Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Whirlwind

Dear reader,

My travel companions!
How are you? It's been awhile, huh? Whoops, sorry 'bout that. I fully intended on giving you the blow-by-blow of my month long trek around south western Africa, but it was a long time ago, the details are getting fuzzy, and the thought of sitting down to write six more posts has kept me from doing just that. So instead I'm going write one more highlights-only posts of my trip. I'm sure you'll hear more of the details later. So here goes nothing.




Poling on the Delta


Day 3: Maun- mokoro trip. Peaceful, beautiful, nice to be on water again. Went on a game walk and saw a heard of zebras. After lunch, I tried my hand at poling and actually wasn't terrible (Ben-- I think I could take you on at paddle boarding!). Oh, and we almost hit a hippo on the way back. Note to self: hippos are really big. Like *really* big.






Sunset cruise on the Zambezi River



Day 4: To Livingstone- super lucky travel day. Hardly had to wait for anything, and we also managed to negotiate the exact right price for a taxi, despite not knowing the exchange rate. Score one for the Americans.








Day 5: Vic Falls- Zambian side. Words can't describe how gorgeous it is, you'll just have to wait for pictures (and even those don't do it justice. You should probably just book your trip and see for yourself...) We got drenched, but it was totally worth it.








Day 6: Vic Falls- Zimbabwe side. is it possible for the falls to be even more spectacular? Yes, yes it is. Also, got to handle American money again, it was weird. Got photographed for a Zimbabwe tourism website at lunch, and I ate crocodile skewers (all for you, Sean).





(I now take a break from the highlights-only post to go into detail about the craziest thing I did all trip: jump into the Batoka Gorge.)The restaurant was in a lodge, and the lodge (like most in the area) had a booking center where you can book all sorts of adventures and outings. I had wanted to try a zipline sort of thing, so we went over to check it out. I must have been feeling pretty brave, because I ended up signing up for the gorge swing...hey, once in a lifetime, right? Basically, they drove us out to the gorge right below the falls, strapped me into a harness (actually two), brought me out to the edge of the platform and told me to jump. Ok, it was a little more organized than that, but that was the gist. The guy who was on the platform with me told me that after I jumped, I would free fall 70m in 3 seconds, then drop into a pendulum swing. He had heard me say earlier that I was a math teacher and right before nudging me off, he said "quick, what speed will you fall at?" Uh, what?! Sorry sir, I'm slightly preoccupied by the 200m jump I'm about to take, can you repeat that? He told me to think about on the way down and report back. Yeah, ok. Then he gave me a nudge. I had a split second of "oh shit. what did I just do?" before the rush took over and all I could do was grin the rest of the way down. There I was, swinging in a harness with the roaring waters of the Zambezi river swirling 3 meters below me, and what did I do? Start thinking about that math problem of course! Well it was much easier to think about at the bottom of the gorge than it was at the top, and I quickly calculated an average speed of 23.333... m/s (this, of course, is based off of 70m in 3 seconds, which isn't entirely accurate if you actually calculate the acceleration due to gravity, which I did as I was being pulled up...yes, I'm a nerd, I know). When I was safely back on the ground, I was greeted by the impressed looking faces of Matt and Jenn, who handed me a Hunter's. They know me well.

So this happened. (Major photo props to Matt!)

On the crossing back into Zambia, we encountered the worst negotiator in all of Africa. When hyperinflation had reached it's peak in 2009, you could find Zimbabwean bank notes in hilariously high amounts, such as 500 million dollars. Now, they've scraped the Zimbabwean dollar, and are using American currency, but you people still sell the old (now worthless) bank notes as souvenirs. After I refused to pay $10 for 5 worthless pieces of paper, this man tried to haggle with me, but I kept refusing. Finally he said he would just give me one if I wished him luck. Uh, ok! Then another guy on the bridge offered to trade me a one billion dollar note for my shirt. Um, no thanks.


Breakfast view of "the Smoke that Thunders"
from the deck at the lodge.
Day 7: to Ngepi Camp. Took the Intercape Bus back into Namibia. Lots of religious/super melodramatic, awful acted movies blaring right above my head. Awesome. Got to the camp pretty late, but the staff re-opened the bar for us, then we all sat around a campfire while a hippie in dreads played the guitar. Reminded me of my theatre days...

Day 8: Ngepi- basically we relaxed all day and just hung around the camp. It was exactly what we needed.

Day 9: More travel. We were hoping to make it to Grootfontein, but we got a slow start and had to wait awhile for a hike out of Divundu. We finally found one in the back of an open bakki, and the guy was booking it. My ears hurt a little... When we got to Rundu, we discovered it was too late in the day to get anything out, so we decided to stay the night. Makeshift dinner of cold focaccia bread from Spar and milkshakes from the bar for desert while we finally figured out what we all owed each other for money. Early bed.

Day 10: Back to Windhoek. I awoke early in the morning on our last day to the sound of birds chirping. I realized that I wasn't cold for the first night of the whole trip, and closed my eyes to sleep for another hour before we had to get up. As I started to fall back asleep, I hear a rustling noise in my tent. Uhhhh. I look down, and see a swarm of fire ants right under my sleeping bag. Yup. I had slept on an acacia thorn that had poked holes in the bottom of my tent, which provided the perfect doorway for a couple hundred fire ants to make their way in. Needless to say, I leaped out of my tent, trying (and failing) to make as little noise as possible. Pulled all my belongings out, spent a half hour brushing everything off, threw out the tent, and took a shower.

Combi to Windhoek. Back to Chameleon. Dinner at Joe's Beer Garden (too kitschy for my taste, super unimpressed with the beer selection), then early bed. Up at 4am for my 7am flight to Cape Town.

So that pretty much sums up the first half of my trip. Sorry for the super abridged version, but I promise to share the full version with everyone when I see you again. I'll post again soon about Cape Town and Etosha with mom.

Till then,
Jamie

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