Off to a good start.
Only three days passed since we left Israel and it seems as if a very long time has passed. The flight is not the most convenient one. We took off at 1AM, flew for 4.5 hours, spent 3.5 hours in the boring Addis Ababa air port and took the second segment of the flight to Victoria Falls. A short taxi ride and you land in a different world.
Our hotel - “The kingdom at VF” is magically designed like a Disneyland hotel. Not exactly my preferred style but it is convenient, clean, good service and food and within walking distance to the falls national park.
Since we are ‘tourists’ we decided to behave as is expected from tourists - navigate our way through all the tourist traps. The same afternoon we took the (in)famous “sunset boat ride (refreshments included)”! Nice and peaceful ride, on a flat river boat. Nothing to write (at least not something good) about the food and we got to see our first hippos and elephants.
Dinner at the hotel A-la carte restaurant was really good. As you may be aware I am traveling this week with my son-in-law Yehuda (Yud). Just as he sets eye on the menu he spots “snails in butter, garlic and smelted cheese”. Since he had never eaten this delicacy he succumbed to my convincing arguments and we ordered a portion. The plate came real quick with few pieces of Fucaca (baked pizza daw, no toppings - real Corsican word) and somewhat burnt smelted cheese covering an extremely hot metal plate. Yud looks suspiciously at the plate and want me to eat it all. Not that I mind but what about the educational experience? Some hands wrestling and he tried it - the African Escargot is not bad, the color is a bit black but that’s probably because they are natives. BTW the rest of the food, especially my fillet steak in pepper sauce, was excellent.
The next morning we went on a hike in the Victoria Falls NP. The falls are really magnificent, it takes a poet or a novelist to describe them in words that will convey the impact the view, the noise, the spray of water, the weather - all have on the spectator. At the entrance we are warned that a rain coat is needed, otherwise you will get all soaked up. Tourists or not? We rent them like everyone else. In reality most of the time the mist is like a light spray, the coats are made of thick plastic and after few minutes I understand that I will be more wet from my own sweat than by the spray and I take the coat off. It is a rather nice experience, you get a bit wet but the temperature is pleasant. Only in few short segments of the trail the spray is very thick and you feel as if you are walking inside a cloud and visibility is law.
The last stop along the trail is a observation point over the bridge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia. A metal bridge, built at the turn of the century and carries trains, truck, cars and pedestrians across the Zambezi. The bridge has another touristic application - bungee jumping. I wanted to jump and the team actually promised me that they will add few more extra ropes (to compensate for my height!). It took Yud quite a time to have me forgo the idea. I decided to send a photo to the family WhatsApp group, seems trivial task but the importance of this action will be clear in a minute.
We walked back to the entrance and continued to cross the bridge on foot and take pictures from the Zambian side. A mile walk in a mid morning of a beautiful day. The view is nice, similar but different from the Zimbabwean side view. Again I wanted to send a picture to the family group. I reach into my pocket and … nada! Empty pocket! No phone and no nothing. I get real excited and angry, mostly at myself for being careless, especially since this is a brand new iPhone SE which I just bought as a replacement for my iPhone 6s which was stolen in March in Tenerife. Yud on the other hand is calm (seems obvious since the phone is mine, not his) and claims that the Zimbabweans are honest and most people in the park are tourists and not locals, all in all he believes that the phone will be found. We quick march the mile back to the gate and sure enough - the phone is waiting for us with the security officers. What a relief and Yud get another task - to remind me each time we change location to check for the phone (and other belongings). All together we walked about 10 KM, I went straight to a hot bath for half an hour to relax my mussels.
In the afternoon we had another wonderful experience, a 12 minutes helicopter ride above the falls. It is rather expensive but worth every penny. Only from the aerial view point you really appreciate the size and power of the falls. About 2 KM wide and over 100 meter deep of almost continuous water falls. To top the experience we stopped for an afternoon high-tea at the colonial VF hotel. Another beautiful view point over the bridge and falls.
We wraped up the active day with a dinner-show at the Buma, a large local tourist restaurant attraction. The food, self-service style, does not grant the place any points but the drumming show and the atmosphere are nice.
After the rich breakfast we began our drive to the reserve. Our driver is Willson, a local taxi driver that took us from the airport to the hotel. Everyone here seems to be wheeling and dealing, trying to sell you some attraction and make some money. The driver actually offered us to take care of all our needs and book the Buma and the helicopter flight for us.
Just before leaving town Yud decides that he wants to refill his wallet with USD as most of the cash he brought with him has already been used up. The long line at the bank is not promising at all and when we find out that the max he could withdraw is 50$ we gave up. On the way we pass the international VF airport and I, with my western style thinking, suggest that probably the ATMs there will dispense more money. The logical thought has no impact on local reality, the two ATMs are totally dried out.
Two and a half hours later we arrive at “Hwange Safari Lodge”. A bit oldish building, spacious fenced grounds and super quiet and relaxed atmosphere. Since the hotel is right in the reserve we are warned multiple times not to approach the animals who reach the grounds from time to time. We get the “this are wild animals, not Disneyland” message clear and loud.
The game ride car is out and will not be back on time for us to take an evening drive so we book one for the next morning and opt for a massage. Both of us enjoy the massage very much and Yud, who owns a spa in Tel Aviv can relax - he fulfilled his “survey the competition” task.
That’s all for now folks. More to come later.