November 17, 2015
What a night last night and what a day today. Wow!
Aryn and I both woke up around 1:30A to these horrific winds and heavy rains pouring down on our canvas roof and blowing in the screened windows behind our bed. We immediately closed the window flaps to keep out the rain. The wind was so bad I envisioned trees falling down on us and our canvas roof ripping right off. I then gathered my wallet, passport, camera, glasses, cell phone, and malaria pills and placed them all in my small bag in case I needed to abandon ship. Of course, that would present an entirely different host of concerns knowing there had been a leopard outside just a few hours prior. For the next hour or so, we laid in bed very afraid of how this night was going to turn out. Finally, when the winds & rain calmed down I was able to fall back asleep.
At breakfast, I was surprised to hear no mention of the storm from anyone on staff. Apparently, it wasn’t as big a threat as we had felt. We did, however, hear reports that a lion had been roaming through camp most of the night after the storm subsided. Thank God Aryn and I followed instructions to not step outside our tent. I imagine if the storm had been enough of a threat to compromise our tent, then one of the staff members would have come and collected us all and taken us somewhere safe.
After breakfast we said goodbye to Ed, Sally and all the wonderful staff at Kashawe Camp and piled in our two jeeps. It was about 6:30A. It was interesting to see the accumulation of rain deposited throughout the area. The water levels of the rivers had risen and the soil was no longer so devastatingly parched. About 15 minutes into our 45 minute drive to the boom gate we approached a fairly steep hill. The first jeep struggled but made it. We, on the other hand, were hauling the luggage cart and our tow was too heavy for us to make it so we got stuck in the mud. Although, inconvenient, this experience actually became hilarious. After many unsuccessful tries of laying on the gas, backing up and forward, Mafuka, our bus driver and Vitalis all got out of the jeep and detached the luggage cart. Mafuka, then, radioed for help. With the luggage cart and two passengers removed from the equation, Mafuka was able to get enough traction to get us up the muddy hill.
The sky was still overcast, there was a light rain in the air and we were all wearing our ponchos as we sat in the jeep waiting for help. About a half hour later, a big red tractor arrived and hauled the luggage cart up the hill. Cold and wet, we happily applauded the tractor driver and were happy to be on our way to the enclosed mini bus waiting for us 30 minutes away at the park entrance. The guides quickly reattached the luggage cart and off we went.
When we arrived at the boom gate, the first half of our group was anxious to learn what had happened. Oh well, nobody was eaten by a lion or injured so there really was nothing to complain about. I guess Hwange National Park was not going to let us get away that easy. Haha!
The bus ride to the town of Victoria Falls was an uneventful 2 hours. Vitalis had our driver take us through some of the residential streets of Victoria Falls so we could see how the locals lived. Most of the homes were single story and very modest.
We also stopped along the side of the road to interact with some women selling chickens, guinea fowl and roosters. This was more of the learning and discovery exposure that we all really enjoyed.
As soon as we reached the Sprayview Hotel I hopped on the Wifi to connect with Aaron, my mom and a few other folks back home.
It’s weird to be back in civilization with four walls, a real roof and air conditioning. The pool area here is simple yet beautiful.
Our room at the Sprayview Hotel is clean and cozy. Our OAT luggage bags were on our beds when we arrived in our room. I have yet to actually carry my bag anywhere on this entire trip. The service at all the camps and now, so far, this hotel has been on point.
After a quick check-in to our rooms, we all gathered back in the hotel lobby to board our minibus which was taking us to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world: Victoria Falls.