The best and the worst of Victoria Falls
Yesterday we finally arrived in Zimbabwe! With great relief we managed to navigate customs easily and locate the four bags that mysteriously made it onto the previous days’ flight without us. Once outside the airport was the most welcome sight of our hotel bus and a friendly man, with a huge smile, holding a sign that said “Grant”.
This was to be the ‘luxury’ part of our holiday. It was so great to arrive at our “hut” with a thatched roof and all and hear the kids squeals of delight (and yes, fighting) as they sorted out who would sleep where. Andrew and I rolled up the canvas at the back to see a family of Pumba’s (warthogs) grazing just outside. We whispered to the kids to come and see them and tiptoed closer to get a good photo. We were so enthralled with this bit of wildlife that had come to visit us! Then we stepped outside to see about a hundred more and suddenly it didn’t seem quite so special!!
We actually ate warthog for dinner last night! There was this great restaurant onsite called “The Boma”, which means ‘place of eating’. We arrived and were immediately ushered into another hut to put on some traditional African wrap-type things and have our photo taken. Our waiter took us to our table and did a hand-washing ceremony and gave us funny boiled nuts to eat. He then explained the menu – ostrich kebabs, warthog steaks, buffalo steaks, crocodile tail, roasted guinea fowl, eland stew and mopane worms! All of which we ate!! I really didn’t like the mopane worms much – a bit too anchovy-like! After a while some African dancers and singers came and entertained everyone and Elijah was so fascinated that he wanted me to take him up the front to get a better look. Well, can you guess what happened next? Yes, he was grabbed by the hand and taken up with the dancers to join in with them!! I thought he would stand there and be too terrified to move but he actually danced really well! I forgot to mention that about an hour before dinner we went to a viewing deck to watch wild animals gather around a waterhole at sunset. Aside from watching the beautiful African sunset, we were delighted to see a herd of elephants gather, some kind of antelope, water buffalo, wildebeast, warthogs, vultures and guinea fowl!! It was amazing!
O.k, now we’re at ‘the worst’ part. We went off toVictoria Falls as planned and were awed by the beauty and sheer volume of water that thunders over the edge. We were absolutely drenched by the spray (despite wearing raincoats) and took some great photos. The boys mostly enjoyed it but probably would’ve been satisfied with a ten-minute look rather than the three-hour look that Andrew and I envisaged. Finally we traipsed outside to the little market where the boys were desperate to haggle and buy souvenirs. This is where the absolute worst part of the day started. All the market sellers wanted us to buy at their store and looked really hurt when we moved on to someone else’s. Everyone put the hard word on us and offered lower prices and finally we had had enough and Andrew, particularly, hated that haggling and pestering. Our bus wasn’t due to come for a awhile so we decided to walk the 500m or so up to the other part of town and buy a few groceries. Other people were walking so we thought it would be o.k. But it wasn’t.
No sooner had we got 100m up the road than we had several men following us and holding up wares for us to buy. They came in really close and were very, very (scarily) persistent. They kept offering lower and lower prices and they simply wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. I tried to walk faster and ended up a few metres in front of Andrew, which was a bad thing because two of them got in front of me and seemed to be working together to get me to buy their little statues. Then I did a stupid thing. In sheer desperation I took out my last $20 and told them if they could share it I would buy their stuff. They took the money and handed over the goods, but then one of them didn’t seem happy. I don’t really know what the problem is but Andrew thinks that one of the guys took the money and didn’t give the other one any. To cut a long and stressful story short we arrived in town feeling scared and terrible. I felt particularly awful because I had allowed the men to sell me that stuff at a ridiculous price which I would not have done if I’d had my wits about me. So, my advice, catch a taxi and only buy from registered shops!
I really should blog more often so it isn’t so long! I still have to tell you what we’re doing right at this minute! We’re on an overnight train, heading to Bulawayo to stay with a family friend. I’ll tell you more about that later. Andrew used to catch this train with his family often as a child. You should see this train! I don’t think a single thing has been changed since 1952, when it was built. Andrew was so worried about us catching this train, he could hardly eat all day! Every person in Zimbabwe that we told we were catching this train looked at us incredulously and said, “why would you do that?!”. Mostly their concern was that the train was very old, very dirty and rarely on time. All of which is perfectly true! It smells too! Actually, it left the station on time, but apparently it’s highly unlikely to arrive in Bulawayo by 8:00am tomorrow morning. We have our antibacterial wipes, warm clothing, salami and bread rolls and so far it’s great!! This has been a very time-consuming blog to write because the train is wobbling about everywhere (as trains do…?) and i keep making lots of mistakes.
Goodnight! I’ll let you know how (and if!) we sleep!