Dreams Do Come True

Depending on one’s personal beliefs, one may believe in Karma – that things happen to you because of what you did to (or for) someone in the past, or that everything happens in a perfect time pre-ordained by God, or that something is a mere stroke of random luck.

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Review: Old Drift Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Arriving at the five star Old Drift Lodge was an experience in itself.  I was welcomed by the Manager on Duty, Farai and the resident “Granny”, Hilda, who is learning the ropes.  To ward of the sweltering heat, I was given a cool, damp towel and my suitcase was whisked off to my quarters, while I was checked in, over my first (of what would be a few) cocktails.

The main area of the lodge, where all meals are served, overlooks the Zambezi River.  The furnishings are classy and comfortable.  The décor speaks to the history of the Old Drift Town, and has the touch of Africa visible throughout, with chessboards that have wild animal pieces.

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Every day the lodge has brainteasers up on the chalkboard, which is a great way to get the travellers (which are from all corners of the Globe) to interact with one another.

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I was escorted to my accommodation by Granny and taken aback by the size of it.  The king size bed was covered in crisp white linen, and there was an elephant made out of the towels on my bed, along with a personalized note, welcoming me to the lodge.

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I was given a quick tour of the lodgings and told that if I needed anything (including a change to the beverages in the minibar), it would be arranged.  I tested the theory by asking for a bath to be drawn for me upon a return from an excursion my last evening, and it exceeded my expectations.

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While the lodge specializes in being a couples-destination, the luxury tents are able to sleep four persons:  two on the king size bed, and two more on twin beds, in a separate room.  My personal feeling is that this is not the sort of place to bring small children, given the wild animals roaming around, and because the idea is to retreat from life and truly rewind.

The bathroom boasts beautiful his-and-hers handbasins, made of copper.

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There is a large indoor shower, as well as one outside.  What sold me on this lodge (and I considered a few!) was the outdoor bathtub.  Who wouldn’t want an indulgent bubble-bath, while overlooking the Zambezi, with the possibility of view game as an added bonus?

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If you’re wanting to cool down, every room is equipped with its own private splash pool; sometimes used by the passing elephants to grab a drink.  If this happens and the water is left a bit murky ‘n muddy, one call to reception is all it takes for it to be turned back into sparkling blue. On my last day, I enjoyed an ice-cold local ale, Zambezi Lager in the pool.

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After dinner every evening, each resident is accompanied to their room by a ranger, in case there are wild animals roaming about.  This is a requirement of the National Parks Authority, and a necessary one.  One evening there were both Cape Water Buffalo and a herd of elephants roaming around the lodge.

I had a busy time during my holiday, wanting to do as much as I could in the short time I was in Victoria Falls, but the staff at the lodge are flexible and always willing to help.  For example, lunch is served between 13:00 and 15:00, but if one arrives back from an excursion a bit later, something to nibble on can be arranged.

The lodge offers sunrise-, and sunset cruises (whether a single person, or a number of people) are booked, as well as game drives, and nature walk safaris.  The sunrise cruises include coffee, hot chocolate, and tea for your enjoyment on the river.  For those that can’t resist, there is Amarula for the coffee too.  Oh, and the most delicious biscuits too; the oats crunchies are dangerously addictive!

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During afternoon excursions, there are alcoholic beverages available – on the sunrise cruise you can enjoy a sundowner while you gently chug along, and the game drive has a pop-up bar somewhere along the route, where travellers can sip on something cold, enjoy some bite-size snacks and soak up the breathtaking view.

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All the guides that accompany guests on the excursion are extremely knowledgeable of the area, the animals and the vast array of birdlife that can be found in- and around the lodge.

The meals at the lodge are next-level delicious!  Chef Gabriel and his team indeed know their onions.  The menu is a five-day rotational one, as Farai explained to me, but if there is something specific a guest would like to have, it is easily arranged.

Breakfast is a continental one to begin with, and guests can order an assortment of hot meals, which are prepare to order.  I had eggs benedict one morning, and the Rangers’ breakfast the next.  One thing that I love about the meals served is that the hot meals are served on hot plates, keeping the food warm throughout.

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At every meal, Chef Gabriel makes a turn at the tables to make sure the guests are enjoying their meals.  The waitstaff are polite and always at the ready to fill your water glass or get you a drink to have with your meal. I only had lunch at the lodge once, given my hectic schedule.  It was Fillet of Tilapia (one of the 80 types of fish found in the Zambezi).

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The dinners at the lodge are a culinary experience, with a selection that caters to all tastes.

I had dinner on two of the three evenings I was at the lodge (as I attended a dinner excursion on the Bushtracks Express one evening).

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caeser saladpork filletcheese board

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Beet soupFillet Teak

The travel agent that booked my stay at the lodge is a friend, and mentioned to them that I was coming to Victoria Falls as a to-myself-from-myself-40th-birthday-present.  On the last night I was there, the manager on duty, Lessley, joined me for dessert.  Halfway through that cheesecake, all the staff on duty came out singing “Happy Birthday”.  For a minute I thought it was Lessley’s special day, but it turned out  that I had been blessed with a birthday cake, which I was quite willing to share with the other guests, but they were all “well fed” with no extra space for cake.  I ate a piece and had the rest divided amongst the staff.

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On my last night, I came back to my room to find an envelope with my name on it, and a note inside.  Again, it could have just read “room 6”, but that personal touch made it special.

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I wish I could remember everyone’s names to thank them individually for their incredible hospitality, but for fear of (unintentionally) leaving someone out, I am simply going to say a universal “thank you!” to everyone at Old Drift.  Being at the lodge has opened my eyes to the beauty of Victoria Falls town, the Mighty Zambezi and given me renewed hope for the future.  I arrived at the lodge as a weary stranger, but left feeling like part of the Old Drift family.  I’ve left a part of my heart there.

You may be rated as five-star by travel standards, but in my book, you’re a 10 out of 5 😀

Thank you for the memories!  Ones I will treasure forever.

The Adventure of a Lifetime Begins…

Now, I live in a tourist country, as many of you know. More so, I live in what is regarded as a tourist town, although out-of-season, the streets are rolled up at 5 PM. My favourite local destinations are Cape Town and closer to home, Wilderness and the Tsitsikamma. I’ve been to Durban and I spent the first nine years of my life in The City of Gold, and while it holds a nostalgic place in my heart, I’m not sure I would ever want to live there again. I’m a lover of small towns, with history or places that have trees. Cape Town has both characteristics, so that’s why it qualifies for me, despite being a city.

Carmen once told me “you either have a heart for Africa, or you don’t”. I thought it was a joke. Seriously! Yet, ever since I was 12, having learned about Cecil John Rhodes, David Livingstone, and Henry Morton Stanley in history, I’ve had a yearning to visit Victoria Falls. I finally realized, after a stint in hospital earlier this year following a major depressive episode, that it’s time to realize long-term dreams, and then dream some more, turning those dreams into goals, with a definable deadline.

I’m going to blog about the best experience of my life in parts, because a single post will not do it justice.

I had a lovely flight from George to Johannseburg on Mango, enjoying a Zulu Blonde, a beer brewed in Eshowe in Natal.

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I spent Thursday night with Kayla, at her home close to OR Tambo International Airport and met another amazing soul, Caroline. For the first time since my hospital stint, I had a drink, and then another and then another and well, at the end of the evening, it was 4 ½ bottles of wine and a truckload of laughter later.

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Kayla made me swallow two paracetamols before bed, which thankfully warded off the worst part of an insane hangover. Caroline kindly dropped me at the airport, which was somewhat chaotic as the national airline, SAA is once again striking about wage increases. It irks me every time to hear about strikes, but even more so after my visit to Victoria Falls.

I went through passport control quite quickly because I was keen to browse around the duty-free area. So many shops, with so many wares, but nothing was bought because I didn’t want to have to lug anything all the way there, and then back again. Soon I was at the boarding area, where I sat reading my book, drinking coffee to properly wake up, and copious amounts of water to flush out the Wrath of the Grapes.

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The BA flight to Livingstone left on time, and while I unfortunately had an aisle seat, the flight was pleasant. As we approached for landing, the Mighty Zambezi was clearly visible through the opposite window and I began to cry. I was so overwhelmed. My dream was slowly becoming truer by the second. Exiting the plane on the tarmac (which I’m used to, because we do it at George as well) at Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport, I was hit squarely in the face by stifling heat. I hate getting hot, but there is something magical about the rays of the real African sun kissing your skin.

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Declaration to enter in hand, Customs formalities were dealt with. Quickly and efficiently. Soon I was on the transfer bus, with another declaration form to complete to cross the border into Zimbabwe, which would be my home for three nights. The bus driver’s name was Stanley, a Livingstone local.

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He drove me and some other BA travellers to their respective hotels (if within Livingstone), and the rest of us to the Victoria Falls border post. Once again, Customs entry was painless. Stanley handed us over to another driver, Lungile, and we entered Zimbabwe. I was the last person to be dropped off, as my accommodation was in the Zambezi National Park itself – an incredible place called The Old Drift Lodge.

My next post will be about The Old Drift Lodge, in the form of a review, which I will post to other-travel related sites, such as Tripadvisor.

Reflective Misfit Ramblings

I’ve been a bit “unbalanced” today, not sure why, but I think it may have something to do with a hypnopompic episode I experienced last night. I went to bed early and at some stage during the night found myself in the lounge obsessed with wanting to know what the time was. I kept saying to myself It’s dark, it’s still time to sleeeeeeppp, but my brain was having none of it until I found the time. Seventeen minutes to midnight… Hallelujah, I could go back to the snugness of my bed and get at least another six hours in. I did, but I tossed and turned the whole night. When my third alarm of the morning rang, I set another. Fortunately work wasn’t demanding today, so my lack of brain-power stealthily remained under the radar.

Now, I’m sitting at my favourite writing spot, double-shot cappuccino for company, loungy-kinda music in the background being drowned out by a table of patrons clearly celebrating something and a crackling fire for warmth. I’ve blogged about fire before because flames are mesmerizing. The way they dance across the wood, creating glowing embers is almost hypnotic.

Today I finalized arrangements for a part of my upcoming-40th birthday celebrations: A vintage-style ladies’ high-tea for some of my closest girlfriends and of course, The Bean. The blokes will be included at a separate celebration (which I’ve planned as a picnic in the park, but that idea may change given the limited numbers of positive RSVP’s received). Every year I try and do something “different” from a hobo-themed party to an as Nathan jokingly refers to it “a boring meet and greet”. Last year I had a movie-themed trivia-chill night which was a great success. For those of you wondering what I looked like, here is a photo of me as The Joker. Charlie did my make-up.

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I was telling Charlie afterwards that I almost always feel “deflated” after my birthday because the actual event, while always fabulous and fun, seems to be anticlimactic, because I have so much fun planning. Today when I confirmed the number of attendees and menu options with the owner of the venue, I told her “I’m starting to get excited now.” Her reply was “You should be excited. The Germans don’t say ‘Die vorfreude ist die schonste freude’ for nothing.” Given that my German is about as good as every other European language I know, I called in my trusty friend, Google. Turns out that what the Germans say is true: The anticipation is the most beautiful joy. I love the excitement that comes with a celebration of some sort.

On the subject of celebration and mounting anticipation, I have had a dream ever since I can remember and that is to visit Victoria Falls. Shalya-Rae says it must be because of a history lesson we had in fifth grade about Livingstone and Stanley. I don’t remember it (does the memory start going at 40?!), but whether it is the reason or not for my obsession with The Smoke that Thunders, I can’t say. All I know is that I am going! In November… and I’m over the moon about it!

I had actually saved for another holiday, but things didn’t go according to plan. Initially I was disappointed, but then the opportunity to visit one of my bucket-list destinations came along. I’m not big on signs from The Universe, but this was a cosmic confirmation to realize my dream. I didn’t really waste time in making a decision. I armchair travelled with Eliza and Nathan one evening, saw the lodge and booked my spot the next day. Everything lined up perfectly. I’ve gone all out – an all inclusive package, accommodation at a five star tented lodge on the banks of the Zambezi. To say I can’t wait is an understatement.

I have told everyone that if they want to get me a birthday gift, I’d like money for my holiday, because I’d love to do the Flight of the Angels and if possible, visit the Devil’s Pool. Harriet gave me my first US Dollar and subsequently The Bean found three more which she gave to me. I’m crossing my fingers and my not-yet-sagging-boobs that it will improve.

Anyway, my dinner’s just arrived, so I’ll catch y’all on the flipside.

‘Til next time…

Hot Wheels for a Hip Misfit… Thanks to Seesig Motors

So, after a break-up or trauma of some sort, most women tend to make a change.  It’s usually a new hairstyle or colour, or a new look.  I’ve done both – the hair y’all have seen and depending on my mood (and the weather), I now don summer scarves with a tailored jacket or rock skinny jeans with heels, as you’ll see later.  I also bought myself a pair of ridiculously awesome Italian boots (a pair of genuine Italian shoes has been on my dream board for a decade or so already!) which arrived today.

I feel good about the person I’m becoming through therapy and recovery and I’m happy with the persona I’m putting forward to the world.  As I said to Charlie earlier this week, apparently life begins at 40; I’m just getting a few months’ head start.  What most women don’t do after a disruption in their life, is buy a car, especially not on a whim.  Or maybe they do?

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On Monday last week, I sent a well-known car-dealer, Seesig Motors, in our dorp a message that I was in the market for a small car with aircon and power steering and readily available parts, and the budget I had in mind, but that we’d obviously need to check if any bank would be open to financing it.  I wouldn’t be offering my current vehicle, a 2011 Ford Figo 1.4 Ambiente (aka Casper) for a trade-in either, because if I did qualify for the funding, I had a plan up my sleeve.  Much to my surprise, I qualified for a car above the budget and the payment is still affordable enough for me to be able to keep both cars!

Gielie Slabbert, the owner (and a friend) shared the good news, telling me that if I was keen, he could offer me a 2011 Renault Sandero 1.4.  I said I’d be happy to pop into the showroom for a test drive, and he said it wouldn’t be necessary because he would bring the car to me at work (which is a good twenty minutes’ drive one way) so I could take it through its paces.  I was sold by the time I drove back in through the gates.

That same afternoon, I popped into the showroom (after regular business hours) where I was assisted by Elsabé van de Coolwyk.  In a matter of fifteen minutes, we’d gone through the purchase agreement and signed all the paperwork.  I got word from her the next day that the car would be ready for delivery on Friday.

I opted to collect on Saturday, because I decided to give The Toppie and The Bean the use of Casper (which I will continue to pay the repayments and insurance on).  Casper is on loan to them and in the event of anything happening to either The Toppie or The Bean, Casper will be returned to me as per a written agreement between The Toppie and I, because I’ve seen too many people I know get screwed over by family, friends or even local employers.

The hardest part of the whole deal was for me to keep the new car (which will be known as Deadpool from hereon out) a secret.  I eventually couldn’t bear the it anymore and I told Charlie, Chanté, Elizabeth and Eleanor, promising them all an excruciatingly painful death if they breathed a word to anyone.

Saturday morning, I was up early; like a kid on Christmas morning.  Elizabeth’s brother, Patrick, gave me a lift to the showroom where I was greeted with a smile by Fanie, who explained where everything was on the car, which is a good thing, because otherwise, if I’d ever had a flat, I wouldn’t have known that the spare tyre is underneath the car.

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I then went to have my nails done at a new salon that opened close to home called Front de Mer Beauté.  I’m happy with the result, and I think the therapist, Angie, did well considering the size of shoes she had to fill.  I miss Elena though, but we’re getting together in the last week of May just as we promised we would do once a month.

Finally, it was time to execute the surprise of the year.  I got into Deadpool and took the drive out to my folks.  I gave them each a package – The Bean hers first (seat covers) and then I gave The Toppie his (much smaller one), the key to Casper.  For a moment, they were both somewhat confused, but once the penny dropped, there were tears of gratitude, surprise, shock, relief (because honestly, the car The Toppie has now is not the most reliable in the world).

The Toppie and The Bean left The Cave in Casper, and when The Toppie is ready, he can decide what to do with his car.

Gielie, Elsabé, Fanie and the team at Seesig Motors: Thank you seems so inadequate for the appreciation I have for everything you did in helping me to be able to help my parents too.  I will refer everyone I know looking for a vehicle to you, because it’s clear that those entering the showroom may arrive as customers, but they leave as friends.  Wishing you growth and success all the way!