Friday, September 4, 2015

July 22 - Magical Rail Journey to Victoria Falls

After 3 days exploring Hwange National Park we bid farewell to the wonderful staff at Camelthorn Lodge and drove a short distance to the historic Victoria Falls rail line where we boarded a beautifully restored rail car reserved exclusively for our group.  It was such a treat to travel by rail through the park as we made our way towards Victoria Falls.  The rail car was outfitted with very comfortable safari sty;e bucket seats and cold drinks were provided along the way.  We saw a myriad of wildlife from the rail car as we traversed the park including giraffe, zebra, wart hog, baboons, bushbuck and more.  

Our transfer vehicles were waiting for us as we pulled up at the edge of the park boundary after the 1.5 hour journey and we quickly transferred to the smooth tar road that led us to Victoria Falls and civilization.  The road was in good condition and we soon found the terrain changing from flat mopane woodlands to raising red ridges and valleys as we neared the great Zambezi Valley.  We passed the very modern international airport that is under construction and will soon host international flights direct from Europe as in the old days.  Things are certainly looking up for Zimbabwe and we were glad to be part of the positive change that the resurgent tourism is bringing about.  It felt strange to be in traffic as we reached Victoria Falls town but we quickly turned off on the final stretch towards the border with Botswana and were once again in the wilds as we transferred into 4 well drive safari vehicles for the last stretch down the escarpment into the Zambezi Valley where our fabulous lodge, Zambezi Sands, awaited on the shores of the great Zambezi river about 40 kilometers upstream from the falls in Zambezi National Park.  The staff had set up a wonderful sundowner site just before the camp where we stopped to enjoy gin and tonics while the sun set a red fireball in the sky.  There is nothing quite like an African sunset over the ubiquitous acacia trees on the horizon.  Another day in paradise.  

Paradise indeed!  When we arrived at the newly constructed lodge we were absolutely blown away by not only the spectacular setting right on the river but also by the magnificent lodgings.

Our tents were the size of a small home with a large entry way featuring a comfortable coach, wet bar, and Turkish carpets which led to a huge bathroom with double sinks, shower and huge white bathtub.  Continuing into the bedroom we found a large four poster bed with comfy chairs in front overlooking the spacious outdoor deck with our own private plunge pool.  To the side of our room was an outdoor toilet and shower…just ideal and a great value for the level of luxury we encountered.  The highlight was awaking in the morning to a magical mist that floated off the river as the sun rose and illuminated the sandy beach just below our tented suite.  We could see a nice whitewater stretch of rapids awaiting us for our afternoon canoe session just in front of the lodge.  

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