Saturday, May 12, 2012

Paradise Found - Kalamu Lagoon Camp - Zambia

Hippo in the Lagoon below the deck

July 7, 2011, Livingston to Kalamu Lagoon Camp, Zambia. We pack quickly, eat an early breakfast, are picked up at 8:00 and driven to the Livingston Airport. As we wait, I watch an elaborate military march and ceremony taking place on the airport tarmac, but resist the temptation of taking any photographs, lest I be scolded by one of the many armed guards. Our flight from Livingston Airport to Lusaka International is just over an hour and after a 1 ½ hour wait in Lusaka, we board a small bush plane for the final leg of the trip to the Kalamu Lagoon Camp airstrip. Our pilot buzzes low over the airstrip to clear it of animals, circles around again and lands, breaking and bumping to a stop on the uneven hard packed dirt runway. As usual, a safari vehicle is waiting along-side the dusty airstrip. The pilot is flying immediately back to Lusaka and the protocol is that we wait for him to complete his safety check and take off safely before driving away. The Kalamu Lagoon Camp is just 5 minutes away and situated on an immense and lush lagoon with the anticipated resident hippos, crocodiles and shorebirds. It is 2:00 P.M. when we arrive and a half dozen of the camp crew greet us as climb from the vehicle; handing us hot towels and welcome fruit drinks at the same time. The lounge, bar and dining area is open on three sides and the veranda extends over the lagoon 15 feet below. An oval, jewel of a swimming pool is off to one side of the public area, also overlooking the lagoon. The setting is idyllic and I would be happy to simply sit here for the next two days and do little except watch the wild life parade on this panoramic, 3D screen. We are the only guests tonight and lunch is served immediately; a chicken curry and rice entrée accompanied by varied salads; fresh greens, feta, rocket and tomato salad, an asparagus, avocado and pumpkin salad, and a tropical fruit and mint salad. Heavenly!
Overlooking the Lagoon
John relaxes at the edge of the pool
After lunch we sit with our hostess, register our passport numbers and listen to the safety talk. As at the other camps, one must have an armed escort to and from the tents after dark, and each tent is equipped with an air horn in case of an emergency. We are cautioned not to lean heavily on the supporting wood railings at the perimeter of the deck and pool, lest we become crocodile fodder. 

Our tent cabin is lovely and luxurious; my favorite of the three camps that we have stayed at to date. The large screened tent overlooks the lagoon with closely spaced twin beds enclosed by one large netted gossemere canopy. There is a step up from the bedroom area to a small sitting area with two comfortable chairs, also facing out to the lagoon. The bathroom area is behind the lounge area; not visually private from the rest of the tent, but John and I will work this out. 

We have only just finished lunch and tea is served at 3:30; I drink a cup of iced coffee and eat a small honey pastry before climbing aboard the Landcruiser for our afternoon and into the evening game drive. Emanual is our guide and James rides beside him, quietly holding a rifle. We immediately spot two thorny croft giraffes, a sub species of giraffe, with unique markings, found only in the Luange National park.  We see many troupes of yellow baboons, much prettier and slightly smaller than the ______baboon that we have seen previously. 

We park at the perimeter of a near-bye lagoon, a bird watchers paradise, and watch saddle backed and maribu storks, Egyptian geese, sacred ibis and countless other birds. At 5:15 P.M., Emanuel drives out onto a jetty, overlooking the river below, dotted with hippos, crocks and shorebirds. Somewhere in the “safari manual,” it must ordain that drinks be served at sunset, and we obediently follow the protocol of sipping  gin and tonic, watching the backlit silhouettes of hippos in the river while the sun dips below the distant escarpment.  

Sundowners a la Landrover

As dark settles in, James turns on a high beam spot light and our night drive begins. We search the dark of the forest for pairs of reflective eyes, and for nearly an hour, see nothing but shadows. Eventually, pairs of eyes begin to emerge and we see two jennets, a civit, and multiple scrub hares. The highlight for the night, at the side of the airstrip in the “ambush grass,” are two spotted hyena. They are hunchback and extremely ugly, but it is exciting to see them. 

We return to camp at 8:00 P.M. and find dinner waiting; all except the filets, which are cooked to our requests. We are the only guests tonight, so both Evie and Emanuel join us for this 5 star dinner of filets, a remarkable baby corn and cucumber stir fry and thick wedged potatoes. We want only to retire to our beds, but stand briefly by the fire with our hosts before turning in. The gossemere mosquito netting is cocooning our two beds; we slip under the covers, seek the warmth of the expected hot water bottle and sleep. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Livingston Island and the Darwin Awards

Marty and John at the edge of Victoria Falls

We start the morning with the inclusive, elaborate buffet breakfast in the open front restaurant beside the pool. After breakfast, John spends an hour on the internet while I write my blog, but I am unsettled; uncertain if an activity that I have booked for today, before leaving home, will take place. I had hoped that John and I would be able to swim in Devils Pool at the top of Victoria Falls, but hear that the water level is too high for the swim. Simply having lunch on the island seems mundane and I rather wish to cancel, but am told that I will not get a refund. We resign ourselves to going, not knowing how else to proceed and at 12:00 P.M, John and I are shuttled over to the Royal Livingston Hotel, where the motor boat will pick us up. We wait on the expansive deck of the Royal Livingston Hotel, overlooking the Zambezi River, dotted with sand bars and tiny islands.  We can see Livingston Island, at the very edge of the falls and I wonder if we are about to earn a Darwin award.  We sign the indemnity wavier, strap on the mandatory orange life vests and climb aboard a small motor boat. The boat sets its course directly towards the lip of the falls; turning towards the tiny island just 300 feet from the precipice and nosing up onto the sand.  We follow our guide along a narrow dirt path arriving at a raised and tented platform, with a table set for 6, and a heart stopping view of the falls.  Another couple will be joining us, but in the interim, we remove our shoes, wrap ourselves in the provided heavy green rain ponchos and set out barefoot along the muddy trail, behind our guide. The path is slick and our guide points out hippo tracks and I conclude that some of this presumed mud is most likely, hippo poop.  When the edge of the falls is just 100 feet away, our guide takes my hand and we step off the trail into knee high, marsh-grass, interspersed with outcroppings of firm black bedrock.  At places, I sink up to my knees in the muck and hold our guides hand all the more firmly.  A moment later we are standing at the edge of the river, the falls less than 20 feet beyond. Our guide points to a series of rocks between us and a rocky point immediately above the falls and maps out our stepping stone route between the river bank and the rocky point.  I tell him that I cannot do it, but John is game and I say a quiet prayer as our guide takes John’s hand and they traverse the 20 feet of river to the rocky point.  I reassure myself that this tour has been operating for many years without mishap and that, most likely, it looks worse from my vantage point on the bank, than in reality. Our guide has my camera and takes photos of John on the protruding rocky precipice, the falls thundering forcefully beyond. I breathe a sigh of relief when John is again, standing beside me on the marshy river bank.
John Touching the Rainbow
View from the edge of Victoria Falls
John standing at the lip of the Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls is over a mile across, so there are many sections to the falls and numerous vantage points. We turn and walk a 100 feet to the other tip of the island with a view of Rainbow Falls and the Livingston monument. In October, this part of the falls will be dry, but today the spray from the waterfall creates a rainbow. I hold the guides hand firmly and sink deep in the mud when bedrock is not available. Our guide takes photos with the falls and the rainbow behind us. With the island tour complete, we muck our way back to the trail and pad barefoot to the platform tent area where lunch will be served. Before stepping up onto the dining platform, we are seated and our feet washed in hot water and dried.

John and I sit on the sunny side of the table, the falls cascading, just 30 feet off to our left.  I seldom drink wine in the afternoon, but all is inclusive and we have little to do but relax after this adventure.  A newly-wed couple in their early 30’s from the U.K. are the only others on this island tour today and we share stories of our respective trips and lives, while indulging in a first rate, three course lunch.
Lunch on Livingston Island

At 3:00 P.M, we climb back aboard the small motor boat and within 5 minutes are deposited back at the Royal Livingston Hotel. A short shuttle ride takes us to our hotel, where for the remainder of the afternoon, John relaxes by the pool, reading Jurassic Park. Our lunch was very late so we skip dinner, but take early evening showers so that we will be ready for our morning flight to the Kalamu Lagoon Camp in Lungasa.  When showering, I discover 5 stowaway tics from Livingston Island, two of them burrowed in extremely private spots. I try not to freak out  but wish them removed.  After a call to the desk, I go to the hotel clinic and nurse  Nana, discretely removes the ticks with forceps. Her big smile and sense of humor puts me at ease and I am taking them home as souvenir, in the event that I experience any adverse symptoms later on.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Zimbabwe to Zambia

Crossing the Border between Zimbabwe and Zambia- July 5, 2011.  
Foyer of the Zambia Sun Hotel (Livingston Tourist Bubble)

Before we leave the elegance of the Victoria Falls Hotel, John and I enjoy a final, inclusive breakfast at the Jungle Junction café.  This may be the best hotel experience in my life, and I have had occasion to stay at both the Ritz in Paris and in London.  I feel as if I am taking part in a classic movie, sipping strong coffee on this outdoor patio, overlooking the gorge, the Victoria Bridge  illuminated by morning sunlight.

I settle our dinner and laundry account with my Visa Card and our transfer arrives, promptly at 10:15, to take us across the border to Zambia.  As we approach the border, our driver asks if I have the $100 needed for our two visas?  I surmised that there would be a visa fee, but am surprised at the amount and inform him, that no, I do not have $100 cash.  We have $80 American and the equivalent of $15 in pounds.  He is non-pulsed by this and tells me that we will just leave my passport at the border and he will take me to a bank, across the border.  I hope that I have better luck with this A.T.M than I did yesterday. Today is a banking holiday in Zambia, but when I insert my A.T.M. into the Barclay Bank A.T.M. the screen welcomes me by name and spits out 500,000 Kwacha. We return to the border, pay the visa fees in Kwacha, and cross officially into Zambia. Within 5 minutes we are deposited at the flashy, Zambia Sun Hotel.  Four exotically dressed male dancers drum and chant in the grand open foyer as we offload our luggage and a waiter glides towards us with a tray of fruity welcome drinks as I register at the front desk.  The hotel is burnt orange in color with geometric mosaics and murals of zebras and elephants decorating the sun-kissed walls.  A pool shimmers in the distance and metal wart hog sculptures grace the expansive lawn.  Except for subtle details, John and I feel as if we are at an all inclusive 5 star resort in Baja Mexico.
Metal Wart Hog Lawn Sculptures; their positions changed by the gardeners each morning before dawn.

After settling into our comfortable room we follow signs along the path behind our hotel leading to the Zambia Park side of Victoria Falls.  Entrance to the Falls is included in the room rate, and we sign the ledger, our room numbers and the time before entering the park.  There are many other tourists as well as locals walking the paths, most drenched and wearing slick green rented ponchos, cameras in hand. We heard that the falls are even more stunning, viewed from Zambia, but yesterdays, Zimbabwe Falls adventure is cemented in my memory and today’s seems tame by comparisum.  We spend 1 ½ hours in the park, walking the slippery pathways with minimal barriers between safety and the gorge below.  We cross a narrow steel bridges, spanning the turbulent river below and shrouded in mist.  I take many photos and have extra batteries on hand today.
Rainbow at Victoria Falls - Zambia

Victoria Falls- Zambia
After two hours exploring the Victoria Falls park, Zambia side, John and I return to our stylish room. After a brief rest, we feel trapped in our Disneyesque Hotel and  spurge on a hotel taxi to drive us the 10 miles into the town of Livingston. This craft market is more structured than the one we visited in Zimbabwe, yesterday, but we enjoy time looking into the many tiny stalls lining the street arcade. When we bore of the tourist arcade, we venture out along side streets to the real part of the market and encounter some hostility.
John in the Livingston Tourist Crafts Arcade, Zambia

I seldom take close up photos without asking first, but I lift my camera to take a distant shot of the street market, zoom in, and a women points
angrily at me.  Several other women turn their faces away. Not one to be intimidated, John and I continue our walk along the streets and through the markets, but I feel that eyes are watching us and know that we are not entirely welcome. We complete the loop back to the tourist arcade and take a taxi back to the safe bubble of our hotel.

Colorful Girls, Livingston Zambia

Angry Market Women, Livingston
Livingston Market Scene
Livingston Street Scene
Vegetable Street Market, Livingston

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Making Friends at the Market

Bhekie in his shop.

A bowl vendor in his shop.

It’s 2:30 P.M. and we walk quickly back across the border without incident and take a taxi to the Victoria Falls craft market. The craft market is a sprawl of stalls encompassing several blocks. We begin methodically, trying to walk the grid of tiny shops, but each vendor demands that we stop and look at his wares; to support his craft and whines that he has not had any business that day.  The market is almost void of tourists and I feel for their plight, but am uncomfortable with such pressure. Some days ago, the Davidson Camp used lovely, geometrically painted wooden bowls to hold fruit and to pass out the heated towels. I see similar bowls at this market and choose two at one of the first stands. The price starts at $35 each and we settle at $20 for two.  Each shop offers slightly different designs and before long I have acquired 6 or 7 bowls. They are now nested and tightly bundled for transport and I have lost count.  We mill around the market, many eyes watching, and a few vendors shadowing us.  If I am momentarily absorbed in a possible purchase and John wanders off, when I look up, someone takes my arm and points to appraise me of John’s whereabouts. They all wish to be helpful: I surmise in the hopes of securing a bowl sale from me. John’s wish is to buy a carved chess set and he tortures the vendors with his discerning eye and eventually bargains for a board from one stall and chess pieces from another.  Although, I would not have made this purchase, I am pleased that he is taking time with his decision and spreading out the wealth between two vendors.
Making friends at the Crafts Market
I pop into a covered market arcade, leaving John to finalize his chess set purchase. My eyes adjust to the dim light and I realize that stalls in this arcade are operated by women only. They too pressure me to buy something to support them, but there is a different energy here.  I walk halfway into the arcade and turn around to exit when a group of women in the back implore me to come see their tiny stalls; ” Just look please.”  I walk to the back and am emotionally overwhelmed by the impossibility of it all.  One young woman reminds me of my daughter Alisha, full lips and wide set eyes, but with a milk chocolate complexion. She is 25 years old with two children, the same ages as my grand children.  I wish that I had made my purchases from these women and tell them so, tears welling up in my eyes. One of them holds out a set of 5 carved wooden spoons and quietly asks if I will buy these for $1 to help support them and to remember them.  I gather up the courage to ask if I may photograph them; hoping not to offend them, and explain that for me, it would be a better memory.  I feel very awkward and offer $5 to be shared between them if I may take photographs. They all speak quite good English and our photo “contract” relieves the tension. I take a few photos and they push close around me to view their images in the back of my camera and we talk and laugh for nearly 20 minutes.

 It is nearly 4:30 P.M. and time is running short if we wish to walk to the falls at sunset.  I urge John to finish his purchase and sit on a low dusty block wall to wait. We have spent nearly 2 hours here and the faces of the various vendors are now familiar.  Several gather around me and ask what I do for a living at home? They know that I have made my purchases and stop pressuring me to buy more. I tell them that I am a jeweler and pull out one of my folding cards. I am down to my last two of these cards and tell them that I cannot give it to them, but pull out a “Marty Magic Safari” post card to leave with them. One of the younger men pulls my web site up on his cell phone and I try to explain that I too sell at “markets,” but that each artist has a unique product so that the competition is not the same as here. The conversation is fun and easy and I take a few quick photos of them gathered together.  I wished that we could stay longer but leave with an e-mail address and promises to send the photos to them when I am back home.

It is nearly 4:30 P.M. and time is running short if we wish to walk to the falls at sunset.  I urge John to finish his purchase and sit on a low dusty block wall to wait. We have spent nearly 2 hours here and the faces of the various vendors are now familiar.  Several gather around me and ask what I do for a living at home? They know that I have made my purchases and stop pressuring me to buy more. I tell them that I am a jeweler and pull out one of my folding cards. I am down to my last two of these cards and tell them that I cannot give it to them, but pull out a “Marty Magic Safari” post card to leave with them. One of the younger men pulls my web site up on his cell phone and I try to explain that I too sell at “markets,” but that each artist has a unique product so that the competition is not the same as here. The conversation is fun and easy and I take a few quick photos of them gathered together.  I wished that we could stay longer but leave with an e-mail address and promises to send the photos to them when I am back home.

John and I hurry away, needing to offload our purchases at the hotel before walking to the falls.

P.S. After returning home, I followed up on my promise and e-mailed Bhekie and Magret, the woman dressed in pink. I sent one large box of good used clothes to them and am negotiating a purchase of bowls and fabric place mats that will be shipped to me soon.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Victoria Falls Bridge Bungee Jump - 4th of July

John's "last" breakfast before the jump.
John with the Victoria Falls Bridge in the background.
I wake early and call Art via Skype.  It is 7:30 A.M. in Victoria Falls and 10:30 P.M. in California.  It’s wonderful to see Art’s face on Skype, if ever so briefly.  The connection is slow and we turn off the video feature and talk for 30 minutes.  All is well at home and we will return in one week.
I allow John to seep in and sit alone and drink coffee at the Jungle Junction Café within the Victoria Falls Hotel. At 9:00 A.M. I wake John and we enjoy a fine buffet breakfast together at this outdoor café, with views of the Victoria Falls Bridge.
Curious Monkeys
The long walk to the bridge
Bungee jumping is John’s top priority and we walk 10 minutes, up to the small strip of town. Street vendors approach us selling polished wooden hippos, elephants and copper wire bracelets. Their persistence was a novelty to us yesterday, but today it is simply annoying and uncomfortable.  We walk briskly, refusing to engage in conversation. An energetic woman of 40 approaches us with clip board in hand and asks us if we want to take an elephant ride or a sunset cruise? I decline and John interjects, telling her that he is planning to go bungee jumping with “Shearwater Adventure.” She tells us that she is a booking agent for these activities and takes us upstairs to her small office and sells John the $155 adrenaline package of three activities; bungee jumping, bridge swing and bridge slide.  John researched these options and the prices yesterday and negotiates a $10 discount but when I pull out a credit card, the price reverts to $155. She walks us to a bank around the corner where I intend to withdraw cash, but the A.T.M. is temporarily out of money, so John pays with his cash, a reserve of American dollars that I knew was there, should we not be able to exchange money easily.

John holds a voucher in exchange for his cash and she walks with us part way to the bridge explaining that we must pass through customs on the Zimbabwe side, but will receive a pass to access just the bridge, where all these adrenaline activities take place. We walk a kilometer along the asphalt road and pass dozens of 18 and 24 wheel, semi- trucks, waiting to cross the border.  Baboons cavort on their loads, swing under their chassis and pick industrial waste from the pavement.  It is an unappealing yet fascinating stretch of road with the stench of diesel permeating the air.  A line of local Zimbabweans spill out from a faded, single story cement building and I snap a photo of both the line of trucks and the line of people. A guard approaches me crossly, telling me there is a fine for taking photos of the flag, which was not my intent, and I apologize and refrain from any other photos until well on the other side of the checkpoint.  We show our passports, receive a square of paper with #2 scrawled on it, exit outside, cross over to a table beneath a shade tree and show the scrap of paper and passports once again.  We see the bridge ahead, a beautiful engineering feat built in 1905.  It elegantly spans the canyon, the Zambia River rushing powerfully below.

I ask John if he is crazy, contemplating jumping from this 350 foot high bridge? I offer to reimburse him the money if he will change his mind but he affirms his insanity with a nervous grin; admits that he is scared but that he wants to proceed. We are pestered by street vendors as we make our way along the pedestrian walkway to the far side of the bridge where John is checked in and weighed.  Happily this area is off limits to the vendors and we climb a short, hillside stairway to the visitor center and the Bridge Café. John signs the release forms, is weighed in, and we wait for the better part of an hour, watching video clips of veteran jumpers who have survived. John chats with some of the jumpers as they watch and critique their dive and John’s confidence builds. Suddenly, John’s number is called and we are escorted from the visitor center to the center of the bridge where the “Crew” awaits, under a covered platform.  Just as John is being harnessed, the card in my camera flashes “full.”  I have a new one, but struggle to open the tamper proof packaging and thrust the package at one of the crew, begging him to open it for me, so that I can reload before my son jumps. My camera is reloaded, John moves to the edge of the platform, spreads out his arms and dives. Having the responsibility of filming his death defying jump, somewhat takes my mind off the reality of what is actually happening as I struggle to keep his distant, bouncing figure in my view finder. I note that his arms are moving against gravity, which assures me that he is alive, but it is an anxious 10 minutes before he has been hauled back up to the catwalk beneath the bridge and traversed to the end of the bridge and back to me.
His second jump is a “Bridge Swing,” requiring yet another dive from the platform, but this version has a second guide line attachment that swings him in an arch, rather than the head long bounce of the bungee. Only the Bridge Slide is left; a zip line from one side of the canyon to the far end of the bridge. The platform for this is above the visitor center and we wait patiently for John to have his turn. John was hoping that the zip line would be his first event; building up to the bungee jump and the Bridge swing, and after the others, the zip line seems tame. He meets me at the visitors center, tells me he would like a beer and struts over to the café bar, returning with his beer, having conquered this bridge and his fears.  We wait another 30 minutes to view his jump on the video, but don’t purchase it. The video is $45, not very well choreographed and I have the essence video-taped on my camera.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Lost in Victoria Falls Park - Zimbabwe side

John and I hurry away, needing to offload our purchases at the hotel before walking to the falls.  We stop quickly at the A.T.M. hoping to refuel our cash supply, but the digital message on the screen flashes “closed.” Back at the hotel, we grab our jackets and are soon walking down the path-way leading from the bottom lawn of the Victoria Falls Hotel to the entrance of the park. It is 4:55 P.M. when reach the entrance and I present my credit card to pay the $60 entrance fee; $30 each for foreigners. It is cash only and for the second time today, I dip into John’s extra cash.  We print our names and entry time into the park ledger, don our semi water proof jackets and set off  towards the falls.  The park closes at 6:00 so we have just one hour to make the circuit. If there was a map available, we do not receive one and I assume that the trails will be clearly marked. The sun will set in 30 minutes and I want to take as many photos as possible in the slanted afternoon light. The Falls are indescribably glorious and powerful, with spray so intense that at times, we cannot see across the gorge, but only hear the thunderous roar of the cascading water. We walk quickly from one vantage point to another, aware that we must complete the circuit within the hour. We see only a few other visitors on the trails, and have the park almost to ourselves. The vista points are precariously close to the sheer cliffs and have only knee high chain barriers between the pathways and oblivion. The paths are slippery and mossy from the constant spray and we find ourselves walking through a mysterious rainforest, when just 20 minutes earlier, we were jacketless and trekking over dusty terrain.
The final rays of sunlight on the edge of the Victoria Falls

I take several movies, scanning the breath of the view from each look-out point.  We come to the end of the pathway, double back and take a fork in the trail leading along the edge of vertical cliff.  It is just 5:30 and the sun is a red ball dipping behind the trees, shrouded in mist. As I raise my camera to shoot this sunset photo, my battery goes dead and I rummage through John’s backpack for the camera case containing newly charged batteries. To my dismay, I visualize it on the bed back at our hotel.  I manage to squeeze two more shots from the depleted battery and accept that I will have to commit the rest of the trail to my memory.  There is another fork in the path and John leads, choosing the one following the perimeter of the cliff.  We are in another world, the spray pelting sideways, parts of the pathway submerged in water and all slick with slime and mud. I note a sign post at the fork, but most of the lettering is washed away from the spray and I wonder where the pathway leads? The micro-climate becomes even more intense and further along, John takes a few steps off the path, presumably to get a better view?  I scream for him to come back, but he cannot hear my cry over the thunder of the falls. He must sense my panic, and turns, following me away from the cliff along the pathway.  It winds inland and within a couple of minutes we are standing on dry ground, looking at the Victoria Falls Bridge, but from the opposite side.  I can see our hotel beyond, a pale white in the fading light.

I look at my watch, noting that we have just 15 minutes to get back to the entrance, but when we proceed the path suddenly dead ends.  We must retrace our steps back to the mystery fork in the road.  We have not eaten since breakfast, all of our muscles ache and our feet are soggy and tired, so we walk more briskly than ever and turn at the earlier fork in the path, hoping that it will lead to the exit.  The park closes in 5 minutes and the forest is growing dark.  John growls for effect, reminding me of the wild animals that may be lurking in the surrounding forest.  My heels rhythmically click the rocky path and at 6:15, I finally see the faint light of the park entrance, ahead. The park is closed but several attendants sit eating dinner within the confines of the gate. Raising their cups of tea or coffee in our direction, they jovially ask if we will join them for dinner?  I mutter that we took the wrong path, and we exit into a barren parking lot.  An hour ago, this area was bustling with vendors and taxis waiting in anticipation of a sale. There is no chance of a ride back to our hotel now, so John and I cross the dimly lit railroad tracks and hike even more quickly up the darkening pathway, through the bush, towards our hotel.  I mutter to John that this is exactly what I promised Papa, we would not do. 10 minutes later, we arrive at a closed gate at the lower lawn of the Victoria Falls Hotel.  I reach impulsively towards the fence and John hisses at me to stand back, telling me that the fence is electric.  Barbed wire curls along the top of the fence and John carefully maneuvers the various pins and locks at the bottom of the gate, managing to swing one side of the gate open.  We enter the safety of the hotel property and slip up the side stairway to our room, avoiding the watchful eyes of the diners on the patio beyond.  15 minutes later, we are seated at a candle-lit table for two, overlooking the edge of the veranda; John enjoying one of the best cheeseburgers of his life, (at $14) while I dine on a chicken and mango entrée, (at $16) John is of legal age here and we share a cheap bottle of South African wine and recount the days adventures.
Painting of Victoria Falls at the Victoria Falls Hotel