The last lap – leaving Kruger National Park

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Being drenched by the Falls’ mist
Being drenched by the Falls’ mist

Reluctantly, I said goodbye to Singita Lodge and my safari experience and made my way to Zambia but the little plane we were to take to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport was grounded because of the rain. We were rerouted to a van for a two hour drive through the countryside. It turned out to be an eye opener, offering me a chance to see the beautiful landscape. Particularly interesting was to see the rustic one- and two-room houses on bumpy, unpaved roads near our Singita Lodge. As we got closer to the airport the roads were paved and the homes became larger, many with iron gates and large manicured lawns. Stately trees, tall and skinny, lined the road like they were soldiers blocking the woods behind them.

When we got to the small international airport we learned our flight to Zambia was delayed. “Hurry up and wait” is the travelers’ travail! But I did get to shop in the craft stores that recently opened in the sparkling new terminal. Interestingly, while we waited only one plane arrived in three hours.

We were on our way to see Victoria Falls, one of the seven wonders of the world.
I began my morning in Zambia at the beautiful and breathtaking waterfront setting of the Royal Livingstone Hotel. From my room with a balcony overlooking the pool and river I observed the misty sprays that came from the powerful, majestic Falls. They are reffered to as “the smoke that thunders” because the Falls create smoke clouds of mist. It was a day filled with great adventures around this site.
My travel mate, Brian Walker from Chicago, and I were met that first morning by our Micato Safari guide, Sid, in the lobby, and he introduced us to Eddie, the hotel’s client relations person, dressed in African regalia.

We left our luxurious Colonial style hotel for a 15-minute helicopter ride over Victoria Falls. It gave me a different perspective of this famous Unesco World Heritage Site.

What fun to get on the four-passenger helicopter, piloted by a young woman. I only screeched at takeoff and then relaxed as we circled and headed to the Falls.

It is a spectacular site that has rivers converging, as well as roaring rapids. We even passed over a small island called “Long Island,” and also Livingstone Island, at the peak of the Falls. I went there for lunch later in the day.

There is the stunning Victoria Falls Bridge facing the Falls that was built in 1905 as the highest bridge of its time. The bridge seems suspended in air, connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe. They share the Falls and I would have needed another Visa to go over to the other side, but in a helicopter 1,500 feet above the earth we are one world!

The trip was too short. There is one for 25 minutes that goes further south that I wish I had taken.

From the helicopter pad we drove a short distance to walk about half a mile along the Falls. I can still feel the mists and “rain“ on my face as I walked along the rocky paths and narrow walkways. I saw rainbows at the various viewing stops, and even saw a double rainbow. It took my breath away at every step.

Thanks to my guide Charles, who held my hand tightly, I made it over the narrow, rain-soaked Knife Edge Bridge, built in 1968, connecting to another viewing site.

The Micato Safari tour provided us with rain pants and jackets, thoughtful, but almost useless against the torrents of mist that felt like warm raindrops gently spraying my face and body. I was soaking wet from head to toe, but loved every minute of it! The humidity dried me off as we walked back to the van.

When I visited Livingstone Island for a lunch tour they told me that they close from March to July because the water levels are so high the island is flooded out.
The kind guide took my hand and walked me through the muddy waters to sit on the edge of the Falls. It was a moment forever etched in my memory.

After being blown away by my immersion in nature, I returned to the hotel to have Eddie, the client relations manager, take me to to the craft market outside the Falls to do my last shopping before leaving Africa.

The market is a series of booths filled from floor to ceiling with objects made in Zambia. I knew I needed to bargain and Eddie made sure no one got “mad” at me or harassed me as I made my way through. When the vendor asked for $10 for a wooden fork and spoon I offered $4. We compromised at $5 and then they sent me to their next door neighbor to have my “package“ wrapped so I could see what they had to sell. I had a wonderful time and I know they did too because I was the only buyer in the market! The vendors all wanted their photo with me and even though we had been bargaining hard with each other they were happy to do business and so was I.

My last night at the gorgeous hotel was a dinner and dessert filled with the sounds of talented musicians, one in the garden playing the guitar and the other filling the bar room that looked like it was a step back in time to colonial England. No wonder the hotel is considered one of the most beautiful in Africa!

It was bittersweet to leave a place so beautiful. But home called and we took a flight from Zambia to Johannesburg, where I would fly to Amsterdam, then on to New York.

Since my waiting time in Johannesburg was seven hours, the Micato Safari people had made a day room available at a hotel in the airport.

Only a short distance from the terminal, I spent the next few hours at the hotel’s spa. There was a wonderfully warm pool and a masseuse. What more could I ask for before my 20 hour flight home? It was a luxurious end to a remarkably unique and memorable vacation I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Overlooking Victoria Falls Bridge

I screeched as the helicopter took off to Victoria Falls

Eddie from the Royal Livingstone Hotel helped me “navigate” the craft market

One of the vendors at the craft fair