What do you do when you just graduated with your PhD and are between jobs and have a friend going to Africa? Tag along, clearly. I met E in the Johannesburg airport and the adventure began. We first flew to Livingstone, Zambia to see Victoria Falls. The falls straddle the Zim-Zam border, so logistics were a little crazy, but I am glad we went to the national parks on both sides. The falls seem impossibly wide - more a conglomerate of a bunch of falls mashed together. In some places, the mist from the water falling 100 ft. below was so dense that you couldn't even see the water. And it frequently felt like it was raining.
Dr. Livingstone, I presume?
It's really wide!
So many rainbows
In Livingstone, I got my first taste of nshima/pap/sadze, the corn-based staple served with meat and veggie stews. It's super yummy. The locals usually seemed surprised that I wanted to eat it all through the trip. To be fair, they probably eat it every meal of everyday, all the time. But when I'm in Africa, I'm not ordering a friggin hamburger.
I love African food!
We took a long, heavily air-conditioned bus ride from Livingstone to Lusaka. We stayed in a super odd hostel before catching a morning flight to Mfuwe, near the South Luangwa National Part. We were picked up at the airport (airport pickup is so nice) and taken to the safari camp, where we would spend five days. We went on safari drives twice a day and filled the afternoons with naps, eating, and yoga. The wildlife viewing was spectacular, and our guide was amazingly perceptive and knowledgeable. It was cool not just to see them, but to learn about their behavior and habits. Also, since we were there a couple of months after spring, we saw a ton of baby animals! BABY ANIMALS!
The view from our safari tent, complete with barking hippos
And a baby zebra. So awkward
Us in the safari truck
Saddle-billed storks. They have hearts on their chests
I love baby elephants. Also, the elephant butt in picture-in-picture.
The chameleon that our guide somehow saw in the brush
while driving in the dark at 30 mph
Full, happy wild dog
After five great days in the bush, we traveled to Kariba, Zimbabwe for safari #2. We spent three nights on the Zambezi River with two local guides. It was astoundingly beautiful. E and I both became bird enthusiasts (it's not just for old white ladies, though maybe we are approaching that demographic). We both got pretty sunburned the first day and spent the rest of the time wearing long pants, long sleeves and jerry-rigged hand covers. A good portion of the time on the river was dodging hippos (whom we could see) and crocs (whom we could not see, but I assume the guides could). The guides were both super great; it was amazing to see how much they loved the animals. We camped on sandy islands and eat like queens. English breakfast is a big thing in Zim - protein, protein, and more protein. On day two, I realized that I was actually relaxed, and couldn't remember the last time I'd been so at peace. Probably on our honeymoon. Relaxing is great. You should try it sometime. And by you, I mean me, more often.
Elephants crossing on the canoe safari
Fisheagle, the national bird of both countries.
Cooler than a bald eagle.
After saying goodbye to the canoe folks, we took a private plane to Harare, the capital of Zim. Erin was very excited to sit in the front seat of the Cessna. Too bad he didn't have extra headphones so we could listen to the fancy pilot talk. We spent a day in Harare eating ice cream and haggling for curios.
Erin in the cockpit of our private plane to Harare
I went on my own to visit my friend, A, in Pretoria, South Africa, where she is working. We went around town and saw all the government buildings and Afrikaaner sights, which are a little odd, post-apartheid. We made an African dinner for her housemates, including pap, chakalaka, greens, and squash.
All in all, it was pretty swell. I think I'd like to come back someday with Matt and maybe kiddos. There's so much to see! I am always a little nervous before I go to a region that I'm unfamiliar with, like it will be another planet. And it never is. There are always just people, going about living. For me, travelling isn't as much about seeing things. It's more about understanding the world and people so I feel more grounded at home. And about remembering that I can be brave when the need arises.