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High Tea and a Hundred Elephants

I was recently given the opportunity to join one of our Overland trucks on its journey south from Victoria Falls to Cape Town and well, who passes up on a chance like that? Not me, for sure! My bags were packed the day I found out – perhaps a little premature…3 months in advance! Don’t get me wrong, working in the Oasis office is great but it’s not quite the same as being ‘on the road’, which I did for 3 years as a tour leader in the Middle East and South America. I flew with South African Airways from London to Johannesburg and then on to Victoria Falls. Arrival at the airport was really easy & straight forward, being that it was smaller than your average International airport – picture something a similar size to your local McDonalds! There seemed to be only 2 people issuing visas and stamping passports for a queue of about 200 people so after approximately 1 hour I had parted with US$30, collected my backpack and headed out into the arrivals hall in search of our wonderful local representative Joy. The search took about 5 seconds (remember this airport is small!) and we were on our way into town. Arriving into Victoria Falls, the adventure capital of Zimbabwe, where bungee jumping, gorge swings, white water rafting & scenic flights are top of most travellers to do lists, I had just 1 activity on my mind – High Tea at the Victoria Falls Hotel. Joy dropped me off at the campsite (thanks Joy!), where I caught my first glimpse of my ‘ride’ for the next 3 weeks and met up with the crew – Pete & Tabitha. I had got there just in time, as they were heading out the door for the 15 minute walk to the Victoria Falls Hotel. Phew…I hadn’t missed out!   For those who don’t know what I mean when I say ‘High Tea’, it’s basically an afternoon binge on cakes & tea. Not being a tea drinker I opted for a Pimm’s (this is a holiday, right?) to wash down all the goodies on our 3 tiered platter. After a few hours of eating, chatting & relaxing my belly was full and a walk around town seemed to be the sensible idea. I headed to the supermarket to stock up on some overlanding essentials that I had chosen not to bring with me – toilet paper, bug spray & a couple of beers. Later that evening we sat in the campsite bar & restaurant & watched a local singing & dancing performance and at this moment, I really felt like I was in Africa. The first drive day saw us crossing the border into Botswana, a smooth process with the only quirk being that we had to wear 1 pair of shoes and carry another with us. Apparently they are worried about foot & mouth disease here, so we had to dip our 2 pairs of shoes in some solution before we were allowed back on the truck. We stopped in a small town for a couple of hours to do some cook group shopping, change money & have lunch and then headed on to our campsite next to the Chobe river. It was a warm day, so after pitching our tents some people opted to take a dip in the pool, whilst others had a drink in the bar area. We were picked up at 3pm and transferred down to the boat port for our Chobe River cruise (an activity included in the price). Setting off I was feeling optimistic about what we might see, after all, there is no guarantees where wildlife is concerned. I took along some cheese & crackers (a must if you ever do this cruise I think) and sat back to enjoy the river. Before too long we saw the most ridiculous number of elephants that you could imagine, 100’s of them – we even got to witness them crossing the river, snorkelling with their trunks. How the baby elephants made it, I’m still not sure! As well as elephants, we saw hippos, crocodiles, water buffalo, red lechwe & kudu. It was an amazing wildlife experience and as I watched the sunset from the boat on our way back to the port, I was feeling rather lucky.

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