Week 45 – Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, and Chobe National Park

This week was yet another action packed week in Africa! We started out getting close to white rhinos, saw thousands of year old bushman paintings, and ended with bungee jumping off a bridge in Victoria Falls 111 meters. I love my life!

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Victoria Falls!

We left Antelope Park around 9 in the morning and drove to Bulawayo. That night our guide for the following day, Ian, came to the campsite and told us about the intense poaching situation of African rhinos. Evidently, in China people eat rhino horn power to use like Viagra. Of course it does nothing, but this creates a huge industry for rhino horn. Each kilo of horn is worth up to $100,000 and this is why it is such a lucrative business. Though rhino horn is like a fingernail that will grow back, many poachers kill the rhino for its horn or chop up its face and leave it. He showed us a really sad video and said that the rhinos in the park all have guards.

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Baby white rhino!

He was trying to explain to us that we need to petition for the ability to sell rhino horns. He had cut off a lot of the horns already of the rhinos so that they will not get poached and explained that if they could be legally sold, the park would get much needed funding and that would eliminate the black market like it did for ivory.

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Ready for our safari!

The following day, we woke up early and went on a safari into the park in Bulawayo. I was a bit scared for the day because I had an awful stomachache, but thankfully the pain eased throughout the day. The goal of this trip was to trek and see white rhinos really close and we succeeded! It didn’t take us long at all to find the rhinos because we knew where they were since they have guards. We got so close!

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Family of white rhino

We saw a mom, a toddler, a baby, and a random male. They didn’t really mind that we were there as long as we stood back. The baby was so cute! It was really curious about us and got a bit too close for comfort. At one point it was coming at me and I backed up so quick that I got a huge thorn in my leg. Ian also said it was rare for the toddler and baby to still be with the mother, but she was a kind mother and didn’t boot her toddler away when the baby came.

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Mom and baby rhino

We stayed with the rhinos for about an hour and then we left the forest. We returned to the jeeps and had some cold drinks. I had a ginger beer and it was perfect because it calmed my stomach. Then, they drove us to a market. With Absolute Africa, included was the half day tour, but then we could pay more money for a full day tour and I am so glad I did.

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No big deal…just hanging out with rhinos

We drove further into the park and then stopped for an amazing lunch of sandwiches, potato salad and cole slaw. Then, we continued on to go see the bush men paintings. The drive to the cave was gorgeous! There were really large rocks everywhere you looked and it was also fun because we passed through many villages on the way there. When we passed, children ran after the car and tried to give us high fives as we were driving.

Driving to the bushmen paintings

Once we arrived, we had to climb up a pretty vertical cliff to reach the cave. It was a gorgeous climb and we were rewarded with some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

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The amazing view as we climbed

When we arrived the paintings were amazing! I expected the paintings to be rudimentary, but they were really well done and proportional. The other interesting thing is they show the way of life 50,000 years ago. The animals in the paintings are all of the same animals that are still in Africa and you can see them hunting the antelope for food.

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The cave with the bushmen paintings

Ian was so knowledgable about the bushmen. These tribes of nomads were some of the first people to walk this planet. Their populations are dwindling in Africa and that is a shame because they keep the same customs and culture that they have kept for thousands of years. They only ever take what they need from nature and never any more. Another fun fact is that they can sit down and eat 20 kg of meat in one sitting. They have evolved over the years to store extra fat in their butts and so they eat a lot when they have it and then live off the fat stores in their butt. Pretty crazy!

These paintings are 50,000 years old!

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Story time with Ian

After we heard about the bushmen, we hiked up to the top of the mountain for 360 degree views of everything around. Yasmine and I ran to the very top to see the views from all sides. Then, we did some rock climbing to take some fun pictures. Our final activity of the day was to pass by a local bar on the way home to try banana beer. It actually wasn’t too terrible. It reminded me of a lot of the fermented drinks I had in South America.

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Views from the top of the mountain
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A little bit of rock climbing

The following day we headed to Victoria Falls. This was one of the stops I was looking forward to the most. I heard about Victoria Falls when I first came to South Africa and it has been on my list ever since. We arrived around 5pm and went straight to a briefing about the activities that could be done there. 

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Truck shenanigans

That night was a totally unexpected crazy, fun night. Many of us were sitting around the hostel in sweatpants/pajamas and none of realized it was a Saturday night. We were staying at a hostel called Shoestring Backpackers and I guess that is the best bar in Victoria Falls. We were talking and looked up and found a packed bar! Most of the people there were locals which made it even more fun. So, we started drinking! Then, we started dancing. One of the best moments of the night is that we put on Lucky (the Britney Spears song) because it had become our trip song and everyone on the dance floor sat down in protest.

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View of the national forest in Victoria Falls

At the bar, we met a lot of local guys who were really cool and they asked us if we wanted to come to an after party with them. So, Anika, Freya and I went with them to a local guys house where we probably acted like complete fools, but it was so fun. We were making them play all kinds of games we play on the truck and they probably thought we were weird. Then, we all went to the national park right next to the river to watch the stars. We stayed until the sunrise and it was a really fun night!

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Victoria Falls at sunset

The following afternoon, I decided to go to see the falls with Freya, Jess, Sarah and Tom. We started walking and first went the wrong direction. So, we returned to the national park where we were the night before. It was a beautiful day and a lovely walk. Also, it gave us an opportunity to see the big baobab tree. I was sad that we could not actually touch the tree, but its always fun to see a giant tree.

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The giant baobab tree

 

Finally, we made it to the falls and they were absolutely stunning! We had heard that the best time of day to go was between 3 and 4 because that is when the sunshine would shine on the falls and create the most rainbows. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day! There were rainbows everywhere and the falls were so big! 

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The main falls at Victoria Falls

 

Other shenanigans at the falls

We didn’t realize we had started part way through, so if you go make sure you start as far left as you can go. There, you can see the beginning of the falls. As soon as we got the falls we were amazed. I mean where else can you stand under rainbows looking a giant waterfall. As we continued on, it became wetter and wetter. It was almost raining on us. I had to bring a trash bag to put my backpack in. By the time we were finished, we were soaked to the bone.

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Standing under a rainbow!
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First time I have ever seen a whole rainbow

We were told that it was best to see the falls at two different times of day so we could see the falls in two different lights. So, after we finished our first loop, we stopped at the cafe in the park and got milkshakes. We headed back into the falls at sunset. I am so happy we did this because the falls definitely looked different at this time of day. Also, it was amazing to see the sunset over the falls. On the way out, we found a cool tree vine that was like a swing and we had a lot of fun on that! Photo shoot!

The same view from two different times of day

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The perfect swing

The following day I woke up early to go white water rafting with Bellz, Tom, and Sarah. The river is high water at this time of the year, so instead of grade 5 rapids, we only had grade 3. Also, we didn’t get as many rapids because we had to start further downstream. I would really like to come back here and do the rafting when there is low water because it is supposed to be ridiculous.

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The main bridge and canyon of Victoria Falls

To begin rafting, we had to hike down into the canyon, which took us about 30 minutes. We had to carry all of our gear and it was slippery on the way down. Then, we got in and they had us practice all of our commands and then we were off! The first couple of rapids were really fun! They were huge waves and I was scared we would tip. Our boat was really good though because no one fell out and we did not tip the entire time. It was a really fun time down the rapids and was it more fun because some of the people in my boat had never rafted before.

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The hotel for high tea

We rafted for about 1.5 hours and then had to again climb out of the canyon. I used this as exercise and walked really fast up the gorge. Once at the top, we had beers and a really good barbecue lunch. It was a great morning!

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The hotel we went to for high tea

After rafting, I showered and then went to high tea at a hotel that overlooked the iconic bridge right near the falls. We dressed up in dresses and headed over to the hotel. It was really fun because I haven’t gone to a tea in a really long time. We had unlimited tea and then split trays of cakes and sandwiches, which were delicious! We stayed for awhile and enjoyed the view. Then, sat in the lobby because the couches were so comfortable for at least an hour.

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Our platter for high tea

That night, our friends from the first night came back to the hostel and we hung out with them again. It was a big night for everyone on the trip and Jess was even doing splits with drinks in her hand. It was hilarious! Freya and I left again with our new friends and went to Paul’s house to drink some more. His house was beautiful! He had a bar out back and where we played darts with a blow gun. Yet another fun night!

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The sitting area for high tea was so comfortable!

The following day was my last day in Victoria Falls. The whole trip I had been considering doing a bungee jump at Victoria Falls and while here it consumed my mind. So, I just decided to do it. I wanted to do it in the afternoon before it closed because in the morning we had our leaving meeting for Derek and it was Anika’s birthday.

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Freya and I excited for the day

Here, we would change over our trip leader from Derek to Chris. Chris is a local Zimbabwean and he ended up being really great as well, but our whole tour was very sad to see Derek go. He had been a big part of our group and it’s always sad to leave part of the group behind. We would also be losing Yuan and Yasmine the following morning.

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Ready for a bike ride through the National Park

After birthday ice cream with Anika for her birthday, Freya and I rented bikes for an hour and we went to the National Park for a third time. We really loved it there! It was such a great way to see the park because it was really quiet and we were able to see some animals. We were really close to a herd of impala at one point. We also walked down to the river and sat for awhile looking at the water. Then, we heard a hippo grunt, a rustle in the bush, and freaked out because we though a hippo was coming.

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Sitting by the river

During the ride, Freya’s chain came off of her bike and then got stuck. So, I had to be a handy women and fix the chain, which I am kind of proud of. The rest of the drive just comprised of beautiful trees and sunshine. Then, we returned the bikes because it was time for my bungee! Throughout the day, I was more and more nervous for the jump. Walking down to the bridge my nerves were an all time high. The weird part though is that once I got down there, I wasn’t scared at all! 

Getting ready to bungee!

As soon as I walked up, I was able to start the process to jump. They weighed me, strapped me in a harness, then wrapped my feet up with towels and straps. Then, I was ready to go! I was talking to the man strapping me in and he said they would give me a countdown, but I told him I was definitely jumping before 1 because if they say 1 and I haven’t jumped yet, I never would.

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Ready to jump!

Then, it was time to jump. I waddled to the edge because my feet were tied together. I was trying my best not to look down at all in case I got nervous. The hard part is when they tell you to put your toes over the edge and you have to look down. Then, I put my arms out to the side and waited for the countdown.

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I jumped!

Then, I jumped! I jumped off a bridge and the bungee was 111 meters! Really high. I can’t even remember what I thought about as I was falling. I thought the recoil might hurt, but it didn’t at all. I think I liked the second bounce the best because you bounce really high up, but you already know that your rope holds. For a couple of minutes, they let me bob up and down and it was so peaceful. Behind me was a waterfall and I was jumping into rainbows. All in all it was an amazing experience!

After my jump, I returned to the hostel and took a shower. Then, waited to get picked up by one of the guys we had become friends with named Daniel. His parents owned a property that is right on the edge of the national forest and they had built a platform there. So, we got a pizza and some wine and went up there to watch the stars. He was a field guide so he knew a lot about the constellations.

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Huge crocodile in Chobe National Park

The following morning, we left Victoria Falls, crossed into Botswana, and drove the Kasane, which is just outside of Chobe National park. We had the option of doing a morning game drive, but I was so tired from Victoria Falls that I opted for a nap instead. I am really glad I didn’t spend the money on a game drive because I heard it wasn’t very good.

Our first sighting of kudu

That evening I went on a sunset boat cruise, which was amazing! The water was really pretty and it was a gorgeous day. We saw a couple of Kudu eating on the shore, which was exciting because that was our first Kudu sighting. We also saw a lot of elephants in the water eating the grasses. They were really interesting to watch because they would pull the grass up from the bottom and then beat it on the water to rinse off the sand before they ate it. To me, it looked like they just enjoyed playing with their food.

We also saw a crash of hippos in the water eating the grasses as well. This is the first time I saw a hippo eat in the water and I loved to watch them chomp away. Nearby, we found the biggest crocodile I have seen this trip.

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Hippos eating in the water

Our final animals that we saw were a giant herd of elephants on the shore. It was a whole family and varied in ages. There was even a baby elephant which couldn’t be any older than 3 months. They all lined up perfectly on shore to drink water. It was an amazing sight.

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Elephants drinking on the shore

Finally, the sunset over the water on our trip back was another sunset for the books. I have seen the most amazing sunrises and sunsets this year. I am so lucky!

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Sunset over Chobe

The following day we had a drive day to Maun, which is just outside of the Okavango Delta. We stocked up on supplies for the delta at the grocery store and arrived in the early evening.

Next stop, Okavango Delta!

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