We had a 6AM wake up call before hitting the road once again for a long haul drive. We switched up the seating in the truck. We traded and took over the smaller 4 person table and played cards. First time playing gin rummy for me. We literally played for 7-8 hours with only 2 stops. Frans needed to open the cabin and fix the the pipe as it became exposed. Our last pitstop was at a gas station with a newly opened Nando’s.
Arriving in Palapye, we stayed at Camp Itumela which probably had the best wifi spanning the entire campsite. The main reception area had a courtyard that held the main pool, tree top like patio and further in, the bar and more lounging areas as well as a playground.
This campsite also features a pig and 2 goats as well as roaming dogs, cats, chickens and peacocks. There are 2 outdoor toilets and showers but also an indoor toilet and shower facility. There is also a volleyball court mind you the size was more of a badminton court and had metal poles as the court and middle line. The net was also really floppy and low. After dinner we played a few rounds. Word of advice, don’t chase after it outside the court as immediately or if the perimeters, the ground is less cared for and rocks and other jagged things await. Clive was telling us that in his 2 years with ATC, he has never seen anyone actually use the volleyball courts that are available.
Majority of the other people on the campsite work in the nearby energy plant as engineers building turbines. These engineers come from around the world – Netherlands, South Africa, Thailand etc.
Sarah had heard from Will that there was a local club nearby which she wanted to check out so we decided to go. Clive was originally going to accompany us but it was getting late so we made arrangements with two of the bar staff – G and Benny who were willing to take us. Benny’s fiance Charity also joined us.
We ended up walking to Wamzito night club which is the only club in town. All ages it seemed for only 20 Pula entry fee. The bars in Palapye close at 11PM everyday are aren’t allowed to serve alcohol past that time so they all come from the bar to the club. The club opens at 11PM which is the time we arrived. Pretty dead for the first hour but then the crowd slowly but surely filled out. The music playing was house music (not really my cup of tea) and we stayed on the couch for a little while. We were definitely the minority in the club and had many people come up to us just to shake our hands. We danced for a bit and we wanted to walk back but G kept telling us we shouldn’t. Luckily enough Benny and Charity hadn’t left yet and drove us back. I can definitely say Sarah was the life of the party that night with her dance moves and got her photo and video taken by/with the locals. There was a row of food being sold on the side of the road but the rules of the road were out the door with 3-4 lanes trying to find parking at the club leaving us stuck just outside the club for a long period of time. We got back to the camp and showered around 130-2AM and went to bed.
Another 5 hours in the truck to get to our next destination in South Africa. We crossed the Botswana border to enter South Africa. Pretty quick and easy. The river divides the Botswana and South Africa but also two other countries.
South Africa info
-Population of 56 Billion
-South Africa is still under dictatorship.
-There are 11 official languages – 9 that are African
-SA in the Iron age was gold trading with China
-In the 1400’s Europeans & Portuguese wanted to use Africa as a route to trade with China
-The Dutch came in the 1600’s in persecution.
-The French came down and brought wine and formed the African culture of wine
-The British came and colonized and pushed the Dutch inland in 1820s
-Union of South Africa Cape created the Orange free state and Transvaal where the Dutch inherited the apartheid with white segregation 50-70s
-Cape Town was the first to be explored.
-Johannesburg was a gold mining town and is the largest city in the world not sitting near water
-The Blacks, Indians and Chinese were categorized and segregated by race
-These ethnicities lives in the township of Soweto which meant South West township
-They were issued a dog pass that they had to use to get into the city with curfews and segregated in all walks of life (bathrooms, buses etc)
-Mixed race people would be put into prison as black and white weren’t allowed to procreate
-1976 massacre saw 176 students killed as students from the Soweto township protested against the Apartheid.
-In schools, students must learn Afrikaans languages.
-With the Soweto uprising – The English, Canadians and Australians shut down trading with South Africa
-Only by 1980’s the trading started again.
-In 1994, South Africa became a democracy and Nelson Mandela became the first president of South Africa.
-South Africa holds the Guinness World Records for having 2 Nobel peace prize awarded
-The population is comprised of 80% black and 20% white
-Gay marriage was put into law early on
-South Africa is slowly balancing it out with the government giving more incentive for Black owned companies
-The 1995 movie Invictus shows us how two South African men – Nelson Mandela & Francois Pienaar united a country using Soccer / Rugby.
-The South African flag features a sideways Y which represents people coming together – The rainbow nation.
-South Africa is the largest producers of platinum in the world. They also mine Chromium and Angston
-80% of the country is run on coal
-East coast cities like Durban have warm tropical beaches
-West coast cities have cold climate linked by deserts
-Cape Town rainy climate
-South Africa has so many different ecosystems within it’s country
-It has the 2nd largest population of Indian outside of india
-Unemployment is high
-The language of Afrikaans is a mix of Dutch, Belgian, German, French & Flemish
After 5 hours of travelling, we arrived in Polokwane, South Africa. We stopped by the mall for an hour lunch so the staff could go grocery shopping for the next few days. The girls and myself shared 4 pies from King Pie. NOTE – The bureau and alcohol stores are closed on Sundays. Unlike many places I’ve visited, it is very strange to be in a place where black and white people and some Indian are the norm however being an Asian person is a rarity. The staring is not subtle at all. We hopped back into the truck and stayed the night at Boma in the Bush. The camping property is quite large but no wifi and the bar is situated in the house of the owner. The water pressure for the showers was the best thus far of the trip.
It was my day to do cooking prep in the rotation. The sky started turning darker as we prepped and the temperature dropped significantly. Rain was coming. After prepping, we did a little bit of a yoga session lead by Lisa pre-dinner before it started to rain. We had free time and I honestly didn’t know what to do with myself. The girls ended up by the pool reading and catching up on their journaling and the rest were napping or at the bar.
For dinner, we had beef stroganoff and vegetables. The kitchen had covered grounds with a fridge and outlets so we just hung out there into the night as one by one we all went to shower. We ended up staying up until 11PM chatting away after dinner with Alberto about life and the tour itself and how expensive it was to fly out of Costa Rica.
There was a crazy amount of lightning and thunder overnight. The clothes I was regretting to have brought (long sleeves and pants) came in handy in that moment.
Our morning wake up call was for 6AM with it raining a little through the night. When we came out of the tent, the watering hole had finally been emptied with 1 elephant approaching from the distance as we ate breakfast. We had to pre-pack our lunch as this day was our first long-haul drive where we would not stop for a lunch pitstop. We drove from Nata to Maun.
On our drive, we spotted ostriches and zebras.
Okavango Delta info
-The delta is a UNESCO sight because the tectonic plates shifted and use to be dry but now it’s wet. It is one of the very few major interior delta systems that do not flow into a sea or ocean, with a wetland system that is almost intact.
-May-July is when water levels are high. The rainy season brings nutrients down for the animals. The water is low season is about a meter deep.
-Mokoro are traditional boats that are made of jackelberry, sausage or sycamore trees dug out to make it hollow and push it with a pole. Polers use large staffs to push through the river.
-Fishermans turned to tourism to create more income.
– The Okavango Delta is 15000KM depending on water levels.
-Antelope/Impala that live in the delta have their hooves jut out so they can adapt and not sink into the mud.
-The Delta is made up of different channels.
Our day was made up of driving to Maun. We arrived at Sitatunga Camp – Delta Rain – our campsite for the night. We set up our tents right outside the wooden columns so we were closest to the bar to get better wifi reception. There is a pool (murky waters) and a volleyball court (not up to par but decent enough with soft sand). Good thing I brought a volleyball. The girls and myself played but it was sure hot. Will, Clive and the other guide from another tour joined us before we had to stop for dinner.
After dinner, the sun had set and back to Volleyball we went. The rallies got more intense as Shaw also joined and Will had gotten some tips for Lulu and his form improved. Alberto also joined. The lights seem to be on timer going off every 5 minutes or so and back on after 3 or something like that. We played into the night but finished so we could go shower.
The showers were quite glamourous from what we’ve had. Overhead shower head but the stalls are much larger and have a shelf and towel rack with a level you could sit if you’d like.
After the relaxing shower, we met Shaw at the bar where to offered us homemade rosmalai (Indian dessert) and pistachio coconut ice cream. Absolutely delicious and a real treat after playing volleyball. The pistachio ice cream is made with condensed milk, cream, nestle milk powder, cooked down then add Coconut cream, coconut flakes, pistachio, almond.
Shaw is originally from Pakistan. His father was a banker who opened banks around the world and moved around and settled down in Botswana. Shaw studied in Cape Town – culinary. He recently took ownership of the food and drink of Sitatunga camp about 2 months and has big ideas such as an open concept outdoor kitchen. His side business is security systems for the big resorts. He lives in Kasane and Francistown (4-5 hours away).
NOTE – This overnight portion of the trip is when you should pack neutral colours (no bright colours, blue and whites) not to scare animals and pack sneakers and pants to avoid getting scratched up on your bushwalks.
I woke up and repacked 1 bag for the overnight stay with swim suit, a change of clothes, camera and whatever else you need for overnight.
We had french toast for breakfast. It was my turn to purchase a block of ice for 20 Pula and packed it into the smaller cooler that we would be taking with us.
We all got on the safari truck and off we drove to the delta. It got a little bumpy entering into the village surrounding our entry point to the delta channel for the mokoros (old fashioned boats you pole to get you around). Sarah and myself had Simon as our poler. In your mokoro before you step in, the poler places your sleeping mats (2) opened and creates seating with a back rest using your backpack, 5L waters and sleeping bags. The ride was 1.5-2 hours and was very smooth and relaxing. As we were entering into our campsite, there were 6-8 elephants walking past just meters away.
When we all finally arrived to the campsite, we met Xtra – the head of the polers and Phil & Litos the bushmen. They gave us the rundown about the general campsite and gave us strict rules about asking permission and requiring a person to escort us if we wanted to venture as we were in the wild. Since Clive and Frans stayed back and ran errands, Will became one of the polers and the cook for this portion of the trip. For lunch, we had tuna pasta and oranges.
It was way too hot to do anything in the sun until 3PM but at least we had a nice view of the elephants from our site. At 3PM, Will took us out and we tried our hand at poling and swimming in the same river. The water is orange in colour due to vegetation but clean and refreshing nonetheless.
Poling is more difficult than it looks especially with wind and going against the current. Similar to stand-up paddleboard and kayaking but you only pole on your dominant side then use the stick as a rutter to help steer. We made it down a bit and parked the mokoro to dunk into the river. Summer months are when the river water levels are lower so standing was not an issue and you would still be above the water standing in your knees. The water is very refreshing with little fishes swimming around. As you are standing up, you can peak over the grass and see on-land where elephants are just roaming free.
We had to pole our mokoros back and got ready for our afternoon/evening bushwalk. We split off into 2 group and had to walk single-file. The evening walk was nice but we only were able to spot zebras, herons, wilderbeasts and buffaloes.
We came back famished to a candlelit (a little too windy) dinner of roasted chicken, coleslaw, rice and squash courtesy of chef Will.
After dinner since all of us were still sitting around the table, we played werewolves (similar to mafia). Will chose his werewolves (he chose the 4 of us) and after 2 rounds, Katie accused us 4 being the “canasian werewolves” as Stephanie was the doctor and Lisa the seeer but both unfortunately had been killed off early in the game. Thus the name Canasian Werewolves came to be.
Our game was short lived as we all migrated over towards the campfire. The polers did a special performance for us with traditional songs and dance which finished off with group mental thinking riddles. We ended the night watching the stars (cloudy) and fireflies with the girls until the fireflies glimmer started to disappear and the clouds rolled over.
We woke up at 5AM for our morning bushwalk. To be honest, nothing special but the sunrise was lovely. Unfortunately we weren’t able to spot any other animals minus zebras and elephants in the distance during this walk. We returned to breakfast of baked beans, hardboiled eggs, toast and bacon. Packed up and back we went in the mokoro leaving the delta behind.
Simon our poler poles part time but is also a overland/safari tour guide in Maun. He and his girlfriend are expecting their 1st child in 4 months and he plays soccer. His sister met us on the river to collect the bag of jewelry and carvings that they make and try to sell to us tourists. Majority of the times, the women make the jewellery or the sculptures but the men are the faces that try to sell it.
On the mokoro ride back, I pumped the soccer balls I brought with me and gave them away to the kids in the village. I also brought a bag with 2 t-shirts, a pair of pants and another ball. The children are so lovely. I walked towards the soccer field where a large group of children were all of a sudden, all the children ran over to me, swarmed and took the whole bag out of my hands. Madness. I’m happy I was able to give the soccer balls to these nice kids before the mob.
Back at Sitatunga for lunch of chicken burgers with a relaxing do whatever afternoon. A few opted to do the additional flight over the delta excursion while a few went back to town to do some shopping. I stayed behind and just relaxed with the 2 dogs on site.
We had spaghetti with beef bolognese for dinner. Shaw ended up taking us down the road to see the crocodile farm with Shaw. Once again, we finished off our night playing some volleyball with Shaw and Will but we the intensity wasn’t the same as the last volleyball night and we all seemed drained. We showered and met back up with Shaw at the bar where he had prepped homemade pistachio ice cream for us and made a huge portion that we demolished.
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.
I travelled with my friends Sarah, Jin and Louisa. #CUTYAdventures #canasianwerewolves
Things to do before you leave:
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
-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)
-Beer is roughly $2
-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 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
-$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
-$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
LAYOVER – 10-12 hour stopover in France
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)
-Le Centre Pompidou (Opens at 11AM – Place Georges Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France)
-5 euro – panoramic ticket – rooftop view
18 min walk
-Le Louvre – Pyramid & Carrousel Arc de Triomphe (75001 Paris, France) – Take photos outside
12 min walk
–L’ardoise (28 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris, France) (Open 12-3PM & 630-1130PM) (Pre-fixe – 38€)
2 min walk
-Louis Vuitton Maison Vendôme – 2 Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris, France
14 min walk
-Galerie Vivienne – 5 Rue de la Banque, 75002 Paris, France – mosaic – rustic elegance
4 min walk
-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
-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
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 – Maun – Okavango 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
-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
-Joburg Arrival – Mufasa Backpackers (21 4th Rd, Van Ryn SH, Benoni, 1513, South Africa)
-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