Friday, November 13, 2015

Safari 2015: The Trip Begins

I've gotten a bit smarter after traveling all these years, and I finally bought an iPad keyboard to make recording my trips while on the go much easier. That way I'm not scratching my head trying to remember details months or years later.

So this much-needed vacation started with 36 hours in Dubai. I decided to use this time as a complete relaxation mode and so didn't make plans with friends or to go sightseeing. Next time, I promise! I stayed at the same hotel I stayed at in 2012 since I liked the amenities, dining, and spa at the hotel next door. The first night I arrived after what felt like an entire day of traveling but was really more like seven hours. Well I guess that is almost a workday. I had moules frites at the Belgian restaurant downstairs and then used the high(er) speed internet to update my iPad software and apps. It was late by the time I got to bed, but I slept in until ten and had a leisurely breakfast before heading to the spa. 

It was an expensive afternoon but worth it for the complete relaxation and time to myself. I had afternoon tea in the lobby of the Intercontinental (lovely and filling) and then had a quiet night in, preparing to fly out again the next morning. 

I had an early start to the day, waking at 5:30 for a 6:30 departure to the airport. I was checked in by 7:15 and had a quick breakfast before boarding. The plane sat at the gate waiting for a time to take off, but that was the only hiccup. I slept for a few hours of the 6:30 flight and was only a bit restless upon landing in Lusaka. An older gentleman was in the shuttle with me to the hotel, and he regaled me and the driver with stories of his 35 years living and farming in Zambia before retiring and moving to South Africa. This was his first trip back in 13 years, and it was fascinating watching his reactions to the places he'd known so well. What shocked him most was the evidence of Chinese and Japanese investment (hotels, roads, industry, shopping, restaurants) and the proliferation of shopping malls. I was in my own reverie marveling at familiar brands like Pick-n-Pay, Mugg & Bean, and Woolworths from my RSA days. 

The hotel upgraded me to a club room, so I got to have some afternoon snacks and drinks while I unpacked and FaceTimed with my parents. I had a quick but tasty dinner at the hotel's Italian restaurant before getting to bed early. My alarm went off too early (again), but we all know that the promise of seeing animals will always get me out of bed. So I showered, packed, ate breakfast, checked out, and grabbed the shuttle back to the airport. Lusaka is a small airport, much smaller than Entebbe, so I had a cold drink at the sole cafe and read to while away the time. We took off ten minutes late, and the takeoff and landing were quite bumpy, but the flight was otherwise fine. We landed in Mfuwe, and I met the lodge representative, and it was time for the real vacation to begin!