I forgot the best part of the trip yesterday. I was in a mini van on the way to the elephants and this older American couple got on. The JR type from the tv show “Dallas” and his very facelifted wife with a lot of bling on her. Immediately he launched into his life story, he was a soldier in the US army and stationed in Ulm and Augsburg, Germany back in the day. Then he turned around to me and asked completely seriously “Can an old man like still have a Schatzi?” insinuating that in the 60s every man in Germany naturally had a sweetie on the side. Everyone in the van went dead silent and looked at me. I wasn’t entirely sure if this was supposed to be a joke, a proposition or just plain stupidity. Sadly it was the latter. The mortified wife poked him in the ribs before the offended girl from the Netherlands next to me could reply that this is in fact the year 2011 and even Germany would have moved on from whatever warped idea he had of it. He still needed confirmation from me and he didn’t quite believe me.
He then randomly wondered why John Cleese is in a new movie he’s never heard of before but the movie was playing in a “the-Ater” in Windhoek already. When nobody responded he finally shut up.
Last night we experienced African dinner serice par excellence again. Big group dinner at a relatively fancy hotel directly by the Falls. All I know is that the two people at the opposite ends of the table didn’t eat until much much later and one of them was me. I had ordered “Spaghetti Bombay” which sounded enticing because of beef in a chili sauce with roasted peanuts. The very first dish that came out was spaghetti with chicken which was shopped around for a while and didn’t find any takers. I could swear that it came back out a few more times. My dish which I reconfirmed dreading the result already was supposedly on its way as well. After everyone was done I ended up with the chicken and I actually needed to convince the waiter that this was not beef nor were there any peanuts. It took more time. The actual dish was worth waiting for in the end though I did think that instead of apologizing 20 times theyncould have just comped my Jaegermeister. When I paid I didn’t say anything when the waiter miscounted my beers in my favor.
Our driver also didn’t get his pizza – because after they had served 12 pizzas to the rest of the group they had run out of pizza dough! Unbelievable.
We asked for a group bill but got separate checks and here is where I always wonder how they get the money for all things consumed as I have yet to see one straight forward transaction in this department. It never adds up. In the end various leftover meals and drinks are not paid for according to them when nobody in the group was actually cheating. Likewise the last person paying could end up with drinks he didn’t consume and that were already paid on a different tab. All I know is that it’s usually best to be of the first to pay and then walk away.
This morning I went on a microlite flight over Victoria Falls. I loved it and was scared shitless at the same time. Although I didn’t have an adrenaline rush like I would have had with skydiving it very much felt like it since I was completely free in the air, only loosely strapped to a smallish seat with the pilot right in front of me. We went through the high mist of the falls (turbulence!) and the winds were strong and tucking at the few patches of exposed skin I had. We went over both Zambia and Zimbabwe, Livingstone Island and then some, we saw some elephants as well. I saw the distance I would have to walk between the two country borders with my bags on me and decided to delay my departure until after lunch.
Livingstone Island was pretty much flooded as it is the rainy season here. In dry times you can swim up to the edge of the Falls from the island, afterwards they serve breakfast or high tea depending on what touristy package you booked.
I will probably not have any pictures of the Falls as they are so wet that my camera is guaranteed to break. Google Images can fill in the blanks.
I was back at the camp early with no plans for the day other than crossing the border into Zimbabwe by myself and talking to nobody for a while. Strangely I was in no hurry though so I watched the world fall apart (Japan tsunami, etc.) on Sky News for a while at the pool bar and then had lunch there with some folks from the old group. Some folks were going to bungy jump from the bridge over the Falls and I shared a cab with them as that’s also the bridge I need to cross to get into Zimbabwe.
Conveniently I had waited until the hottest time of the day – 1pm – I was sweating bullets already on the 100 meter walk from the cab to the Zambian border for my exit stamp. I did however decide to walk across the bridge regardless, great views, and you couldn’t stop on the bridge if you were in a car anyway.
Unfortunately it was still a 10 minute walk from the bridge to the Zimbabwe border post. A rikshaw driver tried everything to get my business; he asked for anything from money in any currency to clothes, food or even a book. We heard this at the Zambian border already, clearly the people here are poorer than elsewhere but if you want to help where do you start… So I kept on walking and sweating, saying hi to a bunch of loiterers on the way who were probably wondering what the F I was doing to myself, and getting a funny “welcome to the very hot Africa” greeting from an equally sweaty local with a suitcase.
The folks at the border were extremely friendly. The first lady got a kick out of me as she clearly thought that I had no idea what I was doing. For one I first said that I’ll be staying in Zimbabwe for 10 days, then changed it to 8. She asked where I am going next and laughed at my pronunciation of “Tanzania” – stress is not on the second A but on the I. For years I thought it was strange that English speakers say “TanzAnia” but finally changed my own pronunciation as well and this is what I got. I had been right all the way.
Turns out the right answer would have been “Malawi” anyway…ooops, next time I should check the itinerary first I guess. In general the 3 people I ended up speaking with at the border were surprised that I would travel through Zimbabwe at all without any intentions to return to Zambia or Botswana. But I guess claiming that I’m overlanding it but didn’t have a truck with me didn’t really help clarify this either.
The visa fee was $30 today – I gave her $55 according to the visa fee list posted directly in front of me and she went “how did you come up with that?”. Ummm…
While my visa was processed directly in front of me people came up behind me and tried to get their passport stamped as well. It’s fascinating how little personal space means here. I was also offered the now defunct Zimbabwe money – “50 trillion dollars” bills etc. Nobody at border posts throws these people out.
I cabbed it back to the new camp ground. It’s not as nice as the place in Zambia, but it is right by shops and the overall action which is great. Not sure if $5 for a 3 minute cab ride were a ripoff or not but I didn’t care at this point.
I am staying at a chalet, two single beds and a fridge, the room is spacious but has the charm of a prison cell. Actually, a prison cell comes with a toilet, my chalet does not, but it’s ok, I just wanted to sleep in a bed for one night. Tomorrow I will move back into a tent. The Dragoman group is already here but I am in no rush meeting them.
This will be another internet and book reading day, it’s nice to do nothing for a while.