Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Day 5 - Zimbabwe (and back to South Africa)

Well once again, I was up way too late last night. So when I heard beating on my door at 6:25 this morning, I literally had NO idea what was going on. My alarm was set for 6:45 for my 7am departure. (I'm fast like that. ;)) On top of being just exhausted because I haven't gotten anywhere close to the amount of sleep I'm used to, I was just totally out of it. And not anywhere close to fully awake as I made my way out of the mosquito nets and stumbled to the door partially clothed. 

And when I opened it...after the THIRD round of loud knocking...there was this little white guy with a huge grin and a big, loud "Good MORNING Terri! Are you ready for your 6:30 departure?!" Ugh. Does it look like I'm ready? (I literally just had a tank top on.) He clearly didn't get the memo yesterday about moving the departure from 6:30 to 7. So I told him to give me 15 minutes and I would meet him downstairs. 

I was a little shaken up after that. Not how I like to be woken up, I was way tired, and I hate having people wait on me. And how did he get my room number?? Haha. That would never happen in the US. ;)

But anyways, I rallied. I didn't know if I was coming back to my room that day or not. I had the trip to the falls and then a helicopter tour and then off to the airport for my 1:10 flight. So I got dressed, grabbed my super heavy and stuffed to capacity backpack (I fit Boma the hippo in there last night!) and grabbed the last free bottle of Vic Falls wine I had in the room - hey it was free, so I was taking it - and was in the lobby in 15. 

Looking a little rough 😁

I gave Chive, my guide, the bottle of wine as a gift for being late (even though I asked it to be changed) and tried to figure out the plan for the day. 

He wasn't sure if I was coming back or not either and couldn't get ahold of the company I booked through, so I put my bags in the trunk of his car and went to check out. Couldn't  check out at the main lodge. Had to go back to Safari Club to check out. And guess who i saw as soon as I walked up. My favorite guy who opened the bar up for us the night before!  He worked on checking me out while I quickly grabbed a piece of toast and some fruit around the corner. 

So much delicious looking food - all free - and I never got the chance to have any of it. I guess that's what happens when you plan 18 things to do in three countries...in 48 hours. 😳 

Finally got all squared away and Chive and I took off for the victoria falls national park. He took me on a little mini game drive through a back road to get there. He's so cool and we really hit it off. Such a fun guy. He oddly reminded me a lot of my dad, so that was nice. 

Had to get out for pictures at the second largest tree in all of Africa! 

Once we got to the falls, he was telling me how wet I was going to get. I didn't really know I was going to get soaked so I changed pants right there in the parking lot in to my pajama pants. Haha. I have to wear my jeans the rest of the day. And wet jeans in the African heat sounded pretty awful. I looked ridiculous but Chive said it was a solid fashion statement. ;)

We quickly breezed through the informational part at the front of the entrance. He's my kind of traveler. Don't waste time reading the stuff, just go see it. I snapped a few pics and he filled me in on the rest of what I needed to know as we went. 

So the pic on the left is when you're supposed to swim to the edge of the falls...and as you can see from the video I posted on Instagram, it definitely looks like pic on the right right now. Oops. ;)

Victoria Falls is much MUCH bigger than I thought. What I saw from swimming to be edge in Zambia didn't even touch it. I had no idea... I mean it's massive. Seriously impressive. 

We walked to the far end first and I was blown away by a small waterfall (small in terms of the overall size of Vic falls). It was so gorgeous with the sun coming up and the most beautiful rainbow. I just loved it. 

And you know how excited I can get at something like this. Nature and hiking through a rainforest and waterfalls and rainbows. And AFRICA. Yeah, I was freaking out. And Chive was loving it. He eventually took my big camera and started snapping away for me. I just couldn't take it all in and take pictures and still walk and breathe at the same time, haha. ;)

So we kept walking along the path and he asked me how I was with stairs and walking etc, and I said on the boot? I don't let it slow me down. And he said clearly. I see that. As he was laughing. 

We hit all the stops along the trails and the views just kept getting better as we got closer to the middle. I was still in shock at just how long they were. They went on forever. Several kilometers. And then we started to hit the part where you get wet. The spray was so strong from the power of all the water hitting the bottom of the gorge that it was literally was like we were walking in a torrential downpour. I had a rain poncho on but it was so strong it just blew it up...and soaked me. From head to toe (or boot).

We walked out to one viewing point and stood on the edge of a rock with nothing between us and the bottom of the falls. No barriers or ropes or anything and i could hardly even see right in front of me. He kept holding on to me and yelling (because it was so loud from the thunder of the water) to just wait. The mist might clear up with just the perfect conditions (a breeze the right way) and we would have a magnificent view. I was over it, not going to lie. I was almost weak in the knees from standing what felt like an inch from death and being hammered with water and wind. But of course Chive was right. After a few eternally long minutes we got a clearing for about 30 seconds. And it was magnificent. An unobscured view of the falls...and a double rainbow. No joke. (Good thing because I would have been pissed if I endured that for nothing...) I tried to get my camera out for a second as we were walking away and it cleared a bit but the water was too much so I only got this. 

You only have seconds to get the shot there, and I wasn't ready - or wiling to risk ruining my phone... 

We kept walking further but really it was just like walking in a hurricane the rest of the way. Not much of a view at all but the spray itself was quite impressive, as was the sound. (Oh and Chive said I came just in time. In two to three weeks the water will be so high and strong that you won't be able to see anything from anywhere because the spray will be too much!)

Soaked to the bone by the end of it. So much for that poncho. I don't think it helped one bit. Squishy shoes are bad but a squishy boot is worse! 

We race walked back to the car after that and called my guy to figure out what the plan was for after that. We had some time to kill (I told them I wouldn't need three hours to walk through the falls!) so he took me to a viewing point and to see a spot where they have a zipline and s gorge swing. The swing thing looked pretty awesome - a 75 foot free fall towards  the Zambezi River before the rope catches you and swings you all the way across the gorge. Totally would have done it if I had time -- and hadn't already spent a chunk of change on the heli ride. 

We decided to go get some food quickly before I had to be at the heli pad. Chive literally knew everyone. Every place we went, everyplace we drove...he would roll his window down and say hi to his friends. We went to a trendy lite cafe and I literally think he knew every person in the place. Everyone loves him!

Ordered not one but TWO breakfasts and they were both so so delicious. You never know when you're going to get the chance to eat here - especially with my schedule - so I was pretty pumped for a 30 minute brunch break. And good food to boot!

Went to the helicopter pad after that. My excitement was building quickly. I kind of love flying and helicopters. :) I changed back in to my jeans in the parking lot and went to check in. Meaghan and Bridgit (from yesterday) were just getting off when I got there and their excitement got me even more excited. There was a group in front of me still, so I shopped while I waited. Found the coolest thing ever: a wooden hand carved map of Africa with the big 5 animals in it. I absolutely loved it and had to have it, but I didn't let them know it. Got them down from $55 before walking away at $15. They came around and I got it for that. Total steal. I would have gladly paid $55 but the whole bartering thing is so fun - and I think I'm pretty good at it, haha. 

Love love love this thing. Can't tell from the pic but it's big! Oh and don't ask me how I'm going to get it home. No idea. But it will happen... :)

Still had some time to kill before the group in front of me got back, so I took off my soaking wet socks, shoe, and boot to let the hot African sum dry them out a little. Chive started asking questions about my foot and the injury. Turns out he's also some sort of medicine man. Kind of. He does some natural healing or something. So he asked if he could work on my foot while we waited. He held it in his hands and covered the fracture and sat quietly. Said he was channeling the power from the falls to my foot or something?  I don't know, but figured it couldn't hurt. Maybe it's all healed now?! :)

By the time the helicopter was coming in for landing, I had goosebumps I was so excited. I have a video of me walking out and getting in, a couple over the falls, and one of us landing. Oh and I went barefoot! I left my shoe to dry out - still soaked from the waterfall esker that morning. 

The pilot was laughing at me as I kept clapping and squealing. We circled the falls three or four times and every pass was just as amazing. I was in total awe. It was only 13 minutes. But it was a magical 13 minutes and worth every penny. (And it was less than half of what I paid for the heli tour of Niagra Falls, which fails miserably in comparison to this place...)

I could go on and on about the helicopter ride, and I was all jazzed up for at least an hour after I got back. But for the sake of time - and my fingers typing on my iPhone, I'll move on... 

Chive was so cute - he was waiting on me waving and smiling really big as we landed, just snapping away with the camera. He even came out to the landing pad and took one before I walked back. No security here. I was telling him that would never happen in the states. You can't just stand around a helicopter with blades flying around and pose for pictures! 

I was the last flight so maybe that was why they let him out. Or it's just Africa and they don't care. :)

Chive drove me back to the Vic falls safari lodge (so I guess I didn't have to check out so early this morning) but I was l only there 10 or 15 minutes. Then my airport transfer picked me up. 

In the van, of course I was talking the guides ear off. Telling him everything I had managed to cram in that morning already. He was impressed, but said I needed to come back during low season (low water) to do Devils Pool. So that's when I told him I had already done that. He was all no, no, you can't do that this time of year. The water is too high. It's not allowed. So I whipped out my camera and showed him the pictures. He. Freaked. Out. Hahaha. That's when I was kind of like oh shit, maybe that WAS a little unsafe? I mean when a guide says, "Oh you DID do it! You crazy lady! That is not allowed! Very dangerous!" Yeah. Not so safe. But oooohhh so fun. And such a rush. Would do it all over again in a heart beat. :)

We had to stop at a few more hotels to pick more people up along the way to the airport. No one was ready. Every pick up they were late. And I was starting to get worried about catching my flight. I mean I've seen how slow and unorganized the security and immigration processes are here. And It was already going to with within an hour without the delays! 

We picked up this one older couple - obviously very well off - and they weren't happy it wasn't a "private transfer." They said that out loud - and I was in the car!! Rich people suck. For real. I made them talk to me anyways. They were on a Harvard alumni tour and live in Santa Barbara. And it sounded like they had the most boring trip to Southern Africa ever. ;)

So we got to the airport around 12:15 for a departing 1:10 international flight. And the check in line was literally almost to the door. So clearly we had nothing to worry about. 

I was still getting more and more anxious as the clock kept ticking and we were barely crawling at a snails pace through that line. At 1:20 we were still in line. No joke. Over an hour of standing (and eventually gave in and got a cart to sit on) in a hot airport with no ac. Miserable. 

 Hot. Sweaty. Tired. Impatient. Not a good combo. ;)

There was a family of four at one check in counter, a couple at the other one (yeah there were only two) and one person in front of me. That was all that was left to check in. There are only two flights out each day so I was the last one waiting to check in. It was taking an abnormally long time with the groups at the desk. And finally the guys working walked around the counter to talk to the rest of us. And it wasn't good news. 

So I know I've been saying how hot it is here, but today it was SO hot that the plane couldn't take off with the amount of weight on it. I don't understand airplanes at all, but something about the heat and the elevation and air pressure or something. So they just weren't sure if we were going to get on that flight or not. That's when I stood up and said ooohhhh heeeelllllll no. I have a connection. I have a ticket. I'm getting on the plane!!! 

It was a tense 10 minutes or so as we went rounds. Kick some of those overweight old rich white people with 6 bags each off the plane. I don't care. I'm not missing the flight, haha. I was hot and hungry and impatient. The next option was to take people but not all the bags. Rest would come tomorrow. Fine with me, I didn't check any bags. Just me and my backpack. So we eventually, after almost two hours of sweating and waiting, got a boarding pass and got on the plane.  We just had to wait awhile longer until it cooled off or the air was better or something. Who knows. It's Africa...

Oh while we were waiting, I went to the bathroom and dropped my phone almost in the toilet. For the SECOND time today! I've had it in my back pocket today, which isn't where I normally keep it. So when I pull my jeans down to pee, each time the phone has literally bounced off the toilet seat and on to the floor. Which is gross enough over here. But if it actually fell in ... Eeek ... I don't know if I could reach in that or not. 😝 I'll just try to be more careful next time or I could be phone-less!!

Okay so I was the very last person on the plane. Everyone else had been sitting in the nice air conditioned comfy seats while I was in there sweating my ass off and fighting for a freaking boarding pass! I got to my seat, and the overhead bins were all closed (presumably full). I opened the one up right above me and there was a little space with some maneuvering and shoving. So I swung my giant and super heavy backpack off me and up over my head to get it in. One of the straps on it hit the seat in front of me, and some older Indian dude turns around and is all, "OH you almost hit me with that! That was so close!! It was like right here! You need to be more careful win that thing!" And was all pissed off about it. He picked the wrong girl and wrong time to act like that to. He kept going on and turned to his wife - it was so close and almost hit me. I tried to let it go but I finally said, " Excuse me - did my bag hit you in the face?" He said no and kept talking - about it was close. But I interrupted him and talked over him. In the most sarcastic voice possible and with an eat shit look on my face, "Oh I am SO sorry I bumped the back of your chair then." He told me again to be more careful. I said thanks but I've been swinging that pack pack up all over the world for 7 years and haven't ever hit anyone with it. And I didn't today." Ugh. I know I should have just sat down and let it go but come on. That's ridiculous. And he was such a nasty miserable man. Which was proved again later on during the flight when he didn't get the drink he wanted and started yelling at the poor flight attendant. "I'm a gold member and this is just unacceptable." Ugh. I wish I was sick and could have puked on him, haha. ;)

We finally took off from Zimbabwe - quite late - and I slept most of the flight. Landed back in Joburg and had to wait in the same long immigration line. Hit the bathroom (remembered to take my phone out first this time!) and then had s couple of hours to kill until Janine and Lorraine came back to gets at the airport. They wanted to come a little later so they could miss the bad traffic and then go get some dinner. And bring me my bag I left with them. 

I blew up Instagram and sent some messages while I waited and it went surprisingly fast! (I haven't checked my email once since I left. Going to be a nightmare when I get back!) 

Janine sent me a message when they were close and I ran out to meet them. Right at 7pm. Felt like an eternity since I had seen them. I mean was it really only three days ago?? It was a busy and thrilling and jam packed three days I guess...

They brought me my giant suitcase, and added a few things to it for me to bring back to Denzil. Just to make it ever more overweight. ;)

We went to a cool restaurant called Fahrenheit not far from the airport. 

On the drive Janine asked twice if we were "locked up" - as in doors locked. It was dark out and there were people roaming the streets. :/ 

And when we got to the restaurant, I sat down and swung my bag over he corner of the hair behind me. Janine grabbed it and said she just had hers stolen that way. Have to put it at your feet. And not under your chair. Holding it between your feet. And we were at a nice place!! It was all shocking to me...

Anyways, I told them all my stories and we looked at all the pics and videos while we waited for our food. I had some sort of fish - dang it, I knew I would forget the name of it - with rice and veggies. It was so so good. I've had a lot of good food the last couple of days! 

Even though we were all stuffed, we had to order a crem brûlée to share. Also delicious, of course. I snuck away during dessert to pay for the meal. I mean they drove all the way to the airport to get me not once but twice! I think that warrants a meal at least. And the total bill was only like $40. For three full meals and drinks! 

I was back at the airport around 8:30pm. Over four hours before my flight...

I took my time, did the self check-in machine to get my boarding passes. Sloooowly walked to the check in counter to drop off my bag. And that's when things got a little rough. 

There were two girls working at the scale before you could go check in. And they were both pretty stoic. I was being super nice and friendly and trying to get on there good side. Because I knew what was coming. Yes, my bag was overweight. Let the talking begin. Well it's only 3 kilos overweight. I'll take something out and carry it on. Backpack is waaaay overweight too. Why does that matter? What if I weighed 225 pounds instead of 125? Look I'm just a skinny little thing! You can't charge me more for this. We went rounds. For the second time at an airport today. The lady wasn't having any of it and said I would have to pay $50 for each bag. That's when I brought out all the stops. I'm working in a refugee camp in Uganda. The bag is full of art supplies for the kids. (True story.) and I can't check in my backpack because I have medical supplies in it I need for my foot. (Not true story. I just don't trust airlines and refuse to separate from my food bag.) It worked. Finally. I mean it took work though. I bet I was there at least 20 minutes talking my way out of that one. Bags on. Bags off. Shuffle stuff. More weighing. I got the big suitcase almost down to the weight. It was less than one over. And I convinced her to just not weight my crazy heavy pack pack because I didn't weigh very much so it evened out. 

I was already beat down by that when I hit another snafu at the actual check in counter. I put my bag up and beet the extra half a kilo slide. But then he started asking me all these questions about where I was going. How long knead staying. What I would be doing. I thought he was just being friendly. But I really did a number when I said I would be "working" in a refugee camp. That set it off. Where is your work visa? Where is your paperwork? Dude come on. I've been to Uganda before. You just give them $50 at the airport and they let you in. They don't care. Well I'm just doing my job. I can't let you get on the plane without knowing you will get a visa when you arrive. I will get a visa!!! Why don't you have government papers? I didn't mean working - I'm just volunteering! I couldn't believe it was happening. And he was pretty serious about it. Luckily guys are generally way easier to work with them girls. I got him laughing - I don't even remember how - and showed him my return flight back to the U.S. On the delta app. ... and I gave him to bars from my food bag. No joke. That was the trick. He was so excited to try them. Hahaha. I can't even make this stuff up. I really wanted to sneak a pic of him with his paleo cave man and power bars in hand but didn't want to push my luck. I just wanted my bag on the plane and a boarding pass in hand. Done and done. But man that was waaaay to difficult. 

I still had plenty of time to kill. The airport was dead and most places were closing. No one was in the security of immigration lines. Although the immigration officer did sing some song to me in Spanish. So that was entertaining. ;)

I decided I needed a massage after that whole checking in debacle. So I found the closest one and went in. Almost $20 for a 30 minute full body. Yes, please. 

I went in to be room and a lady walked in and said "everything off but underwear, you lay here, cover bottom with towel." Well okay! I did as I was told. 

The massage was great - she worked out lots of knots in my shoulders which was slightly painful but most of the neck back arm stuff felt awesome. Then she moved down. I am not really a fan of leg massages but I thought maybe it would be good with my foot stuff going on. The problem with leg massages isn't so much the legs. It's the upper legs. I am crazy ticklish on the insides of my legs. Like up high. Almost my crotch. Ridiculous, I know. But it's real. Good news is not many people know that. And seriously, who is going to tickle you there? #awkward    Well, except the massage lady at the Johannesburg airport... 

It stated when she rolled the towel up so it was just barely covering my butt cheeks. Fine. No big deal. But then she tucked it in between my legs and it took every ounce of strength in my body to not start laughing. Hard. I wish I could have seen my face. It had to be good, haha. 

Then she started massaging just a liiiiitle too high. I mean I know it was supposed to be all relaxing, but if she could have heard what was going on in my mind... "No. No. Don't do it. Ooooh shit. She did it. Too high!! Crossed the line!!!!  I swear if you go one centimeter higher I will cry!!" Hahaha. It still makes me laugh just to think about it. No more leg massages for me for awhile... 

I still had an hour or so to burn so I did the only thing I could do. I shopped. As if I have ANY more room for anything (like seriously, it's ridiculous how much I'm carrying with me) I bought a hand painted ostrich egg, a stand for it, and a set of wooden carved coasters. Who knows if they'll even let me on the plane with this extra bag. I have a pretty high success rate of talking my in to things so far, so I'll take the risk...

It's 11:30pm now and I'm laying on a bench in the airport. Should be boarding in about 45 minutes or so. 5 or 6 hour flight to Nairobi, switch planes, and two hour flight to Entebbe. Here's hoping I can get some sleep at some point tonight. 

(This might be the end of the long updates. I don't think I will have wifi in Uganda. But if I have time I'll get a SIM card and put it in my phone and do it that way. We'll see. If not then I'll just throw everything up when I get back...)

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