October 16, 2008 - Thursday - Johannesburg, South Africa to Livingston,
Mondior Concorde Hotel - I am up at 6am this morning, since I really didn't
sleep much last night. I sort out the repacking of my bags once again. Breakfast
is included in the room tariff and is sumptuous in their Oriana Restaurant.
South Africans sure know to eat!
When I check out this morning, I ask about storing my big bag at the hotel until
my return on October 25th, but they refuse since I'm not staying with them when
I return to Johannesburg. So that was bad advice from Derek at Wilderness
Safaris, however the front desk manager verifies that I can store my bag at the
Johannesburg airport is being expanded, so it is chaotic and very noisy. They
are gearing up for the FIFA 2010 International Soccer match. I find the baggage
storage office and leave my big bag there - praying as I leave that it will
still be there when I return on the 25th (including the notebook computer I
have stored inside).
There is some high drama at the gate next to where I board my flight. A young
couple show up extremely late for their flight to Mauritius and they are told
the gate is closed, so they are refused entry. Lots of yelling and crying
ensues, however the gate staff prevail, and eventually shut everything down and walk away.
I do love people watching!
I'm really early for my flight on Zambian Airways to Livingston, but that's me: leave lots of time. It was a good
thing, since despite this morning's confusion with the bag storage; I still had
time to deal with it. I just experienced my first oh shit moment. I
realize that I left my expensive Canon binoculars tucked into an outside pocket on the
bag I checked at the airline counter. It will be a minor miracle if it appears
at the other end. There goes a major purchase...sigh!
Zambian Airways departs about five minutes late without incident. I say a
small prayer for my binoculars as we take off. The aircraft is a Boeing 737-200,
which appears to be in pretty good shape. The in-flight meal is a "beef"
sandwich, which turns out to be pork deli meat. This is certainly an
International flight: there are two large groups aboard (Czechs and Israelis). There
is thick air pollution obscuring the view outside for most of the flight, however I manage to pick out the lake
behind the Shashe Dam in Botswana near our midway point. I take some good photos of the
Zambezi River above Victoria Falls on our final approach to Livingston Airport.
After we arrive at Livingston Airport, I retrieve my bag, and to my immense relief my
binoculars are still tucked into the pocket I left them in, no worse for wear! I
pay the US$50 Zambian Visa single entry fee and meet Victor, our Botswana guide
in the waiting area. There is a female guard with an AK47 rifle in the Zambia
National Commercial Bank office in the airport!
We wait for the
arrival of the second
safari participant - he arrives on the
next flight a half hour after me. Ernst, an Austrian who lives near Linz, told me he paid no Zambian entry fee since
he is a European. Apparently the Zambians charge U.S. citizens even more than I
paid for the fee - so the fee charged depends what country you are from. Jacob is our driver and guide while we are in Zambia. Victor is not a
certified Zambian guide, so he is just along for the ride until we cross into
Botswana. Jacob drives us to Victoria Falls
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& I each buy a 100 billion dollar Zimbabwe bank note from some
young men hanging around the border crossing at the Victoria Falls bridge. Cost
was US$5. The Zimbabwe government can't afford to print the bills (which are
virtually worthless anyway), so they use recycled paper from cheques. The bills have an
expiry date of only a few months after their issue date.
We drive westward for about an hour on a good paved road. There is a roadside
stand near Kasane selling fish from a nearby stream. We pass many Zambian
villages along the way. Most people still live in round grass huts and
make animal pens from grass and
sticks. After we pass Mwandi, we turn
off on a sandy track that leads to Shackletons
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