Rhino, Warthog, and Zebra! Oh My!

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Our recent family holiday took us to Zimbabwe to visit family. My father in law lives there and we hadn’t seen him for months as he is the poster child for snow birds, spending the English summertime in the UK and returning to his home in Africa just in time to soak up the summer sun. We also visited many relatives and enjoyed the beauty that is Africa. This was my first visit to the continent as well as NuNu’s, and I must say that I went in with my mind being a complete blank canvas of expectations which left me totally  blown away by my experiences.

We spent our first day in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe, the country’s government seat as well as the largest city. We were completely drained so we didn’t get to see much of the city. On our second day we headed out to Masvingo, P’s hometown.  We were driven by P’s dad whom I will lovingly refer to as “Granddaddy Dundee” throughout my Zim posts. Granddaddy Dundee (GD), is a retired geologist that spent most of his career navigating the landscape and terrain of various countries in Africa. We couldn’t really ask for a better guide and he was thrilled to do so, pointing out various landmarks, indigenous plants and animals.

The road South was bumpy to say the least but the scenery was breathtaking. As we rode along the paved roads there were hills lined with plush greenery that I now know is referred to as “the bush” and most importantly “rest area/toilet facilities” as there are very few along the journey.  Every few metres we would pass women and children selling their fresh produce of wild mushrooms, onions, potatoes or mangoes.

Masvingo, formerly known as Fort Victoria prior to 1982, is in South East Zimbabwe. It is the oldest colonial settlement in Zimbabwe. The city was once a booming farming district but mass dismantling of the agricultural industry has significantly reduced farming in the area. The town  reminded me of parts of North Carolina, dirt roads, people smiling and waving as you drive by. Immediately it felt like home, like I belonged here and was welcomed from the very beginning.

Outside of being met with a power cut and no running water it was rather peaceful and laid back. The biggest hassle was remembering to take my Malaria pills and getting NuNu untangled from the mosquito net that hang above our bed.

NuNu and the net!

NuNu and the net!

On our third day in Masvingo, Granddaddy Dundee, armed with his enthusiasm for the countryside and all things wild, decided to take us on safari and for a bit of site seeing. Our first stop was Kyle Game Park. The drive-thru park is home to more than 25 species of wild mammals and it didn’t take long for us to spot them. Truly I was expecting to see a few warthogs roaming around and other smaller animals lurking under a shade tree but what did we see?? A Rhino! Not just one but there were actually 6 of them just hanging around.

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In strict Granddaddy Dundee fashion he wants us to “get a closer look” so he nearly brings us face to face with the wild beasts. Me? I’m close to hiding under the seat and praying that they don’t decide to charge. “P” on the other hand, ignores all signs that CLEARLY state “Do not exit your vehicles” and steps out of the truck to get a better look! All I could think of was, “Lord, I’m gonna have to buy him a new suit and a fresh pine box because this man is about to DIE!”

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Thankfully, nothing happened and the animals kept on grazing. We moved on and spotted loads of zebra off in the distance and we were able to catch some A-mazing footage.

From there we went on to see impala, wildebeest, warthog, and baboon but most impressive was the buffalo. OMG. I have never been so intimidated in my life. These things look like mean ogres with mangy blonde wigs on, which is actually remnants of their recent mud baths splattered on their heads.

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We didn’t see any lions, giraffe, leopards or elephants at Kyle Game Park but it was well worth the visit. There wasn’t a shortage of game and between the beautiful views and animal interaction it was a great time. It wouldn’t have been a trip to the game park without stopping by Lake Mutirikwi and capturing some beautiful images of the water and surrounding areas.

Lake Mutirikwi (formal name Lake Kyle) was created in 1960 along with Kyle Dam. Kyle Dam was constructed to provide a means of irrigation to the sugar cane farming estates on the nearby lowveld. The water of Lake Kyle is of great interest as it supplies the water needs to surrounding towns. The level can drastically fluctuate due to the irrigation demands which in turn negatively impact aquatic life and the people that depend on it. We walked the dam, but me being afraid of heights nervously took a few photos and hurriedly scurried back to our starting point.

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The drive through the highlands encompassed EVERYTHING that represents peace and tranquillity,  greenery, rock formations, rushing water and bright colourful flowers. To bring our site seeing tour to an end we decided to partake in refreshments before heading back to the city. We stopped at Norma Jeane’s Lake View Resort (www.normajeaneslakeviewresort.com).

If you are looking for inviting and serene this is it. The restaurant is nice but the grounds are stunning to say the least.  From the patio you can see Lake Mutirikwi off in the distance and there are lovely stoned pathways that navigate through a perfectly maintained garden. After we enjoyed our cold drinks and sandwiches I didn’t want to leave. This is certainly a place that I will return to, a gem in the bush. Next time we must rent a cabin as I was well impressed with the service and the grounds. If you’re looking for a haven in the bush visit Norma Jeane’s Lake View Resort. Service top notch, the views…epic.

More photos of our outing:

I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery- air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy” ~Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar

Cocoa Joins The Mob

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I recall having a conversation with someone a few years ago. They asked me what is it that I want to do with my life. I was happy, I was young (at the time), and I was impressionable.  My answer…”I want to continue to help people. If I can do that in whatever capacity God sees fit, then my life is right on track”. I will never forget the condescending laughter that ensued as this person clearly didn’t get it. That has stuck with me and I made a vow to at least do what I can for others, as my mother would say, “Even the smallest of gestures can carry the greatest sentiment.”

Just the other day I was surrounded by a group (more like a mob) of people that “get it”. Thanks to the Free Help Guy, we all gathered to embark on his first “HelpMob”, with many more to come. Who is the Free Help Guy and what’s a HelpMob? The Free Help Guy is well, a guy. He is an anonymous helper. There aren’t any pics of him on his website, Twitter or Facebook page. Instead his photos don a big smiley head superimposed over his face as not to reveal his true identity. I do believe that I may have caught a glimpse of this mystery man and if so, he’s not so bad on the eyes! As for the HelpMob, think flashmob but instead of meeting up to do a choreographed dance to a mashup of pop hits in front of unsuspecting strangers, it’s an orchestrated gathering of people that set out to help someone in need. The best part…..it is done anonymously. No hoopla,  no mass media attention, no carefully placed hidden cameras…just people doing good, just because.

I only found out about this event the day prior but I was immediately intrigued. The event invite came with very little information. The when, where, and why were all answered but the WHO remained unknown until the moment that we were all gathered. It also came with a clue, “Life Savers Unite”. Vague, yet enough to get the wheels turning. How do we anonymously save lives? Is this like a mass CPR certification session? When we all arrived we learned that it was something VERY real, extremely important and urgent.

We were given a short briefing. We were gathered to bring support to a donor drive event for 17 month old Margot Martini, happening just around the corner from our rally point. Margot is a beautiful baby girl that has an extremely rare form of blood cancer and is in need of a bone marrow donor. We marched the streets armed with flyers and signs encouraging people to take a moment of their time to get swabbed to find out if they are a suitable match for this precious child. As a mother this was a helpmob that made me think of my NuNu and it totally tugged at my heartstrings.

Everything aligned perfectly for this event. The donor drive was held at The Tabernacle just a short distance from the very busy Portobello Market so there wasn’t a shortage of people to come in contact with AND believe it or not the typically rainy London weather behaved itself nicely, offering up sunshine and clear blue skies. We walked, engaged, and chanted, all for the cause. Exceeding all expectations many of us also took the 5 minutes to register and added to the 400 plus swabs that were completed on the day. There is still work to do. If you would like information on what you can do for Margo visit Team Margo on Facebook or follow on Twitter @Swab4margo. If you would like to register and become a donor or for more information on how you can help save a life go to www.deletebloodcancer.org.uk.

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Needless to say that the first ever HelpMob event by the Free Help Guy was a success. Not only did I get out for a little exercise, mingle with some  amazing people, but we also took part in something that could change a life forever. To see how The Free Help Guy offers his FREE assistance  to others check out www.thefreehelpguy.com . He does everything from attempting to reunite a little boy with his lost stuffed monkey to raising funds for  a vision saving operation for 800 people suffering from Trachoma, a disease that can lead to blindness.

As for being family friendly, this particular HelpMob was. If like me, you have a little one in tow 99% of the time but still like to help, just drop The Free Help Guy a line and he will let you know if the event that you are interested in is fitting to bring the fam.

UPDATE: Team Margot has a confirmed donor match. Many blessings to the donor, Margot and her parents.

Watch his space for future events and to see how you can help his mission.

Pics from the day:

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It’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving” ~Mother Teresa