After a couple of weeks of "real" life, we were ready to go on vacation again with some friends. First to arrive were J and M. J went to college with A; M is his lovely girlfriend. We had a great time showing them the iced coffee-related sites of Gabs, visiting the airport to see if their bags would ever arrive, and going to an actually really awesome comedy show that I will cover in another post. I did not take any pictures of them, because they are hideously ugly.
They left after one day to head to the Delta and then my sister E and her husband P got in a few hours later. We took them to Mokolodi to pet a cheetah, ate at Fego, and had a delightful brunch at Sanitas. We also went to our first rugby game! Could not follow the game for the life of me, but I enjoyed beer and sitting very much.
On Monday, the four of us headed up to Kasane, the base for visits Chobe Game Reserve. There we met up with A's college friends B, J, and J, which is when referring to people by their initials became overly complicated and was abandoned. We started our trip with a sunset safari by boat on the Chobe River. It was awesome! Probably one of our favorite activities this year.
Immediately, we understood why everyone says Chobe is the place to see animals. We saw tons of elephants, hippos, crocodiles, baboons, and more.
In the morning, we went on a game drive through the park and saw even more!
Later that day, we headed for the Zambian border. We took the ferry into Zambia (they are building a bridge, but currently trucks must travel one by one on the ferry, which is insane). It was pretty much immediately clear that Zambia is way more African than Botswana. People tried to sell us stuff, the currency was wildly inflated, our Motswana taxi driver warned us that the Zambians would try to rip us off, and in general there was a frenetic energy that is missing in Botswana.
Just when we became convinced that we were really in Southern Africa, we ended up at a restaurant called Fez Bar.
That naturally served Mexican food.
With our understanding of Zambian culture now firmly established, we headed for the falls!
Which were even more impressive when we zoomed out!
We hiked around the falls a bit, and got completely drenched. I seriously have never been so thoroughly soaked in my life. When the mist briefly cleared, we could glimpse the power of the falls. Luckily my sister's raincoat provided some protection for camera, passports, etc, but it took the rest of the trip for everything to dry. Which is partly why I did not take any photos of the Zimbabwe side.
We also hiked way way down to the river (and way way back up again) to see something called the Boiling Pot, a place where different streams of water meet to create an awesome-Lord of the Rings-type tempestuous whirlpool.
That night we started a nightly tradition of playing "Hats" also known as "Naked" which is a Charades-based game. It's great!
The following morning we headed into Zimbabwe for the day. We walked across the bridge to get there, and then hiked around the park on that side. The views were definitely better from the Zimbabwe side...but we still got drenched. Lesson learned.
Zimbabwe was full of tourists, all of whom were us. The tourism police, who apparently are not just people trying to rob you, followed us all around town, and literally wouldn't let us go anywhere without them. That's always a reassuring feeling.
The place seemed dead. But it didn't matter because we only had one place in mind--the distinguished, colonial, creepy Victoria Falls Hotel. We finished off our day in Zimbabwe with high tea and cocktails on the terrace of the hotel, overlooking the view of the bridge you see above.
On our last morning in Livingstone, we went on a walking tour with a guide from the Livingstone Museum. It was really nice to see the town and not just the falls. We asked him to show us the old synagogue, which still has a big Jewish star painted on it. We also bought fabric for a wedding project I'm working on because I've turned into one of those people who is obsessed with their wedding.
Back in Gabs, we FINALLY hiked Kgale Hill, the big hill in town, with the three boys from college. It was extremely hot and difficult, and we ended up hiking in the middle of one of the hottest days of the year. I don't want to exaggerate, but I nearly died. When we finally made it back down, we each drank an orange Fanta, which tasted exquisite. It literally took us all day to get back to normal, as I think we were all really overheated and dehydrated. Would definitely do this hike differently if we ever do it again! There were also giant baboons everywhere!
Saturday night we had a Setswana cooking lesson with our old housekeeper and ate dinner with her family and some of the dermatologists. If you want recipes for Zimbabwean/Setswana food, like spicy beans, spinach, porridge, dumplings, chakalaka, etc., let me know!
Sunday night we headed to jazz at the Gaborone Sun golf course with sister and brother-in-law. It's a fun time. We also went for a tour of the grounds, including a lovely playground where the kids worked off some steam.
On Monday I took E and P to see the orphanage and to get a tour of "downtown" Gaborone...and to eat at Nando's again. We ate at Nando's four times in a week. It was intense. 33 hours of travel later, they were safe and sound at home in LA. Meanwhile, J and B are still traveling (!) in Namibia and are meeting us in Capetown tomorrow. The adventure continues!
All in all, we had an amazing vacation. Traveling with 9 people is the way to go.