Mrs. Sip and I are finally back from our month-long journey to southern Africa and there is much to discuss before we get back into the swing of things at home. Today, we’ll look at the mischief we got into over the first three quarters of our trip, with a second edition coming tomorrow, looking at all we accomplished in Cape Town.
The fun all began with our layover at Heathrow Airport. Although it was 6:30am Vancouver time, we were feeling pretty well and I couldn’t pass up samples of Gentleman Jack Whiskey and Remy Martin Cognac. Heathrow is one of my favourite airports around the world and when the Duty Free is handing out Gimlets (with Plymouth Gin) and Martinis (with Belvedere Vodka), it’s easy to see why. We were feeling pretty loose before having to board our next plane and the drinks definitely helped usher in our vacation, as well as prepare us for the next phase of our travels.
Two more flights and many hours later, we finally arrived in Livingstone, Zambia. After a few hours of sleep, the owner of our accommodation, the Tasha Lodge, offered to take us into town to get some dinner, followed by some dancing at a Zambian club. At both stops, we enjoyed Mosi beer, which is the national brew of the country and your typical lager that each country seems to have at least one of. Our meal at Café Zambezi afforded us the opportunity to eat crocodile and even caterpillar, while splitting a bottle of wine. As for the bugs, I was a fan… Mrs. Sip was not!
After a day enjoying the Devil’s Pool and Victoria Falls from both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides, we joined our tour group and made the ferry crossing to Botswana. There, it was more of the same lighter beers (St. Louis, Hansa, Windhoek), enjoyed aboard a boat cruise on the Chobe River, viewing some spectacular scenes of wildlife, including hippos, crocodiles, and elephants, as well as numerous birds. This was followed by a game drive the next day in Chobe National Park, where lions and buffalo were among the animals spotted.
Before leaving Botswana, we spent one night bush camping in the Okavango Delta. In preparation for the complete departure from civilization, I picked up a six pack of Carling Black Label (my favourite normal beer of the bunch, thanks to its 5.5% alcohol percentage), while Mrs. Sip grabbed a bottle of Fat Bastard Chardonnay; a perfect wine for the evening, given its cartoon rhino logo. We were also finally able to crack into the first craft beer I had been able to locate in the region, Camelthorn Weizen, a delicious African-brewed Bavarian-style wheat beer.
Prior to leaving Botswana, our tour stopped at a shopping centre, which featured a Tops liquor store and it was here that I unearthed a plethora of craft beer enjoyment to be consumed over the next few days. This included Darling Brew Bone Crusher Wit Bier, which was a decent beer, but had copper taste to it; Darling Brew Silver Back Black Wit, a favourite for the Sip Advisor and the first black wit I have ever experienced; Cape Brewing Co. Krystal Weizen; Copperlake Hefe Weiss, with the slogans “Strictly a vegetarian meal” and “If God wanted us to filter Weiss, He wouldn’t have given you a liver!”; and Wild Beast Brewery Blonde Ale.
On the last night of the first portion of our tour, where some travellers would be leaving our crew and others joining, we had a celebratory feast, which provided my first opportunity to have a Springbok shot (mixing Amarula Cream and Peppermint Liqueur – the colours of the national rugby squad). This tasty little treat isn’t for everyone, but I found it went down very well, as did Mrs. Sip.
After departing Windhoek, our next stop was two nights camping in the Etosha National Park. The highlight of this stop wasn’t the dusty roads or hot temperatures, but was the watering hole a five-minute jaunt from our campsite. Mrs. Sip and I were quick to bring drinks and treats with us each time we visited, enjoying the nature that would come in and out of the area to join us for a beverage. We enjoyed beers during the afternoon, sunset with a bottle of wine (La Capra Sauvignon Blanc), and bubbly at night, as rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and even lions treated us to a marvellous and unique viewing experience.
From Etosha, we were off to the German-inspired town of Swakopmund, where I achieved a feat that had long been on my liquor bucket list: downing a two-liter boot of beer. The event took place at Brauhaus and was a perfect topper to our day activity of riding ATVs around the sand dunes. The next morning we enjoyed a boat cruise where we were joined onboard by seals, chased by pods of dolphins, and stalked by giant herons (one of which even “blessed” Mrs. Sip with some droppings).
Our stay in Namibia closed with some very cool experiences, such as climbing to the top of Dune 45 in the Namib Desert. Prior to ascending the sandy surface, I made sure to grab a beer to be enjoyed at the peak. It was a great reward, in spite of all the sand flying around the place, thanks to unusually strong winds.
With our tour coming to an end, we finally crossed the border into South Africa and geared up for a final hurrah as a group. Between craft breweries Mrs. Sip and I never expected to find and a wine industry we hoped would live up to expectations, there was much more still on the horizon. Make sure to come back tomorrow and join us on the journey.