The first step in our journey was to get ourselves into the heart of Africa. We did this by modern plane (British Airways, to be exact). Upon arrival to Zimbabwe, our tour guide Don asked us to “trust” him. This was our first test, and we all passed. Hesitantly, the 14 US citizens on our tour handed him each of their passports, which were left in the possession of the Zimbabwe authorities, while we left and headed to our hotel… hoping that we would see the passports again. (We would, that night.)
We were staying at a modern oasis situated in the outskirts of the Zimbabwean rain forest that borders Victoria Falls. It had all the comforts of home, and then some, and hovered on stilts over African savanna. Huge leather armchairs under thatched roofs, complete with a full service bar and hors d’ouvres at sunset. This was beyond what I had expected. I had expected clean, but rustic. This was far removed from rustic, and would be the most beautiful resort we visited on this trip, if not one of the most beautiful resorts we will ever visit.
Upon arrival at this spectacular resort, we were greeted by the most engaging story teller who shared a journey of a different kind. That of Dr. Livingstone… a visitor in the 1800’s of a different kind to this wild region who “found” Victoria Falls, and named it after his Queen. This was a story of hardship, and discovery. A Christian missionary, he was more explorer than converter, and had to brave the hazards of the Kalahari desert (where his wife gave birth) to get to the African interior and was even attacked by a lion. Faithfully attended by Chuma, whom Livingston freed from slavery, and Susi, he was known to have shown great respect to the locals he encountered. He was also a loud and powerful voice in ending the slave trade in Africa. His goal was to find a navigable route from the ocean to the interior of Africa, and the great Zambezi was thought to be that route. Sadly, the great crevasse of Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders from Victoria Falls) would block that dream from becoming a reality, but in turn this 7th wonder of the natural world was found. Dr. Livingstone eventually died of malaria on his last of several expeditions, where his heart was buried in a local church, and his body was carried back to Westminster Abbey by his loyal attendants Chuma and Susi. Hearing about his life’s work and hardship, it was hard not to gaze out the window of our luxury hotel and feel embarrassed by the luxury surrounding us when nature already had so much to provide. Should you find yourself in the lap of luxury in some remote area of the globe, thank those that came before you and saw this place for its original beauty.
After hearing the story of how westerners had come to Victoria Falls, we headed out to the great Zambezi for a dinner cruise (a.k.a. the Booze Cruise). It was here that we would have our first glimpse of hippos, and observe the reddest of sunsets I will ever see. Having now been fully educated on the hazards of malaria, I had only one option of beverage- a Gin & Tonic. Quinine, which is in Tonic, is a common medicine for malaria.
The next day, we walked the perimeter of the falls, and soared overhead in a helicopter for a different perspective. No words can really describe the scale of the falls, nor can any camera really capture it. It’s something that must be seen live, and once seen, it will stay with you… just like that perpetual rainbow that hovers in the mist over the falls.
That night, we feasted on a traditional South African Braii (Barbeque) with our new friends.
Beans were served at almost every meal we had. These were long stewed, and soft, and distinctively spicy- clearly influenced by South Africa’s spot along the Spice Route. Here’s my take on these warming beans. Serve with Braii at dinner or scrambled eggs for breakfast.
- 2 Tbsp canola oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 small carrots (or 1 large carrot), grated
- 1 bell pepper, sliced
- 2 Tbsp garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp ginger, grated
- 1 Tbsp hot curry powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp pepper
- 14 oz can diced tomatoes
- 14 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 14 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
- 2/3 c water
- 1 Tbsp cider vinegar
In a large pot, heat the oil. Add the onions and cook over high heat until onions are very brown. Add the carrots, bell peppers, garlic, ginger, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, salt and pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the tomatoes, white beans and pinto beans and stir to combine. Next, add the water and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Finally, add the cider vinegar, stir to combine, and serve hot.
Gin & Tonic
The ultimate mosquito repellent…
- 1.5 oz gin
- Tonic water
- Lime wedge
- Mint for garnish, optional
Fill a rocks glass with ice and pour gin over ice. Fill the glass with tonic water and squeeze a lime wedge into the glass. Stir to combine.