Earth Traveler

Did I Ever Tell You about My Trip to Africa Pt.2

Posted May 6th, 2010

Flying to Africa

We met up with the grandmother at the airport in Amsterdam. She seemed like a very nice and I was sure that I could charm her into liking me and then Deva would love me as much as I loved her. Or some stupid logic like that.

From Amsterdam, we were officially on our way to Africa. We had to stop in South Africa and then continue on to Zimbabwe. Deva sat with her grandmother and I sat with her brothers. Needless to say, Deva and I did not see each other or talk during the flight. But I didn’t care anymore. And I really liked her brothers. Actually there had been a couple times previously that I thought about breaking up with Deva, but decided not to because I liked her brothers so much.

We flew from Amsterdam to South Africa and then to Harare, Zimbabwe. I don’t remember if we changed planes or not. I don’t remember eating or sleeping. But I do remember her brothers and I reading a local magazine that had an article about canoe trips on the Zambezi River. A canoe trip we were scheduled to be taking during our visit.

It discussed how beautiful the canoe trips are and also the potential dangers. Most specifically the dangers of hippo attacks on the canoes and their human occupants. One of the main canoe guides claimed that these dangers were really quite minimal. And then the article went on to describe the time this tour guide was brutally attacked by a hippo. And to the right was a picture of this guy with some of his crew and they’re all waving. And so is he. With his one remaining arm.

Did I mention that the hippo attack happened in the exact same place where we would be canoeing on the river? Exact same place? In a tiny canoe?

Arriving in Zimbabwe

We landed in Harare and that place was like a third world country (but seriously, folks) – no people movers, no automatic doors, not even conveyer belts for luggage – just a dude stacking luggage on a long counter. As the main servant for the group, I made sure we got all of our luggage together onto a cart and we went out to the street to get a taxi van.

We were not the only white people. But with five of us we were certainly the largest gathering of white people. It didn’t feel particularly dangerous though since there were armed military guards here and there.

It was about a 20-minute drive into the city and I remember there were dozens of Coca Cola signs. That is JUST what these people needed! And there were lots of run-down buildings and non-landscaped property. The city itself seemed somewhat normal – buildings, streetlights, sidewalks, shops.

Arriving at the five-star hotel, we were all pretty exhausted from the day of flying. I think it was around dinnertime. I think we ate in the hotel restaurant. I think. I mean we must have eaten something, right?

I can’t remember what the sleeping arrangement was. Deva probably went with her grandmother (as she did throughout the trip). I’m pretty sure I didn’t get my own room. Maybe the two boys shared a bed. Maybe there was a rollaway bed. Maybe I slept in the tub. Nope, that was on my trip to Italy. Sorry. More inaccuracies I blame on The Sickness.

The next morning Deva and her brothers wanted to go across the street to the open-air market. Cool. Mixing with the locals in an open-air market in a faraway land. This was why I decided not to fly back home from Paris.

Unfortunately, we did not make it to the market. We didn’t even make it across the street. Apparently four white people strolling out of a five-star hotel is a big attraction for the local beggars and we were swarmed halfway across the street. We scurried back to the hotel and went to the indoor souvenir shop. A lot less unique an experience and a lot more expensive, but with “distraction” free browsing.

Traveling to Victoria Falls

We checked out of the hotel around noon and we were headed off to Victoria Falls – which is the town name as well as the name of the gorgeous waterfalls in western Zimbabwe on the Zambia border.

Here’s another example of a part that I can’t quite remember. I’m pretty sure we took a plane from Harare to Vic Falls (that’s what the locals call it) actually they call it “mbuahbate fawbyes” (just kidding – I don’t actually speak Zimbabwe-speak).

Maybe it was on this plane trip that we read the magazine article about hippo attacks. Yeah, that makes more sense. So then I officially don’t remember anything about the flight from Amsterdam to Zimbabwe, other than I did not sit next to Deva and we stopped in South Africa. Once again I blame The Sickness.

Arriving in Vic Falls by whatever mode of transportation, our first stop was a five-star resort. The rooms were like bungalows. Almost every room, as well as the dining room and pool area, overlooked a gorgeous savanna (that’s “gorgeous savanna” and not Savannah, Georgia). Anyway you could see zebra, impala and boar out there wandering around. No big deal.

Unfortunately, this is when The Sickness really started to kick in. I mostly remember what we did in Vic Falls. I just can’t really remember what sequence we did them in. So, here’s my guess:

Vic Falls Adventures Day 1

We went to a replica village that showed how the indigenous people lived many years ago and the housing they had before they upgraded to the shitty housing they now occupy.

We went for a walk down by the falls. The waterfalls drop down into a ravine and the constant splash at the bottom creates a small tropical rain forest just beyond it. We walked through some of the paths and saw the waterfalls from spectacular angles. I spent a lot of time with Deva’s grandmother talking about this and that and generally trying to give her the impression that her favorite granddaughter was with a gentleman who cared very deeply for her.

We walked along to the bridge where they do one of the highest bungee jumps in the world. And by “they” I mean definitely not me. I’m up for lots of stuff. But not that. At all.

Vic Falls Adventures Day 2

The next day was the rafting trip for Deva and me. Dear Lord. For the most part I enjoy white water rafting and the local rapids were world-class. We were given the option to be on a raft where we rowed or where the guide does all the rowing. I was feeling weak and I knew I didn’t have enough strength to row all day. Fortunately for me, Deva was not much of an outdoorsy type, so she was more than happy to have someone else row for her.

Deva’s brothers were not quite tall enough to be able to go rafting so they stayed back and did something else. I was in no condition to take on the burden of knowing what they were up to.

This rafting trip was also the time I learned the valuable lesson that you must apply sunscreen at least a half-hour before you go outside and get in water. Otherwise, it basically just rinses off and you are exposed to the sun. The rafting was quite fun. Our raft had four other people. I was the only American so I tried my best to offend each nationality on board so that they wouldn’t have to alter their opinions of Americans.

The guide was quite expert at maneuvering through the rapids without dumping us all. But after a while we all insisted that he let us get dumped in the river. Even I agreed. I was feeling quite ill but I was also getting a nasty sunburn so some time in the water would help cool off my sizzling flesh.

And so in the next rapids we all went over. What a rush! Over and under and around and up and down through the rapids. Exhilarating. Until two things happened: 1. I came up from underwater about 150 feet away from the raft. And 2. The Sickness had drained all my strength and I COULD NOT SWIM.

So I just floated down river. I could see everyone else getting back in the raft. Of course my first concern was whether Deva was safe and once she was on board my concerns went to me – basically reduced to a buoy.

As I drifted down river, I suddenly remembered the safety seminar they gave us and specifically the part where they explained that the only real danger from crocs and hippos was in the still water areas. Cool. That’s exactly where I was headed. I tried swimming again. No good. Maybe it was all those years I lived with Deva, but my will to live was depleted and I was resigned to my fate. And you have to admit that would be a pretty cool way to go out.

But my demise wasn’t to be (sorry, Deva) and our guide pulled me up out of the water and we all had a laugh about how retarded I was. But I didn’t mention that I wasn’t feeling well, because I did not want to “embarrass” Deva any further.

The rafting company served us lunch and then it was back out in the water. All very uneventful until the very end. The end of the raft trip involves a hike up a 750-foot ascent on a small trail. I knew it was going to be hell. And to make it even worse, we had to carry up our life jackets and gear.

And gentleman (idiot?) that I am, I insisted on taking Deva’s stuff. Whatever! If you’ve ever been in love, you know why I did it. Anyway I didn’t get more than 100 feet up before I started looking around for a local to pay to carry everything. And I did. I gave him the equivalent of $2 US to take the stuff to the top. Which he did and practically sprinted up the hill. Show off!

Not surprisingly, I was the last person up the hill. I knew this, but Deva made sure to remind me. In front of the rest of our group. This is when I first revealed that I wasn’t actually feeling well. But no one believed me. They all just assumed I was out of shape. Which I was. But not that bad.

We took an open-air safari truck back to the town. By the time Deva and I got back to the resort, I decided I was officially ill. For some reason I have always been very reluctant to acknowledge being sick. Maybe it’s just my competitive nature. Maybe its because I think a real man doesn’t get sick. Maybe I’m just an idiot.

But there was no time to rest that day. As soon as we got back we had to get ready to go out to dinner. On the way to the restaurant I was rubbing my eyes and one of my contact lenses fell out. Great. It was nighttime and I have terrible night vision and now I was blind in one eye.

The restaurant was set up as a buffet. And you know what you do when you’re in another part of the world: you eat whatever they put out so you can tell your friends back home all about it. So I did. Impala, boar, some kind of steak from what I was told was a cow-like animal. It was all pretty delicious.

At the end of the meal, the waiter gave me the check – which was cool because despite being completely whipped, being treated like a servant and being half blind, I still appeared to be the man of the house. The total for the five of us to eat at this four-star restaurant was about $50 American. Including tip. Of course, I just passed the check on to the grandmother and said “tak for mel” which is Danish for “thanks for the meal.”

This is one of two Danish phrases I learned while living with a Danish girl for over four years. The other one was “sleek meen elske pumpe” which means “lick my love pump.”

Vic Falls Adventures Day 3

The next day we had some touristy stuff to do. We were driven to see different parts of the area. We saw the “upside down” tree, which actually looks like it’s growing upside down.

We went on a helicopter ride overlooking the falls and what I saw of that was magnificent – despite being the largest person in our group (by a lot), Deva had me sit on the hump in the middle seat which had what I will politely refer to as an obstructed view.

The rest of the day is a blur. I played monopoly with Mick and Seth. I’m pretty sure I won. I almost always do. Especially when I’m recollecting a decade later. That’s about the time The Sickness reached my throat and I could barely swallow. I really needed some Halls to soothe my throat. Or morphine.

I went to the front desk and asked if they had anything like that at the resort or in town or even in the country. The best he could come up with were some lozenges. Useless. They were basically just Lemonheads.

Feeling exhausted I just went back to my room to wait for dinner. That’s when I noticed the white spots inside my mouth. Perfect. Strep throat.

Deva came to my room to get her brothers and me for dinner and when I told her about my worsening condition, she suggested that I have some hot tea and honey. I said I could really use some ice cream to soothe my throat. NO WAY.

Oh wait. I didn’t mention about the desserts. Before we left Los Angeles, Deva told me that at no time was I allowed to have ANY desserts or soda or anything like that while we were in Africa. I was and am a slightly overweight gentleman and I guess she was worried that I would be gaining weight right in front of her grandmother. Never mind that Deva was also slightly overweight and she was allowed to eat whatever she wanted.

So, no ice cream. Though I could barely speak at that time because my throat was so swollen. I tried the hot tea and honey. It didn’t help. But the crocodile tail was delicious. And it was around the time when everyone at the table was having dessert (except me), that I was attacked by a screaming fly bat. I squealed like a little girl as it swirled around my head. I have been told that this was quite hilarious to everyone else in the restaurant.

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