“Brrraaap brrraaap brraaap!” My iPhone’s alarm function chirped at 5:00am on the dot.
I remember making a mental note that I really had to change the ringtone that I had selected to wake me up – I was getting sick of hearing it, and it wasn’t making waking up in the pitch-black of the early morning hours any easier. Already dressed in my thermals, long trousers and warm hoodie, all I had to do that morning was locate my hat, scarf and thin gloves to complete my wardrobe for that morning’s sunrise game drive through Chobe National Park. It was the last chance that I’d have to see the last of my African ‘Big 5’ animals- the leopard. I’d already had the wonderful experience of seeing lions, elephants, rhinoceros and buffalo – the elusive and notoriously hard to find leopard was the last on my to-see list.
I, along with five other travelers from my Nomad Adventure Tours group hopped on board the same large 4×4 safari vehicle we had been on the day previous and we were joined by six other travelers from another overland tour company. Once on board, we made our way towards the Serondela main gates to Chobe National Park just as the dawn was breaking through the darkness of the night’s sky. The safari truck bounded through the sandy trails and we stumbled upon a few giraffe nibbling on some leaves for their morning snacks. Further along the road, as the sun managed to peek it’s way above the horizon, we came across a lone baboon who was more interested in picking up every last little piece of animal poo and having a little taste. Bon appetit, Mr. Baboon! With camera in hand, we snapped away at the different wildlife, all much the same that we had seen the afternoon previous. After a couple hours of meandering through the park, our driver told us he was going to be heading back to camp, and apologized to us for not being able to show us any big cats.
I was slightly bummed, as I had high hopes of getting to see all of the ‘Big 5’ – but took it as an excuse that I would have to one day return to Africa. We returned to camp and all of the tents had already been taken down. We were able to enjoy some early lunch as the others who had stayed behind, milled about doing their own thing. By 11am we were all hopping on board Harrison, the Nomad Adventure Tours overland truck, and en route to the Botswana/ Zimbabwe border.
First stop was the Botswana border patrol where we expertly breezed through – each of us getting a red ‘departure’ stamp in our passports. It was then onward towards the Zimbabwe border. Shingie, our Nomad Adventure Tours guide, told us to get out our American dollars and get ready to hand it over to the officials in exchange for a visitor visa. Now being one of two Canadians on board the Nomad Adventure Tours overland truck, this was about the time I wish that I hadn’t been born in the Great White North. You see- Zimbabwe hates Canadians. Not literally. But they do in the sense that we get proverbially anal raped when it comes to the price of our visitor visa – it would seem that the country that’s led by Mr. Mugabe just doesn’t seem to like us peaceful canucks all that much- and charges us a whopping $75USD for a single entry.
Prior to my trip, I had been speaking with the lovely Toni of Reclaiming my Future, and she had highly recommended doing a microlight flight over Victoria Falls, one the the Seven Wonders of the World. By this point in the tour, I knew participating in this activity meant that I would have to get to the Zambia side of Victoria Falls- thus it would require me getting a multiple entry visa.
I walked up to the counter where two Zimbabwean border officials were working away at processing visas for our group. “How much is it for a multiple entry?” I asked as I handed over my Canadian passport.
“No multiple entry for you.” The man said to me rather sharply.
“What?! Why?!” I asked confused and alarmed -the way he said it reminded me a lot of the ‘Soup Nazi’ episode of Seinfeld!
He tapped on the front of my passport. “No multiple entry for Canadians!”
“But I want to go over to Zambia and come back.” I tried to explain.
“Then you pay $75 American dollars again.” The man said exasperated.
“Oh…Well screw that.” I said, deflated. Then I smiled, and looked the man in the eye, “I’ll just take a single entry then.”
You could tell he was trying to keep up his ‘official border patrol’ authoritative attitude, but I saw that little smile that he gave me. I handed over my $75USD and went to wait with the others as our passports received their beautiful full-page Zimbabwe visitor visas. Within half an hour we were all processed and ready to go on our sweet way. But of course we had to stop at the official welcoming sign to Zimbabwe and take a few pictures.
With Sandile at the wheel, we made our way into the ‘city’ of Victoria Falls – which actually surprised me with how little and quaint it is. With only a couple main streets in the central business district, it was surprising to see how small the city actually was. The overland truck pulled over into a parking lot and we were greeted by a group of Zimbabwean men dressed in tribal type outfits singing and dancing. Sue – of course – went up to them, and danced and clapped along. While Sue danced away, the rest of us were getting clad in our rain jackets- ready to go see one of the Seven Wonders of the World. When the men stopped singing and Sue stopped dancing, Shingie led us across the street to the Victoria Falls National Park. He told us to follow the paths and make sure that we protected our cameras from the mist.
Since I went to university just outside of Niagara Falls, Canada– regular trips to the falls were commonplace- I was prepared for some mist. What I was NOT prepared for was a full-on shower and getting soaked through my raincoat. Columbia – your rain jacket failed me. My brand new flip-flops that I had JUST purchased in Maun were destroyed when I slipped and the part that goes between your toes broke beyond repair. Despite looking like I’d stepped into the shower with my clothes on, and having to wander around barefoot, the views were absolutely breathtaking.
Due to the amount of water that the ‘mist’ was raining down on us it was hard to get really good photographs with my DSLR and I’d forgotten my waterproof Go Pro on the truck. Alas the views were incredible and the sheer size of the falls was breathtaking. The roar of the water going over the falls was incredibly loud – something else I wasn’t really expecting, having visited Canada’s Niagara Falls countless times.
After everyone had their fill of nature and was soaked to the bone, we went back out to the parking lot where we had left the truck. We hopped on board and were taken to our accommodations for the following two nights – Adventure Lodge. We were given our keys to our rooms (we each got our own private room! Thanks Nomad Adventure Tours!), we dropped off our bags, and took off every last personal item from Harrison for the last time. After settling in, we met in the restaurant/bar area where we were given a presentation on all the different optional activities we could do – everything from White Water Rafting down the Zambezi River in Grade 5 rapids (the highest grade) to bungee jumping to walking with lions to having a spa day.
I chose my activities that I would fill up my entire day the following day and paid. I then returned to my room where I started getting ready for dinner. It was to be our last meal as a group and Shingie and Sandile had organized for us to go to a restaurant in town called Mamma Africa. We rocked up to the restaurant at 7pm and were seated at a long table large enough to fit all 16 of us. We drank, we laughed, we reminisced and most importantly we ate good food all whilst an African band played some classic hits on the covered patio.
After a lovely dinner complete with speeches and presenting Shingie, Sandile and Shaun with their tip envelopes – half of the group continued the party on at a backpacker bar across town – Shoestrings. Anyone who’s been to Victoria Falls knows Shoestrings. They know the massive Ridgeback dogs the size of small horses that wander around the place or curl up on the bar’s couches. They know the provocatively dressed male bartenders with awesome braids who dance along to a wicked soundtrack while pouring drinks for the tourists that keep them in business. They know Dexter – who is the ‘artist in residence’ and proudly shows all tourists his “Global Village” moving art display made from any recycled bits that he may find. Shoestrings is definitely the place to go in Victoria Falls and we all had an incredible time before heading back to the Adventure Lodge in our very inebriated states.
I managed to make it back to my room and as I lay in my bed I couldn’t help but think it felt strange to be alone. Sue wasn’t in the bed next to me – rather my 85L backpack took up much of the single bed next to mine. In my drunken state, it dawned on me that I was truly in my happy place. My heart had begun to beat to the sound of an African drum and I had found that I was falling in love with the continent more and more each day. The next day would mark the official end to my time with Nomad Adventure Tours and I planned to live every moment of the day to it’s absolute fullest. But for the time being, it was time to get some much-needed shuteye as the following day would be jam packed!
Check out the FINAL day on tour. Click HERE for Day 20
Start from the beginning! Click HERE for Day 1
**DISCLAIMER: While Nomad Adventure Tours did provide me with a discounted tour, all expressed thoughts, opinions and experiences remain my own.**
**If you would like more information about Nomad Adventure Tours and their products – contact me!**