Paris, France – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa 2017 – Day 1-3

11/30-12/02/17

My friend Sarah originally asked me to go to Africa with her about 2.5 years ago but unfortunately timing didn’t work out back then. I did promise her that the next time she wanted to return, that I would join her and that I did.

Travelling with 4 in total (Sarah, Lulu & Jin), we arrived at the airport (YYZ) and checked in together with a lovely lady who called out Sarah for being in her own time zone. She scolded me for how small my signature was but first time in probably 3 years that I have checked a bag. We booked with Ethiopian Airlines, which is affiliated with Air Canada. The system isn’t 100% connected, as we needed to check in at CDG for the rest of our connecting flights. Our luggage however would meet us in Zimbabwe. We had 2 connecting flights – YYZ->CDG; CDG->ADD; ADD->VGA.

We got through security no problem with time to spare and grabbed burgers, fries and a shake before boarding. We didn’t check but our flight also included 2 meals (oops). We all sat together and watched Girls Trip simultaneously. Sarah on the other hand, had deep conversations with the passenger beside her for more than 3 hours with no breaks of silence. Usually I can fall asleep no problem but that flight, I was restless.

We arrived at CDG to temperatures outside of 2-4C degrees. We walked over to terminal 2 to catch the RER B train into town. You need to line up to purchase RER tickets at the machines. A 2-way ticket was 20,60 euro – single 10,30 euro. Arriving at Chatelet des Halles, we walked over to Centre Pompidou Museum (Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France) but only walked the perimeters and surrounding area. For only 5 euros, you can get the panoramic ticket, which allows you to take the escalator to the top of the building to get a scenic panoramic view of the city. The fountain was turned off but there was a large golden thumb statue called The Thumb of Caesar. A little chilled to the bone, we stopped to rest and eat lunch at Le Cafe Rive Droite (2 Rue Berger, 75001 Paris, France) where I ordered the croque monsieur – 7,80 euro.

The goal for this roughly 10-hour layover was to see a good chunk of Paris (parts I haven’t seen in my past travels too) for as cheap as possible and spend some money on food before heading back to the airport. I am a huge fan of alleyways or hidden streets because they create wonderful vignettes unbeknownst to the rest of the surrounding area for that moment in time. I had looked up a few galerie & passages before coming to get a little glimpse of old Paris with its eclectic style and architecture that is still preserved.

We continued our adventures to Passage du Grand Cerf (8 Passage du Grand Cerf, 75002 Paris, France) to Galerie Vivienne (5 Rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris, France) to Jardin du Palais Royal (6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France) and the courtyard of Les Deux Plateaux with its beautiful round pillars of black and white stripes and different heights designed by Daniel Buren. Would have been lovelier if we came in spring or summer for the garden and a sunny day at Les Deux Plateaux. Sarah and Lulu grabbed crepes (3 euro from the carts) and we walked into the Louvre courtyard and took a break from the cold by entering the Louvre Pyramid and sitting inside under the pyramid. You don’t need a ticket to enter into the Louvre (Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France) but you do need to pass through security.

We unfortunately didn’t have time to make it to L’ardoise (28 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France) for a meal – It is a Michelin starred restaurant I had looked up nearby with a prefixed menu for 38 euro but lunch service ended at 3PM. After the Louvre, we decided we wanted to sit indoors somewhere because the cold was getting to us especially with Sarah in her Birkenstocks (which a I think a German man noticed while we were getting crepes and commented “are you mad?!”. We decided to stay near the Seine river and stopped by Coffee Crepes (24 Quai du Louvre, 75001 Paris, France). We all ordered a nice After Eight minty hot chocolates then took a quick glimpse of La Seine river with faraway views of the Eiffel Tower.

We wanted to grabbed a few pastries before returning to the airport and stopped by Bakery Gosselin (123-125 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001 Paris, France) to grab a few croissants, au pain du chocolat, Sable amande and a Flan. 9,25 euro. Our final stop before we made it back to Chatelet des halles was Galerie Véro-Dodat (8 Galerie Véro-Dodat, 75001 Paris, France).

We hopped on the train around 6PM and at one point, we had to transfer trains because someone got sick but luckily a local man saw we didn’t get off and lead the way for us to the new train. Once back in terminal 2, we saw line to check-in  was incredibly long and luckily enough, we were able to check-in online to avoid that line. Before we boarded the flight from CDG to Addis Ababa, the flight attendant came up to us and asked for our passports. Since the system wasn’t 100% connected before, our luggage was brought to their attention but not connected to a boarding pass until they fixed it in the system. The flight was much better with more rest. 2 more meals (yay).

The flight was still a long haul. But the last flight felt even longer with these 3 guys sitting around myself and the girls, who kept getting up, brought tons of snacks. Way too fidgety for me and they were really rude to the staff thinking they could leave their stuff everywhere and walk anywhere they wanted. We finally arrived and beat the line to customs where we got our single entry visa for $75USD. On the Go Tours arranged airport pickup and away we went. The 30-minute van ride was the best sleep I had in the past 24 hours.

We stayed at the Shearwater Explorer Village (Adam Stander Dr, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe) where our accommodations where in tents on-site with a cot. *DOUBLE CHECK the cots for bed bugs before using it. Apparently the 2 cots in my domed tent had bed bugs as Lulu and myself woke up with these bug bites on our legs that did not resemble mosquito bites. The facility has 4 separate campsite tent areas with shared showers and toilet areas (hot water and toilet paper included) with a main building that has a infinity pool, spa and restaurant along with lodges you can upgrade to. The tents with the cots are the holding area as the 3 other campsite areas are where you are grouped by your tour.

The first night they provide you with a lock for the tent however, the second night, we got moved to another tent (which will be our tents for our trip). These tents, you will be required your own lock. We used my luggage lock. Once we settled into our tent, off we went to the pool to relax. We showered and by the time we were finished, we had a group meeting. On the Go Tours teams up with ATC (African tour company) a local tour company. This meeting is a debriefing of the tour and also where you share with your guides your insurance information and also get to meet one another. Clive was our cook, Frans our driver and Will our guide. Will went over an updated list of all the stops along the way as sometimes the information on the website isn’t 100% up to date. He also listed almost all the excursions that are included and optional add-ons. He also told us that we should save our physical money to pay for tours as they include a 11% inflation rate on credit cards but for normal day to day meals and whatnot to use credit cards like we do back home. Also to save local currency for tips.

Our group for this tour consisted of 13 people plus the 3 staff. Lisa the Yoga Teacher and Katie the Paramedic (Katherine) from Toronto/Calgary and Hamilton, Gordon & Margaret and David and Marianne all retired teachers and nurses from Hope, BC, Susan the Mental Health Administrator from Australia, Stephanie the Electrical Engineer from Dublin (who is working in Cape Town) and Alberto the Lawyer / Events Production company / Farmer etc from Costa Rica.

Also note that although first night accommodation is included in price, meals are not included until the Monday morning when you leave Zimbabwe for Botswana. The currency they use in Zimbabwe is USD.

We decided to go check out the market just outside the gate of our accommodations and just looking at possible souvenirs but the men the market are very pushy always approaching you “sister, take a look at my store, I give your sunset deal”. A little too aggressive for my taste. In terms of being on a tour, this was the only time we had to check out markets for souvenirs and because we had just arrived and we hadn’t even seen any animals we couldn’t justify purchasing anything – a big regret on our part. Zimbabwe is known for their precious stones and there were many beautiful stone sculptures of the big five amongst other things. The average for these stone statues asking price was $25USD but you need to haggle with them. Some other statues could be haggled for cheaper like $5USD. We had arranged to go for dinner with the group with our tour at the nearby restaurant The Three Monkeys and we walked over together. The food is great. We were recommended to get “The Dude burger” or in matter of fact, any burger or pizza – all American sized portions.

The girls and myself sat with Frans and Will and got to know them better. Both have been with ATC for about 1.5-2 years a abs both are from Joburg. Frans is 28 with a young baby at home (taking time off after this tour) Clive is 31 with 4 children and Will is 30 and has a younger sister who is working to save the endangered animals and their environments.

For those who wish to walk with lions, check out Lion Encounter. My friend was working with this organization however we both dropped the ball and didn’t connect or follow-up with one another and missed re-connecting in the short period of time that both of us would have been in Vic Falls.

Itinerary – Africa – 2017

11/30-12/15/17

 

I usually jump onto trips because of amazing flight deals but this time around, my friend Sarah alerted myself and 2 other friends about this other special deal on a tour. We had spoken for a few years about going to Africa and twice a year, On the Go Tours runs a promotion of 2 for 1 on tours. Grab a friend and go for the price of 1 person. Regular price for our 12 days Victoria Falls to Johannesburg was $1495CAD. Meaning $747.50CAD per person for the tour.

Our flight we got for a reasonable price at $1283.90CAD. Toronto to France (CDG) (10-12 hour stopover), France (CDG) to Addis Ababa – Ethiopia (ADD), Ethiopia to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (VGA). Return is from Johannesburg (JNB) to Addis Ababa – Ethiopia (ADD), Ethiopia to Dublin, Dublin to Toronto. Originally we wanted to stay for another week to optimize our time but for $500CAD cheaper to return home on a Thursday just made more sense for us.

Would’ve loved to go into a township like the Apartheid Museum and Soweto in Johannesburg but our timing of arrival and departure just didn’t work out. I would recommend the Sightseeing hop on and off tour bus as that would have been the method we would have seen the city if we had time. Otherwise, if not renting a car, UBER is the next best way to get around – cheap and safe.

Uber discounted ride code: rosannau34ue

https://www.uber.com/invite/t0pz2w

I travelled with my friends Sarah, Jin and Louisa. #CUTYAdventures #canasianwerewolves

 

Things to do before you leave:

 

Vaccinations:

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis B

Typhoid

Cholera

Yellow Fever (Required if you are going to an area with high risk or transiting from a country with high risk (more than 12 hours) – please check websites to find out) As of 2017, there is a shortage in Yellow fever shots – certain clinics will only have partial vaccine (1 year validity) some locations have lifetime shots. Technically, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa don’t require it.

 

Prescriptions (Recommended but not all required)

Malaria Pills (take pill 2 days before and 7 days after trip)

Cinpro/Anthim in case of diarrhea

Ducarel – must be started a week or 2 before you leave

 

Visa

 

-Check to see if you need a visa for the countries you are visiting (Canadians are required a visa for Zimbabwe but can obtain on arrival – $75USD – still cheaper than obtaining prior to arrival)

*If you plan on going to Zambia as well, there is a cheaper dual visa for $50USD (For Canadians)

 

Alcohol

-Beer is roughly $2

 

Outlets

-Outlets the big round 3 prong and sometimes larger 2 round prong with flat prongs.

 

Credit Card / Debit

-Credit Card can be used in majority of all the areas minus markets.

-ATM – Better exchange rates than currency exchange with Debit Machine

 

Zimbabwe

-Zimbabwe adopted USD as their currency (bills only).

-$1USD = 362ZWD (Zimbabwean Dollars) – otherwise, currency is 1:1

-You can drink the tap water and can also ask for tap water and ice at many places.

-No Tipping as Vat is included so tax is included in prices shown. Tip is usually 10%.

-Entry Visa required

 

Botswana

-$1CAD = 7BWP (Pula)

-$1USD = 10BWP (Pula)

-You cannot drink the tap water

-Carry 2 pulas & toilet paper around for public washrooms

-Language is Setswana

-Du mella ma (female) ra (male) – hello

-LA guy – how are you

-GA taing – I’m fine

-Kea la bogaa ma – thank you

-Kea rata – I love you

-Muntle – beautiful

-Muna – single man

-Buna – 2 or more men

-Botswana people are more reserved but friendly

 

South Africa

-$1CAD = 10ZAR (Rand)

-$1USD = 13ZAR (Rand)

-You can drink the tap water

-UBER is the best and cheapest way to get around. Door to Door is key for safety

-11 Official languages; 9 of which are African

-Afrikaans – A mix of Dutch, Belgian, French & Flemish.

-Population – 20% is White & 80% is Black & Other (Indian, Korean & Chinese)

 

Below is my initial itinerary for the trip (not updated to what we did)

 

11/30 Toronto / France

FLY – 840PM YYZ-> 950AM CDG

 

12/01 France / Ethiopia

950AM

LAYOVER – 10-12 hour stopover in France
1030-1130AM

TRAIN – CDG term 2 – RER Train to Châtelet-Les Halles. Walk to Centre Georges Pompidou (45 mins – €10.30 – purchased 2 pack ticket – €20.60)

-Châtelet-Les Halles

-Le Centre Pompidou (Opens at 11AM – Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France)

-5 euro – panoramic ticket – rooftop view

18 min walk

1250PM

-Le Louvre – Pyramid & Carrousel Arc de Triomphe (75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside

12 min walk

150PM

–L’ardoise (28 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France) (Open 12-3PM & 630-1130PM) (Pre-fixe – 38€)

2 min walk

3PM

-Louis Vuitton Maison Vendôme – 2 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris, France

14 min walk

330PM

-Galerie Vivienne – 5 Rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris, France – mosaic – rustic elegance

4 min walk

345PM

-Jardin du palais royale – 6 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France

-Les Deux Plateaux (2 Rue de Montpensier, 75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside

5 min walk

430PM

-Galerie Vero Dodat – 8 Galerie Véro-Dodat, 75001 Paris, France

-Walk La Seine River

530 – TRAIN – CDG Term 2

Châtelet – Les Halles, 75001 Paris, France -> RER BEPOLAéroport CDG Terminal 2 TGV

FLY – 945PM CDG -> 645AM ADD

 

12/02 – Ethiopia / Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls

FLY – 835AM ADD -> 1215PM VGA

Airport shuttle transfer

STAY – Shearwater Explorer Village (Wifi)

 

12/03 – Zimbabwe – Victoria Falls

-Victoria Falls

-Biking

 

12/04 – Victoria falls – Chobe River, Botswana

STAY – Thebe River Safaris Campsite (Wifi available in reception area)

– Kasane – Chobe River – Watch Elephants & Hippos

– Sunset Boat cruise

 

12/05 – Kasane – Nata Region

STAY – Elephant Sands (Wifi – very weak signal)

-Afternoon/Evening Game drive

 

12/06 – Nata Region – Maun

STAY – Sitatunga Campsites (Wifi available in bar and weaker signal around site)

 

12/07 – MaunOkavango Delta

-Overnight excursion into the Delta

-Early morning to Mokoro Poler’s Station

STAY – Mobile Tented Camp in Okavango (NO WIFI)

-Guided evening bushwalk

 

12/08 – Okavango Delta – Maun

-Morning bushwalk

-Visit local village via Pole Canoes

-Return to Maun w/ optional scenic flight over the Delta

 

12/09-10 – Maun – Palapye – Polokwane (South Africa)

-Drive to the small town of Palapye (between Francistown & Gaborone (Bostwana’s capital)

STAY – Itumela Campsite (WIFI – good signal all over site)

-Drive to town of Polokwane

STAY – Boma in the Bush (NO WIFI)

 

12/11-12 – Kruger National Park

-Morning viewpoints drive – Blyde River Canyon Region – The Three Rondavels, The Pinnacle, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, & God’s Window

STAY Nkambeni Safari Camp near Kruger National Park (20 min free WIFI at reception)

-Visit Kruger National Park

-Night game drive

-Morning Game Drive

-Buffet Dinner (optional – group decision)

 

12/13 – Johannesburg

-Hazyview – Johannesburg

-7AM-2/3PM

-Joburg Arrival – Mufasa Backpackers (21 4th Rd, Van Ryn SH, Benoni, 1513, South Africa)

3/4PM

-Check into hotel – Hyde Park Villas – 28B 3rd Rd, Hyde Park, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa (WIFI – Complimentary 500MB each day)

-Rosebank Mall – Rosebank Art & Craft Market – Cradock Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa

– Open 9AM-6PM

 

12/14 – Johannesburg -> Dublin

10AM – Airport Shuttle / UBER to O R Tambo (JNB) Airport

 

FLY – 210PM JNB -> 825PM ADD

FLY 1130PM ADD -> DUB

 

12/15 – Dublin – Toronto

FLY – 530AM -> 745AM YYZ