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Published: February 20th 2011
Greetings from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe..
Following on from our last blog, we spent two days in Chobe national park, Botswana's premier park for elephants. They say there are 40 to 60 thousand, we certainly saw hundreds.
Our visit to the park started with a long boat cruise on the Chobe river. This is a beautiful, very wide river and not too deep, great for hippos to walk about in, wallowing and snorting. We saw many – from grandads to little ones, though little hippos still come in the Large size. Also in the river were many elephants, bathing, drinking and, as far as we could tell, larking about, Like the hippos they ranged from huge, ancient bulls to little three week old little chaps. Oh, so sweet.
Later, we loaded up a 4x4 to travel into the park and camp. On the four hour game drive, we say many elephants and antelope – mainly impala – as well as baboons, mongoose, warthogs and a lioness. At our camp, we found our tents pitched in a small semi-circle. We were warned that this was all unfenced - look for eyes in the dark if you get up in the
night! The tents were purposely spaced apart so that animals would be able to pass between the tents in the night and not trample on us, as they might do if blocked! We were still pretty shocked when an elephant wandered up during dinner, and then wandered off again. Later, while in bed, we were woken by more elephants, this time crashing along through the undergrowth a mere 10 metres from our tents.
After a final game drive, we headed into Zimbabwe to Victoria Falls, visible from afar as smoke high in the air. From the camp site, more than a mile from the falls, their thunder is always audible. Close to, they are awe inspiring. Over a mile wide, about 100 metres high, the Zambezi's thundering waters pour towards you over the waterfall, covering everyone and everything in a continual “rain storm” of spray. Impossible to describe really, certainly a wonder of the natural world.
Now we have left Botswana, it is interesting to thing about what our impression of it was. It is certainly not poor – due to its diamond mines – nor cheap. It did feel safe, happy and welcoming. Zimbabwe, on the other
hand, feels poorer and everything is cheaper. It feels just as safe and welcoming but perhaps a little more desperate for the tourist dollar. With sights like Victoria Falls, they should be able to attract us.
Money in Zim is a little strange. Everything is priced and paid for in US dollars. But they do not use US coins, they use South African rand and Botswana's puna coins. Checking your change is a kind of mental arithmetic challenge.
Tomorrow we head south through Zim to two further national parks. More, we hope, from somewhere along the way.
Love, Gill and Alistair
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