Zambia part 2 - Lower Zambezi and Victoria Falls

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May 11th 2018
Published: May 17th 2018
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We departed South Luangwa after a fantastic couple of days. Caprice was ready for her next drive ! We were headed for the Lower Zambezi National Park, South Zambia, via the Great East Road. Sadly, on the morning we were due to leave, Phil announced he would be leaving the group..he wanted more time in South Luangwa. So we bid him farewell! (The running joke from then on was 'Where's Phil ? STILL in South Luangwa!') We spent most of the truck journey chatting away on our table seats, munching on lays crisps and reflecting on our experiences with the lions ! Young Meg, the psychology student, was not feeling well - she felt feverish and had an upset stomach. We encouraged her to drink fluids and take paracetamol. She didn't have a temperature but the possibility of malaria was at the back of our minds. We kept beady eyes on her throughout that day. However by the time we arrived at our campsite at Luangwa Bridge later that afternoon, she was no better. So Masumi, Hannah and I took Meg to the local clinic. She was seen by a nurse and had a clinical assessment and observations taken. She did not have a temperature, which was a good sign. She also had a malaria blood test which was negative, thankfully. The nurse recommended fluids, paracetamol and to continue taking anti-malarials (Meg had not taken these for the last few days. Nor had she been using her bug spray! The nurse had stern words!) We returned to the bridge camp to enjoy the gorgeous facilities - hot water showers in stone huts with little windows overlooking the Luangwa River. Hot water is surprisingly welcome in South Eastern Africa- it's gets to a cool 16-18 degrees at night, so there's nothing like a hot shower to warm you up before camping for the night. We then wandered up to the bar which was set high up overlooking the camp and river. On the opposite side of the bank was Mozambique - a glimpse of things to come! We had beers and played Jenga whilst admiring the stunning view. And then the most delightful creature joined us - a dancing green mantis! Ok so it was a green mantis, who decided he would like to get involved in the party. We had a bit of the Doobie Brothers 'Listen to the music' in the background and Mr Green Mantis decided to give us a bit of a dancing performance ! See video for the performance in real life... 😊 Our evening finished with another stunning creation of Ronald's - lentil spaghetti Bolognese, fresh garlic bread washed down with some beers and then we all fairly swiftly collapsed into our tents !

The next morning, we continued our journey to Lower Zambezi National Park. It was a long day of driving but we broke up the drive with a stop in Lusaka, Zambia's capital. Lusaka was the most westernized place we had seen in a number of days - large shopping malls and fast food restaurants. We did a bit of shopping
(yayyyy for the dairy milk section in the supermarket!! I love ex-British countries!) and had lunch at Nando's (I had a Greek salad and corn on the cob, in case you were wondering). We even got take away coffees to take on Caprice for the remainder of the journey. In the late afternoon we arrived at Breezers Camp in the beautiful Lower Zambezi National Park. We all set up camp and then Hannah and I went to do a photo shoot by the amazing Zambezi river. Photo shoots were becoming a bit of a habit of ours ! We took some great snaps. The hippos even egged us on with various tones of grunts. There was a little pool in the campsite overlooking the river which a few of us chilled in as the sun was setting. Then Ronald announced dinner.. This was perhaps the best one yet - veggie curry, rice and homemade chapatis. The chapatis were maybe some of the best I've eaten - all floury and greasy - soaking up the delicious spicy curry sauce. Boy, the man could cook !

The next morning, we prepared to set off on our .... TWO DAY CANOE SAFARI. SO EXCITING. Couldn't contain my actual excitement. So much so I couldn't even concentrate when packing. High up on the list of 'important things to bring' was, of course, the old factor 50, bug spray and the gopro! Ronald also needed us to help him pack the cooker, food, cool box (beers) gas, tents etc - this would be a fully self sufficient canoe trip, and all this gear would be carried in our canoes! We were super efficient and managed
Me and Carlos Me and Carlos Me and Carlos

(Seb and Meghan in the background)
to get everything packed into the canoes by 8am. We had a quick breakfast and met our 2 lovely guides for the trip - much needed to help guide us around pods of hippos and crocs ! Getting into a canoe is one of those things you don't want people to watch you doing - the skill of managing not to capsize the canoe whilst also looking graceful is a difficult one to master ...and as the canoe partner of one of the guides, Carlos, I wanted to show off my best canoe-manouvering skills. I luckily managed not capsize the canoe when getting in ...not sure how graceful I looked though..hmmmm..anyway off we went !

One of the first things I noticed was how clear the clouds were - how you could see them changing with every second - all cool formations and different degrees of flufiness (is that a word?) And how nice and calming and relaxing it was just to be able to sit back in the canoe and marvel at the beautiful sky....Anyway I tore myself away - this was supposed to be an animal safari, not a cloud safari. Within minutes, we were drifting past pods of hippos. They are SO cute (from the safety of a canoe anyway ...) When they hear the canoes coming, their little ears and eyes and the top part of their snouts pop out of the surface of the water, to enquire what all the commotion is about ? They are so curious. Then after a few seconds they quickly pop under the water again where they feel safer in the comfort of depths of the Zambezi! One of the local hippos was called Bob. True story. I was lucky to be sharing a canoe with the guide Carlos - he was able to point out all the cool wildlife as we bobbed down the river. Examples of such cool wildlife (Mum, don't read this bit) included hippos, as already mentioned, crocodiles, (Mum, you can carry on reading now) Egyptian geese, Goliath heron, African fish eagles, cattle ignets, white-fronted bee eaters, blue-cheeked bee eaters, pied wagtails, water dikkops and vervet (aka blue balled, because they actually have blue balls) monkeys. Towards midday we stopped off at a shady little island in the middle of the river, for a siesta, then lunch - a wholesome pasta salad with boiled eggs followed by fresh water melon - followed by another siesta. Yes, that was 2 siestas. Much needed in the heat of the midday sun. Of course. The temperature was about 33 degrees in case you were wondering. Our second canoe session of the day involved more lazy drifting (lazy on my part because Carlos did most of the paddling whilst I continued to look at the clouds ...I mean monkeys) I say drifting because we were canoeing downstream. The force of the Zambezi is such that you don't have to put in much work in order to move several metres! We arrived at another little island later in the afternoon and set up camp there for the night. We had a nice dip on the bank of the river to cool off and have a bit of a wash (Carlos checked for crocs beforehand). We then got our campchairs set up around a fire with a few G+Ts for sundown. Had a delicious dinner of nsima (ground maize - a staple in the African diet) veggie casserole and spinach.. as we were digesting this there was a massive downpour of rain so we all ran for the shelter of our
Gin Gin Gin

Smuggled from Malawi
tents ! This was at around 8pm so we had no choice but to hit the sack ! Meg and I settled for the night .... or what we thought would be a settled night.....a few hours into our slumber, the banks of the river came alive...!!! We heard lots of weird and wonderful sounds. At one point I really needed to wee and there was no way I could hold it...Meg tried to dissuade me from leaving the tent - 'what if a hyena comes up and bites you in the bum?' But I had no choice - I was going to burst ! So I got out of the tent and adopted a position to wee very close to the tent - poor Meg could hear me wee very clearly but we were both in stitches. The whole situation was so hilarious. I was laughing mostly because it was hilarious but also slightly because I was scared that a hyena/croc/hippo could indeed attack me when in such a vulnerable position !! Anyhow I finished my business swiftly and jumped back into the safely of the tent unscathed. I vowed to drink fewer G+Ts the following night ....

The next day was just as wonderful as the last. We had beautiful views of the Zambezi Escarpment. Carlos also taught me about the baobab tree - a huge tree with a hollow trunk (I think it's the tree Rafiki lives in in the Lion King. Excuse the second Lion King Reference - I just can't help myself) They use the baobab tree to bury chiefs of the villages along the Zambezi - they put the chief in the hollow of the tree and then bury the tree. Pretty cool, right?! I also learnt that the sausage tree is used for cancer treatment. Carlos was a world of knowledge! Around midday we stopped for another lunch and double siesta. It was really really hot - about 35 degrees - and we couldnt swim as the banks of the river were too deep so the risk of crocodile attack too high! Damn it. So we just sweated it out....we set off for an afternoon canoe and things got exciting - we saw 2 male elephants crossing the river from one bank to the other! It was such an amazing sight!!
They sped off to the other bank by the time we reached them. They had left some turds floating in the water which our paddles came into contact with- delightful! We arrived at our second camp later in the afternoon and a group of about a dozen elephants, including 2 calves, greeted us upon arrival! We waited on the banks until they dispersed into long grasses behind the campsite. Didn't want any elephant stampedes as a start to the evening! We set up camp and a fire and had some drinks - freshly chilled beers were brought over from the village across the bank..for one dollar a pop...not too shabby! We watched yet another beautiful sunset and I couldn't quite believe the scene around me ! Ellies chilling in the long grass not 50 meters away, sun setting over the magnificent Zambezi, cold beer in hand, lovely company. This was an experience to never forget! That night, I rationed my drinks and, luckily, didn't need to pee overnight. BUT at one point, Meg woke me up in an urgent manner and was certain she could hear lions growling in the distance. I wasn't sure..but she was fairly certain. So we sat and listened to the growls for a while. We could also hear the chatter and laughter of the hyenas. We just sat in stunned silence, looking out of our little window on our tent at the stars. Still couldn't quite believe what I was hearing and amazing experience! And one you ALL have to do. If you want to camp with lions and hyenas and elephants and hippos and crocs that is 😊

The next morning we were up early at 5.30am to say goodbye to the Ellies (they were still hanging out in the long grass) and head off back towards Breezers campsite. A guy in a pink bandana in his speedboat picked us up and brought us back to camp. It took a mere hour to complete the journey that had just taken us two days! Bob the hippo popped up on the way too - to say goodbye. We unloaded the boats at Breezers and got straight on Caprice for the long journey to.....LIVINGSTONE ! The sight of Victoria Falls - the main event !!! I was extreeeeeeemely excited.

The drive to Livingstone took around 10 hours. We arrived in the dark so couldn't quite yet see the falls. We could, however, hear them! Like a distant roar in the background .... an incredible sound. We set up camp and Masumi announced we were eating at the campsite restaurant 😊 a nice break for Ronald ! The restaurant was set on some wooden decking right over the water. All candlelit. How romantic! We spent a hours relaxing there having drinks and bants. We didn't have to be up too early so we thought we would treat ourselves to a late night .....a CRAZY 10.30pm - an insanely late night compared to the last couple of weeks ! The next morning Ronald had some pancakes ready for us - drizzled in all sorts - Malawi honey, fresh bananas, cooked squishy bananas, lemon and sugar, maple syrup plus more !!!

Today would be our shortest journey yet - a measly one hour to cross the border over to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. When we arrived at the border, there were baboons EVERYWHERE. The most notable thing was how red their bums were...It was mating season apparently, and there was lots of squabbling going on between the males. I mean, there is a time and a place for this sort of thing, but surely the Zambia/Zimbabwe border is not it ???? Anyway we made sure all windows and doors were firmly closed before leaving Caprice to attend the immigration office. Joe and I couldn't snigger in a corner this time. The Zimbabwe visa costs €55 and I would only be there for a few days. Ah well, needs must ! After completing all paperwork we jumped back in Caprice and got a taster for the falls as we crossed the bridge into Zimbabwe - the view was SPECTACULAR. But more of that later....we arrived at what would be our last campsite of the trip (all cry sighs of sympathy please) the aptly named 'Rest Camp'. We set up tents for the last time, I set out the washing up bowls for the last time and it felt rather sad. But no time to dither - Fungai, a local guy, was here to make personalised t-shirts for us! He could make all sorts of patterns and outlines of the classic 'big five' (elephant, buffalo, leopard, lion and rhino) as well as an Africa map with our trail mapped out on it! I ordered one for myself, in sky blue, with a couple of elephants and my own
Hannah, Ronald and me Hannah, Ronald and me Hannah, Ronald and me

Victoria Falls
trail on it - from Zanzibar to Maputo! He would deliver them a couple of days later.

Meanwhile, we got ourselves ready to head for Victoria Falls National Park! Now, just a heads up, it was the end of rainy season, so we were expecting lots of water in the form of what is known as the 'Victoria Falls Mist'. This forms due to the sheer volume of water flowing in the river and hence falling at the falls. One million litres of water falls each second and forms a mist. Sooooooo we all had our waterproofs as well as waterproof cameras at the ready.....and off we set! We paid our €30 entry fee and commenced the national park walk complete with 16 viewpoints. It started off as light showers ...Which became heavy showers as we progressed to viewpoint viewpoint 8 it was just like actual downpour....but the views were insanely incredible!!!! I can't explain just how much water was falling and just how powerful it was. All the senses were involved - sight (insane amounts of water falling and creating an incredible mist), touch (we were just plain wet) smell (watery and mossy and humidity) and sound - Victoria Falls is locally known as 'Mosi-Oa-Tunya' which means 'the smoke that thunders'. The further along the viewpoints we went, the more impressive the view of the falls, and the wetter we got !! Literally by viewpoint 16, known as Danger Point, there was no point in even wearing clothes. The water proofs were sodden. The power of the water was such that I thought we were going to be washed away, never to be seen again!! Meghan turned into a smurf...she was wearing blue linen trousers underneath her waterproofs, which ran ....causing her legs to become completely blue. Mama smurf!!

Later that evening we got ready to go out for dinner for what was to be our last supper (more cries of sympathy please). We got a bit dressed up for the occasion ! Hannah lent me her jumpsuit. It felt weird not to be wearing the usual skanky t-shirt and shorts/haraam pants. It also felt weird to put make up on ! But it was nice to make a night of it.

The next morning, the trip would be officially finishing for most of us (except Joe and Seb, who would be continuing on Caprice until Cape Town. A few newbies would also be jumping on the truck here at Victoria Falls ....I was going to be replaced!!! Sad face .... 😞 ) but most of us were sticking around for a few days before heading our separate ways, so we decided to organise a few activities together. Victoria falls is known for its adrenaline junkie attractions, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, zip lines, flying foxes and suchlike. Joe, Seb, Hannah and I opted for a helicopter ride. We were the lucky ones to be on the first ride of the morning and the sky was lovely and clear so we were in for a treat ! A South African pilot (Lindsey, please try to stay seated) picked us up and brought us on a spectacular ride over the falls. Words can't describe just how incredible the view was. Victoria Falls spreads across both Zambia and Zimbabwe - with around a third of the falls on the Zambia side and two thirds on the Zimbabwe side. So from the helicopter, unlike from land, you could see the whole width of the falls spread across both countries. It really was a sight !!!! Well worth the $150. We returned to camp and chilled for the rest of the morning. I was mostly in awe and couldn't speak for a few hours haha. Later that afternoon, we met the newbies and all went for high tea at The Victoria Falls Hotel (another excuse to get dressed up...) This was a really special treat (not only because I bloody love cake, as you all know) - The hotel, which was built in 1904, is the oldest in Zimbabwe. It's got a gorgeous colonial feel and sits on a scenic location overlooking beautiful gardens and lawns with the gorge and bridge in the near distance. You can even see the spray from the falls. We sat for a few hours, munching on cucumber sandwiches, scones with jam and whipped cream (no clotted cream sadly !!) and some delectable chocolate and carrot cakes. All washed down with some delightful Zimbabwe tea. Such a treat !! As if that wasn't enough, we retreated to Stanley's terrace for a few cocktails dahhhhhling - I treated myself (I mean, might as well continue the treats right?) to a yummy espresso martini. I have to say, I was in an upmost state of
Afternoon tea Afternoon tea Afternoon tea

With Seb and Meghan

Later that afternoon we chilled in Hannah and Meghan's hotel room. I was staying at Victoria falls backpackers up the road. Hannah was due to leave the next day, so we said our goodbyes 😞

The next morning we were in for some more adventure activities (Mum stop reading now. Just go down 2 paragraphs). Joe, Seb, Meghan and I were picked up in a safari style truck from our respective hotels and brought to 'the lookout cafe' - a scenic location right in the Batoka Gorge, from where the activities are based. We had all booked to do a zip line, but Seb had a 'canopy tour' first so, whilst he did that, Joe, Meghan and I enjoyed a coffee whilst overlooking the zip line and flying fox ! My stomach was beginning to squirm just watching people taking the jumps! We were just happily chatting away over our coffees, and were wondering where Seb had got to. He had been gone nearly an hour by now. I suggested maybe he was being munched on by monkeys at which point an actual monkey jumped onto the decking and trotted over towards our table. I became a little anxious (having previously been attacked by a group of monkeys in Kenya, I'm not their biggest fan !) The monkey lept up onto our table, leant over towards my coffee and stole my sugar sachets ! (I take my coffee without sugar, which the monkey had obviously clocked onto) He knocked over my coffee during the process- which spilt ALL OVER my new custom- made sky blue t-shirt. He then leant back a bit, pondering, wondering if he could try his luck for a second time. At which point he leant forwards AGAIN and stole Meghan's sugar sachets!! He left the sweeteners behind. The cheeky little shit!!!! All this happened so quickly so it took our brains a while to process what was actually going on before we had time to react. I apparantly screamed very loudly in protest. The waiters eventually ran over to help by which time the little twirp had long gone. They were very sweet though and brought me a fresh coffee and a biscuit.

After all that excitement, Seb returned and we were finally able to go and commence our zip line ! We had a little bit of a walk from the lookout cafe along the gorge to the starting point. Joe went first as he had to get away quickly to do a cage dive with crocodiles later that morning. Just watching Joe do it made me very nervous. This was the highest zip line I'd ever done. However, having never done a zip line before, Joe really enjoyed it. So I told myself to get a grip. Literally. The instructors got me all geared up with the ropes and carabninas etc. They could sense I was nervous so kept playing tricks like pretending to let me go when I wasn't yet attached to the ropes. The little rascals!! I kept having second thoughts and kept having second thoughts and I just begged them to bloody well get it over and done with ! So finally they did. And off I went on the zip over the gorge! Onlookers claim I screamed 'fuck, shit, bollocks shit!' as I went. I have no recollection of this. I have to say it was bloody scary and so so high and so so fast but the views over the gorge were incredible! When I got to the end of the line, the issue was how to get back up? Anderson, one of the instructors, came down, extremely slowly, to get me. Meanwhile I just had to hang there over the bloody gorge and fierce flow of the water. This was the least fun part. All I could think of was the rope snapping. Eventually Anderson reached me and brought me back to safety. I couldn't wait to get my feet back on land ! When I finally got back to the platform, the other instructor threatened to drop me down the zip for a second time and I apparently screamed 'don't you dare you fucking bastard!' Again, the amnesia sets in. I was finally free of the ropes and had to go and have a sit down....I needed a lie down, truth be told. Then Meghan and Seb had their go and didn't seem to fret at all. Next, they did a gorge swing. This is an activity whereby you just jump off a platform in the gorge and free fall and then swing for a bit. There we no WAY I was doing that. So I just acted as photographer. But next we had to do a flying fox..I had signed up for this too. It's like a zip line, except you're harnessed at the back and you sort of run off a platform and take a jump and fly horizontally like a bird looking downwards into the gorge. I don't know why it's called a flying fox really. It should be called a flying bird. I was even more scared of this one and nearly chickened out. But the guide talked me through it and I managed a very slow flying fox. But I still did it ! Again, the view from this angle was incredible. I wasn't keen on whole 'hang there until the instructor retrieves you'. But Anderson came to my rescue again and I was safely back on land within a few minutes! I can't say I would ever do it again. I even cried a bit afterwards and Megan gave me a wipe to mop my tears haha. We swiflty departed after the activity-filled morning and went for lunch and a much needed drink.

Later that afternoon we headed back to the campsite and looked (and laughed) at our photography from the days events. We said our final goodbyes before Caprice was due to set off for Namibia the next day. Meghan was due to fly to South Africa and I was due to head back to Zambia.
The whole experience of Victoria Falls was so immense and incredible and amazing and so so SO worth my trip to see the 7th natural wonder of the world. This is why I came to Africa!!!! 😊 I was sad that the whole trip from Zanzibar to Victoria Falls had ended. It was a fantastic experience and I felt we had all really bonded as a group and had top jokes. However from now on I would be travelling solo and was excited for this too. So read on for Jess travelling solo in Africa!! 😊

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