The Traveling Steve's

Farewell to The Zambezi Queen – Hello to Victoria Falls!

The blog continues on with our last evening aboard the Zambezi Queen. Tonight’s dinner at 7:30 would be an authentic African farewell dinner complete with entertainment by the crew afterwards.

We were docked in a quiet and remote lagoon area of the Chobe River, and it made for a very peaceful setting in the afternoon and early evening. I skipped the last excursion of the sailing in lieu of a ‘sea day’, and was one of only four or five passengers on the Zambezi Queen. We have been go, go, and going – so it was nice to have a couple hours to chill out.  DOS of course doesn’t want to miss a minute of fun, so he went on the last excursion with the rest of the passengers.

Once the passengers were back, and the sun started to set, however, the flies came a-swarming! The crew had told us throughout the sailing to turn the lights out at night when leaving the room as it attracts the flies, but for some reason tonight the lounge area felt like the jungle as the doors must have been left open. Well maybe a slight exaggeration, but with the river and wildlife view and the flies landing in our drinks, it did feel a bit authentically swamp-like. This was the only time on the trip where we had been bombarded with flies, and did not have any issues with mosquitos fortunately; but it did help there was bug spray or creme at all hotels we stayed at as well as on the boat.

Before our 7:30pm farewell dinner, many passengers gathered in the lounge area on the third (top) deck, as we did each night. The lounge area is adjacent to the restaurant, and as the lights were turned off in the restaurant in anticipation of dinner, the flies were not ‘flying around’ there, preferring instead the lounge passengers and their drinks. Steve (DOS) and I walked over to the darkened bar area that was lit only by a citronella candle, and the flies did not ‘bug’ us there. A crew member later sprayed the unoccupied seating areas of the lounge while we were having dinner, which they must have also done in the restaurant while we were in the lounge.

Unlike the previous dinners, the farewell dinner was served without menus in a grand African buffet setting. The chef and assistant chef explained individually each meal we were about to eat. In all honesty, I didn’t care for the food, but I’m a simple meat and potatoes guy, while DOS will try just about anything. The chefs were very proud of the meal preparation in their native style and setting, so I ate what I could and enjoyed the festive atmosphere of our last night aboard.  There were three items I liked and ate: the salad, rice, and the grilled chicken, and later the dessert.  Meanwhile DOS tried just about everything else, including the lamb stew, oxtail stew, mushroom soup, polenta, corn, brown beans, sweet potatoes, and a couple other things I wasn’t sure what they were. The free-flowing African Cabernet Sauvignon, however, made up for anything I missed food-wise, and the chocolate dessert was a real hit. I didn’t take any photos of the buffet, but here are some of our fellow passengers sitting next to our near us at dinner.
After dinner, the entire ship’s crew put on a show for us, similar to the one we had seen earlier in the day at the Village we went too. Like in the afternoon, I got up to dance with the women dancers, and we paraded around the dining room together.

The African lady dancers wore a cloth over their hair, all tied in a knot so it wouldn’t fall off. I tried to be funny after being yanked up to dance, so I took my napkin and tried to tie it over my head too! I couldn’t get it to work, but it was good for a laugh.

Later fellow passenger Sharon joined me for a dance around the buffet table, by now both of us wearing the traditional bamboo dance skirts around our waists, which were heavier than they look. Those African women sure have loads of energy that’s for sure!

After dinner we closed up the lounge with Kevin and Allyson as usual. It officially closes at 10pm when the ship’s lights and power are turned down (still have generator with low lights), but we always managed to stay until 11pm or so with Moses, our bartender. DOS, meanwhile does the smart thing and goes to bed shortly after dinner for a full night’s sleep.

The next morning we had a leisurely last breakfast on the Zambezi Queen before disembarking for our next tour stop. We had packed the night before, and our checked luggage was picked up for us from our rooms, while we left our hand luggage on our beds for us to bring aboard the tender boat and bus. It wasn’t the hectic mass-market and early disembarkation like on a mega-cruise liner that’s for sure; quite orderly and relaxing even while waiting to get off the boat.

We took some farewell photos and said bye to the friendly staff, including Moses our bartender aboard who stayed up late with us at night, serving past the normal 10pm closing time.

We then debarked the Zambezi Queen around 9:30am (via a tender boat) as the staff sang and waved farewell to us, just as they had sang and welcomed us aboard 5 days ago.

As we had done on previous days, we had a series of immigration stops to make along the way after leaving the Zambezi Queen. Today would be a big travel day, and we would be in 3 different countries the same day!

First we had to take the boat to Namibia immigration once again to leave the country, walking from our tender boat down the long path to the immigration office, where a lone officer stamped our passports one by one as we waited in line with the others.

Next up was a boat ride back to Botswana, where we had to immigrate into the country temporarily as we would have an hour or so bus ride to Victoria Falls. After getting our passports stamped once again (we were told before we left for our trips we had to have at least 6 pages left on our passports – fortunately we had just renewed ours) we identified our luggage which had been delivered by AMA Waterways via another boat. The luggage was then put on the bus, and we were on our way to Victoria Falls!

After 20 minutes or so, we made our stop (this time by bus) at the Botswana/Zimbabwe border. Here we first went into the immigration office in Botswana to officially leave the country.  We literally just came into the country and were now leaving 20 minutes later. Botswana changed their paperwork policy last week it turns out, and now you have to complete an immigration form  to leave the country, none of which our group had done. Not only that, neither DOS or I had a pen to fill one out with, and we were the first at the immigration counter. Fortunately the lady immigration officer was very nice, and filled our’s out for us, handing us a pen to sign – huge time saver, and a nice gesture on the Botswana immigration staff.

After finishing with immigration, we made a quick stop at the restrooms while waiting on the rest of the group, as our tour guide Delia had told us the facilities were nicer there than those on upcoming Zimbabwe border. After our group was finished with Botswana immigration, we re-boarded the bus for the two minute ride to the Zimbabwe immigration office. As Delia had warned us ahead of time not to speak politics while in the country, not to take photos at immigration, and to have our immigration form completely filled out, as well as having our exact change $30 US bills ($75 US for Canadian residents). We got thru Zimbabwe immigration fairly quickly without issues, and waited back on the bus for the others in our group. Here we had a bit of a wait, perhaps 45 minutes while our passports were processed by immigration: we had turned them in with our $30 payment, and then Deila collected all of them after they were stamped and the visa inserted into our passport, and then returned them to us back on the bus. While I didn’t take any photos inside the immigration office, this was in the parking lot while we waited for Delia to return.

While we were waiting, the ’T-shirt man’ boarded the bus. ‘T-shirt man’ creates custom T-shirts to match the AMA Waterways tours, and donates a portion to a South African charity. ‘T-shirt man’ explained how the custom design works, and had a variety of colors and styles to choose from. He customizes the T-shirt for your AMA itinerary (as there were different ones even on our trip). We ordered two shirts each, and had actually forgot about them until we received them as we were leaving Victoria Falls two days later.  Here is a photo of one of the shirts in the bright green color I chose.  The detail was quite remarkable as he had the year and our choice of style for the front of the shirt, while the back showed a map of our itinerary, and even the sleeves had a flag of the four countries we visited; quite a nice souvenir for someone who collects t-shirts!

After ordering the T-shirts, we still had a bit of a wait, so I made a pit stop on the Zambezi side of the border; actually walking across the border stop and the pull down rail, asking permission to do so first obviously. Actually the facilities weren’t that bad on the Zimbabwe side after all!

Finally we officially crossed the border into Zimbabwe, and journeyed on towards our hotel via the tour bus, and arrived mid-afternoon to our hotel – the beautiful 5 star Victoria Falls Hotel.

At the hotel, we checked in as a group in the majestic Bithalo Room, where we were comfortably seated and offered a glass of champagne as we entered the room.  Our metal keys (attached to a wood block via a small rope) were presented to us individually, along with a map of the sprawling property.

We were then shown to our hotel rooms, which was a bit of a walk, going down several corridors and a flight of stairs, to reach our first floor room 220.  Along the way you go buy countless works of art and beautiful sitting areas.

Yes our room was on the first floor, but due to the sprawling layout of the property and hillside, you must go up and then down some stairs to reach the room, not handicap friendly as we didn’t see any elevators.  

Our room and the others adjacent opened up to a beautiful shared courtyard area. Our friends Kevin and Allyson were in the room next us, and most of the group were located around this courtyard as well.

The room was elegantly, yet at the same time rustically furnished with a large King-sized poster bed, complete with huge netting that was retracted back by day, and pulled around the bed during the evening turn-down service.

The room was part of the ‘stable’ wing, and was a decent-sized room with large bathroom and standalone tub (separate from the shower), which unfortunately we didn’t have a chance to soak in due to our busy two day schedule in Victoria Falls.

Steve and I took a quick and brisk walk into town in search of an external hard drive, as my Macbook drive is completely full now due to video and photos. While we didn’t locate one, Steve had inquired with the concierge, and when we got back he said a man could deliver us one, and then pay him! Talk about customer service!

We changed clothes for our evening train ride excursion, and by the time we came back to meet the group, we had a 2 terabyte drive waiting for us!

The journey continues on to the next post, but for now we have a train to catch!

Welcome to Victoria Falls, and ‘All Aboard’!

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