Saturday, October 31, 2015

Thursday & Friday, October 29 & 30, 2015: Travel Day – Flight to Johannesburg, South Africa and on to Windhoek, Namibia

Plans are to leave Livingston on a British Air flight at 1:30 this afternoon.  We relaxed this morning at the Lodge.  I, Rachel, have not been feeling well since Tuesday pm.  I apparently got a bug through my mouth!  I did not eat anything today, just drank plenty of water and hot black tea with no sugar.  I have to starve this “little bug” so I get over the situation. I am taking the antibiotic Cipro, which we have with us for these situations.  In all of our travels, the last time either one of us has had a problem was in 2011 in Guatemala. However, we are very careful with food and water.

The flight went well today, and we checked into a hotel here near the airport – we returned to where we stayed our first night in Africa.  It is a lovely hotel and tonight they upgraded us to what is nearly a suite! Lovely! They have a great restaurant, and while Cal ordered a delicious meal, I drank a bottle of water!!

Victoria falls From the Sky

Our Hotel in Livingstone
Tomorrow we fly to Namibia.  Because we left the village of Mwandi earlier than planned, we will have 3 extra days in Namibia.

We requested a wakeup call for 4:30 Friday morning so we could be to the airport for our 6:40 flight to Windhoek, Namibia.  It was hard to leave the hotel in Livingston because we had such a great room, nearly a suite.

The flight to Namibia was uneventful landing around 8:30. By the time we cleared customs, passport check and claimed our luggage, bought a SIM card for the phone, got local currency at the ATM, the vehicle we reserved was ready for us.  We are driving a diesel 4x4 Isuzu pickup, with a second seat and a cover over the bed.  It has 6300 miles on it – looks and smells brand new. We were told we will need a 4x4 due to where we want to go here in Namibia.

What we saw from the plane reminds us of Arizona & New Mexico.  Desert, straight gravel roads, and mountains. The sand dunes are farther west along the coast.

The international airport is 30 minutes outside of Windhoek so by the time we arrived in the city of Windhoek we went directly to our reserved apartment, to see if we could possibly check in this early.  We were tired from our early morning, plus Rachel is beginning to feel the lack of food.  After we had a short nap we began driving around down town Windhoek.  Everyone told us that there was not a lot to see in the downtown and they were for most purposes correct. We found a nice German Lutheran Church which was located in the center of a round-about - unusual location for a church.  From there we went to an old German castle, The Heinitzburg, which is now a very lovely hotel. The hotel has an indoor restaurant, but we chose to have lunch on a veranda overlooking Windhoek – perfect location.

German Lutheran Church

The Heinitzburg Castle/Hotel

The Castle and Garden Veranda Restaurant

Lunch at The Castle

View of Windhoek from the Patio

Leo's Restaurant at the Castle

A Pair of Fighting Salamanders
When we returned to our apartment Rachel was feeling no better.  The little bit of lunch she did eat did not agree with her. At the insistence of our daughter, via What’s App, we decided to find a pharmacy before the weekend. The Pharmacist was extremely helpful. We hope things begin to improve. I want to enjoy the German food!

We have been to two grocery stores today and they are total bedlam.  People all over the place(crowds). First (at about 1:30) we were looking for a small ice chest so we can keep water and drinks cool while we travel. There may also be times when we need to pick up items for lunch, as we will be in remote areas. The reason we returned to a second store (6:00) was to look for items for Rachel to drink and possibly eat – Powerade & crackers, etc.  In both store you could hardly move around, people were everywhere!  We heard Christmas music, saw Christmas items on the shelves and Christmas decorations were being put up.

Another issue while traveling in Namibia, will be keeping the vehicle full of fuel.  Stations can be few and far in the more remote areas.

A little history on Namibia.  On old maps it was called German South West Africa.  The German settled and colonized this part of Africa. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015: Victoria Falls

Oh, was the Air Con wonderful last night! We slept well!  The best we have slept since we left the hotel in Lilongwe, Malawi. 

At 9:00am a taxi arrived to take us to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. The taxi dropped us at the Zambian immigration office, and he gave us a phone so we could contact him for our return ride.  After stamping our passports, we had to walk down the road, across the bridge over the Zambezi River, and continue on to the Zimbabwe immigration office where we bought a multi-entry Uni-visa for $50 each, so we could re-enter Zambia.  They had not told us at the Mfuwe airport about the Uni-visa, so now we have two Zambian visas in our passports – one a single entry and one a multi-entry.  We continued walking a short distance to the entrance to the Victoria Falls National Park. Park entrance was $30 USD per person.  Once inside we walked to the David Livingston statue, where he is over-looking the Falls.  Apparently he is the first White European to see the Falls, and he was the one who named it after Queen Victoria of England. 
The Boiling Pot - Hiked down there in 2010 - Not This Year - Too Hot

The Main Falls

Statue of David Livingstone

The Cataract Falls

A Flower along the Trail

The Main Falls

Our Hiking Trail
From there we followed the path opposite the Falls.  We felt a slight mist at times until we reached the Main Falls.  Across from the Main Falls there was a heavy mist.  The area is like a Rain Forest due to the mist.  But the misty area was very short.  It is unbelievable how little water is going over the Falls.  The river is simply very low.

We could see people across the gorge on Livingston Island which is located on the Zambian side.  5 years ago we had gone on a boat to Livingston Island in the middle of the Zambezi River where we had High Tea, after walking to the edge of the Falls.  Those who want, can swim to the Devil’s Pool located on the edge of the Falls.  It was interesting to watch people do what we did 5 year ago.

People on the Falls on the Zambian Side - Were there in 2010

Further down the Gorge from the Main Falls, there is absolutely no water coming over the Falls.  The lack of water was extremely evident at the Falls today.  For those people who walk to see the falls on the Zambian side there is only the falls in the distance, nothing to seen near you.
We retraced our steps back to Zambia, called the taxi and returned to the Green Tree Lodge ready to jump into the pool.  We were hot again!!, but we knew we had AC in our chalet that would cool us down.
The Dry Zambian side on left Down the Cavern
Zambia on Right - Zimbabwe on Left

Friday, October 30, 2015

Tuesday, Oct 27,2015: Day Two working on the Mud Hut – Returning the Livingston

Last night proved to be very challenging.  The electricity was on all night but it was extremely HOT!!  We tried everything we could to get the chalet to cool off with no success.  Finally, at around 2:30 it cooled enough that we could sleep.  Cal heard some mosquitoes so he used the netting.

Cal was up at 5:45 so he could take some sunrise photos.  After breakfast, we were off to the hut at around 8:00.  It is already getting hot.  The total group was at the hut working on tying the horizontal sticks.  Rachel continued to cut the nylon strings into manageable lengths for them to be used to tie sticks, while Cal helped tie the sticks, starting at the gable end of the outside wall.  We worked until 10:00.  We then returned to the camp so we could pack and be ready to leave for Livingston.
Final Sunrise over Mwandi
Old Style Hut on Left
Continuing to tie Cross Sticks
UK Girls and Chaperones at Work

Daughter doing Dishes
As we said, yesterday we have decided to return to Livingston because of the continuous heat.  We had our bags packed and were ready to return to Livingston at around 10:30. Matt, one of the staff, drove us back with the Toyota because it had AC.  Well, the AC worked for about the first third of the 2-hour drive.  By the time we reached Livingston it was getting very hot in the vehicle.  We did have a little rain on the windshield on our drive back.  This rain seemed to cool things a little bit. Everyone is waiting on the rains to begin, as with them, things will cool down.  They are definitely hoping for a good rainy season, as the rivers are so low (30 years low) and the areas where animals come for water are dry or drying up. 
We were very happy to be back at Green tree lodge and the AC, at least until 2:00 when the electricity went off.  The electricity was off from 2:00 pm until 10:00pm today.  Green Tree has a generator, but we did not run the A/C until 10:00pm.  We enjoyed taking several dips in their pool to cool off- it was wonderful.  We sat in the shade by the pool reading and working with the internet when there was a strong enough signal. As the name implies there are green trees with lots of shade at the Green Tree Lodge. 
Green Tree Lodge

Our Chalet
Because of our change of plans to return to Livingston early we are trying to change the time of our flights and reservations taking us to Namibia.  We have been able to change the flights now it is time to change the hotel and car reservations.  The internet is unpredictable so it has been a challenge to work through all of these changes.
Tomorrow we plan to visit Victoria falls.

Monday, Oct 26,2015: Day one working on the Mud Hut

Electricity was off from 10:00 pm until 7:00 am.  It was extremely hot during the night until around 1:00 am.  Because the fan was off the mosquitoes found their way into our chalet to the point that we both used our Mosquito nets during the night. Mossies do not like blowing air so when the fans are going, they are not about, but with the stillness last night, they were at full play!  We both slept well in the cool of the morning but it made for a short night.
Due to no white noise of the fan, after 10:00 we heard the dogs going on and on, barking and howling, then at 2:30 we heard the first roosters crowing.  The roosters are a chorus! Unreal!!! Then at about 6:00 they stopped the chorus and we only heard from a few individual ones. Due to all the noise we were up at 6:30. Had breakfast, and were ready to go to the hut by 7:30.  
Around 8:00 we began loading the 4x4 pick-up with the smaller horizontal sticks to take to the hut. We bounced our way through the sandy streets of Mwandi to where the vertical pole structure of the hut stood.  After unloading the pick-up, we began our mornings work.
Jeep is loaded and ready for the day

The New Hut

The New Hut and the Hut the Family is Currently Living in, on Right

Tying the Cross Sticks

Using an African Hatchet - Cutting a Stick to Length
The vertical poles have already been placed in the ground as well as the rafters.  The huts that are being built now are at least twice the size that were built in 2010.  The roofline now has a gable end but the hut still only has two rooms.  This hut is giving a home to a family whose home was completely destroyed by fire.  It is right beside a very small hut that the family is using to live in until the new one is built.  The family has six children, four of their own and two from a sister that has passed away.
The next step in building the hut is to tie the horizontal sticks onto the walls, one on each side of the vertical poles.  Cal helped the others tie the sticks to the poles while Rachel cut the nylon strings used to tie the sticks.  The husband of the couple that will be living in the hut also helped tie the sticks while the wife helped Rachel untangle and cut the nylon strings into the needed lengths.
Rachel had a nice visit with the gal. Her English was quite manageable. We were able to stand in the shade which definitely helped with the heat.  By 11:30 the group of workers had placed the horizontal sticks on each of the long sides of the building.  It was HOT!! A decision was made to call it quits for the morning.  We loaded up our gear and headed back to camp, stopping in the village for some more bottled water.
Rachel and The Lady who will be Living in the Hut Cutting Stings to Length

Daughter ready for School

Other Daughters Watching

Village Scenes

After lunch Rachel and Cal tried to find a cool place for a nap. It is impossible!  At 2:00 the UK group went back to the hut but we stayed at the camp trying to keep cool, with no success.
Cal & I made an executive decision this afternoon. WE CANNOT handle this 104 degree heat on a daily basis - with no A/C and only one fan “when” there is electricity.  We called Green Tree Lodge in Livingston to see if there were any vacancies for the rest of the week.  They have A/C, plus a pool.  Cal & I are not big fans of pools, but in this heat it is the best way to cool down, and we will use it several times each afternoon.  They will be ready for us tomorrow afternoon!!
It seems a shame to be just sitting around and not doing something, but this is more than we can handle!  We thought we were here early enough in the season, but this year it was already hot in August. We will check into moving our air flights to Namibia up a couple of days – we will balance the cost with the extra time and then make a decision. 
Cold water! We have never drunk so much cold water as we are right now.  We are keeping 6 bottles in the freezer at all times.  And at least 2-4 in the refrigerator – after the refrigerator cools the water we put it in the freezer to freeze.  The cold water with some ice in it is absolutely divine - and of course the water stays cooler longer. In this heat a bottle of water is warm in no time.  When we went to the hut this morning, I wrapped the bottles of cold water in a bath towel to serve as insulation – it worked great!   Some people are drinking beer, but we can handle only one of those a day, if that many.  
I am also keeping a damp microfiber towel around my neck most of the time.  Last night when it was so hot and still, I draped it over my body.  Somehow those damp towels feel very cool. We have been taking extra showers, as the shower water is welcomed by the banana tree by our chalet, but the coolness only lasts a short while.
When we returned from working this morning, I hand washed our dusty sweaty clothes.  It is amazing how in ¾ -1 hour these dripping clothes are dry.  Yes, we do have safari style clothes, but it is still amazing.
At 4:00 the UK kids returned from working 2 hours at the hut.  It was too hot to be working in the sun for a longer amount of time. 
The people here at the camp are very fortunate to have Mary and Barry as their cooks.  This evening we had curry chicken over rice.  Very tasty!!  They really do an excellent job of preparing meals.

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2015: A Slow Sunday in Mwandi

Cal was up by 6:00, but not in time to see the sun rise.  Because we have been going to bed so early it has been hard to stay in bed very late in the morning for Cal.  Rachel is still struggling with her sleep and has been sleeping well in the morning when it finally cools off.
After breakfast we just sat around in the shade of whatever we can find, trying to keep cool.  The group from the UK was planning to trek up-river to a site where they would camp for the night.  But due to the heat they were driven to the location at around 9:00 am.
Due to the heat we did not want to go to an African church where they sit for 2-3 hours.  Instead we stayed at the H for O site.  There are churches on either side of the property and we enjoyed hearing their singing – usually in harmony.  It is interesting, each person has to carry his chair to church with them. They walk down the road carrying their plastic chair.  Most churches have no doors or windows due to needing ventilation, so it is not safe to leave chairs or benches at the church –they could disappear. 
The Zambezi River

Dugout Canoes on the River
Mwandi Street

Our 2010 Hut

Grandmother, Daughter and Children Living in the Hut

Tiger Fish Fishing Country

The Zambezi River

After lunch we just struggled to stay cool. The daily temp is 100 + degrees and there is no A/C. At around 3:30, Emma, a lady who has worked here as a volunteer many times arrived on the bus. After she had time to settle-in, we drove to the lodge near to where the UK group was located.  The Shackleton's Lodge is considered a 5-star lodge by Mwandi standards.  They host fishing expeditions - fishing for the tiger fish in the Zambezi River.  Because it is so hot and the river is low, the fishing has not been very good lately however today two big ones were caught.
We are really concerned how we will be able to work on a mud hut in this heat this week.  We will go to the site at around 8:00 am.  We know for sure we will not be working in the afternoon – it will take us all afternoon to recoup from the morning heat.  We will take plenty of water and will wrap the frozen water bottles in bath towels to help insulate them from the heat.  It is amazing how much we drink in a day and yet do not go to the bathroom all that often!  We do not want to get dehydrated at any point.