25 June 2003
Leaving for the continent of Africa…
Our first stop to / around this continent was the island of Mauritius. Mauritius is located a couple hours east of the coast of Madagascar. We wanted to stop at an ‘island location’ first so that we could decompress from the wedding activities. Overall, this was a great stop for us. We had some relaxing time on the beach / at the resort, and then we explored parts of the island—including a visit to the Pamplemousses botanical gardens, exploration to the capital of Port Louis, a 700m climb up le Pouce to some great vista points, and stops at some great local, non-touristy restaurants. The culture here is a mixture of French, Creole, Indian, African, and Chinese. After eating some great meals, we realized at the rate we’re going—we could call our trip the ‘roll around the world’. So we have curbed our appetites to ensure that we really can not ‘roll’ by the end of this trip. A week was about perfect for us and then we left for our next stop… Botswana.
Botswana is so hard to express in words because no words can seem to give it the full justice or describe the experience we had. Awe-inspiring, magnificent, wonderful, beautiful…. again, words don’t give it justice. Instead of easing ourselves into the bush, we went full force into Mombo camp. Mombo is world-renowned for its beauty and the breadth / depth of animals in the wild that can be seen from this one site. On top of this, the camp itself really couldn’t be called a camp. You know for some of our west coast friends—camping is going to the Sierras and pitching your 2-person North Face tents. At Mombo, our ‘tents’ were larger than some suites at hotels and while the walls / roof may have been canvas, the windows were mesh, and the furnishings made it feel like a home. Also each of the appointed tents looked directly onto a waterway of the Okavango delta, which provided continued viewing of animals—such as cape buffalo, baboons, monkeys, zebras, warthogs, impalas, etc. In addition to the sitings from our tent, on game drives we saw everything from elephants, giraffes, lions / cubs, and lions feeding on a kill. By observing and learning about the animals, their social structures and depedencies on these structures and surroundings, you get a whole new perpective on things and on what may seem significant no longer is that way. After Mombo, we went to two more camps (Kings Pool and Chobe Chilero)—they were just as spectacular for their own characteristics from the animals viewed to accomodations. And at all the locations we met many great people from the States, South Africa, Canada, and other locations. But instead of going to details on the other two camps (note—that can be saved for drinks with us after our return), we feel we should move on to our next stop—Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.
Vic Falls was an interesting place for us. Up until the night before we departed for the falls, we debated on whether we should venture into Zimbabwe given the situation with Mugabe or should we view the falls from the Zambia side. After receiving more positive information, we decided to go to Zimbabwe. The falls itself were an amazing site to see. The water was at its highest point and this is the most water (volume-wise) that has been seen in years. So the mist from the falls came down as rain and we got drenched. Other than the falls, it was quite interesting to observe the actual town. First—it was deserted; there were hardly any tourists staying on this side. Our hotel probably had an occupancy rate of 20%. Petrol in Zimbabwe is scarce and only offered when available—which is almost never. A tanker was expected to arrive on the day we were there and there was a line literally of 150 cars waiting for gas. We then ventured to a group of curio shops—there were at least 50 shops all clumped together. We were the only tourists in this area and were getting many offers for goods. It was a sad situation because you know these people are heavily impacted by Mugabe and his decisions—they need money for food and there are no tourists to infuse their economic situation. We ended up buying a couple of items at these shops. You know when couples first marry, their initial steps of moving into parenthood include buying a dog or some other pet. At the curio shops, we bought a hippo. Well…a wood-carved hippo, but a rather large one. It’s a low maintenance animal, we don’t have to feed it or take care of it. We only need to figure out how to ship it because it’s not something we can easily stick in our bags!
After Vic Falls, we ventured our way back to South Africa. We had a quick stop in Jo’burg to pick up our bags that we had left prior to Botswana and then we headed to the eastern shores of South Africa—namely the city of Durban and the St. Lucia estuary, which is a World Heritage Site. We spent our time in Durban getting use to the sites / scenery of modern civilization. In all honesty, it took us a while to get accustomed to phones, tvs, etc…. For as ‘connected’ as we are, we welcomed the bush environment and still miss it. Aside from acclimating, Durban was a nice city. Its beaches reminded us a little of Rio except with piers. The drive up to St. Lucia was beautiful and peaceful. We ended up spending our time up there exploring the estuary and catching up on things—such as reviewing our 2000+ pics from Botswana and paring them down into a small grouping…you gotta love digital cameras.
Now we lead you to our next / current location—Cape Town. We’ve been here for less than a day and have a week to spend touring the area. This is where we’ll stop this message and just hope that everyone is safe and doing well.
Until our next update…
Kristen and Mike