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04 August 2012

Day 12, June 13. Johannesburg and home.

The safari feels over, but we are still traveling. Our flight back to the US doesn't leave until the evening. So, we tour Johannesburg. Tonia has hired a motorcoach to take us around town.

The D'Oreale Grande:

D'Oreale Grande

D'Oreale Grande

As we drove, Tonia told us the history of Johannesburg as well as of South Africa. We went to Nelson Mandela's historic home. We also visited the Apartheid Museum. She took us to Soweto, where she had arranged a local guide. The guide showed us educational projects and gave us a tour of his own home and the area around it. Soweto is the most populous black urban residential area in South Africa, and historical in its role in the struggle against apartheid. Finally she took us to the airport and helped us negotiate immigration, then we said our sad good-byes. Tonia is the best tour guide ever! She took such good care of us, knew everything about everything, and was fun to talk to. I'm linking to her website below.

At the airport, Paula bought a gift for each of the guys:

animal droppings

A little remeberance for dung-spitting!

Long flights, and we are home. What a great trip. Thanks to Tonia, Odyssey Unlimited, and the Roaming Buffs for their parts in this tour.

Tonia's Tusker Trails: www.tuskertrails.co.za
Odysseys Unlimited: www.odysseys-unlimited.com
University of Colorado Roaming Buffs: www.cualum.org/travel-home/

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03 August 2012

Day 11. Good-bye to safari days.

I kept a handwritten journal of the trip. Here is my entry for this morning.

John got up early and went fishing, while I watched a monkey in our tree and got some great coffee and sent a couple emails. All last night, we enjoyed the sounds of the hippos, knowing we might never hear them again. We packed up and had our last breakfast on the Royal Zambezi Lodge deck. Got in the safari truck, looking wistfully back at the lodge as we drove to the airstrip.

That said, here are my photos from the morning.

monkey in tree

View at sunrise:

view at sunrise

Breakfast table:

breakfast table

breakfast table

The view:

view

Bye-bye hippos:

view of submerged hippos

We are just about to leave. John talking to the chef. That's Simeon on the right.

John and Simeon

The entrance to the Royal Zambezi. Our bags are being loaded, and our group is standing at the top of the steps.

Royal Zambezi Lodge

Bye jeep.

safari jeep

Here's our plane.

our plane

The small plane took us on the 30 minute flight to Lusaka (Zambia), where we caught a plane for the 1 hour 45 minute flight to Johannesburg. We again stayed at the L'Oreale Grande. This time, we had time to explore the hotel. We found it was connected to the huge casino area next door. We ambled through the noisy gambling machines and card gambling areas. There was a fake "outside" area. It was so much like Las Vegas, and not what I had expected to see in South Africa.

We gathered for our final dinner together. It was wonderful, I scanned in a copy of the menu. We talked a lot and drank probably too much. A fitting last dinner for our trip.

our group

menu

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02 August 2012

Day 10. Afternoon and evening.

On the way back to the Royal Zambezi from the village visit, we saw some hippos on the shore. When our boat came near, some of them decided to go into the water.

hippos

hippos

These two guys stayed on shore. But where are the others? Under the water somewhere.

hippos

We had a nice, lazy afternoon to enjoy the Royal Zambezi. From our tent we could hear the hippos bellow. They bellow all night too. We'd hear other animal sounds too at night, I think we heard a lion roar once, or a hyena call.

I did a last photo tour so that I'd have reminders of our tent and the lodge. Here is the view from the deck of our tent. The low wall you see is just above the swimming pool and then to the right, the bar. That's John sitting there talking to Doug.

the bar from our tent

Our deck:

our deck

This is the door to our tent (where our "knock knock" call came each morning). Note that locks on lodge units are not necessary out in this remote area. We did have a room safe for our passports and cash, so that we did not have to carry them on daily activities.

door to our tent

Our short walk to the lodge. Short, but at night, we had to be escorted by our guide.

Royal Zambezi

The view of the lodge as we get closer on the walk from our tent. To the left is the river, to the right is a long stairway up to the jeeps and the way out to civilization.

Royal Zambezi

The steps out:

Royal Zambezi

The photo below is of two of the boats. The ones we took seated 8 people, but they looked like these boats. Some people come to the lodge just to fish.

boats

John and Doug at the bar:

bar

The pool is right next to the bar. It was way too chilly this time of year to swim. We had to ask for extra blankets at night.

pool

A view of the lodge from the bar area:

Royal Zambezi

Looking through the lodge (my back was to the river) at the steps up to the jeeps:

steps

Those steps were about the only exercise we got on the entire trip.

One of the large alcoves of the lodge:

Royal Zambezi

Lodge area:

Royal Zambezi

Royal Zambezi

At 4 pm we climbed down into a boat and went for a sundowner. I left the camera behind. This time, I'm out only to enjoy the here and now.

One of our tour mates did not have a good photo of an open-mouthed hippo yet, so we spent some time chasing down the perfect hippo. That was a fun challenge, because if they smelled or saw you, they'd immediately duck down in the water. On the shore, we saw a bushbuck, a type of antelope that we had not yet seen on the trip.

We landed on an island and had our drinks and snacks. A cape buffalo herd was on the island, a viable, breeding group. Simeon and I talked about the sustainablity of the herds of elephants in national parks like Chobe, where the animals are eating all of the vegetation. Maybe the herds need to be culled, but if locals try to do that, international groups get wind of their plans and cry at the outrage of killing elephants. It was an eye-opening talk, and once again I was impressed with Simeon's knowledge.

We were greeted with amarula on our return to the lodge. This is a cream liqueur made from the fruit of the African marula tree. It is a favorite of our tour guide and at least one of our tour mates. It was lovely!

Dinner that night was a traditional braai, or barbecue. We lingered awhile after dinner, then made our way back to our tent. I'd been inside for just a few minutes when I heard a lot of crashing outside. I looked out, and there was an elephant! And we thought they were kidding about needing a guard! A couple of our tour members were walking on the path when the elephant went by. After the initial startle, they walked slowly backwards to the lodge.

Ah, Africa. Wish we could stay.

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01 August 2012

Day 10. Trip to a village.

Today we visit a village to learn about the local culture and to visit the village school. We leave about eight in the morning for the trip. It's a 45 minute, very cold boat ride. We are met by the village hostess, or village tour guide.

Chiawa village:

village

village sign

The children of the village are very curious about their tourist-visitors. Below is a photo of the first kids that we saw. Don't worry, I have better photos of these beautiful young people. At this point, I am documenting that from the very first moment, the children started following us around.

village kids

Our village guide gives a short introductory presentation, then we walk through the living area of the village. There are huts and small buildings scattered around, a central area with a water pump and a farmers market, and kind of a city-center area with music and bars.

village

village

village

village

Okay, here are the photos of kids. We were forewarned that they liked to have their pictures taken, and then they want to see the photo on our digital cameras. Those of us taking photos were nearly mobbed, in a friendly and cute way. The photos below are only a fraction of the all the photos I took.

village kids

village kids

village kids

village kids
note the schoolgirl dressed in green behind the group of kids

village kids

village kids

village kids

village kids

village kids

The village school is near the edge of the village.

village school
entry to school

village school

village kids
a schoolgirl

The school goes from primary grades through high school. We visited several different classrooms, or grades. In each, our tour group was presented to the students and they said hello to us in English. In one classroom, we were encouraged to go around and talk to individual students. Below is a photo of the entrance to the science class.

village school

More kids:

village kids

This class is made up of orphans (many are AIDs orphans).

school kids

Next, we went to the "cultural" area of the village. This is an area not so much actively lived-in as preserved to show the cultural heritage of the local peoples. We were taught how to properly greet the chief, and then we met the chief. Then we walked around the different huts and our guide explained what is done in each one, such as food storage or preparation, etc.

village

village

Our village guide then took us to see a small museum and explained all the artifacts:

village museum

This is the "hippo watch tower". Someone is always on watch and ready to give an alert if a hippo tries to come into the village. Hippos and elephants wreak havoc on gardens, and hippos will charge right over anyone who comes between them and the water.

hippo watch tower

Making flour:

making flour

The final part of the tour was a dance recital by the local village women.



At one point, they came out into the audience and tied sashes around our waists and led us back to join in their dance.



They demonstrated a "spinner top" game. John tried it.



We returned by boat to the Royal Zambezi in the early afternoon. This is our last full day of the safari, we are sad it's almost over. Well, at least we have the afternoon to enjoy.

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