AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls to Cape Town 6th Oct 2018 – Day 23

I’m waiting for the Kenya air flight to Cape Town in a new spacious air-conditioned airport. On the ground floor so I will need to carry my 12kg bag up the stair.

As we drove the 22km to the airport, on a wide well maintained road, lined by the green thorn trees and blank stemmed brown leafed mopani, I debated whether I am more Rhodesian than South African. I think so but will wait till Im back in Perth. The taxi driver was Matabele. His heritage goes back to Lobengula then living in ‘The place of slaughter’, Bulawayo, some 400km south east. It was he who Rhodes and Jamison negotiated with for land and free passage. He later became concerned about the deal, so caused the death of many settlers, in particular, the decimation of the Jamison party who fought to the end.  The Matabele are an offshoot of the Natal Zulu. Now this history is dragged from school days so may not be absolutely correct!

Its a 3hr flight on Kenya air to Cape Town, the ‘Mother City’. Established as a victual stop for the Dutch East India Company ships in the 1800’s, it was later taken by the English. However, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was here way before that, only erecting stone crosses where he harboured. And before him? The Hotentots a people now mixed with black and white, the ‘Coloureds’ as they were named in the apartheid era.

It is interesting to see how the ‘sins of the fathers are passed down to the 7th generation’. When the British took the Cape, the Dutch were well established, not that the British cared. The Dutch were treated as 2nd class people; their children forced to English schools, the developing Afrikaans language banned. And so the Great Trek started; wagons pulled by teams of oxen were loaded as families sought a place far from these laws. It is said they also chose to not have homes in sight of the smoke of neighbours, but could also be due to the need for larger land in the semi- desert Karoo. And so as they gradually migrated north they came in contact with the local Bantu peoples, requiring encircled laagers as protection. Meantime the British decided to send people to the south eastern area around Port Elizabeth, encouraging them with very upbeat information on the place of honey! Amongst these 1820  settlers are my Scottish ancestors. They faced hard times in the poor soils and fiery Xhosa cattle raids. My farther was born in King Williamstown not far inland; my first year university was at nearby Rhodes Uni in Grahamstown, and daughter Karen was born there too.

Gold and diamonds were discovered in Johannesburg and Kimberley, starting a rush by prospectors around the world; the Dutch, led by Paul Kruger, were overwhelmed by this hoard; the British once again took charge, ignoring treaties, precipitating the Boer Wars of the 1890’s and 1900’s. The Boers fought a cut and run war against the red troops until the British played dirty by emprisoning the Dutch families resulting in death and disease, and hate till now. Once again the Dutch were under the yoke of British rule. The two world wars did nothing to improve matter; many Boers supported Hitler with some exceptions like General Jan Smuts who later became Prime Minister.

1948 was a turning point. The English United Party lost power to the Afrkaans Nationalists which became more draconian over time, treating the Black people as they were in the past. The sins of the fathers. I should add that my mother was of French Huegenough stock, similar to the Dutch so I often felt ‘in between’.

Our flat in Cape Town is at the top of an iconic 9 story art deco building in the heart of the city. Love it. A lady met us and took us on a tour enthusiastically. Formally the Old Mutual, it was converted to flats in the ‘70’s. The exterior is decorated with friezes and figures; the heavy brass doors to the tiny lifts are engraved. The core is an empty space with all flats on the exterior. All are double height with interior stairs to a second balcony bed or dining space. Quirky and unconventional. 

We left soon for Lions Head. We have made the steep climb on the slope of Lions Head to where solid rock rises vertically to the top, for a sunset view of the west side of Table Mt and the 7 sisters. I’m here early to find a spot clear of proteas. Its hot with a cool breeze occasionaly bring the scent of proteas and other flowering shrubs. Far below the blue sea breaks on Clifton beach and rocks. Its peaceful; the soft, sea waves are a background to the occasional bird and more frequent hikers. So peaceful, but I know that those homes down there are locked down as night falls.

As the sun set, an eagle called high above along the cliff face. We walked and slid down in the dark,David well ahead as usual. They decided to go to the harbour for dinner.  It was after 8 before we ordered, nearly 10 when we left. The meal was too large; I should not have eaten it all. A 4 man band played loudly, fortuneately a Country &. Western style I like. Its now 11.30

AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 5th Oct 2018 – Day 22

I watched David ride the swing and zipline at the Lookout cafe on the gorge edge this morning. Fairly tame he said, but not my idea of fun. The cafe provides a good view of the bridge and the many rafts negotiating the rapids. Didn’t look too tough but THAT would have been fun. Too late now. Getting here requires a vehicle though the distance is minimal, owing to a small herd of elephant that badly injured a guy recently. Baboons and a few warthogs stroll the streets but it is safe to walk where street lights exist.

The northern Zimbabwe Shona tribe are well known for carving, especially of soapstone. A large market 20m from this hotel has a massive variety, one stall in particular owned by an old guy Chris, caught my attention yesterday. I decided to buy a small carving of the Zimbabwe bird of the Great Zimbabwe ruined city near what was Fort Victoria. The stone walls are beautifully cut and placed, similar to the well known Machu Pichu on a smaller scale. Large areas of the country are terraced too and speculation is that Arab slave traders had it done – or a people now extinct. The bird emblem is located there. Ailine ended up buying a lot including an excellent very large heavy elephant carving, probably by local Ndebele.

Chris is talented; besides carving he plays music at a local venue, mentioning ’By the Rivers of Babylon’. He could easily fit in New York’s Harlem. He also said that Mugabe’s party never won here and that all lived in peace. Any outsider had to conform! I feel sorry that he has never seen the world, living in poverty relative to us, yet wonder if its not better than our ‘civilised’ west in these ‘politically correct’ anti-Christian times.

We moved David’s bags to the Victoria Falls Hotel, then taxied across to Zambia in three taxies ie from hotel to Zimbabwe gate, then to the Zambia gate, then several km to Livingstone. Both customs have similar long buildings, a glassed office with passages each side, in and out of the country.

Oranges are currently cheap in Zimbabwe.  We saw at least 50 heavily loaded bicycles pushed by guys across to Zambia to make a 100% profit. Its about a 10 km hilly road they do twice a day in the heat. Tough life.

The taxi driver in Zambia pointed out many buildings and a shopping complex built by Chinese, now abandoned. The adjacent ‘Safe Harbour’ hotel is open but not in good shape. The driver claimed they were still here but didn’t say what they do. They dont employ locals, but provide loans to government that will never be paid, effectively buying Africa.  Many years ago they built the rail from Lusaka to Tanzania with virtual Chinese indentured labour. 

Livingstone is the fourth largest city in Zambia, comprising long main street, one traffic light at the cross road to Namibia, a few colonial era buildings and many more recent. All are in typical African disrepair. We were dropped at the far end next to a high long shed divided into many stalls displaying colourful local craft. Ailine bought some though the US$ are running low. David tried to change 50’s into 10’s at one bank; we were ignored but had success at the next.

We selected a busy local cafe for lunch having seen Europeans on both sides of the counter. One customer was a huge man who responded that he often ate here so we felt safe to eat here too.
Guards with guns are common in both countries which may explain the apparent safety. Tourism is very important; truck loads of young arrive as well as the older European rich or self-drive South Africans, and they have to keep coming.


At 4pm our taxi took us to the Zambian park gate for sunset. Despite the lack of water, enough fell in two spots to make it interesting, especially the first which offers a good view all the way down the fall chasm, overlooked by a Livingston statue. We had to be out by 6, 15mins before sunset, but managed to get some good shots (I think, as checking them is not possible on these long days). We opted to walk 1 or 2 km to the Zimbabwe side across the bridge as the steam train was there for sundowners. David asked the loco driver if I could blow the whistle- and I did! Ailine and I were dead by then so a taxi brought us back.

After a shower I walked 10 mins to the Victoria Falls hotel for a very tender venison dinner followed by a sundae and coffee on the terrace of this gracious old building. A great way to end this visit to what was ‘God’s own country’, a taste of the glory days. The garden perfumed air accompanied me on the short walk back to my hotel.
It’s 12.40am now and an early morning start tomorrow.

AFRICA reprise- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 4th Oct 2018 – Day 21

David booked the old Victoria Falls Hotel for one night yesterday but this place promises to find a room for me by tomorrow night. I checked at the posh Shearwater hotel but they are full.

Breakfast at the cafe again, and then off to the falls for morning shots at 5 points (1,2,3,7,8}, while David did the Livingstone Island dip. I could see him from point 8 as I finished and left for the Falls cafe at the gate, leaving Ailine to do her multi-shots. The cafe was crowded, service slow, but a welcome rest spot.

David showed up at 1, after which we set off again to make sure the afternoon shots were good!

Arriving back at the hotel at 6pm I was told I could stay in the same room. Relief; I was about to ask at the camp which has very old brick rooms scattered under large trees. Some look maintained but most are not. Not the best, but very cheap.

I noticed that a new soap tablet had been added again today; I now have one from each day here – which reminded me of a story about soap in hotels.

 What to Do With Hotel Soap

  The following letters are taken from an actual incident between a London hotel and one of it’s guests. The Hotel ended up submitting the letters to the London Sunday Times!

Dear Maid,

     Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you, S. Berman

Dear Room 635,

     I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy, Relief Maid

Dear Maid – I hope you are my regular maid.

     Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won’t need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them.

Thank you, S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn’t remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can of further assistance.

Your regular maid, Dotty

Dear Mr. Berman,

     The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this morning that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM.Thank you.

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Miss Carmen,

     It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 7:45 AM and don’t get back before 5:30 or 6PM. That’s the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you,

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mr. Kensedder,

     My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder, Assistant Manager

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

     Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don’t want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily. I don’t know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don’t know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory.

As of today I possess:

     – On the shelf under medicine cabinet – 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.

     – On the Kleenex dispenser – 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.

     – On the bedroom dresser – 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet,

     – 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.

     – Inside the medicine cabinet – 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.

     – In the shower soap dish – 6 Camay, very moist.

     – On the northeast corner of tub – 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.

     – On the northwest corner of tub – 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

     Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.

S. Berman

AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 3rd Oct 2018 – Day 20

The hotel breakfast didn’t look too flash so we opted for the Shearwater cafe 700m away – excellent well presented food. This is not the country I left in 1966. The waiters dress and behave like New York hipsters. The people here still have names like Blessing, and Definite Mlambo. Most are friendly even in passing its a ‘Hello’. The small town is full of tourists from around the world, of all ages. An adrenaline shot for the young, and for David who has booked swings over the gorge and a paddle on the fall rim to Livingstone Island. Curios of all sizes crowd the streets, some very good. Hawkers constantly harass us and one dare not show sympathy or you will have a 1m wood giraffe to take home.

David had booked a morning helicopter flight. I was hesitant as they will not fly doors-off and the windows are restrictive. However, we were in a 4 seater, I in the front. The curved glass did not seem to distort either. A 30min flight covered the upstream game park and wide area of islands, and the downstream gorges where people ride the rapids. I have yet to check how good the photos are. (Added since)

We spent the afternoon shooting the magnificent falls, 1km fro the hotel. Even though the Zambian side is dry, the Main fall is stunning.  I’m exhausted. I have photographed it end to end (1.4km, 16 view points, 4hrs) and assume I have some good shots. Not easy as the rock is black and the water bright, but with the tripod and filters I have the afternoon done. We will repeat some views in the morning light. Rainbows can be seen looking east from 2pm and rise quickly in the mist and rain as the sunsets. Some parts are very wet; one has to keep the lens dry with a cloth, wait for a break, whip it away, take the shot, and cover again. The Main Fall creates a breeze that carries the rain upward, into the forest for about 20m. Beyond that, thorn scrub prevails. I imagine these plants complaining that they can hear the thundering water, but don’t get a bit of it.

The Falls were ‘discovered’ by David Livingstone Nov 16 1855. The water is from Angola 1000km away, the same as the Okavango. Here it falls 100m over a 1708m brink. The 500million litres/min at peak flood creates a dense mist seen from afar, ‘the smoke that thunders’. At present it’s a thiner imitation, which is not bad as heavy mist obscures the fall.

We tried the micro-brewery across the road from the hotel for dinner – not as good as last night, but still ok and well presented. Their home brewed ginger beer is excellent.

AFRICA reprise- Botswana/Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 2nd Oct 2018 – Day 19

Its been a long day as it mostly is on ‘holiday’. Up at 6, breakfast at 6.30, then out on the terrible thick sand tracks through the low scrub and occasional stately tree copses on slightly higher ground. Savuti is mostly flat especially a large area named the Marshes, now bone dry grassland. Contrast is provided by a few isolated short 80m high hills and the Savuti Channel, an 8m deep 200m wide dry grassed channel which carries the occasional flood to the marshes. This area reminds me of a farm in the Rhodesian midlands Dad took me too a few times, owned by old Gilfillin, ex army friends I think. He had grandsons who would hunt through similar ground. I accompanied one when he shot an impala.

We had time today for a last search for the elusive leopard – but no luck. The elephant carcase has been abandoned by the lions as its very off. The dogs and vultures were feasting though. The hippo has moved from the muddy shallow pool to one that is filled by a pump. A flock of guinea fowl and a kori bustard were searching for seeds on the far side, watched by a lilac-breasted roller. We drove past leopard hill down to the swamp, but it was quiet compared to yesterday. The elephants at a waterhole topped up by a bore kept us entertained, especially the baby which was continually guided by the mother using her trunk. As they moved away, one made a brief threatening stand. We found two of the local lions sleeping (as usual) in the shade of a bush. We spied a large herd of sable antelope, not a common sight, walking in line steadily toward the waterhole we were at yesterday for tea break, led by a large bull. As they neared the lions, they sped up, leaping 200m past, not even stopping at the water. At this the lions heads poked from each side of the bush – but they went back to sleeping. A small herd of rare Roan antelope walked toward the waterhole, joining a few kudu. We left them there, driving past the large baobab at the foot of leopard rock, and then headed back for an early lunch before sadly leaving for our 40min flight to Kasane.

Hunting has not been possible in Botswana since about 2008, and it has paid off. Tourists flock for the amount of game despite the terrible roads and the cost of the camps. All food at the camp is transported 190km by road taking 8 hrs. The logistics are enormous. Jess our lovely Ba Tswana manager places the weekly order on Sunday for delivery Thursday. The cook (chef) has to plan that far ahead. The camp is extremely well run, the staff attentive, friendly – and mostly Christian. Jess is a 1 yr old 7th Day, and talked freely of her faith.

We flew from Savuti in a 14 seater to Kasane near the Botswana/Zambia/Zimbabwe border where a guy met us to drive through to Victoria Falls village.

The Mababe Depression landform was very clear from the plane; a straight north-south fault line separating the dry uplifted eastern area blocking the water from the north-west to create the delta and the Linyanti river. A small stream escapes in a low point flowing in the wet season into the Savuti Channel and marsh.

On arrival I searched  everywhere for my dark glasses on the plane, and later found them on my head under the hat! Customs was fairly easy for us but not the many trucks that may take three days to get through. It was well worth paying for the guide. The Botswana airport and customs are in good shape unlike the Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) side where one stands outside a small window. The Botswana building reminded me of Beit Bridge on the Limpopo Rhodesia/S. Africa border where one entered a passage along one side of several office windows on leaving, while the same occurred the other side for people entering. And that reminded me of that stifling hot night we spent in the hotel, attempting to sleep under damp towels, Karen in a carry cot in Jan 1966.

On leaving Rhodesia for a new job in S Africa, I sold my 1952 red MG for 85 pounds, and rode the 1954 Triumph 500cc motorcycle to the border under a very hot sun, while Hilary and Karen rode the railway bus. On arrival I was told it would take days to process the m/c to exit, time I didn’t have, so I sold it to the customs guy. I often wonder if that was a scam. We had to spend the night in the local hotel in the hot humid conditions – air conditioning was unknown. A most uncomfortable night under wet towels. Karen didn’t seem to find it a problem fortunately.

We arrived in Victoria Falls about 3pm, settled, and set off to see the falls, so David said, from the Viewpoint cafe. We didn’t manage it as a guard warned us that elephants were in the area, and a person was badly injured recently. The town is small but hilly, not too dirty, with many stalls and buildings in a haphazard way. So we returned to see the gorgeous stately Victoria Falls Hotel.

It was built by the British in 1904 as accommodation for workers on the Cape-to-Cairo railway but today it is a famous luxury brand . Serene lily ponds, arched loggias and broad verandas – offering magnificent vistas – are custom-built for a spot of high tea or a relaxed gin and tonic. Some rooms offer stunning views of the gorges and bridge below. It was built and operated by the railways administration, but in the early 1970s it was leased to the then Southern Sun hotel group, forerunner of today’s African Sun Limited. A significant development in the late 1990s was the involvement in the hotel of another leading Zimbabwean hospitality operation, Meikles Africa Hotels. Today the property itself still belongs to the National Railways of Zimbabwe and there is a shared 50/50 partnership operation between African Sun and Meikles Africa.

Cecil Rhodes had tasked his friend and colleague Sir Charles Metcalfe with overseeing the development of the railway system and Metcalfe took heed of Rhodes’ dreams of the railway line stretching “from Cape to Cairo,” hence he started plans for the first bridge across the mighty Zambezi. Rhodes was insistent that the bridge should be built in a place that the spray from the falls would fall on the passing trains, which is why the site was chosen just a little below the Boiling Pot, at almost right angles and in very close proximity to the falls.

Its a long two story building enclosing a formal courtyard; two wings reach out curving toward the Zambezi like arms reaching out at an angle to protect those on the lawn under two enormous trees looking at the bridge in the distance. I want to have dinner here one night. On the terrace, not in the two formal dining areas where the prices are high and the dress code beyond my gear. The place has many rooms and all are FULL! Walking around its clear who fits here. The view of the bridge and gorge from the broad terrace is excellent.  

Dinner was a very large hamburger at ‘The Three Monkeys’ cafe next to the railway where a very old steamer runs the track to the bridge and back for dinner; it has to take a breather several times from the bridge back to town, affording the opportunity to shoot in the dark!

The N1 hotel is basic; bare rooms over shops and a small reception. But it has a kettle and tea. We discovered we were only booked for 3 nights instead of 4 and cancellations are unlikely but they say a place will be found.

23.40 bed time.