Africa 2017

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Living in: Shepparton, Australia
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  • Day15

    Magoebaskloof to Kruger

    July 20, 2017 in South Africa

    The journey between Magoebaskloof and Kruger National Park took us from the Drakensburg Mountains to the Kruger plains, where we arrived at our accommodation, Hoyo Hoyo Lodge, for lunch. Hoyo Hoyo, meaning welcome in the local dialect, is about 1 ½ hours south west inside the Orpen Gate in Kruger. All vehicles have to travel at 50km/h in the park and this is quite strictly patrolled by police. They also patrol for people leaving their vehicles and will literally expel people who do so. Regardless we still saw some crazy people who got out of their car to get a better view of some elephants in a waterhole. Do you people have a death wish? !!
    After lunch we met our game driver - Suiteboy - said Sweet Boy. We told him Rhino's were at the top of our list, so we spent most of our time in pursuit of them. Unfortunately we were not successful on this drive but we did see a tiny bush baby monkey flitting through the scrub and the regular sort of things: big elephants, Zebra. Giraffe, etc.
    The next morning we did an early morning game drive at 5:30am and found a white Rhino and her baby. Suiteboy was asked how many Rhino are in the park but he said he was not allowed to say because they don't want poachers to discover this information. Poachers are quite a problem in Kruger too. When another guest was viewing a Rhino a Kruger patrol helicopter came by to check out what was happening with the Rhino's. This sounds all very well but even the patrol people are implicated in the poaching sometimes, as well as National Parks Vets, and Lodge drivers/guides. There was a Rhino skull in the area where the Rhino's live, which had been poached a couple of years beforehand. The actual poachers are often ex military from Mozambique and highly skilled in bush survival, as they stalk the Rhino's on foot. There is often a shoot out if someone discovers them and people regularly die in this war. The patrols shoot them on site if they discover them.

    Impala was on the menu for dinner, which just reinforces the idea that everyone eats them.

    We had a longish break until the afternoon game drive, so I booked in for a head massage and then washed my hair in the outdoor shower at our room. Many of the rooms/luxury tents we have stayed in have had an outdoor shower. This outdoor shower often had bamboo style (it wasn't bamboo but a bit like that) fencing which provided some, but not complete privacy. If someone had chosen to walk by and look through this would have been easily done. The outdoor shower at Hoyo Hoyo had the additional factor of having no barrier against the wild animals and an incomplete wall around it. As a consequence if an animal, say for example, a cheetah or leopard or lion had chosen to join you in the shower, this was quite possible. This is "extreme showering". I did experience a visit, but only from the bushbuck that hangs around the area. Bushbuck are a bit Bambi like. You could say Bambi visited me while I showered, but scampered off when it saw me. I can't blame it, I'd scamper off if I saw me showering too. This morning Kevin went to shower and he couldn't find the soap. He spied it on the ground about 2 meters from the shower and after a nudi run to retrieve it, saw that it had bite marks in it! A baboon or squirrel must have come by and thought it was some form of food. Not only is there the adrenaline pumping thought of death by predator while showering, but there is the added considerations of the elements. It was a bit windy as I showered. I've never had to contend with wind in the shower before. The hot water was plentiful but I couldn't shower too long because the midday sun was shining on me and it would never do to get sunburnt in the shower.
    Our last game drive was very pleasant. Suiteboy stopped the vehicle and got out and proceeded to pick up a piece of Elephant poo and piece of Rhino poo very ernestly... Where is this going we all thought? Suiteboy has an ironic sort of name...he's more of a Direct-and-to -
    the-Point sorta Boy. So commenced our lesson in animal poo. Here's a shortened version:
    Dung = Elephant - big, fibrous and reddish.
    Rhino poo - dark, less fibre and in middens.
    Droppings = pellets - antelope
    Poop = cats, hyena
    Shit = Baboons and Monkeys. Their "stinky bedroom" trees smell like a human toilet because their diet is similar to ours.
    I'd like to say I saw Suiteboy wash his hands before mixing our gin and tonics but can't be sure...
    Our last night in Africa was spent at Hoyo Hoyo. The staff put on an African song and dance routine. As there were very few guests at the Lodge I think all the staff were roped into the routine, including Chef Goodness (yes, her real name) and Wonder Boy (yes his real name...he introduced himself on the first day as our BoyWonder). They all carried weird and wonderful implements: Wonder Boy wore the wooden carving that hung on the wall, that was the shape of a pregnant woman's torso (front side), TK the manager had an orange umbrella, BigBoy had the hand drum and Goodness had a soup ladle. They were all outfitted in orange material with a Zulu African pattern. The beat and the singing was infectious...to the point that a few of us joined in... very enthusiastically you could say...
    I write this as we rocket along the toll road on the way to Jo'burg. As I glance across the speedo sits on 130km and the freedom of an unpatrolled highway stretches ahead of us. We've been on the road since 9am and it is now 4pm. We'll be at the airport in an hour and preparing to leave Africa.
    This has been a wonderful holiday. Stephan has been great as have all my traveling companions. I don't know about them, but I thought we traveled very well together and that I'd like to do it all again.
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  • Day15

    Magoebaskloof "Fawlty Towers"

    July 20, 2017 in South Africa

    This post written by Kate Sait:
    Last night we stayed at the Orion Magoebaskloof Hotel. Frankly, it was a reasonably dodgy hotel, a little Fawlty Towers like. It looked nice from the outside but was cheap and nasty on the inside. Poor Stephan had a tough time getting us booked in. This was due to a mistake made between the hotel we were originally booked into ( which is under reconstruction) and this one. Stephan got it sorted and we got a free drink. We got to our rooms and the fun began.
    I had a cheap hairdryer blow up in my hand. It went bang, sparked and some came out of it. I looked for a Powerpoint to unplug it but couldn't find it. I reported it to reception and they checked it out, only to pop it back on the wooden bench. Came back to the room many hours later and it was still "sparking" and felt very hot. Reception got another call, to which they eventually sent a little old repairman with a new hairdryer! I stood my ground wanting to have the faulty one removed. The guy said he'd have to dismantle the whole desk as the cords were threaded through the stone wall and it would be done tomorrow! Not good enough for me, so we were moved to another room.
    Kev and Myf had lamps with exposed wiring and exploding globes. The answer to that was to swap it with a lamp from another room. Kev cut his hand on a globe that shattered as he unscrewed it and needed a bandaid. Reception was called and 1/2 an hour later they sent a large bandage, maybe 2 metres long. A bit of an over kill really.
    On the positive side, the bar was interesting. It must have been because there are a couple of sore heads this morning. The little girl behind the bar had no idea how to pull a beer so Kev and Tony coached her. A rendition of "Wandering Star" with accompanying music came out later on.
    The meals were surprisingly good. The steak was possibly the best Geoff has had while here. It came with a sauce called monkey gland. It was a spicy, tomato based sauce. Kev and Tony had seafood which looked tasty. I had a lovely stir fry chicken which was more sweet and sour than stir fry.
    I think we upset a fat, bald guy who sat further up the bar from us. He was there drinking before we arrived and still there after we left. Throughout the evening, he was quite aggressive to the bar staff. Myf heard him say something about F'en Aussies and she felt he was up for a fight so we left promptly. This was probably the best decision of the night, but too late to stop some hangovers this morning!
    As we walked out we were greeted by the chef who guided us partway back to the rooms. He warned us there were leopards around the area. We thought he might be joking.
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  • Day13

    Mashatu day 2

    July 18, 2017 in Botswana

    David Attenborough Doco
    Though it was still dark we were out on safari by 6am with Bellamy after a quick breakfast. I enjoy the maize porridge. Maize is a staple of Africa and there are bags and bags of it in the supermarkets. Rice is more of a luxury, one Batswanan told me and generally only eaten on special occasions.
    It is quite cold in the mornings, especially in an open safari vehicle, so the Lodge supplied blankets and a hot water bottle each. We drove around for quite a while looking for game and I started to feel drowsy. With my hot water bottle on my knee and my blanket around me, I nearly fell out of the side of the vehicle when we lurched across a bump- I had nodded off.
    We were starting to feel like the early morning start had been a waste of time until Bellamy tracked down a lion and lioness at a waterhole. She was drinking when we arrived but once she'd finished that we really started to feel like we were part of a David Attenborough documentary. Cue the romantic music...it was all happening, right here and right now. The pair then moved up the bank and rested under a tree. We parked only a few feet from them and sat and watched them for quite a while. They were totally disinterested in our presence. Humans in vehicles are not generally viewed as food to lions, cheetah, leopards and hyenas. Back to the lion; he had numerous small scars on his nose. Bellamy said this was from the female lion scratching him after mating. We saw that happen - as soon as the action was over she growled and had a swipe at him.
    The drivers are all in radio communication and there had been a sighting of a kill. When we got there, there was a hyena eating an Impala with numerous jackals hanging around and 4 leopards lurking nearby. The mother leopard had killed the Impala but the hyena had taken over the kill and as it is more ferocious than the leopard it takes precedence. Apparently this is one way hyena's survive - stealing other's kills. The 3 nearly fully grown male son leopards all had a go at trying to reclaim the carcass but were quickly hunted away. One had a bloody shoulder probably from fighting with the hyena. The kill site smelt of bloody slaughter and was loud with the jackals yipping and yelping at each other, especially if one was successful in ripping off a piece of flesh while the hyena's back was turned. The jackal with the piece of flesh would dash off with it but then he had to contend with the other jackals and how to keep them away from his potential meal. It's tough out there in the wild.
    We followed the retreating leopards for a bit. The giraffes were very interested in where the leopards were and were on full alert; their necks at full height and their eyes wide. All the animals switch to full alert when a cat is around. Birds call out warning signals, Impala grunt and giraffes tower. The guides often use these signals to find animals.
    Our next sighting was a mother leopard and her cub. They were resting under a tree with a half eaten Impala nearby. The mother dozed quietly, barely lifting her head as we came quite close, but the cub was playing as youngsters do. He annoyed her occasionally by biting at her paws and face. Apparently there had been two in the litter but the uncle had killed and eaten the other male cub. Bellamy did not know why that had happened and said it was unusual behavior.
    We returned to the Lodge about 10:30am and saw a herd of female elephants on the way with babies of various sizes. The cutest one was about a month old and carefully overseen by his mother as he copied how to eat the Mopani trees. The Mopani is a staple of the Elephant diet and in many places in Mushatu there are large areas of bedraggled Elephant ravaged Mopani trees of about human height. When the Mopani is eaten down to a certain height it protects itself by turning brown and releasing tannins which make it taste bitter.
    Brunch was served when we returned. The food at Mashatu is exceptionally good and the outlook from the terrace over the waterhole is very nice. At this sort of Lodge the guides always eat with the guests. This is a really nice way to get to know the guides better and we can ask them all sorts of questions about the flora and fauna. I notice they never touch alcohol. I have not asked why but I suspect it is part of their professionalism - they are essentially working while eating with us.
    We had a break for a few hours - I caught up on my blog writing and we face timed Bill and Alex. The wifi is good but only available in the common room.
    At 3pm we were back in the safari land cruiser and off out into the landscape. At Mushatu they have a set of stairs on wheels - a bit like they use for aircraft - and they wheel these up to the side for us to walk up to our seats. This is safari 5 star style. On this afternoon drive we saw numerous animals: kudu, Impala, banded mongoose, elephants, leopards, cheetahs & lions (all same as before), Zebra, honey badgers, giraffe, various birds, baboons, wart hogs, mice, squirrels and ostriches. Edward, our spotter on the back of the vehicle, very kindly made us afternoon drinks again and we enjoyed these at sunset out in the African landscape before returning to the Lodge for dinner.
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  • Day13

    Mashatu

    July 18, 2017 in Botswana

    The day started early with a dawn breakfast by the elephant pool. The personnel at Elephant Sands were not too happy about starting work so early but we needed to get on the road for our marathon 600km trek across Botswana. Mostly the road was straight and African scrub whizzed by out the window but occasionally we came across a really impressive Baobab and Stephan would stop so I could jump out and take a photo. I am fascinated by these impressive looking trees. There is evidence of very old Baobab trees that have been carbon dated up to 1010 yo from a 5m diameter specimen and there are estimates of 9m diameter specimens being up to 4000 years old. When something has been around so long, and been part of generations of lives, there are going to be many superstitions that surround such a tree. One of these superstitions is that the evil spirit which inhabits the tree's white flowers will cause a lion to eat anyone who plucks them. Another is a Bushman legend, that in the beginning seeds and plants were distributed by the Gods to the animals of the world to cultivate. The baobab was issued to the hyena, which was the very last in the queue, and he was so upset that he planted it upside down. Even David Livingstone commented on the upside-down-carrot-top of a tree when he first came across one.
    I finished my No.1 Ladies Detective Agency book (set in Botswana) and my kobo reader won't allow my to hook into wifi and download anymore in the series...consequently I read a biography of Lenin as we zoomed along the roads, so my head was in Russia but when I looked up it was Africa out the window.
    We arrived at the Mashatu airfield at about 3pm. Bellamy our game driver was there waiting for us. The Commuter van can't drive into the Lodge, the track in has to be driven in a 4WD, as the trip involves a few river beds (dry at the moment) and steep banks and generally rocky terrain. One of the first things Bellamy did was take our drink orders for our game drive. Wow, I feel like Princess Elizabeth in "The Crown"...out on safari with my driver called Bellamy and a Gin and Tonic being driven to meet me at sunset on the savannah!
    We set off on the game drive...a little wearily. We jokingly told Bellamy we wanted Leopards, Lions and a Honey Badger. We were all starting to feel like this drive was going to consist of Impala at 12 o'clock, Guinean Fowl at 3 o'clock, oh look a large herd of Impala at 11 o'clock, single wildebeest standing at 1 o'clock...more Impala over there in the bushes...yawn 😴 (we're really getting spoilt with our game viewing expectations now). However, that was until we found no.1 on the list: a Leopard. She was lying on a bank and we got quite close to her. She has a couple of almost grown cubs but they were nowhere to be seen. She languidly groomed herself in the evening light and totally ignored us. We watched her for quite a while until she slunk off to stalk some distant Impala. Poor Impala, they are like the KFC or McDonalds of the African landscape: they're everywhere and they're not too hard to catch if you know what you're doing.
    The Baboons were all settling into their bedroom trees as we drove through at dusk. Their "stinky bedrooms" as Edward (our spotter) described them - you have to be careful to not be too slow under the stinky bedroom Nyala trees or you will be shat on. We were precariously parked under one because there had been a sighting of something interesting there. Sure enough, Bellamy came good with no. 3 on the list: The Honey Badger. The Honey Badger has reached fame through this you-tube clip: https://youtu.be/4r7wHMg5Yjg
    We all know a Honey Badger and now since this YouTube clip has been watched 84 gazillion times it is a term often used to describe people who are Honey Badger-ish. Sure enough, this Honey Badger was doing his/her thing amongst the Baboons with very little regard for anyone other that itself - a supremely confident little black and white thing making its way back to its burrow. Unfortunately it was not fighting a 🐍 cobra...maybe next time.
    We were met by two gentlemen from the Lodge with our afternoon tea - yep, I'm either Princess Elizabeth or Karen Blixen in "Out of Africa". They poured our drinks and then produced 2 baskets of afternoon tea. Everything fit for my new HRH status: cucumber sandwiches, onion timbales, orange syrup cake & lemon meringue pie. Of course there were plates and cloth napkins and small princess sized forks. The African sun set as I sipped my G&T and contemplated how I would return to my non-royal-life at Notre Dame College where they had just finished the first day of term 3.
    We arrived at the Lodge in the dark and were shown to our rooms - you will be pleased to know they are fit for a queen. 👸👸👸
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  • Day13

    Elephant Sands

    July 18, 2017 in Botswana

    Livingstone to Elephant Sands
    Today we were on the road at 10am and back to the border crossing from Zambia to Botswana. It only took an hour of so this time as there was less paperwork for Stefan. I experimented with how much notice they take of person identification at passport control by wearing my dark glasses and large hat. I am pleased to report you can pretend to be anyone you like when entering Botswana as I was not asked to remove my glasses or hat and I'm pretty sure they didn't even look at my face once. In fact, I know I could have worn a full on burkah with just a slit for eyes because I saw a woman do that when we were going into Botswana.
    We did have an interesting incident before the border though. As we were driving out of Livingstone there were people selling the hazard triangles - you know the sort you see out when a truck is broken down. We all commented on what a funny thing it was to sell from a roadside stall and wondered how much business they were doing. Stephan commented that there was a new law in Zambia about carrying the triangles. Next thing we were stopped by a road block of police and checked for all the requirements - permits, license and of course did we have the 2 triangles? We found one in the glove box but no sign of the second triangle. As this is a hired van the hire company should have been up to speed with that. Stephan had to go with the very officious and serious cop to the cop car and there was discussion that went something like this:
    Stephan: "Just because I am missing one triangle you are going to fine me? I am bring a lot of tourist dollars to your country."
    Cop: "You are required by law to carry two triangles" (or whatever they are officially called)
    Stephan: "This is silly man."
    Cop: "You are calling me stupid? Then I will fine you for insulting a police officer."
    Stephan: "But I didn't say you were stupid! I said this was silly."
    Cop: "Silly. Stupid. They're the same thing."
    Stephan: "If you look in the dictionary they have different meanings and I wasn't calling you silly or stupid anyway."

    Personally I was relieved that it was Stephan driving and not Geoff because he has a history of not dealing with cops very "politely". Once we were going to Melbourne and we were pulled over. As the cop came up to his driver door he took off his seat belt. When the cop arrived at his driver side window he said to Geoff, "why weren't you wearing your seat belt?"
    At this point Geoff jumped out of the car and yelled "bullshit" loudly at the cop. As a consequence we spent a day in Benalla court with me giving evidence that he had been wearing his seatbelt and he got off. In the case of this short tempered Zambian cop I'm thinking it might not have ended this way! ...imagining us all lying face down on the side of the road with our hands cuffed behind our back...and guns pointed at our heads.
    The fines are on the spot in Zambia and with a bit of bribery they are usually lowered. The cop demanded the fine money in kwacha (Zambian money) but Stephan didn't have enough. So there was a bit of too-ing and fro-ing as Stephan organized the money. Some of us had US$ so we gave him a few of those. The cop initially was insisting Stephan return to Livingstone.
    There is a lot of corruption in African police forces. One incident Stephan came across was when he was driving along at the correct speed, and was pulled over by the cops for speeding. He demanded to see the speed on the speed gun but the cops were evasive about this, so Stephan became insistent and peered in through the window of the cop car to see they had been pretending a hair dryer was a speed gun. TIA - This Is Africa.
    The rest of our journey was uneventful and we arrived at Elephant Sands about 2:30pm. We checked into tents and went and sat by the waterhole in the middle where the elephants come to drink. Elephant Sands was set up by a guy who had elephants that would come and drink from the water hole on his land. It was quite a small operation of a few mud brick chalets to start with but gradually expanded until now there are numerous campers and more permanent glamping style tents. When the water hole dried up the elephants would sniff out the water in the pipes in the chalets/permanent tents and started to rip them apart trying to get it. As a consequence, he now trucks in the water which feeds from a tank to a small ground level trough at the edge of the waterhole. There were a few elephants there when we arrived and through out the evening they came and left. They were interesting to watch and the big spot light on the hole helped us to see what they were doing.
    We were all in bed by 9pm.
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  • Day11

    Livingston Falls

    July 16, 2017 in Zambia

    We all convened for lunch in the restaurant beside the river at our hotel. Just typing that after writing about the poverty in the village induces guilt...
    Kevin, Tony and Geoff had spent the morning on the Zambezi fishing for Tiger Fish. There were plenty of bites but only Kevin caught one. They enthusiastically related a tale of fish vs man that could have been straight out of Hemingway's "The Old Man and the Sea". Once Kevin had hooked the fish, there was sweat, there was swearing, there was the straining of muscles, which eventually resulted in the successful landing of what looked a bit like an over sized piranha - big sharp teeth that matched the fight the fish had put up. Certain varieties of Tiger Fish can jump out of the water and catch small birds, such is their ferocity.
    Myf, Geoff and I went on a helicopter flight over Victoria Falls. It gave us spectacular views over the area and through the gorge. When we booked it, we booked for the Falls and the Gorge...but I didn't really know what the gorge flight was, so it was something of a surprise when the pilot swooped down low into the narrow gorge as we flew along between the banks, swooping around corners just above the water. At this point Geoff put down the camera, went a bit pale and stopped looking like he was having fun. He gripped the bar tightly in front of him - white knuckles were seen. He was not inspired by the jump starting the helicopter had needed, and then he said he felt like it was 'shuddering' as we flew along.
    Myf and I had a great time.
    We were picked up by the rest of our group and went off to walk the Falls.
    It was great to experience the Falls after seeing them from the air: the roar of the water, the rain like spray and the rainbows created by the light and water. The ecosystem near the Falls is totally different to anything else near by. The spray creates rain-forest and an interesting green slime that covers everything. As we drove to the Falls we passed another long line of trucks waiting to cross the border into Zimbabwe. This had been clearly visible from the air too.
    Our day finished with dinner and drinks at the bar. Myf likes the Pina Coladas here and I'm fond of the Margaritas. The David Livingstone Hotel is lovely and we have been very privileged to enjoy such luxury.
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  • Day11

    Twaloomba's and Mazunga's

    July 16, 2017 in Zambia

    This morning Kate and I went on a village tour of Makuni Village. A driver picked us up at the front of our hotel and drove us the twenty minutes to get there. When we got there a young man called Brave greeted us and gave us a small tour. He explained the layout of the village starting with the village chief's palaces. The social order consists of a matriarch line of succession and a patriarchal line of succession and they each have separate palaces. These were behind thatched fences and from the outside appeared to be huts in the traditional style with a thatched roof and mud sides (I say "appeared" for a reason...more re this later). We did not go into this area.
    Brave then guided us to a place where some women were preparing food. There were lots of kids around as it is Saturday, so of course they have the day off. There are 1000 kids at the local school, and as a consequence school runs in 2 shifts - 7am to 12:30 and then 1pm - 5pm. A teacher usually teaches for one shift and does preparation for the other. Teaching jobs are sought after and the pay has improved over recent years. He also told us about the local customs surrounding marriage. Most brides and grooms choose their own partner but the tradition was that the grandparents or Uncle would negotiate a bride for their son. The dowry involved paying a price ($500 - $1000 US or equivalent in cows/goats/donkeys,etc) for the bride. This dowry is still paid. Interestingly if the bride has had more money invested in her education then she is worth more and her dowry will be higher. Nice to know that educating girls has value as in so many countries it is not valued. An old lady showed us the cracking and grinding of Marula nuts that are used for eating and for their oil. She had a couple of children with her who were very interested in us and when I took a photo they were delighted to see the outcome. The people and children were very gentle and friendly and we felt welcomed even though we were obviously tourists with a camera. Our guide encouraged us to take photos but I felt quite weird about doing so...as though I was intruding into their world. I guess the whole traveling in country less affluent than your own, always involves some sort of internal conflict re this sort of thing. Brave also told us the kids would say "there are mazunga's" - mazunga being a word for white people. It is a word widely used throughout Africa.
    Brave told us the word for thank you -twaloomba. So we gave out lots of twaloomba's to everyone we came across.
    There were funny little stalls - literally a hole in the wall - where the locals could buy things e.g. eggs, superglue for your craft (there is a lot of craft created here), batteries and millet/maize. We were also taken to see a couple of men doing wood carvings. They were making the wooden hippos I see everywhere. I really like them but I doubt whether I could get it back into Australia.
    Brave took us to the craft market at the end. There was a vast contrast between the gentle people in the village and the sales folk of the market. Brave carefully explained that he had to deliver us to a particular stall first, and that he had to always deliver the client to particular stall holders in turn. There was concern written all over his face. After experiencing the market I can imagine the fighting that might occur if he appeared to be favoring anyone. Kate bought 3 stone bowls and I bought a wooden bowl. Who knows if I will get it back through customs, though he assured me I could. I didn't have much cash on me so I couldn't buy much anyway. All the stall holders were quite pushy and insistent. After visiting their homes I can understand why they were keen to sell us stuff though. I would be the same.
    The most interesting part of the whole trip occurred on the way home. As we drove along the road we came across a very shiny new Black Mercedes driven by a well dressed young man. He was accompanied by a car load of other well dressed young people. On the front of the car was some sort of insignia from one of the river boat cruises - the tacky looking "Lion King" cruise boat. They were a sharp contrast to the poor villagers we had just seen but it turns out these were the children of the chief. I asked our driver if the chief distributes any of his wealth to his people because in my eyes the villagers were literally dirt poor. He said this is a major problem for the people in the area and they are growing in their unhappiness. The chief is mega wealthy. He owns all the land in the area and does not share anything. His children are given very expensive educations abroad. I am seriously doubting the chief and his family are spending much time in the grass hut in Makuni village. From my studies in history I predict that as the people become more educated they will revolt - some sort of revolution will occur. This chief also runs an experiential game park of sorts that has elephant rides and walking with lions. Apparently the elephants and lions are not treated well. In addition, it is highly probable that the $50US that Kate and I paid to go to the village, goes to him as well. He's the ultimate exploitative capitalist.
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  • Day10

    From Kesane to Livingstone

    July 15, 2017 in Zambia

    From Kesane to Livingstone.
    After another hearty breakfast of omelette, toast and fruit we were off in the Commuter. Kesane to the border of Botswana/Zambia is only a short drive. We passed a different section of the trucks awaiting the border crossing. It really does go for many kilometers. Cars and tourist vehicles don't need to do the wait, thank goodness.
    Passport control was again a convoluted and drawn out process. First up we had to line up to get stamped out of Botswana. Then we lined up for the ferry across (more about this later) the no-mans-land of the Zambezi River before the passport processing for Zambia. The passport offices in Africa appear to be chaotic places in general. There are often signs announcing things that are not adhered to, which is sort of confusing for people who have come from countries where signs are to be respected. A couple of examples from today were: 'visit the health check counter before we process your passport'. There was no one at the health check counter...so I figured that was not in operation and probably a left over sign from the Ebola outbreak. The other example was the 'exit' sign was really the entrance for the tourist visa. So we entered the exit, tried to look healthy and proceeded to hand over $50US each and our passports. I had collected all the passports and the cash as Stephan said this was the best way to do it. The woman behind the counter processed each one without checking the actual people were there, which confirms my belief that it is mostly about raising revenue.
    Back to no-mans-land between Botswana and Zambia. After we had just been stamped out of Botswana, Stephan's phone rang. It was the hotel to say we had to return because Karen Parker (not sure why Geoff Parker was not included in this) had not paid her bill. I had not even thought of paying the bill...in fact I hadn't even remembered really putting anything on it but may have. I overheard Stephan saying we wouldn't be returning as we didn't have time and we would call in when we crossed back over in a couple of days. I gathered that was not ok for the hotel by the interaction that was happening and quickly got on the phone and paid the bill via credit card. It was all of $8.50 (probably a drink) but for the hotel worker the fact I hadn't paid my bill may have had serious consequences. He may have had this amount deducted from his next pay and also had to answer serious questions from his boss about why a guest had left without paying.
    The river crossing on the ferry was interesting. There are a couple of them running at a time and each one can only take one truck each, a few cars and some walk on passengers. No wonder it takes so long to process the hundreds of trucks! We walked on while Stefan waited with the van. He warned against taking photos around border crossings because official type people will take your camera/phone off you. Our ferry took a truck with things in it for the new bridge that is being built to cross the Zambezi. This meant we did a detour to a different part of the river. There were people there doing very traditional fishing using the canoes cut from the trees and fishing nets. They looked very interesting in the morning light. At this point I was unsure of the rules re photography...but decided it was not worth losing my camera over.
    Once we'd been through Zambia passport control (as outlined before) we then had to wait for Stephan. Once he was across he had a myriad of paperwork to process. Permits for the van, third party insurance, tourist visa stuff, etc. We contemplated how tricky all this would be without some local knowledge. In fact a group of local opportunists had tapped into this market by greeting arrivals and offering to help people through the process for a fee; the "runners" as they are known. I noticed them running up to cars and there would be a cash exchange. Until Stephan explained it, I was not sure what was going on. They were very pushy and for someone like Stephan, who knows what he is doing, they are unnecessary and bits of incessant pests.
    All the business of crossing the river and the passport control took about 3 hours. We waited for Stephan just inside the gates (where no one even checked we had a visa) for a couple of hours and a fascinating couple of hours it was. There were the usual hustlers wanting to sell us stuff but they quickly went away once you said you weren't interested. We stood on the edge of the road waiting and watching the goings on of the border people. Stall holders had set up selling clothes and food. The clothes for sale looked used and were in piles on plastic on the dusty ground. I didn't see any sales of the clothes but I am guessing the truck drivers do buy some. At one point a couple of squawking chooks were extracted from a car boot and a smiling lady carried them away by the wings. The way they were carried suggested they were heading to the pot. We were standing beside a woman selling drinks from an esky but business was very very slow and I don't think I saw her make a single sale. Geoff, Tony and Kevin had wandered down to the river front to check out things. Geoff returned with a few brass bracelets he bought from a hawker and somehow he also brought a few people selling things with him. Myf decided she would like a few brass bracelets so there was a bit of bartering. Joseph, our vendor used all his bag of tricks describing himself as our "brother from a different mother" and pleaded that his children could eat tonight if we bought them. My year 12's could have done an interesting analysis of his persuasive techniques!
    After all that we checked into the lovely David Livingstone Hotel, on the banks of the Zambezi. We can see the spray from the falls in the distance and we finished the day with a relaxing cruise up and down the river.
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