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We spent 14 days on the road, "in the bush," visiting southern Africa.  With Julie and Peter Bowen as guides (they've lived in Africa a cumulative 27 years), we asked for a "sampler" of South Africa, engaging with African people at "street-level."  With Peter as chief guide and Julie as chief game spotter, we enjoyed countless hours in the 4x4, touring national game parks, driving the width of Zimbabwe and locating off-the-beaten-path resorts.  After 4,350 Kilometers (2700 miles), 2,300 photos, 3 traffic fines, ~24 Zimbabwe police checkpoints, 3 hours spent in international border crossings and a few emotional outbursts we're all still friends.

TRIP SUMMARY - SOUTH AFRICA & ZIMBABWE (OCT-2012)

Linda & Gary Gamso join Julie and Peter Bowen on a trip to South Africa and Zimbabwe
October 13 - 25, 2012
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Travel Itinerary (see #’s on map): 
  1. Johannesburg (Oct 14)
  2. Mt Sheba, SA (Oct 15-18)
  3. Kruger Nat. Park (Oct 18-21)
  4. Munati Lodge in Musina, SA (Oct 21)
  5. Stanley & Livingstone, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Oct 22-25)
  6. Camp Amalinda @ the Matopos, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe (Oct 25-26)
  7. Kings Walden Garden Manor; Old Coach Road, Tzaneen, SA (Oct-26)

Video Resources

For Adults - A quick slideshow of our Africa Adventure. If your considering a trip or you've made one recently, you should enjoy the visual experience of being there.
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For Kids - A quick slideshow of our 2012 Africa for Kids. In the photo show, each animal's photo is followed by its name. See if your kids can name the animal when they see it.
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The Players

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Julie & Peter Bowen

We met Peter in London in 2008-09. Gary hired Peter into a consulting role and Linda worked with him every day for a year on a project.

Peter (60 year-old, British consultant & friend) has many, many years of consulting experience. In his recent career (last 15 years), he’s visited 52 countries. So, Peter has lots of stories and experiences from Africa, Europe, the Middle-East and Asia.

Married ~38 years (Julie was 18 years old, Peter 22), they met in Rhodesia before it was re-named to Zimbabwe. Peter served in the Rhodesian army, as his English parents had settled there and everyone who lived in Rhodesia had to serve in their army. In her teens Julie lived in a small Rhodesian town called Hwange. We drove through the town twice on our journey & she described where she lived and experiences from living there 30+ years ago.

Most US consultants have science, engineering or technology backgrounds as preparation. Peter studied history in college, so has a historical perspective of the British Empire and the modern civilizations in Europe, Africa, Middle-East and Asia. And, like so many good consultants, Peter can “spin a tale.” He has countless stories that use humor or an exciting climax to explain the culture similarities and differences he’s found in his travels. In this travel blog, you'll get a few examples of his dry, British humor.

Along with motherhood, Julie has studied south African animals, locations and people. She knows where to go in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Botswana. She describes Africa in each season, in each region and over 30 years of time. Then, in the 1970's Ian Smith, President of Rhodesia initiated changes with power-sharing between white and black cultures. In Julie's words, "…if they had only figured out how to get along, today's Zimbabwe would be much different and better…"

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Julie at Camp Amalinda, near Bullawayo, Zimbabwe

On a long walk we began to understand the beauty of Zimbabwe Judy saw in her youth. She grew up in an environment where “white settlers” who had colonized the area years ago ran things. At that time the white land owners employed many, many people at low wages. They grew and sold their crops, fed their workers, but didn’t educate them, paid taxes for their income, encouraged the use of those taxes to modernize Zimbabwe, improving manufacture, mining, tourism, farming.
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Peter at Lisbon Falls , driving the Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Peter served in the Zimbabwe infantry during the various revolutions that occurred 30+ years ago. He fought for the government, who was fighting to protect those industries that made Rhodesia a working economy. In the end the government agreed to appease the revolutionaries with changes.

Our long walks occurred in the Mount Sheba and Blyde River Canyon areas because they were relatively safe from predators, both 2-legged and four. The military life, fighting in a vast war zone, and years spent navigating the African “bush” taught Peter immense survival skills and great instincts for navigation. We travelled 15 days and ~2700 miles with only printed maps and no other navigation technology.

In the photos above, the Julie and Linda enjoyed the pristine view, just sitting back and losing themselves to the natural beauty and the many kind memories they triggered. While I did my share of mindful viewing, I also saw a story. In the 2-photo sequence above, you see Peter’s fearlessness. In the left photo of the falls, you see Peter with his toes practically hanging over the falls cliff, while he looks across the canyon at us. In the 2nd falls photo (right photo) Peter is on right side of small stream & you see the enormity of these falls (and length of drop). In the photo below with Linda, Peter described the canyon, again standing on the edge of a cliff with a few hundred foot drop.

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Planning the journey

(by Peter Bowen)

For me the challenge when planning the journey was how to give Gary and Linda a real taste of Africa in the time available. I could have taken the easy option of a week in a game reserve and a week somewhere else, like Capetown. But for me, as I think Gary and Linda will now concur, 6 to 7 days game viewing is too much in one go. After 2 days we had reached a plateau when we spotted someone stopped to view an Impala or equally as common Warthog the team cry would be “so your new to these parts”. Whilst Capetown is great and the wine lands are stunning, for me it’s not really Africa as the land has been cultivated for over 100 years.

I started with a list of mine and Julie’s favourite places and used our collective recollections, plus a bit of research, to work out an itinerary. The only problem with looking back is that journey times tend to shrink, plus the fact that I base things on how I use to drive in an unregulated Audi A6. However, journey times would have been just about OK had it not been for the numerous road blocks the Zimbabwe Police had deployed, the repeated requests for paper work and unpacking the Land Cruiser in a vain attempt at finding a reflective jacket.

Takeaway

(by Peter Bowen)

Hindsight as they say is a wonderful thing and if I were to do another trip to Zimbabwe and South Africa I think I would do things in reverse and tack on a few extra days, something like:
• Johannesburg to the border
• Border to Camp Amalinda – at least 2 full days
• Amalinda to the Falls
• Falls to Zimbabwe Ruins – 2 nights
• The ruins to Tzaneen – still a long journey, but would stay 2 nights
• Tzaneen to the Kruger
• Kruger to Mount Sheba
• Sheba to Johannesburg
However, despite the journey times we got to see some pretty amazing sites, encountered wild animals in their natural habitat, met some nice people and enjoyed good food and wine. Above all the Gamsos and the Bowens are still friends and I look forward at some point to passing the gauntlet to Gary and Linda and let them plan a trip for us in the USA.