You’re Going To Miss…Southern Africa

You’re Going To Miss…Southern Africa

 

Dear Calvin,

 

I hope this finds you doing well.  I came across your site via CU Class Notes.  I am CC 2010.  I have been inspired by your story and website, and as a fellow lover of travel and medical student, would definitely be keen on learning more about your travels and how it all works out.

 

Also–I saw that you have not yet made it to the African continent (according to the place markers on the website’s map).  [That is mainly where I travel, and my family is also from there.  I would be more than glad to provide you with connections in the countries I have been to/enjoyed, should you make it that side.]

 

Thank you, and I am truly looking forward to hearing back from you.

 

All the best,

 

Nadi Nina Kaonga

Nadi’s first ever e-mail to me, January 29th, 2013

 

Press play. And then start reading.

 

 

 

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”  – African proverb

 

You’re going to miss the first impressions, the first hugs and handshakes in a random hotel, the jet-lag tempered by an excitement of going on your 2nd (or even 3rd) monsoon with once again the proudly self-proclaimed “worst tour guide ever“, and not having a clue of what could transpire with these familiar friends, co-travelers, and even strangers for the next 16 days.

You’re going to miss setting off on a city that nearly suffocates you with a beautiful chaos, the overwhelming crush of humanity in the world’s oldest outdoor market, trying to find a stolen phone and coming to terms to being forced off the grid for the next few days, the sweet taste of mint lime juice after walking over 12 miles and 20,000 steps with your new travel family, and laughing over the inefficiency of a simple task of getting food at the airport.

 

 

You’re going to miss waking up after 4 hours of sleep in a different capital city, the quiet lazy morning of eating simple — but different — bread and watered down coffee before watching a beautiful sunrise over Nairobi.

 

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You’re going to miss landing in another unfamiliar country although this time with a familiar face waiting for you at arrivals as if you already had family here, being welcomed by the very person who sent an e-mail on January 29, 2013 that first compelled you to organize this very trip to subsaharan Africa, being taken in with open arms by a sister and her grandfather that you wish you’ve always had, and being shown around the warm heart of Africa, but only after waiting more than 2 hours to get your visas (well, you might not miss that).

You’re going to miss the popcorn and water that greeted you in the car that would take you to a most beautiful lake that you felt like you had all to yourself, grabbing drinks and kicking back to a splendid view, before heading back to a home-cooked meal so good that you can’t help to having seconds (or thirds), all the while watching with mischief at a grandfather 4 times your age eat 4 times your amount of pie.

 

 

You’re going to miss the 5am transfer to the airport before a quietly emerging dawn in Malawi to board a lonely plane in a lonely airport, landing in the afternoon at a country infamous for its civil war but now on the cusp of peace, exploring a remarkably diverse capital city that could have mistaken to be on the Mediterranean, hunting for fresh fruit like a local at the municipal market, being the only customers in a huge empty restaurant and getting better-than-expected food, and afterwards exchanging stories and travel advice with fellow backpackers at your hostel.

 

 

You’re going to miss haggling down an entire bus to Swaziland before watching nervously as your bags rattle around outside on a precariously connected trailer, walking through no-man’s land to another country while talking about Donald Trump with fellow transferrers, looking for bathrooms in the chaotic bus terminal of Manzini before settling in at one of the most impressive hostels you’ve ever been.

 

 

You’re going to miss collectively deciding on horseback riding while enjoying a comfortable lunch overlooking pastures in the middle of nowhere, heading towards an unexpectedly beautiful safari all the while your horse does its best to sneak in a mouthful of vegetation while you’re trying to keep up with the group.

You’re going to miss the drinks and dinner at the safari camp, failing to blend in with the chi-chi older crowd, before getting to know the Peace Corps volunteers on the eve of their farewell after they had been staying at your hostel for the past 2 years.

 

 

You’re going to miss the smooth morning bus ride to South Africa, the subsequent quick flight to Lesotho and the warm welcome by the warmest aunt-nephew duo, and the exploration of a nearby lake at sunset before heading off to the nation’s top restaurant on the second floor of a hat-shaped building.

 

 

You’re going to miss grabbing drinks at a sketchy local bodega so you could stay up with the group on our last night together, engaging one final heart-to-heart conversation before waking up to a frigid Lesotho morning.

 

 

You’re going to miss randomly greeting Lesotho’s prime minister on the tarmac as you boarded your flight to Johannesburg, before meeting the rest of the group to begin the second week.

 

 

You’re going to miss going out on the town for a night of mayhem, getting to encounter so many younger locals who took more of an interest in us than we would have expected, and trying to find our way back home inebriated during the middle of the night.

 

 

You’re going to miss the humbling experience at the Apartheid Museum, learning about Mandela’s legacy before truly experiencing a taste of it at the prisons on Constitution Hill, and the serendipitous discovery of a world famous food market after aimlessly strolling back to the scene of the crime of the night before.

 

 

You’re going to miss freaking out over missing 2 people in the group who failed to board the flight with you to Zambia, the mad dash across 4 countries in one day seeing arguably the world’s most beautiful waterfalls from both sides, fending off a rabid baboon, seeing an unreal sunset over the falls, the quiet night drive into Botswana, and the giddiness of seeing an elephant quietly greet you in the backyard of your lodge before you headed to bed.

 

 

You’re going to miss the excitement of going on your first safari, getting to see your first herd of elephants, kudus, giraffes, hippos, and hundreds of other animals that were unafraid to approach your jeep, then quickly getting over seeing your three-hundredth elephant by the end of the day, nodding off on a lazy boat ride on the Chobe waterfront, before staring dumbstruck at a beautiful sunset over the horizon as animals continued to feed, unbothered by our presence.

 

 

You’re going to miss turning down a bad deal for ATVs, and then sitting idly in an airport still under construction with literally nothing to do but watch repeating stories in syndication on CNN International, returning home to Johannesburg where you befriended even more locals at the hostel on your final night there.

You’re going to miss answering a challenge to climb Lion’s Head immediately upon your arrival to Cape Town while another part of the group finally get a Girls’ Night Out, the silent wish you had done more cardio during your climb, and the feeling of redemption when you finally reached to top as the sun was setting over the ocean.

 

 

You’re going to miss trading photos back and forth between the groups, debating on who had a better time as you celebrate conquering a hike that wasn’t supposed to be really done on the first day.

 

 

You’re going to miss making friends on the boat ride to Robben Island, meeting a former prisoner there as he recalls his days with Nelson Mandela, witnessing another gorgeous sunset over a natural wonder of the world at Table Mountain, and then delighting yourself with one of the best meals you ever had alongside your fellow epicureans.

 

 

You’re going to miss the early morning car ride to see African penguins in the midst of their mating season and unbothered by your presence, the feeling of accomplishment by reaching the Cape Of Good Hope on the edge of civilization, the WTF moment of being recognized by a random student who attended one of your travel workshops 2 years ago, and the nail-biting detour to find a fellow traveler’s former school before heading back to the airport.

 

 

You’re going to miss packing your bags in an oversized tank/jeep that you would eventually call home and being led around by a guide you would eventually call a friend as your group headed off into the world’s oldest desert.

 

 

You’re going to miss the heartfelt conversations and sharing of music on the way there, the difficult hike up to the top of Elem Dunes to watch the sunset, the warm fire at your campsite, having one of the best pork-chops you ever had after it was cooked right in front of you, and braving the slumber outside despite the cold.

 

 

You’re going to miss waking up with your mouth open and night filled with so so many stars.

 

 

You’re going to miss putting the final exclamation point to your trip as you finally come upon the surreal landscape to reproduce one of your favorite photographs, then staying longer than expected as you know this probably will be the last time you will ever be here for a very very long time.

 

 

You’re going to miss the relaxing ride back home, with enough time to reflect upon everything you had just seen, but more importantly knowing for a few more moments moment you were surrounded by new lifelong friends who had just shared experiences that you wouldn’t be able to repeat again with anyone else.

And you’re going to miss most of all, each other; a group of unique personalities united by adventure, where we’ll all look back one day and ask ourselves if we did see all that we saw and went as far as we did.

And we certainly did — far, and most importantly, together.

 

The Cape Of Good Hope, Chance, and Serendipity

The Cape Of Good Hope, Chance, and Serendipity

 

 

After an epic 48 hours in Cape Town and capping off with an unforgettable 6 hour dinner at La Colombe, the group returned at 1am to our hostel and packed ahead for our drive to The Cape of Good Hope early the next morning. I foolishly chose to stay up until 3am blogging, only getting an ungodly 3 hours of sleep before we had to leave again.

Our plan for the day was to drive down from Cape Town beginning at 7am to the Cape of Good Hope, returning to the airport by 3pm for our 5pm flight to WIndhoek, Namibia. And where Sam and Mike elected to stay behind to explore more of Cape Town for the weekend, Nadi would join us in their place for Namibia.

Beginning the drive at 7am from Greenpoint, we reached False Bay (named for being frequently and incorrectly assumed to be that of the main Cape Town city) by 8am, and got a great view of the beach below.

This is known to be a great beginner’s surfing spot, although it’s also home to the Great White Shark.

 

 

After a few minutes here, we drove onwards to Simon’s Town to see native African penguins at the Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony (65 rands per person). Although I’ve found them to be very similar to the emperor, chinstrp and gentoo penguins we saw in Antarctica 2 years ago, the African penguins here are more comfortable around humans; instead of running away from you in Antarctica, here they’ll bite you if you get too close (especially with your selfie stick!).

 

 

Equally cute, nonetheless…

 

 

August happens to be their mating season, so you’ll see a lot of “fluffier” penguins which are the infants who have yet to undergo their moulting period, as well as many coupled-up adult penguins who choose to stay together for life.

 

 

After about half an hour here, we drove onwards about 45 minutes longer to reach the edges of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, which resembles The Burren area of Ireland that we had driven to a few months earlier.

 

 

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a view of the native ostriches here, which when they’re by the sea can be a rare sight. The brown ones are female, and the black/white ones are male.

 

 

While here, consider a hike up Cape Point Peak to the Old Cape Point Lighthouse. Although a semi-steep hike that’ll take about 10-15 minutes, it’s nowhere as brutal as the Lions Head or Table Mountain hikes in Cape Town.

 

 

Built in 1857, the Old Cape Point Lighthouse amusingly never lived up to its potential. It was frequently obscured by fog due to its height of 283m above sea level, thus rendering it useless to approaching ships. After the Portuguese Lusitania was shipwrecked in 1911, another Lighthouse was built nearby at 87m above sea level.

Views from the top:

 

 

It was at about this point where I struck up a conversation with the girl on the left (in the photo above), noticing she and her friend had American accents. When one question led to another about where they were from (New Jersey), what they were doing here (some medical-related program) and that somehow we were both were interested in Emergency Medicine, barely a breath passed before her eyes widened and she blurted out: “Do you do ECAASU?”

Lo and behold, in the middle of nowhere at the edge of civilization, a random University of Pittsburgh student would recognize me as her workshop facilitator (on the topic of travel no less) back at the ECAASU 2013 conference at Harvard

Of all the places to run into each other again. . . .

 

 

After quickly exchanging contact information and betting on the potential of traveling together in the future, I headed back down with my group still stunned as we drove onwards to Cape Point, the most southwestern point of the African continent:

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the edge of the civilized world:

 

 

Any further we would reach Antarctica 600km away (hah, been there done that!).

After about half an hour taking photos and walking around, we drove back on the west side of the peninsula, reaching the scenic beachhead by Chapman’s Peak.

 

 

And Chapman’s Peak itself, named after legendary sailor John Chapman who swam in the freezing waters here to retrieve fresh drinking water for his stranded crew.

Driving down the mountain pass here is extraordinarily breathtaking, as the mountain itself is built from multiple layers of sand deposits that have been pressed down over millions of years when these lands were still underwater.

 

 

We finally stopped at Hout’s Bay and Fisherman’s Wharf for a quick lunch at 1:30pm, watching locals feed the seals here.

 

 

By 2pm we were off again, quickly adding in a nail-biting detour to find Hout Bay Educare, an elementary school that Kel volunteered for when he was here 4 years ago. Despite Kel not being able to find it on his own 3 days earlier and the fear that we would miss our flight, we finally located it with help from the locals and got Kel his reunion photo. We then blasted off to the airport at 2:15pm.

And thanks to relatively light traffic conditions in our favor, we reached Cape Town International airport by 3pm and checked into our 5pm international flight to WIndhoek, Namibia.

One more country left! We now just landed in Namibia at 8pm, and was picked up by this TANK, which will be our mode of transport for the next 3 days. This baby will always have right of way.

 

 

It took nearly 45 minutes (even with no traffic on the road) to drive from the airport to Windhoek, but as a warm warm welcome, we’re currently eating at atmospheric outdoor Joe’s Beerhouse.

 

 

Tomorrow, we finish our 3 week adventure with a weekend trip to the legendary sand dunes of Sossusvlei!

 

- At time of posting in Cape of Good Hope, it was 17 °C - Humidity: 74% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: raining, partly cloudy

 

The Cape Town Epic

The Cape Town Epic

 

 

After a blockbuster back-to-back days at Victoria Falls and the Chobe National Park, our group flew back to Johannesburg for a one night layover to regain our senses.

 

 

The next morning we took an 11am Mango Air flight (the low-cost carrier of South Africa) to Cape Town, landing at 1:30pm after a 25 minute delay on the tarmac in Jo’burg.

 

 

Cape Town is, for the lack of a better word, beautiful.

And once we landed at the airport, Genoviva — the younger sister of a recent monsooner from the Silk Road trip (and college buddy!) Remi Coker — reached out to us about joining her for the legendary, and daunting, sunset hike up Lions Head. Giving into spontaneity and always flexible, we scrapped our original plans of a city center tour — but where the girls would elect instead to do the monsoon’s traditional “Girls Night Out”, the guys decided to join on the hike.

After a quick meal at Hudsons Burger around the corner from our accommodations at Atlantic Point Backpackers, the 4 of us took a 15 minute Uber from the Greenpoint waterfront district to the Lions Head parking lot. Our uber driver, however, messed this up and took us a kilometer further to Signal Hill, which happened to be a paraglider’s paradise.

 

 

Finding out at that we were dropped off at the wrong stop, however, we quickly hailed another Uber to take us down to the Lions Head parking lot. He too, also messed this up thinking we wanted to go back to the city.

We didn’t mind the accidental views along the way, however.

 

 

We then asked to make another U-turn and eventually arrived at the right place, getting to the “Friends of Lions Head” sign at around 5:30pm. By then Genoviva and her friend Hugo had already made their way up the mountain. So we ran. 

Not a wise choice on this path.

 

 

The sunset hike up Lions Head is no joke. The walk is extremely steep from the very beginning and is followed by even steeper rock steps that borders on actual bouldering. 

To compare, it’s very similar to the climb up Wayna Picchu in Peru. Nevertheless, you’re rewarded with amazing views over Cape Town.

 

 

Adding to the bouldering are eventual ladders and rock chains that with one wrong move, could send you tumbling to your demise.

 

 

Luckily, with a bit of perseverance, blind faith, and a few water breaks, we caught up midway with Genoviva, and together made it to the top of Lions Head just in time to catch the sunset at 6:10pm.

 

 

Lions Head just got served

 

Take your time here on what I affectionately have nicknamed today as “Selfie Mountain.” You deserve it.

 

Thanks for leading the way for us Genoviva, and making us do this hike in the first place!

Show off.

 

After a hike like this, I definitely owed it to myself the more-than-usual number of times I could serve Lions Head and the rest of Cape Town.

 

Once the sunset and it was beginning to get dark, we whipped out our torches and began the treacherous journey downhill.

–EDIT 9/19/16–

While descending from the top of Lion’s Head, a group of 3 girls hiking up, dehydrated, inquired if they could drink from JC’s water bottle. As this was happening, Ambrose and JC had a brief conversation with them and they eventually exchanged Facebook information. 

About a month later while I was perusing through Facebook, I noticed that one of those vert 3 girls, Chi Chi, was also mutual friends with a Jenny Chu (of recent Las Vegas fame) — a frequent monsooner who had also visited Cape Town 4 months prior. Apparently, Jenny met Chi Chi on her similarly brief weekend trip in Cape Town. WTF.

Finally, both Chi Chi’s and our hike to Lion Head were planned at the very last minute; ours was on a whim after Genoviva invited us to join her 2 hour prior when we arrived at the airport, while Chi Chi usually does this hike in the mornings but only changed her routine that day for a friend who had also just flown in from Singapore.

I’m telling ya, my world is small. 

 

We then celebrated with dinner at El Burro and hookah at Baghdad Whisky Bar on the famous Long Street (the NYC’s Broadway Avenue equivalent in Cape Town).

 

 

And for the girls night out? They went out dancing and had their own fun along Long St:

 

Photo Credit: Sarah Parise

 

At around 11:30pm and totally wiped out, we all headed back to our hostel finally reuniting with our 2 missing monsooners, Mikey and Sam, who had just flown that night.

On a sidenote, for the past 4 days we had been herding 2 bags of cheese-flavored chips since losing Mikey and Sam (that was their request for us at the airport prior to our losing them), and I’m glad to say they’ve been keeping us company in lieu of Mikey and Sam’s absence. Now these chips can finally reunite with their rightful owners.

 

 

After a restful sleep, the next morning we woke up at 9am for a nice walk around the Greenpoint Waterfront.

 

 

We walked by the famous Cape Town stadium:

 

 

…and Beach Rd:

 

 

And as we stood by the docks, we saw the infamous but surreal “tablecloth” fog come from the cape to cover the entire city of Cape Town and its Table Mountain.

 

 

At 10:45am we congregated at the Robben Island Gateway for the obligatory Robben Island tours, with ferries departing at 9am, 11am, and 2pm (We got our tickets more than a month in advance online)

 

 

Robben Island was the site where countless political prisoners against apartheid were imprisoned; Nelson Mandela himself was held here for up to 18 years. FYI, this is an emotional and sobering place to visit; your guides are all former prisoners themselves.

Once the ferries drop you off you’re taken on a mandatory 45 minute bus ride around the island with a remarkable and engaging tour guide.

 

 

The most notable of the stops is the leper colony graveyard…

 

 

…the rocks Nelson Mandela placed with other former prisoners to signify their time engaging in hard labor on the quarries….

 

 

…and the cave where Nelson Mandela and other prisoners hid to discuss the future of South African democracy.

 

 

After the bus tour, you’re dropped off at the maximum security prison where a former prisoner takes you on a personal journey through a place he once was forced to call home.

 

 

The first main part of the tour was the yard where prisoners including Nelson Mandela, was forced to cut rock as part of their hard labor sentencing. 

In the far corner on the right was “Nelson Mandela’s Garden” where he conjured up his memoir The Long Walk To Freedom.

 

 

And then there’s the cells themselves, where the 4th one from the entrance on the right is Nelson Mandela’s cell of 18 years.

 

Nelson Mandela's cell of 18 years

 

After 3 reflective hours on Robben Island, we headed back on a 2pm ferry to the mainland, where we befriended like-minded travelers from England.

 

 

After disembarking, we swung by nearby Nobel Square, where statuettes of South Africa’s 4 Nobel Prize winners are standing, including those of Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela.

 

Nobel Square just got served

 

Then the group hailed Uber taxis for the 15 minute drive to the Aerial Cableway to Table Mountain, one of the 7 New7Wonders of Nature (the other 4 we’ve already visited include Puerto Princesa, The Amazon, Iguazu Falls, and Ha Long Bay).

At this time of year, the last cable car up to the top is at 4:30pm, and the last one down is 5:30pm. Each roundtrip ticket costs 240 rands. If you miss the cable car down, you will be forced to hike down the 4-5 hour path to the city.

 

 

After about 20 minutes waiting in line and then 2 quick minutes up to the top, you’re rewarded with some of the best views of Cape Town at its highest point of 1 kilometer above sea level (However, in my personal opinion the views were better from yesterday’s hike up Lion’s Head).

 

 

At 5:45pm we headed back on the last cable car down.

 

 

And as an exclamation point to our 2 days in Cape Town, we rounded off our day by taking a 30 minute drive south to the vineyard country of Cape Town for a 5 hour dinner at La Colombe, arguably the top restaurant in Africa and formerly San Pellegrino’s 12th best restaurant in the world.

Thanks to aforementioned two-time monsooner Jenny Chu for the timely recommendation, we were able to score a hard-fought reservation for 10 of us about a month in advance.

 

Linda teaches Kel how to salsa

 

We were even fortunate to have two-time monsooner Nadi Kaonga serendipitously rejoin us after showing us around her motherland of Malawi last week!

 

 

The full tasting menu is 14 courses long, and was one of the best, most imaginative and creative meals we’ve ever had since our epic dinner at Alinea in Chicago 2 years ago.

And to make things even more crazy, the full cost ended up being no more than $114 USD per person including wine pairings, cocktails, 2 wine bottles, tax, and gratuity!

 

 

P.S. From the returning 5 monsooners who gathered today for this lovely meal (namely Duncan, Ambrose, Kel, Nadi, and myself): Happy 1 year anniversary to our family from The Baltic Crescent trip!

 

 

Now it’s time to hit the sack; it’s 3am here and we need to get up at 7am for our drive to The Cape of Good Hope.

 

- At time of posting in Cape Town, South Africa, it was 18 °C - Humidity: 49% | Wind Speed: 16km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

Victoria Falls: 4 Countries In 1 Day

Victoria Falls: 4 Countries In 1 Day

 

Victoria Falls just got served

 

Today I’ve marked visiting the last of the world’s 3 greatest waterfalls: In April 2014 we violated international law crossing Iguazú Falls (the world’s largest waterfalls system) along the intersection of Brazil and Argentina, a year later we pushed a boat upriver and hiked for miles for Angel Falls (the world’s tallest waterfall) in Venezuela, and today we set foot in 4 different countries within 9 hours just to do Victoria Falls the monsoon way.

 


 

It was well worth it.

 

 

For the record — because I could never find this out online until I did it myself today — if you want to do the falls from both Zambia’s and Zimbabwe’s sides on the same day, you definitely:

  1. Have to pay twice for entry ($20 USD/person at Zambia, $30 USD/person at Zimbabwe)
  2. Have to pay twice for visas ($50 USD/person at Zambia, $30 USD/person at Zimbabwe)

At time of posting, the $50 USD Kaza/UNI visa that allows you to freely go in between Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana without having to get another visa was still suspended.

 

South Africa

This morning, the 9 of us packed all that we needed for the next 2 days in a single bag for carry-on only, leaving most of our belongings back at Curiocity Hostel (we planned to return on August 9th). We arrived at Johannesburg’s OR Tambo airport at around 9am, then splitting up into smaller groups to get breakfast at different places.

Although 7 of us reconvened at the gate for our 11am British Airways flight for Livingstone, Zambia, we all found out the hard way that OR Tambo airport has been notorious for never announcing final calls for missing passengers — 2 others, Mike and Sam, arrived at the gate only a few minutes after we got on the bus that would take us to the plane, where all of us had assumed they had already boarded an earlier bus to the plane (given they had cleared security way before us).

They then waited at the gate until it was too late; by the time the two asked an agent about their flight at 10:56am, we were already on the runway about to take off. Holy shit!

 

 

Zambia

When we landed in Livingstone at 12:45pm, we learned that we had arrived at the newly constructed airport so we were stuck with no wifi, no service, no data, and no way to reach Mike and Sam about missing their flights. Moreover, the visa process to enter Zambia was a nightmare as a garbled mess of tourists lined up in meaningless lines, hopping from line to line in order to wait even longer for entry.

Only by publicly announcing that I was leading a group did I get expedited entry — all 7 of our passports were swiftly taken and stamped immediately in succession without the agent even looking up at us or scanning our passports in a computer. FYI, each visa on arrival costs $50 USD/person and they do not yet take credit cards at the new airport.

Once out of the airport we negotiated taxis to take us directly from the airport to the entrance to the falls. We were able to haggle the price down to $15 USD a car (4 passengers each).

After arriving at the entrance of the Zambian side of the falls, we paid $20 USD/person for entry.

 

 

It’s about another 3 minute walk from the ticket booth to the actual entrance to the park.

 

 

The Zambian side of the falls have 3 major sights: The Eastern Cataract, Knife Edge, and Boiling Pot. When you enter, you begin at the Eastern Cataract, where you’ll get your first glimpse of the falls.

 

 

Then walking more towards the main part of the falls, you’ll walk across a footbridge along a ridge called Knife’s Edge.

 

 

If you’re not busy looking ahead, don’t forget to enjoy the views from the footbridge:

 

 

Along Knife’s Edge, you can get take a quick detour for views of the the adjacent gorge and Victoria Falls Bridge.

 

 

You’ll then reach the end of the Zambian side of the park, which gives you the far view of Danger Point, located on the Zimbabwe Side.

 

 

You can then backtrack to the entrance and take a fork down to the 650m hike downhill to the Boiling Pot.

 

 

Once you reach the Boiling Pot, look for the maelstroms at the bottom of the falls.

 

 

 

Make sure you don’t get your stuff stolen by the curious baboons; one of them made a grab for Linda’s bag here (just like the rascals who took Chris’ bag at Iguazú Falls or the crazy apes at Gibraltar!).

 

 

Make sure you brought enough water for this particular hike as the trek back uphill can be grueling.

JC made some friends along the way.

 

 

We spent approximately a total of 2 hours on the Zambian side of the falls before heading back out the exit and towards the nearby exit border post of Zambia.

 

 

Getting stamped out was pretty quick.

 

 

Afterwards it was a 20 minute walk across no man’s land and Victoria Falls Bridge to Zimbabwe.

 

 

It’s at the middle of Victoria Falls Bridge where you can bungee jump for $150-$200 USD per person.

 

 

Zimbabwe

 

Follow the road past the bridge until you get to the ZImbabwe border offices on your left.

 

 

Once in Zimbabwe, you walk a little more towards the entry border offices to get stamped in, where like Zambia, the process is incredibly inefficient.

Although they do take credit cards here (visa is $30 USD/person), they have to do one transaction at a time to staple in each receipt to each visa application (therefore going in a group will take awhile).

 

 

Our immigration officer actually ran out of receipt paper for the credit card transactions so I gave up and just gave him the rest in US dollars.

 

 

Once you’re stamped in, you then show your visa stamps to another guard outside, and then it’s a quick 5 minute walk from the border offices to the entrance of the Zimbabwe side of the falls.

Entry is $30 USD/person. They do take credit cards!

 

 

Once inside, you begin at the Devil’s Cataract on the west side.

 

 

…from where you can walk south and eastwards towards Danger Point (about 1km away), stopping along various viewpoints along the way as you get back closer to main falls.

 

 

Where Zambia’s side is wild enough for being on top of all the action, you get to see all the action from the Zimbabwe side.

 

 

Once you reach Danger Point, take in the beautiful sunset and make sure you don’t fall down!

 

 

Can’t make this stuff up. All photos in this post have been #nofilter.

After the sun finally set at 6pm we headed the long way back to the exits (the falls officially close at 6pm) and got a $10 van outside to take all 7 of us to the nearby restaurant In Da Belly where our Botswana drivers were waiting for us.

You can reserve drivers to ferry you directly from the falls to your lodgings in Kasane, Botswana for $30 USD/person to save you the headache of running around to find taxis at the falls and then at the border (which will also cost you around $30 USD/person in total). And after about a one hour drive to the Zimbabwe/Botswana border, we barely made it before the border offices closed at 8pm.

 

 

Getting stamped out took a few minutes, with us signing out on a book and getting our passports stamped. Then we got back into the car and drove over for less than a minute to the Botswana offices to be stamped in.

 

Botswana

 

 

Getting stamped in was not only free but immediate as after only a few minutes we were out the door.

 

 

Uniquely about this country (one of the few to have graduated from the UN’s World’s Least Developed Countries list to become one of the most developed countries in Africa), we had to have our car tires and our shoes disinfected for foot and mouth disease.

 

 

Afterwards, it was an another 30 minute drive to our accommodations in Kasane, Liya Guest Lodge by 9:30pm, where random animals such as elephants, lions, warthogs, monkeys and dogs crossed in front of us on multiple roads.

Once we settled in, a few of us headed back out into the city for a take out dinner. Your only other option at this hour is KFC or this local grill. We chose the latter.

 

 

Overall, it’s been a productive day.

And speaking of our missing Mike and Sam — when we arrived at the lodge and finally got data, we were able to communicate with them on their Plan B. In the end, they were able to get another flight tomorrow for Victoria Falls, after which they’ll do both the falls and a safari before reuniting in Cape Town on August 10th and resuming the adventure with us. 

Nothing gets missed and it always works out in the end!

 

- At time of posting in Victoria Falls, it was 17 °C - Humidity: 36% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

Jockeying About Jo’Burg

Jockeying About Jo’Burg

Johannesburg just got served
Photo Credit: Kel Sage
Photo Credit: Ambrose Chu

 

Last night we partied it up in the hipster neighborhood of Braamfontein, where we found out that every bar there has a 30-50 ZAR cover charge, and that even with an entry stamp on your wrist they’ll make you wait in the back of a 2 hour line if you step out of the venue for just a few seconds to answer a phone call (And we all learned this the hard way…they wouldn’t even let me back in to close my tab and retrieve my credit card!).

 

Photo Credit: JC Chan

 

But today we didn’t let that get in the way as we kicked off our morning with an breezy outdoor breakfast at Israeli/South African joint Eat Your Heart Out before heading southwest (around 15 minutes via Uber) to Johannesburg’s top-rated attraction, The Apartheid Museum.

Admission fee is 80 ZAR per person, 65 ZAR if you have a student ID.

 

 

It hits you in the gut from the very beginning — your admission ticket randomly selects you to either enter separate “white” and “non-white” entrances of the museum.

 

 

You then walk up a ramp alongside life-size figures of descendants of the original (and diverse) settlers of Johannesburg towards the main part of the museum.

 

 

The museum itself seamlessly combines a variety of compelling visual displays that trace the beginnings of Johannesburg to the rise and fall of apartheid, as well as the violent armed struggles both to maintain and repeal it.

Be prepared to spend up to 2 hours here; even if you tried to breeze through the exhibits, many of the displays will compel you to linger longer than you would have expected.

 

A solitary confinement cell

Inspired. (Photo Credit: Kel Sage)

 

Afterwards we took a cab to the north of central Johannesburg, visiting an equally poignant Constitution Hill.

 

View of Johannesburg from Constitution Hill

 

Constitution Hill is home to an old colonial Fort that was converted to a jail for political prisoners, the most famous of which was Prisoner 466/64, aka Nelson Mandela.

 

 

The fort’s confinement cells were reserved for white prisoners, which were much more liberal than the ones designated to non-whites in another part of the prison complex; white prisoners here were allowed to have a desk, sit on chairs, talk to one another, or even play chess through the mesh separating some of their cells!

 

 

In the courtyard of the prison fort was a beautiful mural that looked like a Google Map of Johannesburg, but actually composed of a mosaic of different colored stones.

 

 

Situated below the fort was the main attraction of Constitution Hill, namely Number 4, a notorious prison block that overcrowded, underfed, and savagely exploited its black prisoners, whereas white prisoners were treated much more humanely.

It is also famous for its imprisonment of Mahatma Gandhi; his experiences here largely contributed to the foundations of his future struggles for Indian independence.

 

Solitary confinement cells

 

Across from Number 4 is South Africa’s highest courthouse, the Constitutional Court, which oversees legal cases defending basic human rights and freedoms.

So where Number 4 was a symbol of South Africa’s inhumane, racist past, the Constitutional Court would be South Africa’s hope for a brighter future.

 

 

Fittingly, separating Number 4 and Constitutional Court are the Stairs of Africa, built with dismantled bricks from old prisons.

 

 

A little off from the hill is The Women’s Gaol, aka the former women’s prison. It now functions as a public conference space and museum for temporary exhibitions.

 

 

After about an hour and a half at Constitution Hill, we walked south along De Korte St., back towards where we partied last night at Braamfontein.

 

 

Once in Braamfontein, we followed the commotion and stumbled upon Neighbourgoods Market, South Africa’s answer to New York’s Smorgasburg.

 

 

I remember being intrigued by this place after it was profiled extensively on Anthony Bourdain’s show Parts Unknown, and finally being here in person did not disappoint — within a communal space filled with beautiful people and live performances stretching into its rooftop that overlooks Braamfontein, lie countless food stalls that exemplify the best offering of Johannesburg’s gastronomic diversity.

 

 

And the food:

 

 

Get here early! They close up at around 4pm.

 

 

After filling our stomachs and getting a little tipsy from their sangria by the bottle, we staggered down Nelson Mandela Bridge towards the gentrified Newtown district of central Johannesburg.

 

 

Views from the bridge:

 

 

Once in Newtown, we stretched out our legs in its precinct park.

 

 

And within the park is Joburg’s Workers Museum:

 

 

Afterwards, we watched the sunset over Mary Fitzgerald Square before calling a cab back home.

FYI, the Uber situation here can sometimes a tricky ordeal as drivers here can literally not move from where they accepted your ride request unless you call to inform them that you’re ready to be picked up.

Other drivers can even have a hard time navigating their own city (one of our drivers today had never heard of either Constitutional Hill or the Apartheid Museum…)

 

 

Tonight we say goodbye to one of our monsooners Aaron Lam as we officially conclude week 1 and begin week 2! We’ll miss you Aaron!

 

 

- At time of posting in Johannesburg, it was 20 °C - Humidity: 18% | Wind Speed: 11km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear

 

The Prime Minister Of Lesotho Sees Us Off To Jo’Burg

The Prime Minister Of Lesotho Sees Us Off To Jo’Burg

 

We slept in again this morning, waking up at a more civilized 8am and lazily taking in the chilly morning air of Lesotho. Our taxi then came to pick us up at 9am to take us back to the airport.

Once arriving at 10am (traffic is somehow always terrible here) and going through security, we watched as a military formation greeted us on the tarmac.

 

 

Some very important people started to walk past us.

 

 

And as an AirLink shuttle touched down in front of us and opened its hatch, out came the Prime Minister of Lesotho, Pakalitha Mosisili.

 

 

Apparently he took a standard commercial flight from Johannesburg with other, normal, everyday passengers; tourists and other civilians quickly disembarked after him (although they didn’t get the royal military treatment like he did).

After they disembarked, we immediately boarded that very same plane he was on, (one of us got to sit in his very exact seat!).

 

 

After a quick 45 minute flight back to Johannesburg and then nearly an hour on the passport line, we headed to our accommodations in the city center at Curiocity where we met the rest of the group for week 2!

 

 

We took an hour to freshen up here and then headed west towards downtown Johannesburg. The first stop was the Top Of Africa, the tallest rooftop in the African continent, for sweeping 360º skyline views of the city. 

Its entrance is located in the basement level of the Carleton Centre Building.

 

 

Entry fee costs 15 rands per person and they’ll direct you to take the elevator to the 50th floor.

 

 

Afterwards we walked more west, reaching the old vestiges of colonial Johannesburg when it was still under British rule: the Johannesburg City Hall and its old Post Office.

 

City Hall

Old Post Office

 

Then we passed by a few open squares…

 

 

…before finally reaching the old law offices of Nelson Mandela and OR Tambo, formerly located on the second floor of the Chancellor House.

This historic site was the first ever law office for the black population of South Africa and became the stepping stone for both Mandela and Tambo in their fight against the status quo and Apartheid.

 

 

The 45 minute walk from Curiocity Backpacker’s Lodge to the Chancellor House covers the entire length of Central Johannesburg, with the majority of the major sights (Mandela House, Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum) located father out from the center and in the suburbs.

Deciding to save those for tomorrow, we returned to Curiocity to have a surprisingly fantastic dinner at the new South Africa tapas restaurant Love Revo across the street.

 

 

And since it’s our first Friday night together, now we head out on the town!

 

- At time of posting in Johannesburg, South Africa, it was 18 °C - Humidity: 19% | Wind Speed: 10km/hr | Cloud Cover: sunny