Tag Archives: Zambia

Views from the Edge-the two sides of Victoria Falls

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Views from the Edge-the two sides of Victoria Falls

‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’ were the words uttered by explorer Henry Stanley in 1871 upon finally finding the first medical missionary of African exploration. (BBC) (eyewitnesstohistory) Referenced often, I had seen Livingstone as a traveler and pioneer, never as a place in which I’d experience an adrenaline rush unlike any other before in my life.

Known to locals as Mosi-oa-tunya, or ‘the smoke that thunders’, Victoria Falls delights all senses. Bordering Zambia and Zimbabwe, this natural wonder of the world is over 1700 meters wide and descends over 100 meters into the Zambezi gorge. Considered ‘the biggest curtain of water in the world’ (discoveryuk), the water’s strength is ubiquitous while its spray alights the air. (places)

In October 2009, my husband and I had just concluded a three-week G Adventures tour of southern Africa and had a few days to spend in Livingstone, Zambia. The falls called to us. Knowing only it’s mammoth size, endless supply of rainbows and something called Devil’s Pool; we went in search of adventure and found an experience forever etched in our memory. Read the rest of this entry

Intrepid begins!

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Day 64: Livingstone, Zambia (10 November 2009)

We were certainly well rested this morning when we awoke realizing that although yesterday’s events seemed like a dream they were complete reality and we felt so very lucky to be able to have that reality as a part of our lives. We got dressed and went to breakfast (as it was included in our room) and were shocked to see Panos, our friendly Cypress-born radiologist sitting in the restaurant in front of us. He wasn’t supposed to be there, his tour left days ago to go into the Caprivi strip of Namibia and they would then basically be two days behind us on our new tour even though we were staying in different places, it was the same gist of locations. Get this, because he is a Cypress citizen he has a Cypress and a Greek passport and depending on the country he could use either to get in. He got all the way to the Caprivi Strip of Namibia and couldn’t get into the country due to some small snag of the visas on his passport. It seemed very confusing but GAP Adventures covers themselves very well and basically says that you must take care of all of that paperwork before arrival and if there are snags in it they are not responsible. So, he had to take a taxi and a public bus all the way back to Livingstone and then he had to figure out how to get to Maun four days later to reconnect with the tour. Luckily, Constance was great and got him a room and was going to help him to get to Maun and we never found out the specifics, but Panos had been traveling for a full two years and all of the detail of the stories he’d told led us to believe that he was loaded, so he knew that if he had to hire a private plane to get to Botswana he could do that too. How crazy is that, right?!

Anyway, we ate with our friend and wandered to the craft market with him and let him know when we were planning on leaving so we could say goodbye (again) and we were off to do some shopping! We knew we still had one more time to go to the Vic Falls craft market as we were to go there on our new tour tonight but we still wanted to check out this one, too. We only bought a bit of artwork and then headed back to the hotel to pack, check out and find our way to our next venue. We said goodbye to Panos who helped us bring our luggage to the front of the hotel, checked out and thanked Constance and her assistant as they had ordered a car to take us to the Zambezi Waterfront Campsite free of charge which made our lives so much easier as the driver would already know where to go and we didn’t have to come up with the cash. Did we tell you about the cash here? The money is called Qwatcha and it’s all very old and very dirty bills. What would be equivalent to a 10 US dollar taxi would be about 400,000 Qwatcha. It’s almost ridiculous to figure out the money. And, it’s funny as most countries in Africa seem to accept other country’s currencies, but no one will accept the Qwatcha; you can only use it in Zambia. On the other hand, no one at all will use Zimbabwean currency as it’s leader is basically printing money so it’s value is worthless. We bought at the Zambian craft market a set of Zimbabwean bills for the princely sum of 5 US dollars and we got, 10 million, 20 million, 50 billion, 100 billion and 100 trillion dollar notes. It’s great to feel like a king with them in your pocket but all combined you couldn’t even by bread!

Anyway, we made it to the campsite after a short drive and it was really pretty, right on the banks of the Zambezi River. We met our tour leaders, Yohan and Jerrit and our driver, Colin who were all South Africans. Surprisingly, it wound up that there were only five people on this tour as it was also a leg of a larger tour. Five people, including us! There was a girl Linda from New Zealand who had just finished another Intrepid camping trip from Nairobi, Kenya through the Serrengetti and two Irish guys (Simon and Colm) from Dairy, who were in Africa for their first time and then they were going to Dubai for a few days. The five of us in a truck that could seat about 15 with no airconditioning, big giant windows, a few eskies, power points in the back and a good sound system with comfortable seats.

We met everyone (not that that was hard), pitched our tents and used the internet and paid for a sunset dinner cruise for the evening on the Chobe River. It was a lovely boat ride and dinner was good and once again we were able to get beautiful African sunset photos. I really don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like them and I’ve seen my fair share of beautiful sunsets, but these are really just out of this world every night! We hung out for a bit after dinner trying to keep the mossies away and then hit the ablution box. Unfortunately the placement of tonight’s tents weren’t too close to stuff so I was really uncomfortable going anywhere much so in the tent we stayed for the night…monkeys were outside and we were inside, safe in our tent under the African night sky.

Tomorrow: Botswana again!

Livin’ on the edge/A walk on the wild side!

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Day 63: Livingstone, Zambia (9 November 2009)

It was five o’clock in the morning when we got up this morning as we were being picked up by a man named Daniel to go on an adventure to walk with the lions and the cheetahs of Zambia. Incredible, right? Even writing the sentence and saying the words it’s hard to believe that it actually happened that this is what we did today. Hope you’re ready for it because it’s one for the record books, well, for us it certainly is!

We got to the BIG FIVE EXPERIENCE before 6:30 and sat with a few Kiwis and a girl from Chicago who were on a 50 something day camping tour and chose to do this option and we had some tea and coffee and signed our lives away. We watched a video of what we were about to do and had to pinch ourselves that this was real. First, we were given walking sticks to use if the lions got too feisty and looked right at us. Yeah, because a little wooden stick was going to save us from the mouths of babes..well, these were no ordinary babes! We were taken with many handlers to see four lion cubs and with our walking sticks at hand we were able to get right down beside them and pet them. No joke…petting a lion! And these were no cowardly lions I assure you! We walked beside them, held their tails and more or less became one with the lions! I mean I actually held the tail of a lion as it walked, the tail, really! It was incredible! I think I held my breath almost the entire time! One of the handlers took my camera and just kept snapping and snapping photos even as close as the inside of their mouths when they opened them…just plain crazy that’s for sure!

After this mind-blowing experience we got to see the older lions in a gated fenced in area and then the next ridiculousness of the day came. There was a large enclosure with five cheetahs in it and we were going to go inside it and pet them. Yup, you heard right…cheetahs. Big orange spotted cats with sharp teeth that could spring for kilometers and run faster than a speeding bullet! There were four cats seated where we were (another was over relaxing far away from us so we didn’t pay much attention-but yes, there was a large cat somewhere behind us) and we could pet them. One of the four just sneered right at you and wanted nothing to do with us so we left him alone. You were supposed to go right up to them (no sticks this time) and pet them and rub their bellies as if they were puppies…and in perfect puppy fashion they licked you! Yes, no joke, licked by a cheetah! I think both of us held our breaths the whole time it was incredible. Their tongues were rough like sand paper (good exfoliator for the sunny day we were having) and let me tell you that holding your breath from total fear and trying to smile at the same time is not an easy task at all! The pictures are unbelievable and the experience is out of this world! Totally and completely scary but amazing at the same time.

After agreeing to buy the video-because seriously, who does this in their lifetime, we left the big five experience and were driven over to the Royal Livingstone five star hotel. The Big Five was just amazing and so nice to know that they are really a conservation sight and help to raise these lion cubs but when they get large enough they are brought over to reserves to roam freely as they are taught more how to be in the wild. What a day and it was not even 9:30 in the morning yet.

The Royal Livingstone Hotel…now this is a place to holiday! White glove service all the way for Dr. Livingstone, I presume! We wandered to the back and hopped into a small boat for a short boat ride over to Livingstone Island which was a small island first set foot on by Dr. David Livingstone as he talked about the views of angels when he first laid eyes on Victoria Falls. The boat docked and we were told to follow a guide (David). He took us past a changing room of palm trees and bamboo where we put on our bathers and next to it was a bathroom made out of the same materials titled ‘a loo with a view’. Then we walked over many large rocks where we saw other people’s clothing and belongings and we left ours in the same place. We then met another guide who would accompany us out to Devil’s Pool. So, if you don’t know what this is, devil’s pool is a small pool of natural water created solely by rock formations on the edge of Victoria Falls. Our guide took my camera and held it in the air and swam with it across a small area from the rocks where our clothes lay to another group of rocks and we were to swim and follow him across, so we did. Now, we were on top of a group of rocks with a small pool in front of us, a few rocks in front of that and there was the edge, the actual edge of Victoria Falls! Crazy! We watched a group of travellers in front of us do it and they smiled and lived…so we were here right, might as well! Our photographer had our camera as he had already taken many photos of us on the edge in our clothing he was now ready to take them of us jumping to what could considerably be our death, but they seemed to assure us we’d be fine. The photographer was on the rocks on the left, the cliff edge was in front of us with another guide standing atop it to catch our hands if necessary and we were atop a huge rock ready to jump into a pool of water and hoping not to fall over the edge. The man with the camera says jump and insanely…you jump! We did it! WHAT A RUSH! We jumped and we lived…Mathew was on the end and just grabbed the good side of the rock as the other side would have plummeted him over the side. It was out of this world! After you jumped you could sit on the edge and lean backwards to literally see the falls rushing over the side and as you sit with the photographer snapping away there are little fish nibbling at your toes. Trying to keep the fish away, while smiling and not falling over the edge…now there’s a sight! Now these guys truly live on the edge every day!

We were even luckier as mother nature gifted us with double rainbows in the falls that day! We tried to steady our breathing enough to swim back across to where our clothes were and pick up a towel and get dressed all the while shaking in disbelief at what we just did! What an incredibly magical moment for the both of us! We had come across the paths of so many people in our travels who said if you’re going to Livingstone don’t miss Devil’s Pool and this is one of those times I’m so very glad we listened! After our breathing slowed and we were able to get dressed, we found our way over to a beautifully decorated canopied table with white glove service. The other jumpers were there with a few others who were just guests for breakfast. We ate eggs benedict on a scone with hollandaise sauce and tea/coffee and an extra scone (for good luck which we needed awhile ago). It was a lovely morning tea (or as Ian and Louise-our British friends-would have called it elevenses-since you have it around 11) and after signing the guest book we were on our way back to the boat.

We were driven by boat off of the island and after a short ride arrived at the docks. After walking past the monkeys, some carrying babies, we wandered past the beautiful pool to the gorgeous five star hotel of the Royal Livingstone which is absolutely huge! Manicured lawns, impeccable service, cool wildlife and beautiful people. We wandered in and out of the fancy gift shop, used the five star facilities which were completely bug-free and were off and running again for more endless adventure on one of our most memorable days!

We hopped in the free shuttle from the Royal Livingstone to the three star Zambezi Sun hotel where you can walk right through a small game park with Zebras straight up to the back entrance to the Victoria Falls craft market and into the Zambia border patrol post. At the border we got our passports happily stamped to exit Zambia (knowing that we already had the double entry visa to return) and we walked ourselves over a bridge and down a street and straight into Zimbabwe! How cool is that! And we thought walking into Namibia was neat, but Zimbabwe…amazing! We filled out some paperwork, paid some money, got a stamp and added Zimbabwe to our list of countries-Zimbabwe…CHECK!

We walked about 10 meters or so and found our way into the Victoria Falls entrance on the Zimbabwean side and were so glad that we did as the sound and the spray that we were looking for was totally there! It was awesome! The whoosh of the water as it tumbled over the rocks can be heard from kilometers away and the spray made me once again so glad that I had lasik surgery done as even my sunglasses were covered in water when we were many meters away from the edge. It was the sight only seen on photographs before this and just what you think Victoria Falls should look like…talk about not disappointing! We managed to call the hotel and arrange to get picked up a bit later by the driver so we had some more time to run, jump and play at the falls as it took a good 45 minutes to just walk across the bridge to Zim.

Over an hour later we had made our way out of the falls (with a pair of Green Zambezi shorts for the hubs). We walked over the bridge in the boiling hot sun where it melted the bottom of my thongs from the heat of road and sunburned the part of my hair that held my braids and the backs of our shoulders where our singlets didn’t cover and finally made it back across the Zambian border and waited in the increasing heat for our ride to appear. When Daniel was over 30 minutes late we called Constance back at the hotel with the phone number that was written on the key and she arranged for a driver and car to pick us up and bring us back to the hotel free of charge, which was great! As we waited I ran through the sprinklers fully clothed just to stop my body from overheating as quickly as I felt it was doing. Our driver showed and safely got us back to the hotel where we jacked up the aircon and drank our weight in water! We tried to rehydrate and recouperate from such a daunting day, hand washed a bit of laundry and grabbed a taxi up to Subway for dinner!

We were overjoyed to see a Subway (as we hadn’t seen any really since Capetown) and sadly it just wasn’t the best sandwich in the world, but it was still Subway so that was nice and nothing could ruin any part of this day. We grabbed a taxi back to the shoprite and then went to the minimart for some water and then walked ourselves back to the hotel. We were surprised that when we got back to the room some of our laundry was gone; but shortly our room attendant came to the room to tell us that he saw some of the stuff was really wet and took it to put it in the dryer for us free of charge which was so very nice of him. We had chatted to him before as the first day we were there we had a leaky aircon unit so he took care of that for us and when we did our laundry last time he made sure the laundry attendant brought the clothes back straight away to the room. The staff at the hotel was really wonderful, which was even nicer to know now that we were there on our own without a tour manager anywhere in sight. Well, with a day of insane feats behind us, we hung out a bit, caught our breath, checked some emails and were finally able to rest our weary heads.

Tomorrow: Intrepid Tour begins!

a day of rest before more crazy stuff!

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Day 62: Livingstone, Zambia (8 November 2009)

We got up extra early this morning to see the others off. The tour officially ends after breakfast but we weren’t sure when or if we’d be able to catch up with anyone later as all of the flights were leaving at different times. The others who flew over Victoria Falls didn’t see the falls from the ground level so Paul and Karel offered to drive them there around 8am so we got up to say goodbye and see them off. We said our goodbyes (hoping to in the future meet up with Ian and Louise in Africa or somewhere else in the world) and then came back to the room to get a bit more sleep.

We got up and headed out to check out the Livingstone craft market that was a stone’s throw from our hotel and then had a quick lunch or lunchish as it was at Wonderbake (suggested by Paul). We each had some semblance of a pie and sat with Daniel and David who were doing the same thing before they were to leave the next day and then we went back to the hotel for some laundry and a quick relax before dinner. We had decided to join Paul with his new recruits for the next leg of the tour for dinner and we brought Maria and Bernardo and Daniel and David and Gayle (oy) with us as they had an extra night here as well. Panos and Dawn were going to be there too as they were doing the 52 day tour from Capetown to Capetown. Dinner was at another Indian styled restaurant called Armadillo (right outside of the hotel) and we got to meet some of the new people who would accompany Panos and Dawn for the next few days from Vic Falls to Jo’burg. It was nice to have a catch up chat with Daniel and David and Maria and Bernardo to get a feel of what everyone thought of about our tour and of course their thoughts of some of the people on it as well and just enjoy another meal together as we had one more full day on our own before we caught our next tour.

We came back from dinner, said our goodbyes and called it an early night as tomorrow was a big day for us and we hadn’t had one in awhile. We call it a ‘contiki’ day as we know it’s jam-packed but all of the exhaustion on the other end would be completely worthwhile. We went to sleep dreaming of wildlife and nature for tomorrow’s adventure!

Tomorrow: we walk with lions, jump in devil’s pool and head off to Zim!

‘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?

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