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baobab tree


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.

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Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 15 Part 3


November 17, 2015 cont …

The walk from the Sprayview Hotel into Victoria Falls town center was quick.  I was amazed how friendly people were.  Random locals passing by would smile and say “Hello” or wave and greet me from across the street.  It was such a friendly and open atmosphere.  I loved it.  My first stop was the post office and much to my dismay it had just closed.   An iron gate covered the glass doors of the entrance and through the glass I could see two clerks behind the counter.  As I looked in the slatted windows a woman called out asking if I needed stamps.  I answered “yes, just thirteen post card stamps.”  She asked if they were intended for the United States and I told her they were.  I thought she was going to tell me to come back tomorrow but she said:  “that will be $13.00” and in a minute she came to the window, handed me the stamps through the slatted glass panes.  I, then, gave her the cash and thanked her.  Wow!  What nice people!

Just outside was a red post office box and as soon as I stamped each of the post cards I slipped them inside.  The time was a few minutes after 5P.  From there, I walked across the parking lot and street to check out the strip of shops along the main drag.  The sidewalk was beautifully festooned with vibrant flame trees.

Flame Trees

Beautiful Flame Trees along the strip of shops in the town of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

The shops were packed full of locally inspired curios all made by local artisans and very reasonably priced.  I was told you could not bargain in these shops but I soon learned otherwise.  All the shop keepers were very friendly.  You’d walk in their store and they’d greet you and ask where you were from.  If you found something of particular interest they’d say “I can give you the sunset discount.”  If you were not interested you could just say “thank you” and walk away with zero harassment.  As you exited their shop they thanked you for stopping in.  These interactions were very refreshing compared to some of the other overseas shopping I have done (particularly the Aswan and Khalili (open-air) Market in Egypt).

Victoria Falls Shops

More shops in downtown Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Shopping and Dining

A small cafe among the shops in Victoria Falls

In one of the shops I was captivated by a beautiful 11×17 pencil sketch of a baobab tree.  I thought what a wonderful representation of Africa to display at home.  The artwork was signed by a Vincent and I asked if he was there in the store.  The young man who helped me quickly went and got the artist (who was outside but somewhere nearby).   Vincent Mathe was a young man from Zimbabwe probably in his late 20’s.  He told me about the piece and said his original asking price was $65.  I explained that I was not prepared to pay that price and I was concerned about getting it home without it being torn or creased.  Vincent said he could make me a cardboard tube to store it.  I agreed that should work and knew I would just have to carry it on the plane myself.  From there, he and I negotiated the price of the artwork down to a final $40.  We shook hands and Vincent signed the back of the artwork and wrote down his contact information.  I told him once I had it framed I would send him a picture of it hanging on my wall.  He was so excited about that.  Then we walked to the back of his shop and he picked up a cardboard box and proceeded to tear it down to the right size to make a sturdy tube.  Then he carefully rolled up the artwork and placed it in the cardboard tube for me to safely take home.  I was so happy with my purchase.

Vincent and I took a quick picture together outside the shop. We shook hands again and then I began my walk back to the hotel.

Vincent & Brian

Vincent and I outside of his shop in Victoria Falls

Across the street from the hotel was a small park with iron statues of horses, cape buffalo and other animals.  There was a “congress” of baboons moving through the park.  I tried to get their picture but they moved quickly and soon disappeared.

Before dinner we all gathered into a small room extended from the hotel lobby.  We sat in chairs surrounding a long table and in came a men’s quartet.  I was extra excited for this because I’m really into music.  The group had a robust and dynamic sound.  They sang their own interpretations of a handful of American doo wop songs.  I was hoping for some local tribal singing but listening to them was very nice and reminded me of some of my High School singing days.

Dinner was served poolside and the main course was one of the best entrees I’ve had this entire trip – roasted warthog.  Yes, you read that correctly – warthog!  I could hardly believe how good it was.  Perfectly cooked.  No fat whatsoever and deliciously seasoned with a nice dark brown gravy.  🙂   Too bad we can’t get warthog back in the Ohio.  LOL

After dinner, I sat at a table beside the pool and Facetimed with my mom and dad for a while (they live in Florida).  I was able to catch them up on most of the highlights from this trip and then I went to my room for some air conditioned sleep.  Before dozing off, Aryn and I chatted for a while.  Apparently, that night she had seen a lizard darting around our room.  I warned her she better check inside her shoes before slipping them on in the morning.  I had to be up earlier than her the next morning (5:00A) for my rhino game drive in the Livingston Private Game Reserve.  So excited!  I was told we have an 85% chance of seeing at least one rhino.  I really hope so since it will complete my goal of seeing all five of “The Big Five” (Elephant, Leopard, Lion, Rhinoceros and the Cape Buffalo).  Night Night!



Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 15 Part 2

Header2November 17, 2015 cont …

Our minibus drove us from the Sprayview Hotel into the center of Victoria Falls.  Vitalis informed us that if we wanted to go shopping later on or the following day we could either call a cab or walk.  Walking, he said, would only take between 15 and 20 minutes.  Vitalis had already taken our lunch orders for the Rainforest Cafe and we were all very hungry but before going to the restaurant he informed us that there would be a slight detour to see a “surprise.”

We were all excited with anticipation to see what “surprise” Vitalis had in store.  As we drove around the Victoria Falls Park we arrived at an enormous 1,400-year-old baobab tree.  This sucker was enormous.  We all got off the buss to take pictures.

Baobab Tree

1400 Baobab Tree in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

After our stop at the baobab tree, we drove to the Victoria Falls Park entrance where we had  wonderful lunch at the Rainforest Cafe.  

Rainforest Cafe Zimbabwe

Our table at the Rainforest Cafe.

Our meal was delicious but dessert was quite possibly the BEST desserts I’ve ever eaten in my entire life: a scoop of chocolate mouse with a slice of flourless chocolate cake.  (Thank you Donna for not being able to eat sweets which left an extra dessert that I quickly and selfishly volunteered for myself).  As an added bonus, an extra dessert was mistakenly served to our table.  A huge smile swept across Vitalis’s face and he said:  “Brian, the restaurant seems to have overestimated our servings of dessert by one.  Would you like this extra slice of chocolate cake?”   I practically jumped up from my seat and grabbed it.  BONUS!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

The most AMAZING flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse.

What happened next soon came to be known as “the chocolate cake incident.”   As I was about to dive into my THIRD chocolate mouse/cake  dessert I began to feel a little guilty so I offered a bite to Aryn, Kathryn and Judy who said no.  So I asked Cheryl:  “Do you want a bite.”  (stressing the word “bite”).  Well, Cheryl accepted without batting an eye and practically grabbed the plate right from my hands and placed it on the table between her and Norma.  Like vultures, the two of them proceeded to DEVOUR my dessert!  My eyes burst from their sockets and I gasped.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  It was as if these two women hadn’t had a meal in weeks and I had to move quickly if I was going to get any of my dessert back.  “Hey!”  I said, “that’s mine!  I was just offering you a bite.”  Cheryl and Norma looked up with a shocked look of guilt.  “Oh my God,” they said with a laugh.  They thought I was giving them the entire plate.  I, then, took back what little scraps of my dessert were left and “the chocolate cake incident” became a running joke from that moment on.  As Cheryl would say with a hearty laugh:  “It was HILARIOUS.”

During lunch, a young David Livingstone impersonator stood among the tables and told of his life and missionary travels and vision for Africa during the mid 1800’s.   I’m sure many people have heard that famous quote:  “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.”  It was interesting to hear his story.

After lunch, we proceeded on our two-hour walking tour through the rainforest trail along the amazing Victoria Falls.  Near the beginning of the rainforest trail was a bronze statue of David Livingstone looking over the falls.  Judy, Aryn, Katheryn and I gathered together for a photo.

Victoria Falls Tour

Me with Kathryn, Judy and Aryn (left to right)

In some of the photos of the falls we saw back around the visitor’s center you could see a rainbow spanning along the falls.  I thought to myself:  Wow!  I hope we get to see one of those today.  Well, I underestimated my expectations because there was a rainbow in almost every view of the falls.  Magical.

Victoria Falls

A view of the beautiful Victoria Falls from one of the lookout points along the rainforest trail. Notice the rainbow my camera captured in this photo.

We walked from the beginning of the trail (just outside the Rainforest Cafe and the gift shop area) all the way to the end that looked across at the Victoria Falls Bridge that connects Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Victoria Falls

Another view of the falls. This pic was taken with my cell phone.

The walk lasted from 2P till 4P.  For most of the walk I stayed with Vitalis and our group.  But later I ventured ahead and just enjoyed the peaceful beauty of the area.  I was able to gather many of my thoughts about the trip as well as sort through some of my experiences throughout the entire year.  It was a really nice experience and in some ways mirrored the peace of my walk back home along the Towpath in Summit County, Ohio.

Rainforest Trail

Rainforest Trail along Victoria Falls

After our walking tour of Victoria Falls, we returned to our hotel and I was anxious to venture, on my own, into the town of Victoria Falls.  I was on a bit of a time crunch because I wanted to mail my post cards and I knew the post office, in town, closed at 5P.  I could have grabbed a taxi for $5 but I chose to hurry on foot instead.  Vitalis had told us it was a safe walk during the daytime, even alone.

My first stop, was the post office.  I needed to buy 13 postcard stamps and get my cards mailed back to the US.