Land Rover Adventures

Kalahari

 

Text and Photos by Dennis White

 

 

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

We checked in a few days early to adjust from the trip's effects, deciding on the Victoria Falls Hotel to do so. It was a good decision. On our way into Victoria Falls Airport we spotted what appeared to be a huge fire in the bush, blowing white smoke high into the clear blue skies. Once at the hotel, we realized the fire was actually "The Smoke that Thunders", aptly named such by the indigenous peoples prior to the arrival of David Livingstone in the 1850's. Mr. Livingstone (the 1st white guy to see the Falls) felt it was necessary to name it after Her Majesty Queen Victoria, although we much prefer the original. Our first view came while enjoying tea on the veranda of the hotel.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

Their website touts it as the tallest commercial bungee jump in the world at 111 meters. How could I resist! I'd never done a bungee jump and honestly was not sure if I could, but it's difficult to chicken out when you're the main attraction of the Zambia/Zimbabwe National pastime where the locals walk to the bridge every day to watch the foolish tourists pay perfectly good USD to do something absolutely absurd. "You are perfectly safe Mr. Dennis.... Do Not Look Down, Mr. Dennis.... Five, Four, Three, Two.... (and I still wasn't sure).... One, BUNGEE!!! "If you're not standing on the edge, you're taking up too much space" That's what the Tee shirt says. I'm still here. Oh, and by the way they lied! There's a jump in New Zealand that's 150 meters.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

"The Mighty Zambezi"... rapids with names like "Creamy White Buttocks" and "Stairway to Heaven".... This is how our white water briefing began. It was interesting to be a 50-year-old in a raft with no one breaking the 20-year-old Sugar Mountain barrier as yet. The guide went on about the crocodiles in the Zambezi. The 20-somethings showed a little sign of panic (I hid mine pretty well) and the guide said he was just joking. The first several rapids were pretty good but we didn't hit them as well as we could have. I suspect that the guide was reluctant to put those inexperienced 20-somethings through something they might not handle as well as he and the 50-year-old...! We reached a still area about halfway through the trip at which time the guide suggested a swim. We all bailed into the "Mighty Zambezi" and it was refreshing. Then we heard a whistle from the guide and a following pointed finger at the shore. Two 10'-12' crocodiles getting some rays. Suddenly the raft was full again. We stopped for lunch, hit some more rapids, had a war with the other group and made friends with some pretty amazing young people from Japan, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

We capped our stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel with dinner in the Livingstone Room - a restaurant to rival any in the states. Cocktails, appetizers, wine, Ostrich filets, deserts, ports and dancing to a full orchestra for the equivalent of 56 USD. All the while being catered to by Phillip and his wonderful staff. The "Official exchange rate is 1 USD = 56 Zimbabwe $." The hotel was giving 80Zim$, any shop in town would give 1USD= 130-150Z$ and around the corner you could get 185Z$ for 1USD. Zimbabwe is experiencing some fiscal woes under Mr. Mugabe.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

The Matetsi Game Lodges are located on 50,000 hectares of former hunting grounds directly on the banks of the Zambezi River 40 KM west from Victoria Falls. We were transported by an open Land Rover from the Victoria Falls hotel, through the bush to an unassuming pair of stone gates, where we were greeted by Obert, our butler, with hot linen towels and ice cold mango juice.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

As I was wiping the dust from my face and sipping the mango I immediately wondered how I would adjust to being treated like this.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

At the same time I'm sure Maura was wondering how she would adjust to sleeping in a tent. We spent a total of three nights at Matetsi, with most of the other Adventure guests arriving the day after we did.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

The accommodations were exquisite, the staff impeccable and the meals astonishing.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

All meals were announced by the chef, all served under African skies, and all with china, linens and crystal.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

We were awakened the first morning at 04:30 by the loudest grunting and snorting you could imagine. It was later explained to us by our guide Rob that the local hippos go under water and tell jokes to each other, and if the jokes are really funny, they have to surface to laugh.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

During our stay we did early morning game drives, tracked elephant on foot, took a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, talked about Land Rovers and the rest of the trip, and laughed and made some new friends with both the guests and the staff.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

Our local guides were incredibly knowledgeable and caring.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

Maura made special friends with "Spear" the guard that walked us to our lodges after dark.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

He held us back on the path one night in silence claiming there was potential danger ahead.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

Maura commented that it was probably a ploy to add to the adventure ambiance just as we spotted a cow elephant and her calf feeding on a tree at Mark's front door. We all had to go back to the main lodge for a few more drinks while the cow and calf finished dinner.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

After seeing so many hippoes in front of our lodge we wondered how wise it was to canoe the Zambezi. But what did we know? So just before sunset we set off to find them.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

When we passed a herd of approximately 50, a few of which seemed very interested and a bit too close we wondered again. When the guides began paddling faster and speaking to each other in Afrikaans, in what seemed like a frantic tone we wondered some more. And when the hippo who was swimming towards us submerged, we stopped wondering and started paddling. We cleared the herd with no problems and were assured that they were not aggressive towards humans, just curious. They liked to play "canoe tipping" every now and again. Hello!!!!

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

Before leaving Matetsi we visited Victoria Falls officially, on foot and by helicopter. 1.6KM wide, 128m deep. "Angels in their flight . . . over sights as beautiful as this'' said David Livingstone. No gates, no fences, no guards………… none of the typical American encumbrances. You could walk to the edge and jump off. There's nothing I can add in words to "The smoke that Thunders". Go see it!

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

Airports vs. airstrips. Pavement vs. gravel. Large motorized stair things vs. cattle. Our flight from Matetsi to the Macgadikadi pans in eastern Botswana gave us our first view of the immensity of the Kalahari.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

We arrived at Jack's airstrip and were introduced to our 2002 Td5 Defender 110's. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari Land Rover Adventures: Kalahari

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