Published: December 2nd 2007November 9th 2007
After our mammoth three day Lusaka - Kitwe - Lusaka - Livingstone tour we finally arrived at Jollyboys backpackers in Livingstone. Very relieved to not be on a bus and very happy to arrive at such a fab hostel - which couldn't have been more of a contrast to the place in Lusaka.
Livingstone is the base for visiting Victoria Falls on the Zambian side. Next morning we headed out to the falls. It's the tail end of the dry season and we had been warned that there wasn't a lot of water on the Zambian side. Apparently the Zimbabwean side still has more and is more spectacular, but for us Brits the Zim visa is USD65 and we weren't about to cough up that just to see some more water.
In full spate the falls are about 1700m wide and over 100m high. The curtain of water falls into a narrow gorge rather than an open pool. On the Zam side there's basically a series of viewpoints looking out across the gorge at the falls - but in the dry season the 'Smoke that thunders' is more like the 'Mist that gurgles' and the "curtain" of water is
a few small trickles. Nevertheless, the view along the gorge towards the Zim side (where you can see one end of the larger falls and get a hint of the spectacle from the thunder and spray), and the view down into the gorge (where the whitewater rafting goes from) is impressive. For the rest though we just had to use our imagination for what it must look like with about 9000 cubic metres of water going over every second in the wet season.
One advantage of visiting in the dry season though is that you can visit Livingstone Island which is apparently where Livingstone first saw the falls from and supposedly blurted something about angels. Personally we think he probably said something along the lines of 'Blimey. Thats a lot of water'. Getting to the island involves walking along the lip of the falls to one of the larger islets that sits in the middle of the river. In the wet season the route you walk would be several metres deep in water; in the dry season it's mostly rock and a few pools that you just have to hop across and a couple of smaller falls. All the
From the other side
and this is the dry season...
That's Adam's arm on the right hand side
same, a bit nerve wracking when a slip would send you into the small (slippery) channel of water headed for the edge....
The attraction of Livingstone Island is not the island itself but the "Devil's Pool" nearby. This is a small pool right on the top lip of the falls that you can swim in. You have to swim across some open water to get to it - you get in well upstream so the current doesn't pull you too close to the edge before you reach the other side - the current is surprisingly strong but you are never in any danger of going although Marianne was a bit of a scaredy-cat.
Rocks form a natural wall at the edge, so you can get into the pool and not worry (too much) about getting swept over the edge. You can crawl onto the wall and peer down after the water as it tumbles over the drop. Slightly worrying (for Marianne anyway) is that the wall does have an end - if you go too far to the right hand side you run out of wall and there's nothing between you and a rather large drop. When the
just don't go too far over to the right, and DON'T TELL HIS MUM!
guide told us "you can jump in if you like, just don't go too far that way" it was entirely predictable that while the boys jumped in cannonball style, Marianne inched down the bank very carefully. Definitely one of those things you tell your Mum about AFTER you've done it.
The curio and carving stalls near the falls are pretty much the same in terms of what they were selling as we had seen before but with the sellers really really keen on trading for clothes. That we were wearing. Adam got asked to trade his shorts about 10 times, and a guy we had met at Jollyboys had managed to get a couple of masks and some carvings for his socks and a couple of dollars. Bargain.
Anyhow, we chilled at Livingstone for a couple of days before heading for the Botswanan border.
Before leaving we picked up another passenger for the Nissan (it had been far too spacious since we dropped off Nadav) - Colin, half French and half American, on holiday from his work in the Congo. Colin had taken on the mighty Zambezi in a kayak and, well, lost. During some incident or
A Red Roman.
Not a Spider but a kind of ant we think? Either way the ugliest thing either of us has ever seen!
other, the current had caught his paddle, and when he failed to let go it dislocated his shoulder. Apparently it took several attempts and a lot of screaming to get it back in. The "relocation" had to be carried out by a rather attractive nurse in his kayaking group (so he says but he could have been hallucinating from the pain), while balanced on a rock in the river, with several other kayaking friends holding him down or pulling. Ow. Anyway, Colin was duly strapped up in a sling and (the kayaking part of the trip being over for him) came along with us into Botswana for his first taste of safari.
The Zambia - Botswana border is formed by the Zambezi. You get a ferry across it. Almost immediately on the other side is Chobe National Park, one of the most famous game parks in Southern Africa. We stopped off there. Chobe's main attraction is the area bordering the riverfront. It's a bit tourist central and there are a lot of overland trucks. But hey, if you can't beat 'em join 'em. So we duly piled on the boat safari along the Chobe river front. Only thing we
were missing was the large coolbox full of beers, cider and South African wine. But despite our snobbery it was quite nice. Seeing things from the river gives you a different perspective - we got closer to hippos than we have done on land (for obvious reasons) - and saw elephants swimming, using their trunks as snorkels. We also saw lions eating an elephant calf. It was the first time this trip we saw any of the big game with a kill. The calf had been killed the day before and the group we assume it came from were hanging around nearby - at one point one of the adult elephants charged the lions and checked on the baby elephant - definitely dead and now half eaten. The sunset was also pretty spectacular.
The following day we drove ourselves in the park for a few hours. The lions were still feeding and in the car we could get quite close. We got rather too close for comfort to a young elephant that was hidden in the bushes - we unwittingly got between it and the rest of the herd so it trumpeted and ran. And saw some hyenas resting
in the shade of a tree, quite close up.
And that was it - later that day we dropped Colin off (he was headed back to Livingstone) and we headed South again through the very dry and very flat Botswanan landscape.
There are more photos below