Published: March 2nd 2009March 2nd 2009
Victoria Falls - Zambia
PnL at Vic Falls! Peter seems to have grown taller on this trip!
We arrived into Livingstone in the afternoon, on a hot, bright and sunny Sunday. We were delighted to find our accommodation close to the bus stop - always a bonus! We stayed at Jolly Boys Backpackers, where many a traveller stops for a visit to Victoria Falls. Since the price of a dorm was quite a bit more than camping, we decided to break out the new purchase (might as well right??) and found a shady little spot for our new home.
Jolly Boys offers a free lift to the Falls everyday, so we signed up for Monday's transfer and decided to go and explore the town. As usual, all was pretty quiet on a Sunday, we were hoping that ShopRite would be open so we could make full use of the kitchen at Jolly Boys and actually cook for ourselves. No such luck, but we knew in the course of our stay we would get to use the kitchen facilities and save ourselves a bit of cash in the mean time.
The following morning we were up bright and early to visit ShopRite so we could get a few breakfast items and some snacks for our trip to
PnLs'new house purchase
To save some money in the next few countries we bought a tent!
the falls. We were foiled once again - this time by a power outage that hit the town and kept almost every shop closed until it came back on. We managed to find some bread and some veggies on the street and vowed to visit ShopRite on our way back from the falls.
Victoria Falls was named by David Livingstone in 1855. When he first saw the falls he wrote in his journal: "on sights as beautiful as this, angels in their flight must have gazed". He proceeded to name the falls after the Queen of England. In the local language the falls are called 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' which loosely translates to "The Smoke That Thunders".
The site of the Falls is quite a sight to behold. The road into the parking lot is lined with craft stalls that are very eager to sell you something, anything. We were warned in advance to bring raincoats and plastic bags to protect the camera and anything valuable we might have with us. We were told: "You will get wet!" The Victoria Falls World Heritage National Monument Site (whew - that's a mouthful!) is a wonderful network of pathways and viewpoints that meander
Our first view of the falls.
through the dense vegetation. There are enough different paths to follow that we hardly ever saw other people in the whole time we were there, which was a nice surprise. The highlight has to be crossing the footbridge to the Knife Edge. You are essentially walking through the falls, at least it feels that way because you get completely drenched with the spray and can no longer see the blue sky and the sun whilst on the bridge. It was fantastic! We were very glad that it was a warm day as we got completely drenched (even with our raincoats) and were able to dry off in the sun. We also took a walk down a steep trail to the banks of the Zambezi to view the "Boiling Pot" which is a great swirling mass of water that is coming from the falls and turning a sharp corner to continue on it's route. It was quite an interesting walk as you have to walk through parts of the river (side streams) and the directional signs end quite abruptly (coincidentally this is where the "guide" comes out of the bushes to "assist you for a small fee"). We managed to shrug
After crossing the bridge through the mist.
the guide off and found the site on our own (after a few errors) and would have liked to sit and enjoy our lunch there, but the massive baboon troupes that we met on our way persuaded us to keep our lunch for later. They are not at all afraid of humans and although it was a little disconcerting to pass one on the path, they really paid no mind to us at all.
We spent the better part of the day at the falls and enjoyed the many pathways and viewpoints and took far too many photos of the falls! When we were leaving we decided to visit the craft stalls and as soon as they found out we were Canadian they all wanted to trade for a Canadian pin or badge. Unfortunately we didn't have anything with us (knowing it would get wet!) and so we didn't get to take any of the sellers up on their offer. I remember my friend Cindy saying she traded some items for souvenirs here, but we only remembered that once we were there!
Livingstone is the adrenalin capital of Zambia and every kind of activity is available for every
Peter on the bridge in the mist!
kind of personality. While we would have loved to raft the Zambezi, or take a microflight over the falls, we decided to save our money for other activities that we knew were coming up, such as the Okavango Delta in Botswana and the Dunes in Namibia.
On the day we left, we chose to take the afternoon departure (instead of 5 am) as our trip should only have taken us 3 to 4 hours to get to Kasane, Botswana. We're not entirely sure what happened to us, but we ignored the signs that indicated we had come to the border and stayed on the bus (I really don't know what we were thinking!). When we reached the next stop an hour later, we got off the bus and the face of our young conductor told us we were not at the right place. His eyes were big and he kept saying "oh no - you're still on the bus!! Big problem, big problem". Oops. In the end, we found out that our stop was indeed an hour ago and there was not much hope in us getting back there, even by hitching. The other issue was that the border
View toward the bridge that crosses into Zimbabwe.
closes at 6 pm and there were no guarantees would make it in time. A few of the gentlemen on the bus discussed our options with the driver and conductor and decided if we had the time, we were best to stay with the bus until the end of the line in Sesheke, stay over night and then take the same bus back toward the border in the morning. Well, what could we say? It was really our own fault for not getting off the bus, so we couldn't be angry about it and the bus folks were very kind to us. So off we went to Sesheke and visited a corner of Zambia we would never have normally seen! The bus company actually put us up in a guesthouse for the night and made sure that we were on the bus the next morning. The young conductor, Antony, was very helpful in giving us tips for crossing the border and also transport on the Botswana side. He felt responsible for our blunder, and as much as we tried to reassure him it was not his fault, he wouldn't hear any of it and took personal care of all our
Yet another view of the falls!
details. Even though we were in Zambia for an extra day, it was an experience we wouldn't trade for anything.
The border crossing between Zambia and Botswana is a small vehicle ferry that crosses the Zambezi River. This is where the Chobe River joins the Zambezi before it hits the falls. Once again, we were treated to easy border crossings and pleasant border officials. Since we are starting to run out of pages in our passports, the border guards at both posts happily stamped in small corners for us so we can save a few pages! Very kind of them!
Kasane is the small gateway town to Chobe National Park. We found ourselves at the Chobe Safari Lodge, since it was listed in the Lonely Planet as having camp sites. When we walked in past the security and up to the reception desk we were sure we were in the wrong place! There was no way we would be able to afford this! However, yes, they have campsites at the back end of their resort and for a lot less than a room we could stay and take advantage of the lodges amenities. Suited us just fine! It
Baboons going about their daily grooming on the trail. Look for the baby nursing in the middle of the pic.
turns out that the camp sites are situated right on the Chobe River and back onto the border fence of Chobe National Park. We were treated to monkeys, hippos, warthogs, a monitor lizard and a variety of birds before we even set up our tent! Fantastic! We were very happy to be camping as we got to listen to the hippos snorting, grunting and splashing all night, heard the birds of the night and early morning and had perfect solitude in our little tent by the river. We were able to join a Chobe Game Drive and a Chobe River Cruise offered by the lodge and by doing both on the same day we made the most of our daily park entrance fee (still budget travellers through and through!). It is the wet season now in northern Botswana and therefore not the best time of year for animal spotting in Chobe. We did see impala, baboons, zebras, warthogs, dung beetles, hippos, the rare Puku antelope, kudu, a lioness (she was hunting impala, but gave up when they sounded the alarm) and a great variety of bird life. We had seen elephants in the distance and knew we would see them
This baboon was watching us intently as we climbed back up from the Boiling Pot.
closer on the river cruise as they come down to the river to drink.
The late afternoon river cruise was a nice way to see the wildlife and bird life on the river. We got very close to hippos and crocodiles and again saw an amazing array of birds. The elephants, kudu and impala were down for an afternoon drink.
The following day we set out (too early for our liking, we had to be up at 4 am to pack the tent away! YUCK!) to a town called Gweta, on the way to Maun. We had heard that from Gweta, the lodges will arrange tours into the salt pans and we were intrigued by what this might involve. We picked one of the lodges that is a few kilometers outside of Gweta, but close to the main road and has camping, called Planet Baobab. The Lonely Planet calls it the most bizarre lodge in Botswana, but we found it to be anything but bizarre. The campsites are well maintained, there are spotless toilets and showers, and a scullery area (for washing dishes and clothes), a fabulous bar and good food in the restaurant and the best part
Ferry From Zambia to Botswana
Ferry crossing the Zambezi River, which marks the border between Zambia and Botswana.
is the large pool! It is very much in line with nature and has a lovely feel. The staff are incredibly friendly and helpful and our tour of the Ntwetwe Salt Pan was awesome. We would highly recommend anyone passing through this area stay here - the bus drivers all know it as "Baobab" and the giant concrete Aardvark at the entrance is good landmark!
We signed up for a day tour of the Ntwetwe Salt Pan and were delighted to find out that we would also be looking for meercats! Our day started with a drive to a giant baobab tree that is called Chapman's Baobab, or the Seven Sisters (because it has seven giant trunks). This enormous trees is estimated to be between 5,000 and 7,000 years old. The baobabs are truly incredible trees and this is the first time that we have been so close to so many that are so large. After a picnic breakfast we headed off in search of the meercats. We found them enjoying their breakfast of termites and ants. They are not afraid of humans at all and were not at all bothered with us watching them scratch for their food.
Chobe Safari Lodge
After we pitched our tent we saw this sign - YIKES!
We took a ton of photos (of course!) and loved watch them bicker over the best spot to eat. I really wanted to put one of the little ones in my pocket, but Peter convinced me they would be happier to stay where they are.
From the Meercats we headed to the Ntwetwe Salt Pan. This desolate landscape is surreal. I asked the guide about the water in the distance and he chuckled as he told me that it was a mirage, there is no water on the pan. Oops! The pan was originally part of a 'super lake' that was formed by 4 rivers flowing into the area. This was millions of years ago. Then as the tectonic plates started shifting, the rivers began taking new paths. Finally earthquakes changed the landscape and the flow of the rivers to what is in place today and the 'super lake' slowly dried up and we are left with this incredible pan. The pan is rich in salt and other minerals and is also surprisingly rich in stone-age tools. This was due to the flow of the rivers bringing all these materials into the super lake and then as it dried
Chobe Safari Lodge
Lots of vervet monkeys at the lodge, this one sat still long enough for us to snap a pic.
up, all the residue was left. It was a great experience to see this surreal landscape.
We decided to stay another day at Baobab and just relax and enjoy the solitude (and the pool!) before making the trek to Maun and the Okavango Delta.
Until next time,
Laini and Peter
There are more photos below