Well everything must end I suppose and so must our holiday. I am not sure what prompted us to go in the first place but I would do it again in a heartbeat if we hadn’t done it already. I found South Africa quite authentic. Maybe that was because of our guide but people just seemed genuine. We would wave at the people from the bus and we would get a wave back – sometimes we would do it first sometimes they would. The wave was always accompanied by a smile. The people touched my heart. It was wonderful to see the animals in their world, we were the intruders so we were the ones that needed to be respectful.
South Africa seemed to be a mix, old and new, modern and ancient. I am sure we only touched a small part of this vast, intricate country. Maybe someday we can return and see what we missed but until then may only the best come to South Africa and her people.
A special thanks to our travelling companions. The group we travelled with was wonderful. Deon, our guide truly set the bar very high as he did a fabulous job. And thanks to everyone that followed us on our adventure via the blog. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Victoria Falls Bridge
Knife Edge Bridge
We enjoyed our walks and the trails were well-kept and set up for a self-guided tour. Occasionally a tree was marked with its name and signs were posted telling stories about the falls. On one of our walks we could see the Victoria Falls Bridge in the distance so we set out to see if we could get to it. When we got there we could have easily tossed a ball to it but it was on the other side of the Zambian border in Zimbabwe. The bridge was built-in about 14 months and installed in 1905. It was assembled in sections in Darlington, England at the factory yard of the Cleveland Bridge Company before being shipped to Africa. When it was completed it was the highest bridge in the world, 128 meters above the Zambezi at low water. The bridge is one of only a few in the world that carries road, rail and pedestrian traffic. Today the bridge boasts between 120 and 180 freight trains a month with a constant stream of trucks and it’s estimated over 500,000 pedestrians cross annually. The bridge itself has become a major tourist attraction. We watched bungee jumpers’ jump off the bridge on the 111 m bungee jump, one of the highest in the world. Now that is something you would never catch me doing.
Lesser Masked Weavers
This little people bridge is called the Knife Edge Bridge and is 40m long and 1.3 m wide. It was built-in 1968 by the Public Works Department. The view from here was awesome in all directions, including looking down.
Back closer to the hotel we came across what I think are Lesser Masked Weavers. If they are anything like the African Golden Weavers the males build the nests and then if the females don’t like it, the males get to do it all over again. The last animal we saw was this crocodile. We watched him for a while trying to determine if he was another statue but when he closed his mouth we knew.
Dr. Livingstone I presume
On Top of Victoria Falls
The city of Livingstone was founded in 1905 named after Dr. Livingstone and it is the tourism capital of Zambia. We had the opportunity to take a helicopter or an ultralight over the falls, elephant rides or a visit to a place where you could see cheetahs and many of our group did but by this time in our adventure we were just content to relax a little and go on a couple walks of through the park. Our hotel was in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Wildlife Park. Mosi-oa-Tunya means ‘the smoke that thunders’. The entrance was only a short distance from our room and we could go in a couple of different directions. One of the first things we saw on our walk was this statue of Dr. Livingstone. It was he that named the falls after Queen Victoria. We were able to walk in a couple of different direction including on top of the falls. After the rainy season this is covered by the river. You can see the mist of Victoria Falls in the distance.
The park is home to many animals including baboons and we were warned not to leave our windows open as the baboons would not hesitate to come in looking for food. We did see some baboons on one of our walks and while we were not too alarmed we did try to encourage them to move along in a different direction.
Victoria Falls in Low Water Season
The volume of water at flood peak is 500 million liters of water per minute on average and unfortunately this is what everyone expects when they come to see Victoria Falls. In November the volume of water is more like 10 million liters of water per minute. Our expectations were such that I must admit this is the only part of the adventure where we were somewhat disappointed. Never the less the falls were beautiful and worth the trip.
Our tickets said African Princess but the boat was the African Queen, just like in the old movie. The boat was a double-decker and even seated the viewing was awesome. The Mighty Zambezi River originates 1,200 kilometers upstream from Victoria Falls so just above the falls it is pretty wide. November is actually the dry season so I can only imagine what the river would look like in February or March. From here it travels over the falls and on down to the Indian Ocean.
Almost right away we saw this Goliath Heron. This is the world’s largest heron with a height of up to 152 cm or 60 inches.
Next up were the hippos. Hippopotamus is from ancient Greek meaning ‘river horse’ and while they look more like a pig their closest living relatives are actually whales or porpoises. On this cruise we saw more of the hippo body outside of the water rather than just their heads and that was neat. As we cruised along there were many other boats on the water, some of them on boat safaris and others here to look at the sunset like us. We were not disappointed as the sun put on quite a show over the couple of hours that we watched.
Spectacular African Sunset on the Mighty Zambezi River
Zambezi Sun Bar
Off on a new adventure and while we could tell Zambia was in Africa it certainly wasn’t South Africa. The excursion to Victoria Falls was in addition to our South African tour but everyone chose to extend their holiday to see the falls. We arrived at the airport in Livingston and unfortunately the computer system wasn’t fully functioning and we faced a bit of a delay. Normally everyone is finger printed, purchases a visa and speaks to a customs officer. We must have looked innocent enough because after the first few of our group went through they fast tracked the rest. We were met by 2 guides this time and carted off in two busses to the hotel. The guides filled us in a bit on the country and the people on the drive and when we arrived at our hotel, the Zambezi Sun, we were met by these Zambian Warriors in full regalia.
The hotel reminded me of a resort and you could see the bar/restaurant across from the fairly large swimming pool. In the evening we were entertained with a live band as we sat outside and took in the atmosphere.
We certainly didn’t have to go far to see the animals as right near the entrance to our rooms they were grazing. It seemed a bit odd to see a zebra standing around posing right by a statue. We only had a few minutes to get settled though then we were off for our sunset cruise on the mighty Zambezi River.
A Zebra checking out the Statue
A Sunset Promise
Sunset on the Mosque
I found South Africa to be a land of significant contrast. From this beautiful Mosque to the road side shacks. Houses inside gated communities near Johannesburg could cost up to one million dollars, other houses nearby $150,000 and the Mandela Homes which we saw everywhere were only $3000. Deon our guide explained some communities were set up where the people with money lived on the east side so they had the sun behind them when they were both going to work and coming home from work. The poorer folks lived on the west side and faced the sun on both journeys.
Our hotel room window looked out on the lights of Johannesburg. It was spectacular but I know the picture just doesn’t do it justice. We had our last gathering with our guide and bus driver, a wonderful supper at our hotel the Crowne Plaza Rosebank.
Johannesburg at Night
Up early and off to the airport for the last leg of our adventure; Zambia. Once we were set to make our way through security Deon said his goodbyes. I know a very high standard was set by which all our future guides will be judged. Thank you again Deon for making our South African adventure one that we will fondly remember.
Off to Zambia
As we neared the end of our time in South African one of our travelling companions said, “South Africa wasn’t anything like I imagined’, and I think most of us agreed. A land of plenty and a land of poor, the color and depth of the country was fascinating and I felt like we had only scratched the surface.
2010 World Cup Memento
Nan Hua Buddhist Temple
There were a lot of street posts with a soccer ball on them even in the little towns we went through. That was left over from the 2010 FIFA World Cup Championships. Seems the whole country was proud to be involved with that. We got to see some interesting things on our drive this afternoon like a toll both that’s design was the result of a contest. It was supposed to represent some kind of UFO space vehicle. Unfortunately that was difficult to get a picture of from inside the bus. It was near here that they discovered the largest diamond – the Cullinan Diamond, 3106 carat rough weight. Now that is one very big diamond!
We also drove by the biggest Buddhist Temple in the Southern Hemisphere. The Nan Hua Buddhist Temple is in Bronkhorstspruit and is a village by itself. The Temple attracts people from all over Africa many of them committing to a three-year period of study.
Tree or Communication Tower?
As we continued our drive to Johannesburg it was hard to tell where one city ended and another began. We often saw cars in parking lots under large umbrellas, I suppose to protect them from the sun. There were some interesting looking buildings too like this one shaped like an old-fashioned radio.
We saw many communication towers in South Africa that had been designed to look like trees. I really liked this idea. Somehow they seemed much warmer and part of the environment rather than a cold piece of steel.
Radio Shaped Building
Painted Reed Frog
Treur River – River of Sadness
We got to walk on the rocks beside the Treur River above the falls. After the falls it joins the Blyde River and makes its way down the canyon. There were little potholes on top of the rocks here too just like the big ones below and some were filled with water housing little tadpoles. Perhaps they belong to this painted reed frog that we found on a tree leaf just a hop or two away from the river.
As we were leaving Bouke’s Luck Potholes we saw some buildings that Deon pointed out as a Dog Training Facility.
1872 Power Pole
I am not sure they still use the area for that purpose but back during 9/11 dogs from here were sent to the USA to help find people in that catastrophic situation. Apparently the dogs needed therapy after that job.
Right after the Dog Training Centre was this very old power pole from 1872. As I understand it this pole was used to distribute hydro power back in those days. Today about 3/4 of South African electricity is generated from coal.
Dog Training Facility
Blyde River Canyon
African Bush Baby
With a depth of up to 700 m and a length of 32 km the Blyde River Canyon ranks number 3 in the world with the Grand Canyon being number one and Fish Canyon in Namibia, Africa number two. I have been to the Grand Canyon and I have seen pictures of Fish Canyon and neither can boast being as green as Blyde River Canyon. I just loved the coloring – I am not sure I have ever seen such beautiful greens with the contrasting reds.
We stopped at Bourke’s Luck Potholes inside the Blyde Canyon Reserve. There was a small visitor’s center near the start of the canyon walk with a bit of a museum where we actually got to see a bush baby in daylight. Can you tell he is stuffed?
Blyde River Canyon Beginning
Bourke’s Luck Potholes
Bourke’s Luck Potholes are located at the point where the Treur River (River of Sadness) meets with the Blyde River (River of Happiness). This creates constantly swirling whirlpools that have left their mark. Deon told us the legend of how the rivers came to be named and I found the story on the internet here. The potholes themselves were named after an unsuccessful gold digger who had staked his claim nearby. Tom Bourke was perhaps one of the first prospectors to suggest that area would yield gold but unfortunately not for him.
We got to take a walk to where the two rivers met and from here you could see where the canyon begins. There was also another local market close by and we had a few minutes to once again contribute to the South African economy.
As we were driving out of the Chisomo Safari Camp and leaving the Karongwe Game Reserve a giraffe peaked out of the bush as if to say goodbye and I am sure some of us were wondering if we would ever go on safari again. It was a wonderful experience. After about 30 minutes of driving our bus had to stop at a bus check stop. The objective was just making sure things were as they were supposed to be and it was comforting to know our driver passed whatever the test there was and we were on our way again almost immediately.
The route we were taking to Johannesburg, or Joburg as everyone referred to it was called the Panorama Route. The views were spectacular as we climbed from the Lowveld to the Highveld. Veld can be loosely compared to the Australian term outback or to the North America prairie. Somehow I don’t think our prairies look quite this pretty.
We saw a number of what looked like very well run farms along the way as well. I am not sure what they were growing in this valley under the tarp but we saw farms with everything from fruit to nuts and an awful lot in between.
Farming in South Africa