As the lighthouse high on Cape St. Blaize winks and watches Mossel Bay was the opening line of my primary school’s anthem. Today I finally got to see that view for myself.Continue reading
So, remember the list of goals I made last week? Well, I have ticked off at least one – the renewal application of my passport. I sat at Home Affairs for a while yesterday as they were offline, but once they were back on, the process was dealt with quickly. In seven to fourteen days I will have my new passport, so should a trip come across my path, I can grab it with both hands.Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
…since I last blogged. Shocking! I should be court-marshalled, or burnt at the stake, or something…
So, let’s see, where shall I start?
Ah, I know, my hospital two weeks ago. I came to work feeling very chipper because I was only due to work half day and then a mini-holiday awaited me as we were only due to restart work on this following Tuesday. Well, as I sat down in my chair, a searing pain (that I’m sure is worse than childbirth) took hold of my back, and that was me. I couldn’t move, and worse, I couldn’t feel my legs. I yelled up the passage for help, which arrived and I was loaded into the car and taken to casualty, because the stupid doctor’s receptionist couldn’t comprehend the term emergency, and failed even more to understand that I couldn’t wait until after lunch for an appointment. I was in pain and needed help. Immediately!
I ended up having to wait for the casualty doctor for about a half hour, but I got to lie flat which relieved a great deal of the pain, but I still couldn’t feel my legs. I have only ever felt so helpless once before. He poked and prodded, and I yelled like I was being murdered. Eventually I was put on a drip with serious pain meds and for a while I think I saw little birdies and stars. I was sent home with strict instructions to lie flat on my back for the entire Easter weekend. So not cool! Needless to say, I didn’t listen.
I went to physio the following day. My legs nearly gave way underneath me again, but not because I couldn’t feel them anymore – the therapist was one of the most handsome (young) men I’ve ever laid eyes on. And that is no exaggeration! He also attempted to assess my pain, but all I could do was squeal like a pig off to slaughter. He told me to come back the Saturday, but that I’d be seeing his colleague as he already had prior work commitments. So I lost the gorgeous-blue-eyed-boy’s hands on my body…alas!
Went back a few days with significantly less pain, thank goodness. Turns out the gorgeous-blue-eyed-boy’s colleague is equally handsome. Not as drop dead gorgeous, but a looker nevertheless. I’m not sure if it is a pre-requisite to have beautiful eyes to work at this specific practice, but therapist two has equally beautiful eyes, and a soft manner which made him immediately likeable. He pulled and propped and yanked and prodded and while it wasn’t exactly a heavenly massage, I walked out of there unassisted! I even drove myself home without having to drink pain meds when I got there! I was so happy, I could quite easily have kissed him, because it meant that I could go to a concert that evening.
Now, those of you who aren’t South African may not yet have heard of this amazing foursome, Romanz. Do yourselves a favour and check some of their YouTube videos. Go on…I won’t let you read further until you have!
Right, now that you’ve done that, all I am going to say about the concert is, “Wow! Amazing! Super! Bravo, bravo, bravo!” So, that’s pretty much my Easter weekend in a nutshell…
Two weeks before that I went with Carmen, Ewan, Nicolas and his wife, Eleanor to a little holiday village called Jongensfontein. While there, my car was broken into (it was parked at Nic and Eleanor’s place as I drove with them), but fortunately not much was stolen, but the schlep involved to get everything sorted out was not amusing, believe me. The police came to take fingerprints, but there wasn’t a single usable print, so I don’t hold out much hope. The most valuable thing the stupid tits stole was my reading glasses, which the insurance is not replacing and I don’t have a medical savings account, so I will struggle on without them. Besides that, a pair of my favourite sandals broke that weekend too. So, if bad things happen in threes, mine are over! *Happy dance*
On the subject of that weekend, here are some of the photos I took.
It is a small piece of heaven, that is less than an hour’s drive away from where we live. The break was just what I needed and while I thanked them, I don’t think they comprehend the extent of my gratitude. We had quite a few laughs and I got a tan that should last me through the winter – physiotherapist number two even commented on it *blush*
Oh yes! I’m moving round about the middle of July – to a place that is a mere 10 minutes away from my folks’ home. I started thinking about moving out when Dad started talking about retiring – he’s not getting any younger and the hard, active work on the rig is taking it’s toll on him. He wants to scale down a bit after retirement, and if I’m honest, I should have moved out ages ago, but living at home is convenient, and mom needs the company because she doesn’t drive. If dad still decides to work for a while after I move, I will spend some nights a week with her and some at my own place.
I looked at a few places online in our area and what fell in my budget was mostly bachelor pads, or single-bedroom places. I’ve always had champagne taste and beer money, so this was obviously not really working for me. I found one place that I would have deemed habitable, but I was put off by the bathroom being off the kitchen (I am not a germophobe per sé, but I seriously don’t want to be flushing the loo an arm’s length from where I’m going to be prepping food) and then someone else at work showed me that there is a cupboard affixed above a door-frame. How the heck is anyone supposed to reach there? Seriously, even I could have drawn up a better plan… another place I looked at online was well within my budget, and semi-furnished, but almost everything furnishing wise was zebra stripes. And the walls were a violent shade of orange. So not the restful zen-retreat I had in mind.
What I really desired in my heart was a place with two bedrooms and a full bathroom. Make no mistake, I love my shower in the morning, but there are just some days when only a bubble bath can make a bad day better. So, with that said, God knows the desires of my heart, and He blessed me beyond that. It is a blessing that came across my path, through Carmen. She and Ewan are currently living in the flat. It is underneath her parents’ house, but with a separate, private entrance. She was telling me that she and Ewan want to move out later this year and I asked her if she’d ask her parents if they’d be willing to rent the place to me. I thought even if they would be willing to, I may very possibly not be able to afford it, but turns out that it is R200 more than I had in mind BUT it includes utilities, satellite TV and will be furnished with whatever I don’t have (which is almost everything!). It has THREE bedrooms (although I will use the one as a dressing room, as they currently do), and two bathrooms (the one bedroom is en-suite), and the other has the bath!
I bought myself a little second-hand lounge suite from a friend of Aunty Carol’s and the lady threw in a round table too. Mom has given me a food steamer, a fridge and while there is a bit of a fight about it, I’m sure my orthopaedic bed will be moving with me (after all, I don’t want to have to go to hospital again, now do i?) Dad bought me a little two plate stove oven and Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry gave me a George Foreman Lean Mean Fat Grilling machine. In the meantime, I have been buying a few things (dry groceries mostly) which I’ve been boxing and storing. One thing I can tell you is that if I have friends over for dinner, there is a good chance that they will be eating Mince/Tuna/Rice Mate because I have about 8 boxes of those meal kits already and most likely canned fruit of some sort for dessert (or jelly and custard)! I have everything to make the flat shiny and clean from Toilet Duck to Mr. Muscle. I have been trying my best to settle all my small niggling accounts (but the back episode has set me back quite a bit this past month, but I’ll survive – I have faith!).
I’ve finally reached goal weight, having lost 20 Kg (although with all the meds for my back and subsequent need to have a pity party (I’ve eaten two boxes of Lindor balls in as many days), I’m quite sure I’ve put some of it back, but I’ll be back in the gym tomorrow (with permission from physiotherapist two) and I’ll start shedding it again. Apparently I have to do more pilates-type exercises, so I’m not only going to be thin, I’m going to be bendy too!
Then, a shocking revelation came my way two weeks ago. A very close friend, Jesse James, of mine for whom I carried a candle for almost a decade (read the linked post, you’ll understand) came to visit his folks and we got together for drinks. I had the most incredible cherry vodka and mint tea cocktail – served in a teapot! He had two beers. From there we popped around to another old haunt and while we were waiting for our drinks, he asked me if I had regrets. I said I think everyone does and he told me that he…he… and then he tried to change the subject, but I pressed. He told me he regretted that we never ever ended up together. I wasn’t sure I’d heard right, so I made him repeat himself. “I regret that we never ended up together, that we never gave a relationship between us a chance.” Now, if you’ve read the linked post, you’ll know he knew how I felt about him, but I honestly had no idea he felt the same. I’d made peace with the fact that it just wasn’t meant to be, and I believe in my heart that I’ve met the man I’m going to marry anyway. Jesse James knows how I feel about this man, and he says he’s happy for me, and I believe him, because I know him better than he knows himself and I’ve never seen him so sincere. I told Elizabeth what happened and the cynic in her says it was the booze talking, but how much truth serum is hidden in two beers? Even if I didn’t feel about this other man the way I do, Jesse James himself has told me that he knows it would never work, because in our case, we really love each other, but it’s not enough. We’re from different worlds, and he can’t give me the life I deserve…part of me is glad he told me, because I’ve always wondered, but part of me wishes he’d never said anything because the dynamic of our friendship has changed a bit. I don’t know how to describe it other than “it’s complicated”.
So, that’s a glimpse of what’s happened in the last few weeks… I’ll try to blog more often, but more often than not, I look around and think “where the hell did the day go?!”
Many of you who follow my blog know that I live in a “holiday town” which is invaded by people from up North every December and January. It is like these Northerners forget the road rules, their manners and obviously their ability to read at home when they come on holiday.
This is an example of two people who unpacked an entire trolley worth of groceries at the till which is clearly marked for “10 items or less” – when the cashier mentioned this to them, they pretended not to hear (or maybe they left their ears up North too!). Really now, express tills are there for a reason. This really irks me. Argh!
Cousin Lara’s rather nutty friend, Jolene’s husband works away and she mentioned one day that he’d called and when they had finished chatting she did a happy dance. “Oh yay, oh wow! Oh yay, oh wow!” Suddenly we are all doing it…
Dad is coming home on Thursday morning at 08:40 which means I have to get up earlier than my body has become accustomed to of late, but I suppose it will be good practice considering that we will be hitting the road at 05:00 on Saturday morning.
We got our cruise tickets and forex today. My cabin number is 9196 and my parents, Aunty Carol and Uncle Barry are in 8288. I have US $ 171 spending money for my cruise 🙂 Not bad for someone who is gainfully unemployed. I can hardly wait for Monday so I can soak up the sunshine and drink cocktails on a floating five star hotel. I have finally finished Don’t Blink, but I will have another James Patterson book to keep me occupied on holiday – this time one of his Women’s Murder Club ones, probably 9th Judgement which Elizabeth gave me for my birthday last September.
And, one more “happy-dance-worthy” bit of news:
I am going to colour my hair tomorrow afternoon – nothing radical, just a shade or two darker than my natural colour, after I have taken Dad’s car to the car wash for a nice spit ‘n polish.