As my semester at Stellenbosch University came to a close and I finished my last few exams and essays, Elie and I rewarded ourselves with one last adventure across Southern Africa. We began our journey here in Cape Town and traveled through Zambia, Zimbabwe and Mozambique by plane, foot, a few questionable vehicles, and even by quad.
Because the two of us wanted to do anything we wished as we traveled, we decided not to join a large group or overland tour trip and instead opted to travel on our own. At first, this seemed like a flawless, brilliant idea, but we soon found Southern Africa is not the most ideal place for two small girls to travel alone. Though this presented a few obstacles and bumps in the road along the way, we had one of the most exciting weeks of travel either of us have ever experienced.
Though we never made it through airport security smoothly or had an uneventful flight, or made it to each location with our luggage intact, our spirit was never hindered. During our first full day in Zambia, we swam at the edge of Victoria Falls as Calvin, our personal professional photographer for the morning, ran around the edge of the falls to capture such an exciting memory while impressively managing to keep both of his Crocs on his feet the whole time. After touching the edge of such a powerful force of nature, we walked to the national park to view the falls from down below. Had we seen their unfathomable size before our little adventure that morning, I don’t think either of us would have gathered enough courage to swim to the very edge again.
We then walked through immigration and traveled to the next country, Zimbabwe, on foot after deciding to skip the bungee jumping upon noticing the bridge we were standing on seemed to be held together in some areas by duct tape. The falls are the most incredible wonder of the earth I have ever witnessed; it is hard to grasp the size and power of them, but we felt it as we were absolutely soaked while we walked along both sides.
After suffering from food poisoning in Zambia and managing to somehow recover quickly, we spent an evening in Joburg before flying into Mozambique. Upon arrival in Mozambique, we were ushered out of a one-room airport and picked up in an old work truck. I’m not sure what else we should have expected judging by the rest of the week’s events, but we hopped on in and drove a while through palm tree lined roads before leaving the pavement for the sand roads as we approached Tofo Beach.
As we drove along, I expected to begin to see beach houses or other forms of commercialization, but we instead passed numerous small villages of little thatched huts and countless palm trees. Even as we reached our destination there were only a few dive centers and one hotel next to the local market and no other development to be seen.
After adjusting to such a dramatically different environment, we settled in and began to enjoy the beach. The sand was white and soft and the water was crystal clear. The ocean stretched out in front of us in a million different shades of bright and deep blue.
That day, I touched the Indian Ocean for the first time, which is much warmer than the oceans I’ve previously been sticking my toes in. We snorkeled in an unsuccessful search for whale sharks, but had a fun boat ride and swim anyway. We ate copious amounts of seafood (SO MUCH crab), traded random articles of clothing for fun gifts in the market, accidentally chartered a boat and ended up on an island by ourselves, road horses on the beach as the sun rose, were trusted with the resort manager’s quads for some reason, enjoyed the endless sunshine, and stuck our feet in the sand as much as possible.
I cannot forget to mention that Elie accidentally stole a coconut on our third day in Mozambique. Even the hotel manager was impressed by her accomplishment of climbing up a palm tree and knocking a coconut down on our walk to White Sands beach, but he shortly after informed us that we owe some Mozambican man 20 meticais (the currency of Mozambique). Apparently, every palm tree in Mozambique is owned by an individual or a family and you need permission even if you wish to pick up a coconut that has already fallen to the ground. Lesson learned and we are forever in debt to a stranger in Mozambique.
Our last few days in Mozambique offered much needed total relaxation. We spent the last two nights on water chalets stretching out over an estuary further north in Inhambane, watching the sunrise and sunset paint the sky each day. I’m continuing to discover the beauty of Africa in all of these new places and many adventures it offers.
When leaving for my semester in South Africa, I would have never imagined myself traveling beyond this country during my time here, but I found myself quickly filling my passport with stamps as my wanderlust took me beyond the borders of an already spectacular place to be. My week with Elie that took me to three more countries on this continent is somewhat indescribable, but I know it is one more of many adventures I will be lucky enough to have as I continue to explore this magnificent planet we live on.