:00; the drive takes 2.5 hours. Around noon we unload the canoes and pack our stuff. Chairs, tents etc are also packed. There is no waterproof canister for our camera equipment, despite promises there would be. Our guide, Tech explains how to work the oars. We semi-drift down the Zambezi River. There's even time to fish. I like this pace. Somewhere on an island in the Zambezi we set up our tents. Teach starts preparing the meal. For some reason or another I can't make myself useful.

Monday 3 August, Chirundu to Mana Pools, the Zambezi river

We wake up at 06.00; have some coffee, and cornflakes. We pack our tents and other stuff and for 4 hours we paddle like there's no tomorrow. I curse; this isn't a holiday but work. A hippo that shoots in to the water frightens the Australians and they're terrified of crocs. Why, I don't understand. Crocs are opportunists and will certainly not attack a canoe. We brunch that afternoon and have quite a long break, I am in a foul mood. We paddle for another 2 hours and again set up camp. We're conserving our Coke and Sprite.

Camping on the Zambezi river

Tuesday 4 August, Chirundu to Mana Pools, the Zambezi river

This morning is more relaxed; during lunch we get a visit from an old bull elephant. He passes by very close. He's feeding himself with branches and grass.

Old bull visits our lunch

That afternoon we jump in the Zambezi. The current is fairly strong, 5 kmph. You can hardly swim against it. I'm wearing a silk boxer short, ideal because it dries quickly. We arrive at Mana Pools campsite around 15:00.
We set up camp and go for a short game drive in the park. That evening we shower, there's only one so we queue. There's no light in the shower room. Wonderful after 3 days without one. We drink another Coke and Sprite. I go to get some more and find there are no Cokes or Sprites left. There must be at least 7 cans left. I ask around and nobody knows. The Australians have only been drinking beer. Around 22:00 everyone has gone to sleep and I chat with Tech and have a coffee. Upon return from the toilet, it's now 23:00; Tech shines his torch on a hippo grazing in the campsite. It slowly moves towards the Zambezi.

Our canoe group

Wednesday 5 August, Mana Pools to Kariba

At 06.00 the group again goes for a short game drive, I stay behind. Breakfast follows at 08:00 and then we pack up. We leave around 09:30. Later on Tech confesses that he's asked Markus if he's perhaps taken our cokes and sprite. The answer seems to be yes he has. During lunch I confront Markus, he eventually pays for 4 cans. The other missing cans remain a mystery. We get back to Kariba Breezes hotel at 15:30 and again the packing ritual starts all over again. At 18:00 I'm fed up with packing and enjoy a beer. Dinner, macaroni lies heavy on my stomach, it's too much and not really very nice. We go for desert again apple tart. The way it's cut is remarkable, 2 very small unequal pieces at Zim$ 50 per piece again. I buy a book on birds in the Shearwater souvenir shop that afternoon, Zim$ 801.

Thursday 6 August, Kariba to Harare

Wake up at 08:00, have a shower and breakfast. Laura doesn't want breakfast and tries to call Betsy unsuccessfully, also very expensive. We take a taxi to Kariba Heights to have a look around. Here they sell the same book on birds for just Zim$459. !%#*$^)(*!%!%. There isn't much to see, we have a hamburger for lunch. At 14:30 UTC meets us for our flight to Harare. Everyone has a surprised look on his or her face when confronted with our luggage. We get a bit anxious and in the end get away without any problems apart for a 25 minutes delay. 21 kg. over weight, if you don't count or hand luggage at ± 60 kg.
Chris, from Nyati Travel picks us up from the airport and takes us to the Courtney hotel. Not even 2 minutes later a knock on the door and a Dutch fax is delivered with a cry for help. The fax is from 4 of my colleagues. Message reads "PC broken down, Novell network down and MSX on the blink. Please return to the office asap". It's a very nice gesture. For the last time we repack. We dine in the hotel and call it a day at 22:15.

Friday 7 August, Harare to Amsterdam

The alarm goes off at 06:30 and during breakfast Chris calls and mentions Chapungu as a nice place to visit. We grab a taxi, it turns out to be an out- and indoor gallery of sculptures. The taxi driver remains with us. We browse and buy some small things. The sculptures are beautiful but also very expensive. Zim$ 80.000 (€ 4180) is nothing special.
Half an hour later we drive to Mbare one of Harare's districts. Behind the very large bus station a shed full of stalls selling all sorts of souvenirs. Both of us buy some small items. We decide to drive back to Chapungu and using my credit card I buy a buste of a widow. The stone used is Verdite. It cost Zim$ 4200 + 5% insurance and Zim$600 for packing. Shipping it out to Holland is an additional Zim$ 1600 but that's to be paid in Holland.

Buste of widow

We return to the hotel and each of us give the driver Zim$ 200 for his efforts. He has been with us the whole morning. Quickly we pack the items bought that morning and at 13:30 we are picked up and driven to the airport. We arrive there at 14:00. Laura joins the check in queue and I make myself useful by exchanging the local money in to USD. Meanwhile Laura has nearly got to the front of the queue and I'm still not done. She finds me and asks for my passport otherwise we can't check in. I'm nearly finished and join her in the queue.
A KLM stewardess sees our entire heap of luggage; we are definitely over the allowed weight. Thankfully we only have to pay €186 for 15kg instead of paying 70kg.
I estimate my hand luggage to be 25kg and Laura's 18kg. We pretend that it weighs only 5. Around 15:30 we board the plane and I manage to load the hand luggage in the overhead locker. Only a 10-minute delay and we take off at 16:05. We fly to Jo'burg and arrive there at 17:25. We're not allowed to disembark. We leave Jo'burg two hours later and the planned arrival time in Amsterdam is 05:25 on Saturday.

Saturday 8 August, Amsterdam to Leiden

We arrive at 05:12 and are home two hours later. Total weight of luggage (after weighing it at home) is 129.8kg. Hand luggage we carried on board weighed in at 55.2kg. My checked luggage weighed 39.2kg and 35.4kg for Laura. Normal allowances are 5-10kg hand luggage and 20kg checked luggage per person.
We do some shopping in the Winkelhof and later that morning we visit the market in Leiden. Laura repacks that afternoon and we go to bed reasonably early. The next morning I take Laura back to Schiphol for her flight to Phoenix.
Schiphol is very busy and I say my goodbyes at 09:00. En route she gets held up in Detroit for quite a while but eventually lands in Phoenix. Her soapstone dancers didn't make it in one piece. We've been carrying it around for three weeks. It could have been worse. My damage turns out to be ± €45, that's not bad at all. All in all it has been a great holiday.

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