“All I wanted to do now was get back to Africa. We had not left it yet, but when I would wake in the night, I would lie, listening, homesick for it already.”—Ernest Hemingway
They say that you shouldn’t start blog posts with a quote. They say that it some how takes away from rest of the post. I think that is bunk. Hemingway was onto something. His thoughtful comment completely captures how we feel about Africa. While our visit to South Africa was short, it changed us forever. We want to take you along on our discovery.
Our African experience began in Johannesburg, South Africa, affectionately known as Jo’Burg. We endured the long flight from the States. It continues to amaze us that you can board a flying tin can and travel half way around the world in less than a day. Once we got our feet underneath us, we joined up with our guide Henry and headed for the Soweto. Soweto is short for “South Western Township.” The sprawling shanty metropolis is the home to 1.3 million people. It has a rough and difficult history that we won’t dive into here; needless to say, we felt that it was important to see and attempt to understand first hand. Our guide drove us around the Soweto, pointing out the hospital, when electricity came to the area, and how all the city functioned. Our guide took us into a couple of homes. We met the families that lived there. Our “abundance guilt” bubbled up in our hearts. A visit to the township was powerfully instructive. We ended our tour at Nelson Mandela’s house and mentally exhausted.
The next morning we hired our rental car for our adventure. You would think that we would engage a Range Rover for the self-guided safari that we were embarking on? No, we went cheap. We opted for the four-cylinder Chevy Aveo. Bad decision. But we will save that story for a little later. We headed north on highway one. Our destination: Zimbabwe.
One of Luci’s lifetime goals is to visit Zimbabwe. Why would an Idaho farm girl set a crazy goal like that? We do not know. The journey took a little over 5 hours. As we approached the border crossing, we began to have second thoughts. Zimbabwe does not have the friendliest relations with our fair country. We parked at the South African checkpoint on the south bank of the Limpopo River. We went in and were greeted by a grim-faced bureaucrat. We explained our intent to cross into Zimbabwe, get our Passport stamped and return. We both saw the blood kind of drain out of his face.
“Why are you doing this thing?” He politely asked. We smiled and tried to explain. Rather than attempt to counter our stupidity, he instructed us to do a number of things for our safety. “Pull your car around to the front of the building, it will likely be stolen or broken into. Go there, come back quickly and see me when you return so I know that you have returned safely.”
At this point, both of us were having second thoughts. If our rental car company didn’t want us to drive across this river into this country, why in the world are we going across? Like walking the plank, we bravely marched across the baboon ridden bridge. We were headed by foot to Zimbabwe. We were obviously tourists. Luci had her camera around her neck. We didn’t have our belongings wrapped in a sheet or carrying grocery sacks across the bridge on our heads like others crossing. As we approached, we were welcomed by camo-clad militia men with AK-47s strapped to their backs. Each in turn looked at us with healthy suspicion. We nervously whispered back and forth to each other…”keep walking, keep walking.” We entered the run down custom’s house. It was sheer craziness. Crowds pushed forward to face the three to four border agents that were behind bars.
The heat that day was blistering. Humidity was off the charts. The air was close in the steamy small room. We were unsure of ourselves. Our naivety was written on our faces. A couple of different agents came from one of the back rooms and pulled us aside and suggested that we pay them to make the process go faster. We declined. The price was adjusted. Again we opted out. In the developing situation, it soon became clear that the likelihood that we were going to make it out of the experience without our wallets being lightened significantly was highly unlikely. Was it worth it for the Passport stamp? I said, “Let’s go.” We walked out. We dashed back across the bridge to check back with our caring friend and find our car unmolested. We had accomplished our goal. We had set foot in Zimbabwe. The adventure was just beginning.
A peaceful outpost
We made our way back into the savanna of South Africa. We had done our research and found a quaint bed and breakfast on a small reservoir, the Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge. This was our first taste of the night sounds of Africa. It was wonderful. We had our dinner on the veranda overlooking the water and listened. We recounted our brave adventures that day and started to connect with the place that we had traveled so far to see.
The next morning we would head out on our self-serve safari to see some of the most incredible animals in the world.
You’ve reached the end of part one of our African Adventure. Stay tuned for part two!