Tiger moths and staring the overland tour

Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
Trip End Jun 12, 2006

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Said goodbye to Steve and Nadja, who were leaving the truck in Vic Falls. They were lining up a year and a half on the road and after a few months in Africa their next destination was the USA.

I was picked up that morning and taken back over to Zambia and Livingstone airport for the flight. The plane was a 1941 Tiger Moth. The wings were made of cloth and wood. The body was wood and aluminium and it had been used by the South African air force in a previous life.

Takeoff was amazingly quick and it didn't seem like we had much speed at all before we left the ground, probably due to the planes lightness! On the ground one person could pick this plane up by the tail and maneuver it to where ever they wanted it was so light.

Great views, flew over Livingstone and managed to spot Jollyboys. We followed the same road I'd taken from Vic Fall to Livingstone and the views from up here across the plains seemed to go on for ever!

The plane was a lot shakier than the microlite and was prone to sudden drops where you would find your stomach in your mouth. At this height our top speed was only 90mph!

It goes without saying, but the views of the falls were magnificent and as I've already mentioned the falls were definitely a huge highlight of my whole trip. Very impressive also was the bridge we could see over the Lower Zambezi canyon. Built by the British in 1903, it must have been a huge engineering feet when built way back when.

The landing was also very interesting, from very high in the sky and above the runway we seemed to drop out of the sky the way a helicopter would for what was a very soft and smooth landing. The huge width and length of the runway also made it almost comic like as we used less than one hundredth of the possible landing space! Yet another great experience.

I loved Zimbabwe in the same way I loved Zambia, which was without really discovering anything of the real country! The lion walk had been a spur of the moment decision and not something I'd heard of until I arrived. The tiger moth was something I only did because I had the extra time. Both these activities rank as some of the best things I did on my whole trip.

What I won't miss from around here is the one-up man ship that seems to occur when you speak with some of the more affluent tourist and they describe what they saw to other tourist. Most people really didn't seem that interested in what anyone else had to say, they just wanted to recount their own stories.

So finally, that afternoon, we got started on the overland tour and I had my first experience of the truck! It was basically a Swedish Scania truck with a raised up box on top for the passengers. It could hold 22 passengers, but given there were only 8 of us total, it was super comfortable.

Before getting on the road we were able to roll the plastic windows up, which made of a great experience. Travelling across the huge endless plains, great views, wind blowing through the truck with Paul Simon playing on the Ipod. A bit of a different experience to public transport.

Botswana must have been the quickest border crossing I'd had, not even a form to fill in! The real bonus though was a free visa!

Coming into Kasane I could see we were leaving what I would call the real Africa and moving into a more western environment. Hell they even had dustbins on the street, if this wasn't a sign of civilization, I don't know what is!

We changed some money. It's definitely nice having the truck and not having to change money with the dodgy money changes on the border. 5 Pula to the dollar. Pula in the local language, Setswana, means rain. The smaller denominations are called Thebes, this translates to raindrops. Cool names for currency!

Here I could smell that fantastic smell of freshly baked bread, so off I went in search of the source where I was able to purchase a lovely jammy donut and what was billed as and looked like a Cornish pasty. Not a real Cornish pasty, but it would definitely have passed as a very acceptable meat pie.

Another bonus of Botswana was we were back in a country that sold the fantastic Stoney Tanganika ginger beer. The drinks here seemed like a mix of Western and African drinks and besides the Coke and Fanta Orange, they also had Iron Brew, Cream Soda and Pinenut (a pineapple and coconut mix).

We stayed in the Thebes River Camp that night. James and I were on cooking and washing duty. We whipped up a salad with BBQ chicken and fried potato. It turned out to be real easy as everyone else from the truck chipped in and helped. It all made for an enjoyable evening.

Patrick, the driver, also gave what was the pre-departure speech - a bit too late really. It turned out to be a real yawner and he when on repeating himself and telling us nothing we already didn't know. I'm glad I had a bottle of Windhoek beer in my hand to pass the time! Windhoek was from across the border in the ex German colony of Namibia and it was very German in it's taste. Similar, I would say, to Becks.

The camp was right next to the beautiful Chobe river that flowed into the Zambezi and was actually surrounded by an electric fence to keep out the animals! There were 4 overland trucks in the camp altogether, one which played loud music into the wee hours. I guess I'm now on the party route!
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