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Sprayview Hotel

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 16 Part 3

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Wednesday November 18, 2015 cont …

The Victoria Falls Hotel is situated in the Victoria Falls National Park along the southeast corner of town across from the falls.  Built in the early 1900’s, its grand Edwardian architecture capture the spirit of old aristocratic England.

Victoria Falls Hotel

Front entrance of The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe

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Travel

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

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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!

 

Travel

Trip of a Lifetime: Ultimate Africa: Day 15 Part 1

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November 17, 2015

9:40P

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.

Stuck in Mud

Luggage cart being hauled up the hill by the tractor in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.

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.

Home in Zimbabwe

A typical residence in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

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.

Birds for Sale

Chickens and Roosters for sale along the side of the road in Victoria Falls.

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.

Sprayview Hotel

Entrance to the beautiful Sprayview Hotel in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Sprayview Lobby

Reception seating area at Sprayview Hotel. It was seated in that chair that I was able to find a solid Wifi connection to send text & Facebook messages 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.

Sprayview Pool

Pool area at Sprayview Hotel.

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.

Sprayview Room

Aryn and Brian’s room at the Sprayview Hotel. We did see some monkeys and baboons in these trees during our stay!

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.