It never rains, it pours...

Trip Start Mar 13, 2010
Trip End Feb 13, 2011

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hello hello,

So fresh from our escapades, we left Annie's birthplace to head for an overnight campsite between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls, and for a chance to see some of Zimbabwes ellusive Painted Dogs at a sanctuary near Dete. 

The Painted Dog sanctuary was a really cool stop off on route to our campsite. Painted Dogs are quite endangered in the wild now and the main aim of the sanctuary was to rehabilitate injured dogs, allow them to form new packs within the confines of the sanctuary, and to return them to the wild. The dogs themselves are weird looking creatures - each dog has an entirely unique pattern made up of what I can only describe as blobs, splotches and patches of different coloured fur, which made it almost impossible to spot them. We were lucky, as the pack walked past us right next to the fence allowing us a really good view - they then lay down on the ground about 10 metres away and pretty much disappeared from sight!

After seeing the Painted Dogs, we all grabbed a quick lunch in the car park before continuing to our campsite that night which was situated in what appeared to be the exact middle-of-nowhere near to one of Africas biggest park, Hwange National Park. I wasn't feeling at my best as we arrived at around 2 in the afternoon, and managed to fidget my way through an introduction talk by the campsite manager before beating Usain Bolt's 100 metre world record on my way to the toilet block. The toilet situation was interesting as they had no doors - you put a stick across the entrance if it was in use - and people could see into the toilet when walking past. All in all not the best place to have chronic diahrea - 8 hours and 20 toilets stops later I was beginning to appreciate just how much the human digestive system can hold!

After dinner (1/4 of a baked potato) I decided to head for bed, whilst the rest of the group headed to the bar area to watch a group of local dancers who happened to be performing that night. I managed to get into the tent, got everything zipped up, and wormed my way into my sleeping bag, before realizing that I was going to see dinner again rather sooner than I had expected. I then managed to worm back out of the sleeping bag, unzip the tent and get my head outside the tent - in a fraction of the time it had taken me to get in - before throwing up under the watchful gaze of one of the campsite guards. Our driver, Steve, appeared to see what the noise was about, took one look at me, and decided it was probably more than an upset stomach - so he headed off to get the malaria kit.

Several attempts to draw blood from my finger ended in absolute failure, so it was into a car handily supplied and driven by the one of the camp guards and off through Hwange National Park to the local medical clinic. I'd like to say we made the 10 minute drive without needing to stop - unfortunately I can't. We'd almost made it to the clinic, but I couldn't hold on. Jumping out of the car, our driver managed to get me into the toilet of a neighbouring house whilst the night-nurse was opening the clinic up. Looking back, I imagine it must have been a rather strange sight for the children sleeping in the bedroom I had to run through on route to the toilet, but at the time I had more pressing matters to deal with! I eventually got into the clinic, where I was described as 'ill looking' in the nurses report. They made me vomit a few times by making me drink water with the tablets they were giving me, despite several warnings before and after each attempt. Then they gave me a penicillin injection that was rather painful directly into my right buttock, before sending me back to camp for the night. The next morning we returned, and they gave me a litre of fluid via an IV drip and an anti-malarial tablet course. Fortunately, I was feeling much better after finally taking on some fluids, and we were able to head for Victoria Falls later that morning - although I must admit to not remembering any of the trip!

For the first few days at Vic Falls I was still pretty much out of it, spending most of the time either asleep or on the toilet. As you can imagine, Annie spent much of this time thoroughly enjoying herself with the rest of the group. A group of the girls even got dressed up and went to the Victoria Falls Hotel for high tea - a snip at $9 each! On our second day there, I decided that all Malaria and no play was making Mark a dull boy so managed to haul myself out of the tent and take a wander into the town. I made it all of 50 metres down the road before losing my patience with some of the hawkers and then having to duck into a food court to grab a water, completely exhausted from the effort.

The next day I did a bit better. Regardless of how drained I was feeling, there was absolutely no way I would be kept from seeing the Falls themselves. Annie and I set of mid-morning; it was only a short 15 minute walk from our campsite to the park entrance, and not even the $30 entrance fee could lessen the feeling of excitement that the low rumble of the Falls had built up over the last two days. We were warned upon entry that as it was the wet season there would be a lot of spray and were advised to wear proper waterproofs. We took due notice and put on our waterproofs with all electrical equipment safely stowed beneath. As we decended to the first viewing platform the sight was amazing; you literally couldn't see the bottom of the waterfall as the mist kicked up obscured the river completely. However, I did think at that point that the advise about waterproofs and how wet we were getting was slightly exaggerated. I continued thinking this as we wondered further a further along the Falls, although I did note that the spray from the waterfalls was getting heavier in the air the more we progressed. The views that we got were absolutely fantastic and getting better as we carried along the path leading towards the railway bridge at the end of the Falls. Then we found out why we needed the waterproofing.

Heading down a path towards one of the viewing areas, the spray was coming down like rain. The sheer amount of water going over the Falls and being thrown into the air was incredible. Then when we attempted to walk down towards the Rainbow Falls section it just got silly. It was like walking through a tropical storm, there was so much spray in the air within seconds both of our trousers were soaked, clinging to our skin, and I almost lost my contact lenses! Retreating to safety, we decided to take a different, dry path to see the rainbows. All in all, even dripping wet, the Falls were one of the highlights of the trip to date. And it was slightly annoying that my body wasn't up to the task of staying for more than a couple of hours. So we wandered back up to the camp to enjoy the rest of our final day. Tomorrow we were traveling again, and we had a border crossing into Botswana to look forward to!
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