Expectations: I have not enjoyed the vacations in Africa the way I have enjoyed them in other places. People here prefer to go back to their family village instead of travel to new places where they don’t know anyone on their holidays. It seems the culture does not place an emphasis on historical preservation, appreciation of natural wonders or entertainment as I have grown accustom too. Another reason I have not enjoyed our travels as much is mostly because of the expense and difficulty of the travel part vs. the “being there” part. Coupled with our lack of resources and our Peace Corps friends even less resources that puts us in sub standard travel situations, experiences in Namibia and in Durban make me leary of African “vacations”.
But I was holding high hopes for Victoria Falls which is called Mosi-oa-Tuny meaning The Thunder that Smokes. It is considered one of the 7 Wonders of the World and I hoped that would translate into Western style tourism. As it turned out, it did, and we really enjoyed this vacation.
Leaving Botswana in my favorite shirt
Our chariot from the Airport
The boat to Zambia
In the beginning – Zambia: We were picked up at the Kasane airport in a 16 seat safari truck all to ourselves. At the border, there was a boat waiting that took us across the Zambezi River to another van. The driver took John through immigration which was painless besides the US$50 each just to cross the border.
Trucks lined up to cross the River
We notice the huge long line of trucks about four miles long trying to cross the border from both sides. There is only one fairy that takes 1 or 2 big trucks at a time across the river. In addition to the lack of infrastructure there is much bureaucracy to getting ones papers for border crossings. Everyone knows this is counterproductive to economic development – but the government cannot stop itself from growing a system that allows each individual participant an opportunity to enrich themselves with bribes. Most of these trucks were to sit in line for more than 3 weeks, inching forwards each day. Its no wonder there can be no food importing or exporting!
We also noticed throughout the trip that many of the Zambians have a particularly bad body odor. We think it may be because there is not much plumbing in this country. This country is much poorer than Botswana.
On the plus side, many Zambians could speak English very well. English is the language of money and with scarce resources from the government, English is required to earn decent money. Nearly everyone could hold a complete conversation with ease. In many instances it seemed as though English was their first language.
Jollyboys pays local artist for the wall murials
Welcome to Jollyboys! It even looks from from the outside.
Jollyboys Backpackers Lodge: In Africa they have Backpackers Lodges everywhere. Backpackers are geared towards people who want to travel for longer periods and have less money and are carrying all their stuff in a backpack. The accommodations include anything from $5 a night camping to 16 room hostels with shared bathrooms to single simple rooms for couples. The most expensive accommodations cost less than a two star hotel in most places.
They usually provide a shared kitchen with dishes, tons of books, games, an organic or healthy food menu, a cheap bar, a pool, a large screen TV and tons of lounging and couches. The people who use the Backpackers are generally well traveled, fairly educated and in a frame of mind to make new friends and help fellow travelers. Jollyboys is one of the best in the area. It was clean and the service was great! We really enjoyed this place and used most of the amenities to keep the cost down.
The vacation coordinator helped John and I plan the next three days. She was honest about costs and helped weigh the experience/activity against the costs, which is important because the activities are generally very expensive.
Livingston, Zambia: We explored Livingston which is a quaint small town that has blended its European beginnings with local culture quite nicely. It was the capital of the country until 1935 and now it is the center of the countries tourism. We felt safe there.
However, as always, there were people on the take for those who become complacent. We had someone promise to return with change and never did. Also had someone rip us off with stories of new currency and needs for change with the old currency. We lost $27 U.S. to the schemes – which isn’t really that bad. It is very annoying and embarrassing – but it is hard to always treat every single person as if they are a thief when it is probably only 1 in 500 that will rip you off. I would rather pay $25 – $50 a vacation and keep a kind heart than never be ripped off and be cynical all the time.
Our first order of business was exchanging money. The Zambian Kwacha exchange rate was $1 to K5,053, so K50,00 notes (about $10 U.S.) were very prevalent. Zambia was changing currency January 1st by dropping the last 3 zeros off all notes. People are always nervous when currency changes and the lines were very long at all the banks every day we were there. There was a K2 million (about $400 US) withdrawing limit and it was awkward carrying around huge amounts of bills. John once said, “Don’t flash that big wad of money around.” But I noted that literally everyone was doing this.
Carol’s K150,000.00 Painting
The downtown area had two blocks dedicated to vendor booths with mostly amateurish art that was selling as souvenir crafts – but I found a picture I really liked for K150,00 plus a four t-shirts trade; especially since 3 Of the T-shirts were Johns’. I love the paiting.
John was fascinated with the huge currency bills being sold in the markets. Apparently not too long ago the Zimbabwe currency became worthless and was ditched, so the Zambian’s sell these huge, worthless novelty bills to tourists. John bought a bunch of them including some real 100 Trillion Dollar Notes! (No, that is not a misprint!)
Over the course of the week we checked out the banks, grocery stores, malls and museums. It was all decent and comparable to what I have seen in other large cities in southern African counties, even though this was a fairly small city. Livingston also had a black market mall with tons of tiny tin-building shops selling food, clothes, booze and other items for pretty cheap. There were several ethnic foods there too – but the food was so covered in flies that even I couldn’t chance eating it.
Cruising the Zambezi River: After our exploration of town and stock of Kwacha’s we decided to go on a Sunset Cruise with Karla. It was US$60 per person with a dinner and all the booze you could drink with a sunset, hippos and crocs.
Zambezi River Sunset with Karla
The river is huge, looking bigger than the Mississippi in its southern girth. It was clean and smelled fresh too. It was overcast and the sunset was beautiful, but not the brilliant I was hoping for. We did see the tops and open mouths of many hippos. The drinks were heavy and the food was ok – but we loved being on the Zambezi River at sunset, with wildlife and a friend.
We met a young woman who raved about what a perfect couple John and I appeared to be and how much she wanted to be like us when she grew up. At first it was great – but as the drinks were flowing, she went on for hours and hours bringing her friends over so they could see who she wanted to be like one day, and it eventually became sort of embarrassing, but finally it came around to being nice again – it is hard to resist adoration. It made us both feel like someone else could see the special we always see in each other.
Upon return we found a few other PCV friends had made it to site. However, one poor soul – Brandon, had forgotten his passport half way into his full day travel trip and been turned away at the border.
We met Mozambique Peace Corp people and talked about the differences in PC Service in each country. It is amazing how nicely all the PCV’s in the world fit together. We are really the same sort of people and are having the same sort of experiences. It makes such nice shorthand in getting to know new people.
After several hours of talking we decide to play Jenga and the game became quite imaginative with 8 players. We built some interesting structure before heading to bed.
Fun Border Crossing Story: The next morning Brandon had made it –with quite a story: He had made it home and back to the border but not until right after it closed at 6. They told him if he went to the Zimbabwe side he could cross there – but he would have to pay for two border crossings and he didn’t have the money or the transportation. So he and a Zimbabwean and Zambian that wanted to cross the border hung out at a gas station hoping for transportation and when it didn’t materialize before the gas station closed the attendant told them he would give them the storage room for 20 Pula (US$3.00). They rearranged the storage room to barely make enough room for the three of them to spoon on a tiny filthy mattress Every two hours they would all turn together. He was between the smelly Zim and the loudly snoring Zam, and he said it was the most uncomfortable night of his life and he had gotten no sleep and would not be able to participate in activities that morning.
White Water Rafting on the Zambezi by John: Carol and I have done a fair amount of White Water Rafting and have enjoyed it for the most part. Class V rapids can be very exciting and gratifying. With a heavy suggestion from a stranger who had just completed the trip, we decided to spend one of our days on the river. Fortunately for us we had already slept in too late that morning to catch the full day trip and our only option was the half day trip in the afternoon. We were ok with this as the morning portion was the tough Class V rapids and the afternoon was just Class II and III. After all, we are older now and maybe we preferred a “safer” experience at our ages.
Starting our decent
We were picked up and arrived at the “base camp” where we got a very short safety briefing and were told that the nice river shoes Carol was wearing were quite fine and the very loose fitting thin rubber Crocs I had on would be tough to walk in for the hike down to the river but once there I could take them off in the boat. I wasn’t too concerned.
Armed with life jackets, paddles and a helmet, we drove 30 minutes to the edge of the top of the river gorge. The hike down was 1000 feet, and pretty much strait down! They had rigged up a walking ladder from local tree branches and cleared a tight winding path down the side of the mountain. For the next 45 minutes we defied death with each step, as we ever so cautiously stepped from branch to branch, all the time cursing ourselves for not having the right shoes nor the sense to turn back. Once false step and the legs stays wedged in the rocks while the rest of the body tumbles to the bottom. Every few minutes we had to pause to wait until our legs stopped shaking uncontrollably, while the locals scurried, barefoot, past us carrying supplies on their heads! The decent seemed to take forever and I can’t tell you how relieved we were when we finally caught sight of the river at the bottom.
Our Descent Guide
This goes on and on and on…
Backwards is sometimes better
At the river we met up with 4 boats of rafters who had just done the 1st half and we joined them for a short lunch. The rest of the trip was fun and easy and very enjoyable! We rafted some Class III rapids and even went through several sets of rapids outside the boat just floating along in the very warm water with our life jackets. That was really great. At the end of the trip we were grateful to see a primitive cable car that we all climbed into to take us to the top. We were hoisted strait up by a winch to a connection device which loudly and violently attached to a single strong cable and then pulled us to the top by a giant electric motor. It was a bit scary, but the alternative of scaling up another set of walking suicide ladders was out of the question. The Zambezi River was beautiful and the rafting was enjoyable and exciting, so all in all it was a good trip to remember.
Carol’s version of the same story: The drive to the river bed was quite educational. The people here are considerably poorer than the people in Botswana. There were literally mud huts everywhere – there were no doors or windows on the huts, no cars, electric lines, or running water. There were many big gardens without a whole bunch of food, which is sad because the majority of the people grow most of the food they eat. Most people are very thin. The children were all in dirty rags and ran to the street just to see the cars go by. Most had tires or sticks for toys. We again were thankful about our placement in Botswana.
This is a house
Kids in the small village live very simple
Real mud huts in Zambia
The climb down the gorge was even worse than John explained. I quickly became exhausted and wondered how I could possibly make it down this thing – I kept thinking I could see the end and I could make it that far – but it twisted and turned in ways that started to seem like an endless torture route. The guide eventually took my arm and started walking me down one step at a time. I could not have made it without him to lean on and balance with. Near the end I literally felt like I was going to collapse. I rested for about half hour before I could walk the final 10 yards to our boat.
After the miserable part – it was one of the greatest river rides I have ever had. The gorge was so deep and the rocks were smoothed over and looked ancient. There were only small patches of sand or beach and mostly the river was edged with huge black boulders. The water was deep and we didn’t need to worry about getting caught on rocks. Several times they let us out of the raft to swim through the rapids and it was so cool. Our bodies were moving about 25 MPH and it was effortless to float. The water was clean and warm. I would definitely do this again if I had the chance (but I would much rather face the Class V rapids instead of the cliff climb).
We met Leah and Will from Bots 12 having lunch when we met the group. Leah was a little freaked about the class five rapids they had just gone through – but I was having problems with empathy considering the torture chamber mountain I just descended.
The Museum: The next day John got a massage (crappy) and I shopped and went to the Livingston Museum with some other women in the group that morning.
It Cassie – Not Dr. Livingstone!
The museum was packed with information – it was mostly passages of reading with a few drawings, and some odds and ends of the time. There were many maps with bad keys making it very hard to follow anything, but we could get the gist.
I have noticed in a lot of these museums (that are meant to provide the history of the indigenous people) that they always start with the formation of the Earth and move into evolution and then the first humanoids. After you do that at one museum you can skip the first half hour or so of just about every other museum here.
We had scheduled the DEVILS POOL months ago as a must do.
John explains Devils Pool: We had heard some stories about this place and from the name alone, it sounded exciting and since it seemed to be a large tourist destination, we expected that it was a fun and safe activity. On the Zambian side of Victoria Falls there is an Island called Livingstone Island. It is where David Livingstone discovered the Falls and named it after his Queen Victoria. The Island is bordered on one side by the very edge of the falls.
Taking the Boat across to the Livingstone Island
A little scary on the edge
There is one expensive operating company that takes limited tours out to the island in a small boat for some great views and a nice lunch. During specific times the volume of water is low enough that the operating company allows tourists to visit the Devils Pool. The Devils Pool is a small pool at the very edge of the falls about 10 feet in diameter. Due to its formation, water rushes through the pool but is fairly calm in the center while the edges of the pool area are surrounded by fast and furious flow. There is a large rock at the edge of the pool where you can jump off into the calm area, being extremely careful not to jump too far to the left or right. There are no guard rails, safety ropes or any other safety precautions, so when the sign says “swim at your own risk”, they are dead serious. (PUN INTENDED!)
Standing on the edge (solidly!)
There are some Liability Release Forms we all had to sign, that would never hold water in the US, but I’m pretty sure they would here.
We heard the story of David Livingston “discovering” the Falls and got to see the Falls from his first point of view. Standing close to the edge seemed scary – until we got to the Pool and then we got to know what fear was.
The historical part of the tour
To get to the pool, once you are on the island, you have to do several combinations of precarious walking on slippery rocks and swimming quickly upstream and across stream to land at a safe location. We had about 25 yards to get to the pool, but between us and the pool were sparse patches of relatively calm water surrounded by furious rushing rapids. The three guides separated us 6 into 3 groups and we locked hands as we walked slowly and carefully on slippery and painfully coarse rocks for the first 5 yards. Then we were given a safety briefing of how to swim upstream at a 45 degree angle to arrive at the next safe location, 10 more yards away, oh and then they asked if we were all very strong swimmers! The first one in our group did not swim at the right angle and we watched nervously as he was quickly swept 10 feet down stream towards the thundering falls edge but managed to correct himself and arrived safely, though shaken. We all learned quickly and followed our guide EXACTLY!
A second and a third short, but frantic swimming session got us all to a very shallow (1 foot) section where we had to crawl on our backs like crabs for 5 yards to finally get to the jumping rock. It was a relief to be out of the water and on solid ground, although now we were standing just 10 feet from the edge of the Falls and the water rushing by on both sides was very intimidating. As we got organized and were trying to decide who would be brave (foolish) enough to go first, one of the guides did a running back flip off the rock and landed perfectly in the clam, slowly swirling waters of Devils Pool. This did little to relax our anxieties, but it did allow one of our other guides to show off his amazing picture capturing skills with my wet camera.
(Click any image to view in Full Size!)
The Guides are very comfortable here!
Hmmm… Who is gonna go first?
Brandon Jumping in as Flying Tiger
Cassie gets a perfect 10!
John leaping into the Pool
Carol – In Delicate Fashion!
Each of us jumped, posing in our own personal way for the camera, as we conceded to our fates. Once we landed in the water we were hurriedly herded to a sitting area in the center area so as not to get sucked out in to the current. I was last to enter and I could not help but be concerned that the only place left to sit was at the very edge of the “safe” area. I jumped and found there to be no current or scary water until I was seated at the very edge of the group waiting for eternity for some pictures and videos. Meanwhile my swimming suit filled with water or air (not sure which) seemed to be acting like a bucket being pulled at by the raging current just inches from my waist. And to make matters just about as bad as they could possibly be, we were all being viciously attacked by dozens of 2 inch fish, meanly nibbling at our feet, legs and whatever else was under the water surface! I could not wait for this to be over and I was genuinely terrified and kept thinking how absolutely senseless this all was.
Carol Swimming to the Edge!
While we were waiting for one guide to get a picture, the other guide with my camera stood nimbly on the very edge of the pool and walked casually along it, barefoot and life-jacket-less of course, as he took the camera to each of us for an interview of how much we were enjoying this brush with death. I had to edit out my own comments on the video, as I was truly terrified and on the verge of a panic attack. To get out of the pool we were thrown a rope that we used to haul ourselves upstream and out of the pool with. We reversed the whole crab walking, swimming and chain walking process to return to dry land and looked back at what was surely the stupidest thing any of us had ever done. The next day we found out that the operating company closed the pool for the season due to the high waters. Most all of the season the waters are plenty low and in pictures on the internet you can even see the top edge of the protecting wall at the very edge of the pool that keeps you from being washed over. That would explain the happy, smiley faces on most of the guests. The water level for our experience was well over the top of the wall and made for a very dangerous and risky situation. After the pool trip we were served a very nice lunch and had the opportunity to meet with others who had just experienced the same excitement.
It was hard to enjoy the meal with the thoughts of what we had just done, but at the same time we very much celebrated the fact that we all made it without incident.
All is well that ends well is how the saying goes, but really, this was much more of a lesson about having prudent expectations and accepting that some things just should not be on the bucket-list.
Here is a Link to download the Videos of us in the Devils Pool. Its quite impressive!
Devils Pool From a Distance 4.5 MB
Devils Pool MUST SEE! 11.5 MB
If you are interested, here is a link to the blog that belongs to another couple we met at the Devils Pool. They have some interesting stories too. Mike and Sarah’s Blog. They talked about meeting us and the Peace Coups on the tab called “Vic Falls day 4″.
Additional note from Carol: While I was scared about the swim across the river and the jump in the pool there was no panic attack feeling for me. I checked the Internet and only one person a year dies there (at least that is reported) and we have done way higher risk things before. I think being required to sit on the very edge of the safe zone with inflatable shorts (they are not really swimming trunks) is what really freaked John out.
We ate the follow up lunch with a very nice older couple who obviously had lots of money. They were talking of their luxury experiences and we were comparing our experiences as Peace Corps Volunteers. The women told us she had brought half a suitcase of food from America in case she didn’t like the food here – she asked if we would want it. We declined at first. She insisted, saying the other Peace Corps persons at Jollyboys would probably like it too – and she wanted to do something nice for people providing such a good world service. They drove it over and it was an ample supply of good high end food, which was enjoyed by all. It made them very happy to get rid of half a suit case of good food to some people they thought deserved it. It is nice to be in an organization that is so well respected.
After the pool we were taken directly to our last sun set cruise on the river and this time we saw crocs as well as hippos.
A giant crocodile attacks our boat on the sunset cruise
Our last lounge in civilization
The Jungle: The next day we were to leave for Jungle Junction Lodge. Which I understand to be a fantastic hide away in the Jungle.
Cassie said we could bring our own food or they would cook for us – and we have learned that it is often better to bring your own food. We shopped for food and other supplies. John finally arranged to get the Zimbabwe notes he wanted, and we did our last walk around – sad to leave such a fun, clean and nice place. We hoped the Jungle would be very relaxing!
We lounged around Jollyboys a while, waiting for our ride. I was so intrigued by these Backpackers and I could not recall any such accommodations in America. I started a conversation with the owner and she said if I was interested in learning the business she would be glad to employee me for a while. Hmmmm…..maybe a new business idea.
Joe, from Jungle Junction picked us up in a truck which easily fits 5 people plus luggage – except there were now 11 of us traveling there! The luggage was squishd on to the rack on top of the Land Rover, which was fine until it started to rain buckets half way through the 45 minute trip. All our backpacks with clothes and belongings were wet on arrival.
We put 3 in the front, 5 on the back bench and 4 in the back bed along with all of the computers that we didn’t want to get wet. We rode this way for about 45 minutes before we meet up with a different driver who took half of us into his 4 x 4. This was very good because we are about to go for a seriously off road bumpy ride for the next 45 minutes of the trip.
John and I had booked four days instead of three (like everyone else did) because we couldn’t get a flight back sooner. We asked the driver about things to do on the island. We are told there is fishing, swimming, hiking, and if you can be creative you can figure out other fun stuff like taking a nature walk for 3 miles to visit the school. Well, visiting schools, especially over the holidays, has never really seemed that fun to me – but maybe I was just not being the creative sort.
Along the rutted and muddy road we saw a “village” which was made up of a few mud huts with straw fences and raised chicken coops and goat pens. These villages look just like the ones we saw on the way to the river rafting. There is no electricity, no running water, no roads, and not even one car anywhere. I was finally seeing the Africa I thought I would be sent to when I joined the Peace Corps.
Finally we got to the island where canoes carved out of tree trucks were waiting to take us across the river. That felt very native and adventurous – but as we started to load our gear in the Mokoro (the wooden tree canoes) the top of the canoe got nervously close to the water. One wrong shift and we would all capsize. After crossing the river we carried our supplies another 200 yards up the bank to the final destination. Jungle Junction.
I saw this as one of those nature, eco-lodges. A real one, though, not one that is advertised to make you feel good about the fuel you used to get there; but a real eco-lodge. Everything is built from the land and the local tribe is staffing the place. I thought we had booked the chalets, but as it turned out John misunderstood the difference between a “chalet” and a “fisherman’s hut”. We got the Fisherman’s hut. Three bamboo walls, a grass thatch roof built on tree limbs with two beds – sort of like Camp Ondesank.
Our luggage almost swamped the canoe
Transport across the river to the lodge
Our Fishmans Hut
I also found out that our hut is about 1k from the shared flush toilets (4 of them) and the shared showers. (It turns out the Chalets were a lot like the huts – but they had four wall and one battery operated light bulb). There was one gas operated refrigerator on the entire island – which did a very poor job of keeping anything cold – and 4 solar panels that sometimes work to recharge phones or computers. They had to carry the 2 very heavy truck batteries between the lodge and the closest open sunny spot, twice a day to charge them on the solar panels! Uuughh! No electricity anywhere. Running water is only available for the toilet and showers and one sink in the main kitchen – which we were not allowed to cook in. So, we cooked on camp fires.
John and I must have only read the reviews on Trip Adviser which really raved about the place, and we must not have looked at the actual web site that clearly explained all these things. (http://www.junglejunction.info/index.htm). I’m not sure why our travel research skills are waning so. We were quite unprepared for this primitiveness. We did not have bug spray, a flashlight, grungy clothes, towels or camping gear. I did have a nice dressy dress and a curling iron to celebrate NYE though. I told John I wanted to check out the next day, but we decided we would spend NYE with our friends as planned and would check out in two days. While the place was a paradise if you were looking for a peaceful quiet jungle hangout – I am a Peace Corp Volunteer living regularly in a peaceful quiet jungle hangout, on $350 a month and when I go on vacation I want to have a few nice things.
The owner spent some time talking to us and assuring us we could leave when we wanted without paying for unused rooms and was sorry that we were disappointed. He was a really decent guy.
I was still sort of sulking about this snafu when the owner brought out the festive party hats for the holidays and some were very strange. I couldn’t help but start to smile – and once the smile was cracked all was good.
Sunset with festive party hats
Danielle’s festive party hat
There were some interesting animals here. Below is a picture of a Genet – which is related to both the cat and the mongoose family. They were beautiful and came right to our dinner table to clean our plates after each meal.
A Genet Cat visits the dinner table at every meal
Home made chicken coop
The Effects of Progress: The lodge owner is working closely with the local tribe and creating something sustainable, educational, and exposing the locals to a western culture they would normally not see. He is also building a modern school for the local children – which in fact turned out to not to be a mud hut school and it was something I was glad to see. He also provides 10 full time jobs. He barters job skills such as fishing guide and nature guide, teaching them in exchange for them providing cheap services at the resort. If or when they choose to leave their village they will have better skills to get a real job.
We had all been ooing and awing over the good things Brett was doing for the tribal people. Then he told us one of the results his efforts that he has witnessed is that the village has one of the highest rates of alcoholism and malnutrition.
This is a house
Brett told us that has happened at the several similar projects he has done over the years. Some people do well and advance 6 generations in one leap while many others simply can’t make that adjustment and only become envious, jealous and hopeless about their own future.
While I hate that this depression/alcoholism/prostitution seems to be one of the constant outcomes of introducing modern life and education into a primitive environment, it seems even more wrong to deprive an entire community of an education and a chance to make choices and move forward to avoid this outcome. I am confident we should continue to do everything possible to give people opportunities to learn and achieve as much as possible. Obviously, Brett thinks it too – or he would not keep doing this kind of work.
John let me hold his big one for the picture!
Fishing the Zambezi: Nicely for John, morning activities consist mostly of him sleeping in and me reading. We decided to go fishing in one of the afternoons. John was rowed over to an open, flat sandy island where he practiced his Fly Fishing in waist deep water. Later the locals were all crowing him so “brave” for standing in the crocodile infested water for so long!
John fish with the Hippos
I’m pretty sure he was not even aware of any dangers although the Hippos just a hundred yards away should have been a clue. After he was all practiced up, we fished with spin casting reels from the canoes with a guide.
Carol got a nice one too!
The guide caught a few minnows on a bamboo rod and hook and let John cast and he caught two small Tiger Fish. He gave me the line and I caught a little one too. We gave all the fish to the guide to take home and cook for dinner, and he was grateful. Those Tiger Fish have nasty looking teeth! It was very agreeable to fish with the Hippo’s in a wooden canoe on the Zambezi River.
Sunsets: We came in to watch the beautiful sunset from the shore – and it was spectacular! I once again had to say my prayer of gratitude. I truly can’t believe I get to live this life – especially when I start some days pouting that I won’t be able to wear a pretty dress and fix my hair for a holiday. Nothing could have been nicer than that river bed, in my tee-shirt and ponytail celebrating a new year with some new friends and my husband.
Sunset with festive party hats
Purple sunsets most every night
The end of the Sunset Cruises
Happy New Year: Later, we play girls against the boys at Taboo and the girls won each game. As midnight got closer people started engaging in more public fun. Several men knew how to juggle balls of fire and others performed fire dances – which was interesting. Many of us brought fireworks that were better than you would think and then there was the stroke of midnight and a new year was here.
2013 Starts –
In the morning I was surprised to find several people had stayed up all night long. Most were old broken down alcoholic men, not a part of our group. Regardless of their fun – they were a still little obnoxious and we all avoided the bar area for the rest of the morning as they slowly dropped off one by one. This made our tiny world seem even a little bit smaller, but I was impressed with the amount of patience and acceptance everyone had with each other.
The Crap Sandwich is the last game: Eventually we all decided to play a card game called Crap Sandwich – and people liked the game. It was fun to play with 7 players at a time and everyone did play one or two games. We made the game last for the afternoon and then after dinner, with another awesome sunset in between.
We were on our third day here and faced with a choice of staying alone another night here while our friends all left or heading back to Livingstone for our last night. While this place is specially peaceful, Livingston was so alive and with so many choices (and there is so little of that in Africa so far) that we decide to go back for one last day. In the morning everyone was preparing for a trip home; most of them hitch hiking for the 12 or 14 hours, which is miserable. I am very happy we had booked a flight several months ago.
Victoria Falls: Since we had an extra day in Livingstone, I wanted to see the Falls from the Zimbabwe side, but it was US$30 for a Visa plus US$20 for the Park Fee’s so we settled for a walk on the free Zambian side.
Victoria Falls Bridge built 1905
Another great view
Right after the falls end
John at the Boiling Pot
It was beautiful. The Falls go on for about 2K and the river is beautiful on both sides of the Falls.
The park is very nice with safety fences and well groomed trails. Every spot seems like a great spot for a perfect picture, until you see the next one. We hiked down to the Boiling Pot which is the point past the falls that the water starts to flow like a river again. It wasn’t such a rager but it was beautiful and overall it was pleasant and cooling to dangle our feet in another part of the Zambezi River.
It started to rain and we got soaked. It was a little uncomfortable but the environment and the view were so incredible we never considered looking for shelter or turning back. We just walked all around the Falls and saw its worthiness of being called a wonder of the world. We were allowed to cross the Zimbabwe Bridge for free as long as we did not go into the country (past the guard gate and the guys with machine guns).
Watch these short Videos of Victoria Falls:
Monkeys at Victoria Falls 3.7 MB
Victoria Falls Bridge 1.9 MB
Victoria Falls 4.1 MB
There were some insane people bungee jumping off the huge bridge. The platform was just “hooked” over the railing and had duct tape on one of the joints and I just couldn’t see how anyone could overlook the widely reported story of the rope breaking last year. (The person lived to tell about it – but still!)
Bungee jumping of the duct taped platform
Back at the border where all the trucks wait for weeks to cross, there were baboons everywhere. There are so many monkeys it is sort of freaky.
Baboons are everywhere and share scraps with the dogs and cats
Another day ended with some sushi at a chain seafood place called The Ocean Basket and a big beautiful Chameleon outside our air conditioned hotel door.
A Chameleon outside our hotel room
Going Home: The Jungle Junction owner had given us some good advice about getting back through the border and enjoying a few hours in Kasane, Botswana, for much cheaper than we paid to get to Livingston. While in the relatively “functioning” city of Livingstone, we had quickly fallen back to a state of complacent expectations and had forgotten that nothing works right in Africa.
We got off to a late start waiting for the promised taxi, who then made us wait again for a long stop in a long line for gasoline. We were then stopped twice for road checks, and finally we got to the border and had to go through a lengthy exit immigration in Zambia and then take the slower free ferry. We were stopped as soon as we get off for another passport check and then to the immigration entry station in Botswana. Another very long wait. Now I see the value of paying the lodge $40 to pick us up at the airport and get us to the hotel which took 1 hour instead of 4 hours as the much cheaper return trip did.
Once we arrived in Kasane, we killed a few hours before our flight home at the Chobe Safari Lodge. The lodge is beautiful and situated right on the delta (an expansive and beautiful river system). We looked over the river and had a nice buffet and then walked the grounds. We saw lots of bandit mongoose, warthogs and huge lizards – right in the camping grounds – eating out of people’s pots and pans. I was glad to see such a luxury place also provide camping facilities and fun camping with lots of wildlife too – I will look into staying there if we go back there.
TONS of Bandit Mongooses!
Two giant lizards come close
A Mongoose and a family of Bushhogs in our camp
Two baby Bandit Mongooses (Mongeese?)
Finally we landed safely back in Gaborone Airport and now all we can think about is to pick up our cute cute little puppies!
I missed them the whole time