August 2012

I wish I’d had more time to spend exploring Zimbabwe. I was only exposed to a very small section of this gorgeous, diverse landscape but what I saw was incredibly beautiful. We stayed in a town called Victoria Falls which as you can imagine, is the home of Victoria Falls – one of the seven natural wonders of the world at the time. The Falls itself is definitely the highlight of this town the lush green foliage surrounding the falls backed up against the khaki brown color of everything else in town making it appear even more beautiful. I don’t remember the cost to do the Victoria Falls tour, but whatever that cost was, it was well worth it. There is a paved path around the entire Zimbabwe side of the park and you weave in and out of trees for vantage points of the Falls. Eventually you come to a more open area, still on the path but where you aren’t surrounded by trees and instead can look over these very steep cliffs to peer down on the falls below. I watched in pure jealousy as a group of white water rafters made their way through the canyon getting splashed and thrown around from the rapids. This might not sound fun to the rest of you, but this is right up my alley and I was incredibly disappointed I didn’t know this was a possibility when we arrived in Zimbabwe.

After visiting Victoria Falls we walked down the street a bit to an open-air market to do some souvenir shopping. While I typically can’t stand the haggling that goes along with shopping at places like these, I really enjoyed this little market. To set the stage for this experience, you should know that every country I visit I collect two things: #1. Postcards to send to my nieces and nephews and #2. A magnet for my refrigerator. As we started making our way through the market looking at the hand carved masks, woven baskets, bright paintings of local people, places and things, etc.. I had a man come up to me and ask what I was looking for and if he could find anything. At first I more or less ignored him and although he still hovered very closely to me, I made my way through the market. The vendors all had brilliant names for their “shops” (tables set up on the ground with all of their trinkets on them) – some of my favorites being “Sunshine shop”, “Obama’s craft store”, “Best shop ever”.. but after looking through a number of these booths I didn’t see anything resembling a magnet. I made eye contact with the market ‘greeter’ and he came over and asked what he could help me find. I told him I was looking for a magnet and explained what that was.. and within seconds he was off running. I kept walking, more or less forgetting that I had asked him for help and not confident that he understood what it was I was looking for, or that he’d be able to find it for that matter. Probably close to 15 minutes later, he came running up me with an assortment of handmade refrigerator magnets. I selected one made from a bottle cap, hand painted with the Zimbabwe flag and ‘Zimbabwe’ written underneath it. I asked him how much, he said $1 US. I handed him $5US and thanked him for his efforts. I have no idea how he found those magnets and the bartering system he used to get them from the shop owners, but I am thankful and that magnet sits proudly on my refrigerator today.

The next few days in Zimbabwe were spent on boats, exploring the Zambezi river which intersects the countries Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia & Botswana. It was on this river I saw a hippopotamus for the very first time – and not just one, but many – in their natural environment. Until you’ve experienced seeing large animals like this in their natural environment, there is simply no way to try to describe the overwhelming feelings that come over you. These feelings take you to a place of appreciation and hope. Zimbabwe and all of the experiences I had in this beautiful country were indescribable and something I’ll never forget.