Tuesday morning we woke up to the scents of beautiful food wafting up through our hut. Helen really outdid herself and we came down to a veritable feast.
Seeing Victoria Falls was on the morning agenda and because it was a scorching hot day, the mist felt wonderful raining down on us along the path. There is less water this time of year than, say, December through April, but it was spectacular and we took lots of pictures.
When returned to the hut we found that there had been some uninvited guests--they had raided the kitchen and stolen both the gluten free oats and the regular oats (apparently there is a problem with gluten intolerance in the animal community) leaving a trail of them dumped along the counter, across the sink and out the window. With a bit of detective work we sorted out that when the maids had come to do the room service they had left the window open to Maureen's room. The baboons came in through the window, apparently jumped all over her bed, tossing the pillows all over the place (ok, everybody now...."No More Monkeys Jumping on the Bed!!!!"), then they had gone down and done their damage in the kitchen. Thankfully, the instruments had been locked safely in the closet during the festivities. Maureen and Elisa- 1, baboons- 0!
After lunch at the hut and arranging for new bedding for Maureen's room, we wandered over to the nearby Victoria Falls Safari Lodge in search of wifi. All the decks of the lodge overlook a large watering hole and just in the short time that we were there checking our email and such, a whole monstrous herd of Cape buffalo strolled down for a drink!
Helen had been able to get us a huge discount on the Zambezi River dinner cruise, so in the late afternoon we were picked up by a shuttle bus and taken to the boat.
We saw little wildlife on the cruise besides some very funny and animated hippos. However the sunset was gorgeous, as African sunsets typically are, and we enjoyed our dinner a lot.
Wednesday morning we packed up and headed to Bulawayo. We dropped by the fancy Victoria Falls hotel in town as they have a piano there and we wanted to make contact for a possible performance there on a future trip. The views from their extensive gardens were unparalleled. The bridge across the Zambezi--framed by the walls of the canyon--was dead center, with the mist of the Falls rising ominously behind it and to the left as far as you could see.
Helen insisted that we do breakfast at Gorge's Lodge, about 30 minutes out of town along our route to Bulawayo. We were amazed that anyone would know this place existed, as we had to drive about 12km off the main road on a washboard dirt road past a multitude of traditional rural residences--tiny round huts with thatched roofs. When we arrived, we discovered a real gem. It's a lush little oasis in the bush and is perched along the rim of the Zambezi gorge. And when I say perched on the edge, I mean that quite a few of the decks are built out over the ledge of the gorge. The guest rooms are beautiful little cottages, each with their own private deck overlooking the gorge. We had a wonderful breakfast there and then hit the road again. Later on we stopped for a bathroom break at the Hwange Safari Lodge and checked out their onsite watering hole, but it was early afternoon and a very hot day so there were no animals.
We arrived in Bulawayo around 5pm and went straight to the Zim Academy of Music so we could see the venue and sort out our schedule for the next few days. The Robert Sibson Concert Hall is a great performance space with a Steinway D on the stage, a spacious green room, and friendly acoustics.
We hadn't eaten since our breakfast on the gorge, so we decided to go to Helen's house for dinner and just stay and practice there in the evening. Helen has put us up in her three guest rooms which open up directly onto the central courtyard and each have a private bath. We are getting spoiled here--at mealtime we walk up to the dining room and there's a whole feast laid out of beautiful food. Helen has gotten the gluten free thing totally figured out and we are concerned that Elisa may bail on the tour and just stay here forever.
Thursday we practiced at the hall, did some souvenir shopping, and then Helen had someone come to give us free Indian head massages (which involved shoulders, neck and head)-the gal is apparently doing training for this and needs to have a certain number of hours in order to get her certificate. It felt great and was nice and relaxing before our concert.
We went to the hall early because there was an agency from the city that asked to do some filming of us. They are creating a promotional film to promote Bulawayo as a cultural center; in other words, highlighting the different types of cultural offerings throughout the city.
When we arrived at the hall we found out that the promised work permits (unrelated to the filming, but relevant to our concert itself) had never arrived from the government. Technically this meant that if the government officials were to show up we would be abruptly shut down. We talked for some time about the various options and eventually they decided to shut the main gates to the parking lot after the concert started and have a guard there. This way if the officials did come, it would give us a few minutes--while they were unlocking the gate--to clear the stage, etc. (Seeing the three of us are big fans of The Sound of Music, we had visions of escaping the officials through the gated hallway off the green room.) We were not that concerned about this actually happening but had a good time imagining the story, and indeed the concert went off without a hitch. The hall was not that full (I believe it seats 375, and we had a crowd of maybe 100) but you wouldn't have guessed it from the thunderous applause they were able to generate--they loved the program!
After the concert we were invited to dinner at the home of our host at the academy, Michael Bullivant, and his wife Lindsay. Our concert ended at nearly 10pm and with talking to people afterwards, etc, we didn't arrive to dinner until 11:15! Michael and Lindsay had a wonderful spread and we met some really interesting people, as well as perused Michael's 7000+ CD collection. We had lively and animated conversations about music, politics, food and life!