Sunday, October 1, 1995
Back to the Falls - New Companions
The Victoria Falls Hotel is the Grande Dame of Zimbabwe hotels, but she is showing her age. The staff tries hard, but all systems appear to be overwhelmed by the tourist crush. Our room is small, no view, twin beds, and the AC and TV are not working. After some gnashing of teeth, Sigrid gets us upgraded into a better room. I spend the afternoon tryng desperately to get caught up on the journal. I close to three days behind, but I find the phones are hardwired into the wall, and I don’t have the tools to try and jury-rig something. In any case I am gun shy about the phone rates and so do not get connected. We are now half way through the trip. This is our last night in Zimbabwe.
For the first half of the trip, we traveled on our own, following the itinerary planned by Sigrid and Andrea. For the next 14 days we will be part of an Afro Ventures group tour through Botswana.
Edward, our Afro Ventures guide, finds us in the lobby.He is very pleasant and speaks excellent english, albeit with a certain benign neglect for prepositions, and a hint of that clenched teeth, upper class accent I associate with Brits named Reggie. He has his hands full rounding us up and dealing with the chaos that is the Victoria Falls Hotel. You get the sense that the sooner he gets us out of Zimbabwe and into Botswana the happier he will be.
Over dinner we meet our traveling companions for the next two weeks. Manfred is a retired German surgical supplies representative living in Milan with his Italian wife Amy. He tells us that he has decided to take up archaeology as his second career. He translates at dinner for Amy, who speaks very little english. Wayne and Cathy from Phoenix complete the group. Wayne works in procurement for an Arizona power utility, and Cathy creates graphics for a Phoenix news station. They had been mistakenly ticketed to arrive in Maun which is the end of tour, and to leave two weeks hence from Vic Falls , which is the beginning of the tour. Neither their travel agent, Afro Ventures, or SAA had noticed the mistake. The Afro Ventures representatives in Maun were very suprised to see them there, but responded admirably. They scrambled on the short wave to locate a bush pilot, who then ferried Wayne and Cathy on a frenzied multistop flight across Botswana to arrive in Vic Falls just in time to join us for dinner. They were exhausted and had that zoned-out-deer-in-the-headlight-look so familiar to international travelers. Still, they managed to maintain a sense of humor and coherent conversation at dinner. I was very impressed.
Edward lectures at dinner about how to behave around wildlife, and provides some orientation on the mobile camps we will be staying in for half the tour. He cautions that our tents will be set up in the wildlife’s world and it is important to follow certain rules: like not wandering outside of the perimeter of the camp; not going out at night; and not running away from animals (it makes you look like prey).
Manfred is stunned to learn that there is no fence around the camps, that Edward does not carry a gun, and there will be no guns in camp. This suprises me also, as I had become comfortable with the Zimbabwe way of doing things, and spent some wine fueled time at dinner showing off my knowledge of the subject. Edward listens politely, and then begins the process of educating us on the Botswana way. Which is a subject worthy of an essay of its own. I make a mental note to write it someday.
NOTE FROM THE FUTURE: This is a back-post / cross-post from my first on-line journal/blogging effort - a journal of our Southern Africa Tour in 1995. Originally posted here, the term "blog" had not yet entered the parlance. I am migrating the original posts to this blog. These links to the original journal Date Index or Africa Tour Home Page will likely eventually disappear. The images from the original post were screen caps from video which I am leaving as is for historical integrity. My intent is to add some of Sigrid's scanned photos to these blog back-posts.