The Grants' African adventure

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BulaWOWo!!!

Seeing Morag, Andrew’s sister, waiting for us on the platform of Bulawayo station was a welcome sight! We piled into the car (Tarago-type thing) and bounced our way back to Debbie Brennocks’ house. I have wanted to meet this amazing lady, who is the adoptive mother of five beautiful African girls and the energy behind The Sandra Jones Village, for a very long time. Our boys and Debbie’s girls have been getting on famously – and incredibly noisily! Since we’ve been here (about a day and a half) we’ve been on numerous drives around the city of Bulawayo visiting places of huge significance to Andrew and Morag.

20120621-210505.jpg Tim at a roadside market in Bulawayo.

It’s been great to see Andrew in his home town and watch his reactions to seeing different things. I had been warned that Andrew might find it very difficult seeing Zimbabwe this way, but honestly, he – and all of us – are loving it! Andrew described all of this in his blog so I wont elaborate.

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Bulawayo – a pleasant surprise

Okay, first up just a clarification on the train trip. We were not at all disappointed with the ride. We’d done our research beforehand and knew it would be dirty and rough. But I (Andrew) am a firm believer in the creation of transcendent memories. Embarking on experiences so far beyond the ordinary that the memory of them will remain a lifetime. If we’d caught the bus it would have been just another link in the chain of our long travels. The chance to sleep the night with the rumble and clack of a train with the deep velvet African sky rushing past the window was transcendent. We loved it.

Yesterday morning our train rumbled and ground into Bulawayo through the fairly grim Northern suburbs. We were down to 5kph because the tracks and wheels are so worn, anything faster might result in derailment. Litter was strewn everywhere, shanties cascaded down towards the trainline and lots of people stared indolently at the train.

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Photo blog – the train trip

This was always going to be one of the bigger “adventures” of the trip. A lot of locals advised us against it, and we knew it was going to fall far short of palatial. But a night in an African sleeper train was too good to pass up.

Several of these photos are for the benefit of my Dad who used to work in the railway workshops, quite possibly on the very carriage we were on. I’m sure he’ll be pleased these things are still going strong!

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Elijah gets set for the night.

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Photo blog – Victoria Falls

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Tim gets a welcome.

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Warthogs at our front porch.

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A Zambezi sunset

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Elephants at the waterhole.

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Our chalet.

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Warthog, ostrich and buffalo steaks.

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Victoria Falls – We have so many photos of the Falls, this is just a very small sample.

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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!!

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Speed bump

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Okay, we will update our last few days in Switzerland eventually, but first to this morning’s calamity. We knew our transfer in Jo’burg would be tightish. We had 1 hour and 45 minutes but we didn’t need to clear customs and it was well within acceptable limits. But then …..

Our plane into Jo’burg was 10 minutes late.
Our gang bridge wasn’t working so we were redirected to another part of the airport miles way from anywhere.
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Five countries in one day (Anne’s side of the story!!)

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Stunning Lake Como

If I had known that roll-starting that bus was just the beginning of the stomach-twisting stress we would feel, I may not have been so excited about going on this crazy road-trip! While Andrew and the boys pushed the car I accidentally pressed the accelerator instead of the brake on the way down the hill and just missed taking out the side mirror by about a millimetre! Actually, I am so glad we did this trip. Doing it all in two days made the contrast between the countries even more obvious.

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One day, five countries (pictorial)

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Starting point, the view from our villa in Domaso, Lake Como, Italy.

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Chaos and disorder

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A ruined castle on the way to Como.

Today was the start of our European road trip. We started the day getting the Crichton girls off on their school camp, They’re off on a three day ride in the Alps, sleeping in farmhouse barns. Then we had to roll start the Crichton’s Campervan – flat battery. And then we were off, heading south to Switzerland.

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Tim’s snowy experience (the secret of Tim’s life)

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Now you all know how I chucked that snowball at fish. Well this time I hit Elijah. You see it was snowing up in the mountains. That was very lucky so we all drove up there. We all had warm clothes on. But when we got out of the car. The snow hit my exposed part, my face. It was VERY cold.

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A photo blog

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Tim enjoys white table service in Premium Economy.

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Snow, mozzarella and Swiss op-shops

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Upon waking yesterday morning, we opened the wooden shutters on our windows to see that it was snowing on the alps around the village! It’s summer here!! Now some of you will know that one of the boys’ main aims in going to Switzerland was to see real snow. We had so much fun tramping through the fresh snow and hurtling down the mountain on these funny toboggans (kind of like a boogie board with handles on the sides). Joseph threw snowballs at us the whole time and I didn’t manage to hit him once. Have you ever heard of Marmets?? I hadn’t. They’re these funny animals that look like huge guinea pigs! Mum, you would love them! We saw them running through the snow, along with squirrels and a few deer. Poor Tim! He missed out on a lot of the excitement because he felt exhausted and sick and couldn’t get warm, but when he recovered he did have some fun too. Elijah has settled in amazingly well and hasn’t seemed affected by Jet-lag at all.

Here’s Tim to tell you about what he found fun:

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Made it!

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Over forty hours after leaving Mapleton (and running on about 4 hours sleep total in all that time – less for Andrew and Tim!) we finally arrived in Davos, Switzerland. We were so hyped by all the new sights and seeing our dear friends, the Crichtons, that we didn’t even feel tired! The boys looked pale with black circles under their swollen eyes (seriously, they looked terrible!) but it didn’t stop them immediately going off and running around with all the village (pronounced “willage”!) children. The Crichton girls introduced them around and soon they disappeared into a neighbours house (aaaaggghhh!!!). No, seriously, we were delighted with that. The girls have these gorgeous baby rabbits so even if all the kids didn’t understand each other, they all know how to cuddle fluffy bunnies and chase each other around. At one stage I looked out the window of the Crichtons house to see Tim talking with an old lady. I have no idea what he was trying to communicate but the hand signals were cute and the lady was smiling!
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Our backyard!

Two sleeps to go before we fly. (Well hopefully sleeps because my head is swimming with things still to do.) We have made another video to show the schools we’re visiting, this about the campsite we live on.

Enjoy!


Where we live

The trip means our boys will miss nearly three weeks of school back here in Australia.  An overseas trip will be a great education anyway!  But they will get to go to school.  We’re arranging for them to visit a school in Davos, Switzerland and hopefully one in Zimbabwe too.  So they can share what their life is like we’ve made the following video about Australia (apologies to Aussie readers for gratuitous references to dangerous animals).

Click on the link below to see the video.