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Unholy Hour

The journey begins somewhere around the unholy hour of 3:30am on June 14th when we wake up to prepare for our flight. My parents graciously agree to pick us up at 3:45am so that we can arrive at the airport by 4:15am. At 6:15am we will take the first of three flights that will bring us to our ultimate destination of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we will begin the Botswana Wildlife Breakaway.

Leaving Pittsburgh, we flew right over our hometown of Industry where the rolling hills and valleys looked so lush and green. One short flight (1.5 hrs), and one very long flight (15 hrs) later, we were flying over southern Africa. I hardly knew I was seeing land when, through the fog, I glimpsed a series of lakes that might well have been illusions created by cloud formations. The tan earth was speckled with scrubby green foliage, uninterrupted except by the occasional very long, very straight road. Only later did we pass over a mine, and the terrain began to show some relief.

The last flight (1.75 hrs) takes us from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. As cosmopolitan as Johannesburg Airport is, the Victoria Falls Airport is its antithesis. Eric aptly described it as a bus station with planes.

193px-VictoriaFallsAirport_arrivals.jpg

In Johannesburg, we passed by upscale shops (think Burberry and Lacoste) as every imaginable language swirled around us. In Vic Falls, we disembarked and walked across the tarmac to an unassuming, unairconditioned building where we cued up in a long, slow-moving line to procure our double-entry visa. The line ended at a massive wooden desk where commenced much bureaucratic examining and stamping of documents.

One of Jenman's guides-in-training, Officer, picked us up, but our departure from the airport was delayed as we had to wait for another arrival. No matter - we made our way outside to sit in the scorching African sun and watch a group perform traditional(esque) song and dance. Finally en route, we traveled the 20km distance to A'Zambezi River Lodge, our haven for the evening. Though I didn't see much (the other arrival was a chatty fellow), we did spy our first cape buffalo in the bush roadside.

At long last, we arrived at the A'Zambezi in mid-afternoon. After a brief refresh, I couldn't wait to walk around the grounds adjacent to the Zambezi river. I marveled at a poinsettia in its natural habitat. Just as rangy as our ones at home, it nevertheless reached a remarkable height and girth. As I walked a path along the river, I spied my first elephant poop; how exciting! Further along, I spotted maribou storks and hooded vultures alighting in a dead tree.

Walking back, I met Eric who said he'd seen warthogs. Sure enough, they roam the grounds where they serve as organic lawnmowers. I had no idea that they kneel to browse short grass, hobbling along on as they go. As the evening drew on, vervet monkeys came out to play. One cheeky fellow decided to run and stamp his little forelegs at me. I tried to make myself look big by stomping my foot and hollering, "No" at him, but I don't think he was impressed. Fortunately, a lady armed with a slingshot roams around discouraging the monkeys from this and other naughtiness (like pinching food from tables).

We ended the evening with a grand dinner where we dined on warthog (damn, they're tasty) and watched another group perform Zulu song and dance (amazing voices and athleticism).

Posted by Regina.Hart 12:02 Archived in Zimbabwe Tagged victoria falls warthogs a'zambezi mongooses

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