Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 17 FINAL DAY!

HEADERNovember 20, 2015

In my seat on Delta Flight 1190 bound first for Akron/Canton.  Our expected take-off time is in 3 minutes.  I’m excited to be home in 1.5 hours but it was sad to say goodbye to Aryn, Kathryn and Judy in Atlanta.  The 16.5 hour flight felt faster than I expected.  I watched some movies but mostly slept.  Hard to believe that yesterday I was in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  Let me catch you up on that morning’s events.

With our first expected meeting time at 10:15A, Vitalis was happy to tell us that we were all able to sleep in that last morning.  However, Aryn and I were up at 7:00A and met her mom and sister for a buffet breakfast by the pool.  I had a freshly-made ham and cheese omelette with a hearty side of fresh “pawpaw” (papaya) and coffee.

Then, Judy, Kathryn and I walked to the little strip of brick and mortar shops in town.  They were primarily focused on looking at clothing so I separated off with no real purpose in mind and no cash (only my credit card).

Victoria F alls Shops

Row of shops in downtown Victoria Falls

I stopped and chatted with Moses, the shopkeeper who had gone to fetch Vincent (the artist of the beautiful baobab tree drawing I purchased the day prior).

Baobab Tree Art

Here is the baobab tree drawing, now framed by Michael’s in Fairlawn, Ohio hanging in my sunroom. You can also see one of the woven pieces I bought at the Lwaavo Basket Weaving Center in Botswana. (The porcelain heart is a piece I bought a few years back in Paris).

Then, a few shops down the way, I found myself admiring a small sandstone hippopotamus.  It was marked with a small $8 price sticker.  Sadly, I had no cash.  However, the shopkeeper could tell that I really liked it so he offered to give me a “good deal.”  I explained that I had no cash and even pulled out my wallet to show him.  I, then, remembered the cheap pair of sunglasses on top of my head.  I was planning on throwing them in the trash anyway.  The guy said I would have to either come up with more or pair the sunglasses with some cash in order to make a deal.  I reiterated that I had no cash and then remembered that these guys like socks.  I asked if he wanted the socks on my feet and he asked me to take off my shoes so he could have a look.  After reviewing the socks, he agreed to trading my socks and sunglasses for the hippo!  I was thrilled!

Hippo Soap Dish

Sandstone hippo soap dish. In it are the copper bracelets I bought in Zambia and the Giraffe bracelets from the open-air market. The soap dish is sitting on the fabric I bought for $2 upon our initial arrival into Victoria Falls.

From there, I walked over to The Victoria Falls Hotel for a final iced coffee on the back terrace.  I thought it would be a great opportunity to quietly sit and reflect over my 3-week adventure.  As I approached the entrance to the hotel, a family of warthogs was crossing the street.  They stopped to look at me and I quickly took out my camera for a picture.

Victoria Falls Hotel

Front Entrance of The Victoria Falls Hotel. Notice the beautiful flame tree to the right of the entrance.


I walked through the main entrance of the hotel straight through to the terrace.  The time was 8:45A and I had the entire terrace to myself.  I looked out at the Victoria Falls Bridge in the distance accompanied by the beautiful lush green scenery.  The setting was so peaceful and the ice cream-topped iced coffee was deliciously refreshing.

Terrace View

View from my table on the terrace of The Victoria Falls Hotel

Iced Coffee

Best iced coffee on the planet!

Around 9:30A I headed back to The Sprayview Hotel.  Even though it was only a 15-minute walk, the back of my shoes were rubbing into the heel of my foot.  I can’t imagine how these people don’t wear socks over here because the pain from the rubbing really hurt.  As soon as I reached the hotel, I B-lined it for our room to put on a fresh pair of socks.  Then, I grabbed my 2 carry-ons and proceeded to where Vitalis requested we all meet: the room with the fireplace and sofas.  There, Vitalis hosted a debriefing of the trip and everyone was able to share some of their favorite moments and favorite things they learned.

Throughout our three weeks together, Vitalis spoke of a “global village.”   He explained that we, as travelers/tourists to his continent, can act like ambassadors by sharing our experiences in Africa with people back home.  By sharing what we learned and discovered, we help to encourage the future growth of tourism.

Everyone in our group got along really well.  I was also glad they were all so curious and kept asking so many questions because it allowed me to gain even more knowledge about the different countries, their people, the culture, the different terrains and all the amazing animals we encountered.  So many of their questions I would have never thought to ask.

During the debriefing, I did mention that when I began planning this trip with Aryn my expectation was for it to be another destination checked-off my “bucket list” of travel.  However, after having had such a wonderful, exciting and educational experience, I would love to return to Africa someday.  Everyone in the group all seemed to agree and you could tell this made Vitalis very proud.

Vitalis gave each one of us a small brown envelope.  Enclosed was a sheet explaining the history of David Livingstone, a list of learning & discovery highlights and a list of the collective noun terms for the animals (ie. “a pride of lions).  There was also a sheet with the contact information of everyone in our travel group so we could keep in touch!  Thank you Vitalis!

After the debriefing we milled around for a bit waiting for our minibus.  All of our bags were loaded in the minibus and we were whisked off to the Victoria Falls Airport.  On the bus ride, Vitalis instructed us on the do’s and don’t of Johannesburg Airport:  Do not accept help from anyone at an ATM unless it’s a staff member of the bank that approached you from INSIDE the bank.  Don’t get in an elevator alone.  Keep your luggage in sight.

We had a rather long wait at the airport to board our plane to Johannesburg but there were 3 really nice gift shops to explore and, surprisingly, the prices were very reasonable.  I bought another hippo soap dish!  I also had a crocodile burger at the restaurant/bar.

Crocodile Burger

Crocodile burger at Victoria Falls Airport

Once we reached Johannesburg it was time to split off from Vitalis and those going on the trip extension to Cape Town.  Lots of hugs and goodbyes occurred between us.  Aryn and I kept joking that we were bringing home “rocks” – meaning all of our sandstone sculptures.  Our carry-ons were quite heavy.  Kathryn bought this beautiful sandstone rhino for her brother David that was very heavy.  Regardless of lugging this bag around, I can’t wait to display these new treasures in Aaron’s and my home in Akron.  I hope he likes them all!

Red Billed Hornbills

Here’s the sandstone carving of the red-billed hornbills I bargained down to $20 at the open-air market in Victoria Falls.

Here I sit, 30 minutes from landing in the Akron/Canton Airport in Ohio.  Aaron is picking me up.  I’m excited to see him and, our pug, Louie.  I have so many happy experiences to share from this trip of a lifetime to Africa.  Also, excited to unpack the stuff I bought and situate it throughout the house!

Lwaavo Baskets

Two of the beautiful baskets I purchased from the Lwaavo Basket Weaving Center in Botswana

They say you can’t truly call yourself a world- traveler until you’ve done Africa.  What a privilege to now have these unforgettable memories.  I  think I can speak on behalf of everyone on this trip that we each experienced something pretty special there.  Suddenly, I’m reminded of one particular moment during a jeep ride back to our first camp (Baobab Lodge) after an evening of bar-hopping in Botswana.  I was captivated by the magnificent backdrop of an ever-changing sunset draped along the beautiful African scenery.  I was at perfect peace and felt blessed to be enjoying the simple pleasures of God.

Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) truly did a fabulous job of arranging this Ultimate African experience!  Thank you OAT!  I will recommend your trips to everyone I know.

Thank you to God for getting me home safe and in the smiling words of our wonderful guide, and friend, Vitalis:  “Good Good!”




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1 Comment

  • Reply Henry March 19, 2016 at 4:17 am

    Once again I am taken back to my stay in S.A.with the lovely photos and details of your visit. Thank you, Brian, what a great show!

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