A Travellerspoint blog

Warlord

Zimbabwe has a terrible reputation - infamous for being dangerous, for hyperinflation, for its corruption, and for its warlords, there is a definite ethical conundrum with visiting this country. From the steep $75 visa fee, to the $30 entrance fee to Victoria Falls, to the $4 beer at the park's cafe, even day trippers like us spend a significant amount of money here. Imagine how much one can spend while staying a week at one of the country's top-end game lodges, that easily run hundreds of dollars per night for a couple? Imagine how much of that actually makes it into the hands of the people, or at least, is put towards projects that benefit the people? Sadly, probably very little.

For the most part, a trip here does support the corrupt regime, further lining the coffers of those who don't deserve or don't need it. But some would argue that there is still some benefit to travel here, as some tourist dollars go directly to the people, when they take a taxi, shop at a mom-and-pop store, dine at a local restaurant, or stay at a small hotel or guest house. It may only be a fraction of the tourism dollars spent in Zimbabwe, but some will eventually make it to the deserving, and in a country where the majority of its citizens have so little, every dollar counts, even if it's only a small percentage of what one spends here.

The entire visa process seems to be a bit of a sham, paying $75 USD, cash only, for the customs agent to spend two minutes to review your passport and paste a sticker inside of it. At the end of the day, some corrupt government official probably walks out of the office with a giant sack, with a big dollar sign written on its exterior. Or even worse, perhaps some of the money even ends up in the hands of a Zimbabwean Warlord.

Today, we had a terrifying encounter with the most notorious Warlord, Sunni, corruption and perversion oozing from his pores, he made the most bone-chilling proposition imaginable. We were offered one hundred trillion Zimbabwean dollars for one hour with ... me! I refused repeatedly, until I tasted the back of Benita's hand, as she ordered "I'm yo pimp you stupid ho, so shut up and take da money!!! He be puttin' da shizzle in yo nizzle, and you be puttin' da bling in my Prada!"

I've never before felt so cheap and used in my life ... though those feelings subsided once Warlord Sunni graciously offered to take us for a day trip around Zimbabwe and Zambia with his private chauffeur/chef/bodyguard Peter, and his Warlordess, Adilina. Hey, what can I say? Give a Chinese man a freebie, and he'll forgive anything!

We had originally debated whether or not to even visit Victoria Falls, as this is the end of the dry season, meaning that the flow of the Zambezi river is reduced significantly, resulting in a less spectacular sight. Well, that debate faded into our memories after walking along the falls - they say that the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls is the best experience, and though we have yet to experience the Zambian side, we would have to agree, as it was simply spectacular.

If this is the dry season, I can't imagine what the rainy season would be like - the amount of spray in certain areas left us completely soaked in a beautifully cool shower, which washed away not only the heat and fatigue, but also the feeling of filth left behind after my encounter with Warlord Sunni. During the rainy season, I would imagine that parts of the falls are barely visible, with the extra spray generated by the higher flow of the Zambezi.

Completely soaked, we made our way back to the Zambian side and quickly dried in the blistering Zimbabwean sun. In need of refreshment, we headed over to the Zambian side for a spot of high tea at the Royal Livingstone, perhaps the poshest resort in the area, which is no small feat given the luxury prevalent here. Warlord Sunni joyfully proclaimed that the cost of high tea here was exceedingly cheap, at only 150,000 Zambian Kwacha per person - but unfortunately his conversion rate was off, thinking it was only a few dollars.

The true exchange rate is about 5,000 Kwacha to $1 CAD, so high tea was about $30 CAD, which Warlord Sunni subsequently proclaimed as being extremely expensive. You'd think $30 would be a pittance for a Warlord of his stature, but times are tough in Zimbabwe these days after the economic collapse a few years ago. But I didn't want to be the one questioning the size of his bank account, possibly infuriating him and subjecting myself to another sullying at his hands ...

But our day with the Warlords Yeow rapidly drew to a close, as American commandos burst onto the scene, hoping to capture and drag both of them to the Hague, to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. But fortunately for them, and unfortunately for the rest of the World, the pair managed to escape on their private jet.

Prior to hyperinflation leading to the rapid implosion of the Zimbabwean dollar, the Warlording business was much better, and Sunni had the most luxurious private jet this side of Dubai. Carpeted with the fur of extinct animals, gold-plated like his teeth, and complete with a stripper pole and an aquarium housing Megan Fox in a mermaid outfit, it was the envy of Warlords everywhere.

But times are now tough, and Sunni had to sell that jet to pay for the Cristal that spews from his Olympic pool-sized jacuzzi's jets, and the 1869 Chateau Lafite that fills his moat. So like working-class America he has downsized to a microlight aircraft, on which they flew off into the sunset, taking an aerial tour through the gorgeous Victoria falls, one last time. Oh, how the mighty have fallen ...

Zimbabwean Customs Official

Zimbabwean Customs Official


Fear the Warlord Sunni

Fear the Warlord Sunni


The Warlords Yeow Making Their Escape

The Warlords Yeow Making Their Escape


Rainbow

Rainbow


The Rare Double Rainbow

The Rare Double Rainbow


L'il Buddha at the Devil's Cataract

L'il Buddha at the Devil's Cataract


Getting Soaked at the Falls

Getting Soaked at the Falls


Lice-Picking Baboons

Lice-Picking Baboons


Picnic ...

Picnic ...


Out of Everything at Armadillo ...

Out of Everything at Armadillo ...


Armadillo ...

Armadillo ...


Asians!!! ...

Asians!!! ...


L'il Buddha Double-Fisting ...

L'il Buddha Double-Fisting ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (0)

Menopause

Playing Sherlock Holmes and using pure logic, I deduced that I am experiencing the onset of menopause, since I experienced all of the following symptoms last night: hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, an increase in facial hair, insomnia, disorientation, weight gain, sudden bouts of bloat, changes in body odour, irritability, headaches, and body aches.

However, the theory behind my conclusion was blown to bits when I picked up my pamphlet on Malarone, an anti-malarial drug we just started taking last night, in preparation for our visits to Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. It turns out the drug has tons of side effects, and it quickly became glaringly obvious that Sherlock Holmes, I am not ...

You'd think that after 32 hours of travel and a few hours spent having dinner, we'd be exhausted and have the most restful of sleeps - but unfortunately for us, the hot flashes and insomnia did us in, exacerbated by bizarre dreams, another problem caused by Malarone. Though we managed to be in bed by 11 PM, I only managed to sleep for an hour before waking up at midnight, and finally managed to fall asleep again at 1 AM, having a luxurious two additional hours of sleep before waking up for the final time ...

So there I was, at 3:30 AM, unsure what to do in order to kill the time, eventually deciding to hand wash my lone shirt and pair of underwear, followed by sitting at the hotel room's desk, drying them with a hairdryer. I suppose this surreal scene could have been just an extension of my bizarre nightmare, but sadly, this pathetic scene probably did play itself out ...

The surreal life continued after arriving at the Jo'burg airport, as we madly scrambled through Woolworth's, buying up whatever we could. T-shirts, flip flops, panties, Daisy Dukes, concealer, eyeliner, and mascara - and that was just what I bought for myself, not including Benita's purchases! What I can I say? A menopausal man can feel insecure, and I thought a little make up and sexy clothes would pump up my spirits!

Then finally, to top it all off - as we were about to board our plane for Livingstone, Benita bumps into Sunni, one of her patients from Calgary, and his wife! Though she had been aware of his upcoming Africa trip, and even that he would be visiting many of the same places as us, we couldn't believe that we ended up on the same flight to Livingstone. Positively surreal!

Welcome to Africa ...

Welcome to Africa ...


Baboons Everywhere in Zambia ...

Baboons Everywhere in Zambia ...


Bridge Between Zambia and Zimbabwe ...

Bridge Between Zambia and Zimbabwe ...


Adrenaline Junkies ...

Adrenaline Junkies ...


Caterpillars!!! ...

Caterpillars!!! ...


Crocodile Skewer ...

Crocodile Skewer ...


Local Fish ...

Local Fish ...


Thumbs Up to Africa ...

Thumbs Up to Africa ...


Smells Like Chinatown ...

Smells Like Chinatown ...


Spices and Paint ...

Spices and Paint ...


Millionaire ...

Millionaire ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Zambia Comments (0)

Cheesy Clone

This hellish day of travel didn't end in Senegal, as we still had one last flight into Johannesburg. Dakar may be known for its infamously dangerous rally, but we'll never have the chance to learn anything more about it, as we had only one hour in Senegal, while the plane refueled. Normally we wouldn't have cared to see an airport, but we were both dying to set foot in the terminal, if for nothing other than to stretch our legs. Unfortunately, those passengers continuing onward to Johannesburg were prohibited from stepping off the plane - but that won't stop us from making use of a little loophole in international backpacker laws, and claiming that we have been to Senegal.

Another eight and a half hours after refueling, we finally made it to our final destination for the night. Of course, such a shitty day of travel couldn't end with us simply sashaying down a red carpet into our Jo'burg hotel, paparazzi cameras flashing away, giving us epileptic seizures - no, it can't be that easy! You see, our connection in Washington DC wasn't exactly smooth, since the Chicago flight was over 90 minutes late departing, and our layover in DC was supposed to be only 94 minutes. Hmmm ... I didn't major in math, but these numbers don't seem to add up very well ...

Luckily for us, the advertised flight time of one hour and fifty minutes had a healthy cushion built in for delays, and the actual flight time was thirty minutes less than that. But still, from the time we touched down, there was less than thirty minutes to disembark from a very crowded plane, hop on a shuttle bus to the main terminal, catch a shuttle train to the international terminal, and make it to the plane.

Like a scene straight out of Home Alone, we did manage to make our connection, with the gate agents about to close the airplane doors as we raced to the counter. Hooray! However ... our backpacks weren't quite so lucky, as there wasn't enough time for them to make the connection. Sigh ... so another hour was spent in line upon arrival at Jo'burg's airport, filing a lost baggage claim, before we finally checked into our hotel at the Emperor's Palace, a South African take on a Las Vegas casino complex.

It was quite bizarre, seeing this tacky interpretation of Vegas, which was a bit like a mix of Caesar's Palace and the Paris hotel. But it only seemed bizarre until we realized how tacky Vegas actually is, and posed a question to ourselves - is a tacky copy of something inherently tacky, really any more tacky than the original? The answer - no! The Emperor's Palace is what it is - mindless escape for the locals, with shops, bars, theatres, and restaurants for all to enjoy. It was actually the place to be tonight, buzzing with activity.

But 32 hours after leaving home, we were too tired to partake in anything other than dinner and a brief stroll around the complex, desperately trying to buy some clothes and toiletries to get us through the next few days, when our luggage would hopefully find us. Alas, there wasn't really any selection here, so we decided to head to the airport early tomorrow before our Livingstone flight, and try to buy something there.

It's not the first time I've lost luggage while traveling, so it's not that big of a deal, though it's definitely annoying, and a terrible way to start things off. But really, there isn't anything to get too down about, as this is far better than the other scenario, where we would have missed our connection in DC, but ended up with our backpacks. That would've meant getting into Jo'burg 24 hours later than intended, and missing our Livingstone flight. Instead, we are in Jo'burg, enjoying its Cheesy Clone of Vegas, and philosophizing with L'il Buddha, who told us "It is better to travel with nothing, than to have everything but be going nowhere." He must've come up with that one during one of his drug binges!

Cheesy Emperor's Palace ...

Cheesy Emperor's Palace ...


My Choice For Dinner ...

My Choice For Dinner ...


Assorted Exotic Meats ...

Assorted Exotic Meats ...


Killer Ribs ...

Killer Ribs ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Miracle

Miracles are a prominent theme when it comes to North American Christmas - at least, that's how the movies tell the story. Well, we experienced some miracles of our own today, though the first one is quite major - for the first time since 2005, I am actually home for Christmas!!! Albeit, I was only here until 7 AM Christmas morning, when our flight took off ... but still, anybody that knows me knows what a shockingly rare occurrence that is!

In comparison, the second miracle of the day barely registers a blip on the Richter scale of miraculous events. Magically, I was reunited with my little travel Buddha Buddy, who I thought was forever lost nearly a year ago, trapped inside the backseat magazine pocket of an American Airlines flight from Dallas. For those who don't believe in Santa Claus, I can assure you that he is real, and he delivered Buddha home today, on an express sleigh ride from the North Pole.

Sure, cynics may scoff at the notion, instead proposing some preposterous alternative theory of a lookalike L'il Buddha, being delivered on an express postal run from a factory in China, after being purchased online at Amazon. But you cynics are a bunch of a heartless pricks if you can't have a little faith in the fat old bastard, and can't believe that he really is a benevolent man who brings gifts and joy to children across the World, and not just some cartoon character invented to sell more Coca Cola.

L'il Buddha may also look a little different after a year, but I chalk that up to reincarnation - he is Buddha, after all! So what if he has changed a little - is that so wrong? Aren't people allowed to change, and to grow? Of course, one things that will never change with L'il Buddha is the permanent smile on his face, and the two digits on his hand raised to the sky, flashing the whole wide World the Peace Sign.

Oh, that smiling little face ... it's amazing how he can maintain that smile, even after waking up at 4:30 AM to come to the airport, after only two hours of sleep. Eighteen hours later when we landed in Senegal, and he still had that smile on his face! What's L'il Buddha's secret? Well, it's quite simple - drugs. Lots, and lots of drugs. You see, when Santa dropped him off with us, he was bearing gifts, in the form of all kinds of medication.

He brought us Malarone, to stave off malaria in Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Some Dukoral, for any E. coli that may be lurking in unclean foods we may come across, and some Imodium for any other stomach ailments that may hit us. Amoxil, for the sinus infection I picked up a couple of days before departing. A little Strepsil and some Advil Sinus & Cold, to help curtail some of my symptoms, and to help keep me a little more comfortable on this most epic day of travel. And let's not forget the assorted drugs in any traveler's emergency kit - Antacid, Antihistamine, Ibuprofen, etc ..

So despite a brutally uncomfortable day of travel, thanks to Santa and our little Buddhist drug dealer, it turned out to be a very Merry Christmas after all!

Why Is L'il Buddha Always Smiling and Happy?

Why Is L'il Buddha Always Smiling and Happy?


Because L'il Buddha is a Drug Addict!!!

Because L'il Buddha is a Drug Addict!!!


The Ultimate Couple

The Ultimate Couple


Sexier Than Miss Piggy

Sexier Than Miss Piggy


BBQ Chicken Pizza by Wolfgang Puck ...

BBQ Chicken Pizza by Wolfgang Puck ...


Tortas Frontera ...

Tortas Frontera ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Archived in Senegal Comments (0)

Ugly

After the obligatory visit to another one of Curacao's fine beaches, Cas Abou, the Middle Earth theme resurfaced again today, as we visited, of all places, Curacao's Ostrich Farm. Orcs and Creepy-Crawlies ... who woulda thunk we could find this shit here? Starting with Tapie the Tapir, resident mascot of the Ostrich Farm, and an animal with a face that no mother could love - unless she had the the eyesight of Hans Moleman, from The Simpsons.

I've heard of Tapirs before, but have never seen one up close - sorry Tapie, but you are one ugly SOB, although somehow strangely cute, in a perverse, puke-a-little-in-your-mouth kind of way. Taking a closer look at his face, you can see a striking resemblance to an Orc, I kid you not. You wonder how artists can come up with these creatures for movies, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone once said "Hey, a Tapir would make a great starting point for a disgusting, drooling, murderous creature in a fantasy movie!"

Things didn't end there - proudly on display at the farm was a giant centipede, thicker than my thumb, and probably three times as long, and absolutely nasty. The Ostrich Farm is an unusual kind of place, with a pretty random collection of animals, in addition to its focal point, the Ostriches. It's supposed to have a good South African-themed restaurant specializing in - you guessed it - Ostrich, and featuring a boma, a typical South African bonfire. Unfortunately, visiting during daylight hours, we didn't really find too much entertaining here, though an evening visit for a boma would surely be quite the experience.

However, today wasn't a complete waste, as Cas Abou lived up to its billing as one of Curacao's best - being midweek, it was fairly deserted, and feeling almost as if it was off-the-beaten path, though it's certain that hordes of tourists and locals alike descend upon its powdery sand every weekend. The beach itself was great, but perhaps the highlight of Cas Abou was the snack shack - typical beach fare is overpriced and unappealing, but this place was delicious and was fairly good value, all things considered.

Beyond the food, the bartender mixed up a killer local rendition of a colada, streaked with an electric-blue bolt of Curacao. Another day, another beach, another colada ... you think we've settled into a pattern here?

Tapie the Tapir ...

Tapie the Tapir ...


Giant Centipede ...

Giant Centipede ...


Curacao Ostrich Farm

Curacao Ostrich Farm


Playa Cas Abou ...

Playa Cas Abou ...


Parrot Hitting On Some Twins

Parrot Hitting On Some Twins


Killer Beach Shack ...

Killer Beach Shack ...


Fried Fish ...

Fried Fish ...


Dutch Influence ...

Dutch Influence ...


Bami Goreng ...

Bami Goreng ...


Nasi Goreng Rames ...

Nasi Goreng Rames ...

Posted by vagabondvoyager 17:00 Comments (0)

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