Wednesday, December 5, 2012

paradise or little bit of hell...

my little safari paradise lodge can quickly teeter on the edge of disturbing prison...
i'll explain. first, if you leave the lodge, the only other stuff in town are other lodges like this one, a chippies supermarket, and a savannah bar, where all the local (men, only) go to drink their faces off and throw bottles on the floor and fight eachother.
so, it's advised to just stick to the premises. premises filled with honeymooning botswanans, or quebecois tour groups. on my game drive today i was stuck with fred and bev from australia and an old swedish couple who pretended not to speak english because fred and bev are SO annoying. i wish i could have played with team sweden but my "hej do!" and knowledge of sk├Âne just didn't cut it. fred has a $5,000 camera lens, like what they use in the press section at wimbeldon, but he takes the crappiest pictures on earth. bev says, fred, take a picture of that there! that plant! that bird! with this really annoying accent. no wait, i just want the sky, with those trees and those clouds. totally bosses him around. fred, i want this, i want a picture of the hippos face, then his body, and then his tail, in 3 different shots, and then we'll blow them up and hang the 3 different parts above the sofa. that kindof stuff. we saw some lions and they were pretty far away, and fred is going at it - but all of his pictures are totally blurry, focused on the wrong thing. he'll email them to me. i had him take my picture with my camera and he cut off half my face. maybe he's blind. fred's big joke in the truck is whose the youngest here who can outrun a ? you there, get out and lure that crocodile over so we can get a picture! hahaha you guys are so funny.
anyway, unlike the other lodges which have these candlelit thatch terraces, our dining room is indoors, air conditioned, and is a buffet death trap. one of the rockers, the botswanans dressed in all leather showed up to provide musical entertainment and at first i did a fist pump, like yeah dude, death metal!  bring it! only, in his really tight leather pants and leather shirt and leather jacket, well, he sings christmas songs, with the voice of barry manilow. it's torture. lionel richie, whitney houston, the hits, all on his yamaha synthesizer, with the programmed beats and synth orchestral sound. i know that thing has more instruments, he could change to electric piano for the stevie wonder but he doesn't. i want to rip my ears out. oh my god, he's actually pretending to be blind and miming the brick wall and door opening. buffet special tonight is calamari stirfry. i shall remind you Botswana is landlocked. in the corner though, there is local fare. caterpillars! not going to try them...hurry up and eat so i can go to my room and watch animal planet and drink duty free wine...yay for eco-tourism!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

yeah, so botswana is the other africa. when i tell people i flew in from kinshasa they're all woah, ok, that's the real africa. i'm in a 4 star safari lodge with quintessential thatched roof luxury, hot towels on arrival, bottomless malawi shandies (tasty), staff in khakis with names like blessing, gift, justice. you hear birds everywhere, grumpy hippos in the river and baboons have taken over the gas station. it's quite a relaxing change. on my way from the airport (in the cheesy open land rover safari thing - that had the strangest stickers in the windshield that read "be smart- get circumsized").
i saw wild boar crossing confidently across the road, and the botswana "rockers" these dudes dressed in all black leather with mohawks and chain wallets. i heard you can't come to kasane without going to see victoria falls, right across the border in zimbabwe. Or zim, as they like to say. also, gaborone, the capital is "gabs." my name is "lee." they like to shorten stuff. i like that.
so i arranged a tour in the activity centre. i was picking out some other things to do, like a sunrise walk but the guy, Trust, was all, that's for birders, hissing birders like it's a derogatory term. i agree they're kinda weird. so i picked the sunset cocktail cruise and a game drive and the "unguided" tour to vic falls, because it was 3 times less than the guided one.
the next day i went to the meeting point for my trip to zim, and since the 2 others had upgraded to the guided tour, i was taken along like an unwanted stepchild and basically had to close my ears or walk a distance away when there was any guiding being done. the first stop was the zimbabwe border. more baboons and disorganized chaos inside, just disorderly, i presume due to the touts, which is what they are talking about with the "no touts" signs. i was going to change some money with the guy who was offering some and then realized it was sortof a joke - he gleefully exchanged 50 Euro cents for more than a billion zimbabwean dollars. why even print your currency when it the lowest denomination is 10 billion? anyway, i guess they use US dollars, though they don't print them, or have any coins so the cheapest thing you can buy is 1 dollar, which makes stuff pretty expensive for most people. they must buy in bulk i guess. the whole border thing took a while but we were met by a minibus on the other side, which was also bringing some people to town, including this old white guy who lives in vic falls. we piled everyone's bags into the back and drove on. the driver warns us that there may be a few police barriers, and so get stopped a bunch. don't take their picture. the first thing we saw was a giraffe, which was pretty cool, and some sable and monkeys. then, under a tree are some police officers who pull us over and search the car. they are particularly interested in this one suitcase and it's the poor old white guy who grumpily shows off all his dirty undies. we get back in and drive off. more monkeys. and another checkpoint. they search the car, "whose suitacase is that?" old white guy's again. he shows off his dirty undies and we're back on the road. another checkpoint. search the car "whose suitacase is that" and they pick the same one! again! there are tons of other backpacks but they seem to love this one. get a new bag man! we are all telling the guy to ditch it altogether, who needs dirty undies anyway? we finally arrive in town and since i'm unguided i'm basically dumped off and told to come back in 5 hours while the others go to the crocodile farm and stuff. i head into victoria falls park and well, it's pretty amazing. lots of annoying french tourists though who take like, a million pictures, and expect no one to step in front of them while they do. on the other side, the zambian side, there are crazy people swimming right at the edge of the falls. devil's pool it's called. crazy. i wander some more until i see this old bridge, from 1905 that crosses the zambezi and people are bungee jumping and stuff (even though i heard the cord broke a few years ago - google it, there's a video and everything).

border crossing

anyway i'm interested in checking out this bridge, which is technically in Zambia. so i go to zambia. to get to the bridge you pass the border and walk this weird, dusty road with lots of trucks, people with huge loads packed on their bikes, women carrying stuff on their heads and monkeys. the only word to describe it is "gloque (sp?)" there are monkeys with cute little babies who clutch the bellies of their mothers it's so cute.
on the bridge there are all these people trying to sell you stuff, and if you don't want to buy stuff they just want money, or to trade something. here they all have weird names like nike, what-what, or the guy named chili con carne. i gave them my hairclips, a pen from the hotel, and they wanted more, like, got any south african rands? and i actually did, some coins and they're like oh, we want bills. picky beggars, huh? so i have a 5 rand bill i won't use and then they're like oh, we want the new ones, do you have the new ones with nelson mandela on them? when you think it can't get any more ridiculous one of them wants my pants. i really like your pants, can we trade your pants for this lovely (hideous) statuette? what, i'm going to walk across the border in my underwear? "you can put on new pants at your hotel" he says. my hotel is in another country and even if it wasn't i am not taking off my pants! (especially since they are my beloved swedish pants my dad took me to the crazy mall in sweden to buy!).
premium, unleaded, or very aggressive baboon?
 i was looking for a place to eat lunch and everything was called "mama africa" or something like that, but served nothing but $15 club sandwiches and spaghetti bolognaise. i wanted something a little more local, and some dude pointed out this total dump behind some houses, with some crooked patio furniture and ladies making stew on the ground. they were super nice. they had gelatinous okra, the sticky maize stuff, and cold cokes. they even came to my table with a teapot of hot soapy water and a bowl to wash my hands - and take my picture. all for 4$ - or only 900 billion zimbabwe dollars!