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Published: October 20th 2009
The 7 hour journey from Lusaka to Livingston was an absolute doddle after some of the smelly , cramped, rattly journeys we’ve taken in recent times. For one thing, the roads in Zambia are infinitely better than those in Kenya and Tanzania …apart from one section just before Livingston. Anyway, we arrived at our end destination feeling relaxed and rested and ready to try as many of the extensive activities on offer at Vic falls as possible. So, Livingston is the Zambian base for viewing Vic Falls. Victoria Falls town in Zimbabwe used to be the main base but because of recent troubles, the Zambian side has prospered and grown. We stayed in a very cool backpackers called Jolly Boys (I can only imagine what sort of establishment this would be if it were in Sydney).
It reminded me of an Aussie Backpackers - really chilled and fun and full of all sorts of invaluable advice on what are the best adrenalin sports and where to find the cheapest happy hours in town.
One of the main reasons for coming to Zambia at this stage was to meet up with Matt’s dad who was due to be on hols here
at this time with his wife Olwyn. Up until a week previously we had been trying to figure out how to cross the Mozambique border from Tanzania - apparently death-defying roads followed by a dodgy dug out canoe to get across the border…it didn’t take much convincing to change our plans and head south west instead.
I had heard about Victoria Falls before but really had no grand desire to see them - I was in Iguazu falls on the Argentian / Brazillian border a few years ago and I figured it would be pretty hard to top that phenomenal sight. Vic falls is about much more than running water though. Really, it’s about cramming in as much fun filled activities as your heart rate and your wallet will allow. We started gently with a very beautiful sunset cruise up the Zambezi where we saw about 30 elephants having their evening bath, playfully splashing each other and mock fighting. We got some lovely sunset photos - hard to resist taking douzens when you have a digital camera. The next day, we set off for a full day of white water rafting. I was a bit wary of it to
Matt Backflipping into Devil's Pools
note the look of terror on the guide\'s face - Matt had slightly misjudged his angles and was a hair\'s breath away from hitting the rocks
begin with - the first rapid which is just beneath the falls is called boiling point and I thought gosh not sure if I can do this. Little did I know that this barely even registered on the 1 - 6 scale (6 means certain death…or something like that) - through the course of the day, we would be tackling mostly grade 3 to grade 5 rapids. I nearly lost my breakfast (and was definitely regretting last nights unlimited bar on the African Queen) when we hit the first big rapid - I think it was called “jaws of death” or “Devil’s toilet bowl” or “The Evil Washing Machine” …or something to that effect. We had been given fairly simple instructions - “paddle forward”, “paddle backwards” and my favourite, “get down”. This basically means hooch down in the boat and hold on as tight as you can to the “oh shit” rope. If the boat flips, hopefully you manage to be still attached to the boat, if not then you just have to hope to be fished out later down the river. No sooner than he had “get” out of his mouth, I was on that floor and hanging on
checking out the bungi jumpers
no way, no how am i jumping from that bridge
for dear life with my eyes closed. I could feel the whole thing submerging underwater and I didn’t know which side was up. When I finally braved opening one eye, I realised we’d made it through in one piece with all 7 of us still in the boat and right side up. The boat after us wasn’t so lucky - we looked on in horror as the whole thing tipped on its side and all passengers were flung out into the crashing water. They all survived though and looked happy enough when they made it back on board. Through the day, we got to know our fellow passengers - Joel and Siobhan, honeymooners from Philadelphia and two crazy Saffas Jono and Marc. Our guide Scott was a very funny, very sarcastic Welshman who made sure we aimed straight for the centre of every crazy looking rapid and also made sure we got out alive. Together with our new team mates we braved ever more fearsome looking rapids and my enjoyment levels continued to increase exponentially. In fact, by the end I was so disappointed that we hadn’t tipped that I jumped in and went down the last rapid in my
life vest (actually most of us did this as it was a fairly tame one - still pretty exhilarating though).
The next morning, we headed for Livingston Island where we had a breakfast tour of Devils Pools. This involves getting a speed boat from the very posh Livingston Falls Hotel to the island. From there, a guide takes you close to the edge of Victoria falls where you can swim out to a rock and then jump into a small deep pool right at the lip of the falls. It’s absolutely spectacular. It feels a bit scary jumping in and knowing that you’re just feet away from a huge drop down to the Zambezi below. It’s a bit like swimming in an infinity pool - you know you can’t go over the edge because of the wall but it still looks like you might. It’s very safe though as the guide is with you all the way and shows you how to hang on to the side of the rock. We met two lovely folks from Aus - Lauren and Robert. Lauren came to my rescue with her camera as mine ran out of battery just when we arrived
(d’oh!! Thanks Lauren!).
The company that organized the rafting (Safari par excellence - very professional outfit), also offered a booze cruise which we could buy for just $20 as an upgrade to the rafting (normally a bout $50). When Lauren and Rob heard that we were doing this they were so excited and signed up as soon as they could. Now, this is a whole different affair to the beautifully civilised African Queen. On the cruise were our South African boys, Lauren and Robert from the Devil’s pools, our med student friend James and a whole lot of others from Jolly boys. It was such a funny night. I should have known we were up for a huge one when Matt, who has been very sensible with his beers in recent times, turned to our bar tender and asked for a triple cane and coke. I didn’t even know what this was but he had been assured by Jono that this would do the trick…..and boy did it!! Our bartender “Handsome”, made Lauren and I some very pretty but very lethal cocktails and sure enough, we kept going after the cruise to check out every best nightclub in town
(OK there’s only 2 but we partied hard in both). Joel and Siobhan also met us after the cruise and I think got a lot of amusement watching us wobble off the boat. Joel made sure they caught up though and over our second Jaeger bomb, the 4 of us agreed we would travel onwards together!
The next day we met up with Siobhan and Joel to chat about where we should go and how. Matt and I had talked about going south through Botswana and J & S fancied this too. Over a curry in the local Indian (very good actually), we planned to leave early the next morning and try to cross the border. We were all feeling a little the worse for wear but pretty certain that one more sleep and we’d be ready to hit the road again.
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