Ultimate Africa: To Walk with Lions – a photographic safari in Botswana and Zimbabwe // Day 13: Antelope Park

Friday 08 August 2008

 

We woke up to the birds this morning and waited patiently for the alarm to go off an hour later. It was nice and warm in our tent since our fan heater had been on all night. But at about 6:15 all the electrics went off and so too did our fan heater. It wasn’t long after that the alarm went off and I braved the cold and had a nice hot shower. After breakfast Heiko and I tried our luck with the internet café. The guy there spent about 20 minutes trying to get someone to turn the internet on. The person that knew how to had flicked the wrong switch and then left, so then the guy helping us had to find someone else to guess the correct switch. Finally we had internet and we managed to check in for our Jo-burg to Amsterdam flight. We thought we were running a bit late so rushed back to meet the others only to find that the bus (which wasn’t there like it was supposed to be) had been taken to get some petrol so we had to wait another 30 minutes.

Margaret, the lady that served most of our meals here and also cleaned our tent came over to ask about the rice we had left behind in our tent. I told her we had left it for her and she was so very happy. She asked for me to write her a note so that she would be able to take it out of camp. So I wrote to her saying that we hope she is happy to receive it and to thank her for brightening each day with her lovely smile. She was really happy and she gave me a hug and thanked me.

We then found out that our bus was delayed another 15-20 minutes or so because our driver, Richard, had decided to clean the filter and now he had broken a screw or something, so now that needed fixing. TIA!

Eventually, the bus arrived and we loaded all our luggage and off we set. We stopped briefly in Bulawayo hoping to meet someone from Matapos with Kaleel’s binoculars which he’d left behind by mistake but we didn’t see them, so we continued on to the airport.

Bulawayo airport is fairly small, it’s an old aircraft hanger and they must not have had any electricity because their x-ray machine was not working so each of us had to have our bags inspected by hand. Heiko was told his bag was too big for hand luggage and he tried to explain that the dimensions were definitely okay for hand luggage as he’d checked the website and he showed the luggage tag to prove the size was okay. Eventually he was let through. I had my bag checked by someone else and she only commented on the amount of camera gear I had, not the size of the bag, and she asked where I’d been to.

After we’d been through the security check we had to identify our hold luggage to ensure they put the correct bags on the plane, and then we took a bus over to the plane. A couple of hours later we arrived at Jo-burg airport. Since we had so much time to spare before our flight we were able to meet up with Stephen, who I had done my field guide training with in 2003 and hadn’t seen since then! We first checked in for our next flight, our luggage was going straight through to Amsterdam so that saved us some time collecting it and re-checking it. Instead we could only hope it made the journey back with us.

After saying goodbye to our new friends and fellow photographers Heiko and I left to go through customs to have our passports stamped again. And then once outside, we tried to locate Stephen and I think actually, he spotted us first! And heck! He no longer had his long hair – it’s all gone, as of a few months ago! Was so good to see him again!

So we loaded up the car with our heavy camera bags and then headed out for drinks. We first went to a garden area at the back of a pet store where there were a lot of birds, their drinks shop was closed so we had a wander around admiring all the birds, it was a huge place. Some of the parrots could speak and we spent some time saying ‘hello’ and ‘poppykop’. It was so funny and I have a great video of it! We had a look around the pet store too, at the creepy crawlies, snakes spiders, more birds, and there were puppies there too. The puppies were so cute with their big sad eyes, if we’d been nearer home it would have been almost impossible to leave without one, they all looked desperate for a loving home.

We went to Spurs for drinks and had something to eat, and the beers were flowing. Heiko enjoyed the ribs, and Stephen and I both had steaks – yum! All too soon it was time to return to the airport. Since we’d already checked in earlier and received our tickets it was pretty quick and all we needed to do was go through security and customs. And with only a short queue it was very painless. Most of the shops were closed on the other side but the odd one or two was still open and we bought a few treats for ourselves. We casually arrived at the gate just as they were about to start boarding the plane – nicely timed I think!

The flight was loooong and since my audio panel was stuck on one channel at a very high volume, I couldn’t watch the films. This was probably a good thing since the flight was a night flight so snoozing was actually a better option! I wish I could have watched Kung Fu Panda though – Heiko watched it.

After almost 30 hours since we left Zimbabwe we were so very glad to arrive at Schiphol Airport and I could get off the plane and stretch. We quickly found a trolley to put our camera bags on and headed for passport control. The guy there asked us if we were flying out, but no, we told him we’d just arrived. He had asked us because he thought our bags were too big for carry-on. We told him the dimensions were spot on for carry-on luggage and he was quite impressed. Thank goodness we didn’t have anyone weigh them on this trip!

We got the train back to Den Haag and then a taxi home. It was so good to walk in the door and be greeted by our boys (the cats). Home Sweet Home!

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