‘The Smoke That Thunders’

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Day 61: Kasane, Botswana-Livingstone, Zambia (7 November 2009)

More adventure around every corner right? Well, we found some of it this morning in our own thatched roof hut. We woke up and Mathew showered with no trouble and as I got out of my sleep sheet to head for a shower the power went off in our cottage. No worries, right. Well, after a few phone calls to reception we had our power back on even though I had already finished my shower by torch light…all par for the course; what’s a journey without a little adventure, right? Anyway, we got dressed and went to breakfast knowing that we had to pay our bills, but as we got to reception to pay they said that they had no power and we all had to pay by cash as their card machines wouldn’t work without power. We all managed to work it out between pula and US dollars and had some breakfast that not that I ate it, but was accompanied by peach jam-that was a new one for me (but I bet if I asked for it at Briermiere Farms in Riverhead it would be sitting right on one of their little shelves ready for purchase even though I‘d never noticed before)!

We waited for a few more people to return as they had been on a morning game drive and were on our way around 10am off to get our check out of Botswana stamp in our passports! We stopped just before the Botswanan border to spend the rest of our Pula. Mathew bought another peanut butter for us and we still had some Pula left, so when I saw three young boys without shoes walk into the store and look for something to buy with what they had my heart broke. I went back to find them and gave the the rest of the Pula we had to spend it on whatever they wanted. It wasn’t much, but I hoped it would help them. Well, we got through the Botswanan border fine and had to get on a ferry to cross the Chobe and Zambezi Rivers and get into Zambia. Now, what do you think of when you hear the word ferry?

Me, I see big boat that can take passengers and cars as I’ve so often been on the ferry that crosses the Long Island Sound and ends up in Connecticut…just goes to show you, boy was I wrong! Let me tell you what you should think when you hear the word ferry for the cross between Botswana and Zambia…basically a flatbed in the water where some people and one truck/bus at a time can get on, then a short ramp on each end lifts up so as not to get water on the platform and you head off on the short 8-10 minute ride across the narrowest part of the rivers meeting point. This was an experience! Now, apparently, the area we were crossing is where Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe all have meeting points. The governments of Botswana and Zambia wanted to build a ridge but when the Zimbabwean government (well, Mugabe himself) realized that a little of the bridge would be on Zimbabwean land, they wanted some of the money from the project but wouldn’t put any money towards it. When Mugabe was told no, he said that the other countries then couldn’t put a bridge over any part of his land and still today there is no bridge to get across because of his decision. Trucks line up for days, weeks sometimes months on either side of the ferry just to be able to get across with their good. Fortunately for us, the tourist vehicles are allowed entrance first but for the truckers that means just another day before they can get across to continue their work.

We got across quite quickly but as we reached the other side we had to wait. It took well over two hours to get across the border as there was some sort of problem with the documents for our coach. We all sat and waited under a tree in the shade. Some of us read, others watched the flow of people waiting for entrance and Ian, well, Ian continued his whittling. Did I tell you about the whittling? While we were in the delta many things transpired. We often found Dawn sitting on the front porch of her deluxe sized tent reading a book and she would tell us exactly what she was doing in her North Carolinian southern drawl and it would make us smile. And Ian, well, Ian took to taking his Leathermen (like a swiss army knife but bigger and better and issued by the airforce) to whittling. He had taken one little stick off of the ground and after requests from a few of us had started to whittle a giraffe. This whittling continued as we sat outside the Zambian border gates and eventually Gary the giraffe was born. Gary who was conceived in Botswana but came to life in Zambia became another guest on our journey and was given to me as a gift as you know he’ll become the ’flat Stanley’ of the rest of our trip…here’s Gary in this place and here’s Gary in the next. Look, we had a lot of time on our hands and Gary is what arose from that time!

Anyway, eventually we got back on our coach, got our Zambia stamps and were on our way. Mathew and I decided to get a double entry visa into Zambia as there was a possibility that at some point in our few days in Livingstone that we would want to enter Zimbabwe so the double entry would allow us to do just that. We arrived a bit later at the New Fairmont Hotel and Casino, dropped our stuff, checked out our room (which had free WIFI) and then were on our way to Victoria Falls or as it’s known in Zambia- ’the smoke that thunders’! One more world heritage site to check off of our list. We pulled up and you hear the sound first before you see the water as it tumbles over the edge of the rocks! It was an utterly amazing sight to see and Mathew’s face lit up when he saw those falls! He’s a sucker for any waterfall and this isn’t any waterfall! The water level is apparently lower at this time of year but beautiful either way and compliments of mother nature there was a gorgeous rainbow for us to see and just for extra fun a huge craft market when you leave the falls area. Apparently, the falls at this time of year is prettier from the Zimbabwe side so it’s a good thing that we got that double-entry visa into Zambia if we decide we want to see it from the other side. Some people chose to fly over the falls in a helicopter to get the view from the air, but we decided to keep our feet closely on the ground and see the falls that way!

Viewing the falls was just incredible. The rush of the water, the feel of the spray, the way the sunlight hit’s the edges and bounces off of the water and the rainbow that was just an added gift of nature was an unbelievable sight. Words don’t seem to do it justice. We walked around, jumped with our feet touching the water, balanced on some rocks that were far from the edge and traveled in awe around the rim drinking in the existence of these falls and trying to digest the magnitude of the magic we were witnessing. You could have stayed there for hours, even days and had a different view each time and let’s just say, thank goodness for digital cameras! We were both really thankful that this wouldn’t be our only visit to the falls on this trip as the time allotted just wasn’t enough for either of us. After our visit and a quick stop at Super Spar in a shopping center that actually had a SUBWAY in it, we went back to the hotel to get ready to have our final group dinner at the Indian restaurant in the hotel.

Dinner was fun-I had a vegetable biryiani which was really good and for the first time we were actually able to sit with Ian and Louise and Maria and Bernardo. We ate our dinner and as usual I tried to convince Ian to make something fly as he is an aeronautical engineer…he humored me this time with a paper airplane even though I asked him to make the table fly! At least it was something, right? We had a good laugh and after dinner and a whole bunch of photos we hung out at the bar/club for a bit chatting the night away with our new friends and eventually went to sleep. We are lucky enough to have a few more days in Livingstone while many others are leaving and heading back to reality tomorrow. Paul gave a nice speech at dinner recapping so much of what we had done for the past three weeks and all of us gladly thanked him and Karel for the wonderful trip we had and the incredible patience and understanding they provided all of us. It was certainly an interesting mix of people this trip. Some rubbed people the wrong way while others were as kind as could be and there to experience the journey and relish the little bumps along the way. What an experience we have had, that’s for sure, one we will certainly remember forever. Memories to look back on and not only say, well, we were there, but to savor the tastes, smells, sounds and experiences we had there that will last us a lifetime and even more. I remember landing in Capetown and as soon as we landed I’d said that I can’t wait to come back here and still at the end of over three weeks, I not only have the same thought but it is much stronger now, a pull even, something in your deepest soul that says you must return.

Tomorrow: another day in Livingstone!

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