This is not a holiday, it’s an adventure (Vic Falls & Chobe NLP)

IMG_9419

Johannesburg didn’t make a good impression on first sight. It looked like one big ghetto and right next to the streets there was always red mud and dirt. I didn’t feel too comfortable at Park Station either and therefore I took the Gautrain (R160!! Swiss price) directly to the airport. There were security guards patrolling all night and therefore I felt quite safe and there were enough soft benches to sleep on.
The next morning I was waiting for Michèle at the gate. She cut it really close since her plane from Zurich had been delayed but at last we sat on the plane together. What was more, we were seated right next to each other, although there were other empty rows left.
The visa to enter Zimbabwe cost us 30$ and it took us an eternity to receive it because they worked really slow. When the 15min taxi ride to our hostel also cost us 30$, we realized that this would be a tourist rip off place. Food/drink prices were almost Swiss everywhere.

waterfall1

The hostel was cool with people who played music, a pool and art chairs made out of bottle tops but again the employees were working on their own speed. In the evening a loud party was going on until the early morning hours but I was so exhausted, that I had no trouble sleeping.

The next day we met our 18 people travel group. Our first impression was that everybody was very relaxed and open and it stayed that way until the end. This was the perfect group 🙂 Our guides Gerhard and Cardi were awesome, too and contrary to my fears after some reviews I had read, we always received delicious and plenty of food that Cardi prepared for us.
For a short moment at the orientation I was reminded again how small the world is, because suddenly, there was this girl from Switzerland, who did an exchange in the US at the same time as me. We never met by chance in Switzerland but there we run into each other in Vic Falls. It turned out that she wasn’t on the same safari though.

IMG_9417

Entry into Vic Falls National Park would cost another 30$ but at least that was included into our tour price. We walked along paved paths, heard the thunder of the falls and looked in awe at the masses of water that fell down. It was cool to see the falls from so many different angles from the viewing spots. We were lucky that there was hardly any wind and therefore, we hardly got sprayed by water and could make fun of all the yellow rain poncho groups.
On our way back, we were accompanied by many monkeys.

IMG_9444

By lunch time it was really hot and therefore we jumped into the Rainbow Hotel pool. Yes, our first night on the safari we spend in a nice hotel.
Later, we took a taxi with some others to Safari Lodge to watch a beautiful sunset over a waterhole.
Then we had Chicken Curry for dinner with the group at Shearwater Café.
Early the next morning, we loaded our luggage into our truck Nina, and drove to Botswana. Along the road we already saw some elephants and giraffes which provoked excited screams from our side. To enter into Botswana, we had to step into some poisonous liquid to free us from possible germs of foot and mouth disease.
Then, we reached our camp for the first night and received a short demonstration of how to set up our spacious tent.
When we all had our little home, we jumped onto a safari vehicle with open sides, to start our first game drive in Chobe National Park. Our driver said that in a game you can win or lose, so it’s not guaranteed to see animals. The boarders of the park are open and the animals roam freely but we weren’t disappointed. We saw hordes of impalas, elephants, giraffes, hippos (only in the mud), buffalos and much more.
After lunch, we hopped onto a boat to go on a sunset cruise. We saw soooo many elephants and especially the babies were extremely cute. Furthermore, there were crocs, more deer like creatures and colorful birds. The things and places we had seen that day were spectacular!
When we returned to the camp, “lecka” dinner was already waiting for us (butternut apple soup/ pork steak with mashed potatoes, cabbage and carrots.) It was delicious! I’d call that a successful first day.
Everybody then retired early as the alarm clock would ring at 5am.

waterfall2IMG_9736

The next day was filled with a long stretch of driving and we were told that in order to keep the duration a minimum, we wouldn’t stop for anything general like “an elephant or a giraffe” (that would be like slowing down in the US to observe a deer). But still we saw rare wild dogs, a hyena, elephants, giraffes and different kinds of antelopes along the road.
The border-crossing into Namibia worked without any problems and after another few hours of driving, we stopped for lunch at a rest area along a 200km road without the slightest bend. Our truck Nina fully showed its functionality then, as it turned into a food truck and we cod enjoy a delicious pasta salad on our camping chairs in the shade.

IMG_9527 IMG_9569

Our camp was right next to a river. Since we arrived at 4pm, we still had two hours to shower with the warmth of the sun and then enjoy the view with a Savanna and good company. Dinner was a tasty spaghetti bolognaise and while we were eating, we could listen to some hippo noises.
Before going to bed, I saw the first spider in Africa that’s worth mentioning. It was a big black one and looked similar to the fake Halloween ones in Switzerland.

IMG_9593 IMG_9855

That night we got to sleep in until 7. After breakfast we hit a dirt road to make our way to the entrance to the Okawango Delta on Botswana’s side. We saw some animals again and then crossed the border again. There, we either had to leave our raw meat behind or cook it there on the spot, in order not to carry any germs to Botswana. So we cooked our sausages that the meat didn’t get wasted.
That was a good opportunity for the killer in our group to get rid of a few people. We are playing this game during our trip where everybody had to draw a card and there is one killer among all other civilians. In the evening we have to guess who the killer is and send someone to jail. It’s quite fun but apparently, I was an easy victim, as I was the first one who got murdered. Luckily, it’s only a game, otherwise, I feel very safe on this trip.

IMG_9643 IMG_9733

Advertisements

Billabongs or “do you wanna lick an ant”?

IMG_5052

Buley Rockhole

Thanks to Andrew who drove me to my pick up point at 6am, I was readily waiting when my tour bus from Wayoutback Tours came to pick me up. We drove around town some more to pick up other people until we were a group of 19 girls, two French guys and our guide Kel.
He drove us for about 1,5 hours into Lichtfield NP. The roads started to look more like dirt again than concrete. Then, I realized that I had actually missed these outback roads that build an orange red contrast to the sky and that cover the cars and everything in red dust. It’s just an experience you could never have in Switzerland.
We quickly stopped off at a café, where we’d leave the trailer for the day. Then, Kel brought us to Buley Rockhole. It was a clear stream, floating over rocks, building several swimming pools and waterfalls. It looked incredibly beautiful, plus the water was the perfect refreshing temperature. It was a lot of fun to fight against the currents of the waterfalls and then float back to the edge of the pool, where the next waterfall would drop into a lower pool.

IMG_5060

Florence Falls

Too soon, we had to head back into the bus and then drove to Florence Falls. There was a viewing platform from where the two broad waterfalls looked amazing! The hike down to the pool was an easy walk and probably took less than 5 minutes. It’s definitely worth to go and jump in the water again which shone green against the rock but was crystal clear too. Unfortunately, there were a lot of people there but once you swam out to one of the waterfalls, you were pretty much alone. The view from when you are floating on the back, looking up at the falling water is indescribable. It was possible to swim under the waterfall and have a nice shower. On the sides, the water pressure wasn’t that hard.
Again, too quick we had to hike back up. That was a bit harder in this heat.
We then drove to the Wangi Falls, where we set up for lunch. A chicken burger with lettuce, tomatos and cucumbers. After lunch, we walked the two minutes to the falls. Again, I couldn’t take my eyes off them, they were so stunning!! Amazing colors and this big amount of water! In this national park there probably are some of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve seen.

Wangi Falls

Wangi Falls

I realize that here in Australia I say a lot that this is one of the prettiest places I have ever seen. So, I asked myself, whether I just forget how beautiful the other places were, whether they are just differently beautiful or whether they really are prettier…

I also jumped into the Wangi Falls pool and again, it was cool to look up to them and the water was green and clear.

IMG_5103

Our next stop was a place with many termite mounts and a termite ‘grave yard’. The rocks that the termites are building look like tombstones. When we stopped to observe the plain, Kelly caught a yellow ant with a green tail from a tree and asked us whether we wanted to lick it. It would taste like lime. One girl was brave and so…licked the ant. She confirmed that it tasted sour and so Kel caught a few more ants and we all had a go. It really was quite sour!

Then we had a 2,5 hour drive ahead of us. We picked up our trailer and made the way towards Point Stuart Campground. After the sunset, the bushfires were very well visible and since they all were controlled and purposely laid, we could drive right past them. It looked quite pretty, like thousands on lanterns in the forest.

IMG_5137

The campsite really looked like a group camp with cabin tents arranged around a big kitchen hut. So it was actually quite luxurious to share a little house with someone else.
We checked well for spiders and frogs (snake food) and were happy not to find any. Only the mosquitos really were a pain!
For dinner, we had a big and delicious bbq with sausages&steaks, a Greek salad and coleslaw. We were all full after that and ready to go to bed.
During the night, I heard new animal sounds again and wondered which animals they were.

Ubirr

Ubirr

The night was short. At 5.30am, still in the dark, breakfast was served. Surprisingly, everybody got up to eat. Travelling just makes you hungry!
We packed up while the sun was rising and then drove to Murray River, where our boat cruise would start at 7.30am.
We boarded a small boat with about 24 seats and a driver brought us up and down the river in the early morning sun (I was glad brought my sweater; mornings are quite chilly compared to the day).
We saw a few big saltwater crocodiles, a few freshwater crocodiles and even a baby. Plus, there were a lot of birds and water lilies. The two hours on the water passed really quickly and soon, we were back on land, where a fruit platter awaited us.
Then, we drove on to the Mamukala Wetlands, a beautiful wetland bird watch place. There also was an interesting painting about how the aborigines tell the seasons.
Then, we jumped back on our ‘school bus’ and drove on to Jabaru, where we made sandwiches for lunch in a nice park. There were some little aboriginal children playing on the swings. Sadly, these were the first happy aborigines I have seen in Australia.

At the top of Gunlom Fall

At the top of Gunlom Fall

After lunch, we entered the beautiful Kakadu Nationalpark and drove to a sacred site called Ubirr. It’s a small mountain from which you have an amazing view! On the way to the top, it was like an outdoor museum with ancient wall paintings. We stopped at every spot and Kel would tell us a story about it.
We took our time, so that the walk wasn’t too exhausting, despite the heat.
Back at the start, it was already time to drive to the campsite. We arrived at Cooinda shortly before sunset and had time to swim in the nice pool with a small waterfall and hot tub.

IMG_5491IMG_5462
The camping huts were similar, except that here, we had actual beds with mattresses. The one the night before almost felt like sleeping on bare wood.
For dinner, we had stir fry chicken with rice. Such a simple but delicious dish! I have to remember that for home.
Here, the bathrooms were a bit further away and it was quite hard to find the way in the dark. Plus, there were so many frogs and (poisonous) cane toads that you heard a scream by a girl from our group once in a while:)

See that saltie?

See that saltie?

The next morning, breakfast was at 5.30 again. At 6.45 (unbelievable how much time packing up with a group needs) we were ready to roll. Our destination was Gunlom. To get there, we drove along another 4wd track, which was quite fun with the bus. I even saw wild donkeys, a wallaby and a pig somewhere in the trees. In the golden morning light, everything looked even prettier than during the day.
At Gunlom, we hiked for 20min up a steep path over slippery and uneven rocks. On the top, there was an amazing view over the plain and a little further back, there were pools from a waterfall glistering in the sunlight. Once I walked there, I realized that we were actually standing at the top of a waterfall that fell over the cliff we just had walked up. It was beautiful to swim in the pools. They looked like infinity pools because behind them, a huge wall would drop down.
We spent about 1,5 hours up there but I could have stayed all day!
Nevertheless, we hiked back down and this time, had wraps for lunch. There even was grated cheddar cheese! Not just the slices in plastic foil.
Then, we walked the two minutes to the bigger bottom pool and just relaxed until it was time to drive back to Darwin. After all, it should take us 5 hours to get back. It took us a bit more and so shortly past seven, we were finally dropped off at our hostel.

IMG_5316
Quickly, we hurried to Coles to buy some more road trip snacks for the rest of the tour. On the way there, I ran in to two guys I met at Peterpans the other night. That’s the good thing about only having one main street, you run into people you meet again and again. Since it was a Monday, we made plans to go get 5$ Domino’s Pizza afterwards. However, since it was a public holiday for the queen’s birthday, there was a 10% surcharge this time. The evening passed too quickly. I had planned on going to bed at 9.30 because I was so tired and I had to get up at 5.30 again but in the end it was midnight after all. Fault of the good public wifi in Darwin 🙂 But I’ve learned from experience in Australia, that you have to enjoy the wifi while you can and I assume that I won’t see much of that on the way to Alice Springs.

IMG_5380

Anyways, exploring the top end was amazing! I could have spent weeks in these national parks. There would be so much more to see but I was really happy with the places we visited. Every stop was a highlight!