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Published: November 14th 2014
Zimbabwe/Zambia here we come! This is the section of travel that has promised fun and excitement. The flight takes us from Lilongwe to Johanesberg South Africa, then onwards to Victoria Falls Airport in Zimbabwe. The flight is uneventful for Angie, but Francine is a little nervous about the smaller and much older plane with Zimbabwe Air. She practices deep breathing and clenched fists with every little sway of the plane.
When we land the race is on, having to collect luggage stand in line for our double entry visa. We then have to find a cabby to take us to the Exit border of Zimbabwe to get our visa stamped, then a short distance later have to enter the border crossing to Zambia and wait in line there. All done in the hothot weather🌞. We also have to change cab drivers as they are not allowed to cross the border.
Finally all the paperwork is done and we arrive shortly at our wonderful Maramba River Lodge. The grounds are well kept, with bar, lounge, pool and restaurant and it's own activity center to book our adventures. Our lodge is a permanent canvas structure that is more a luxury tent
with ensuite bathroom. This is the good life.
Early the next morning we are booking the next three days of activities. After a few changes, additions and day switches we have the best of the best Zambia can offer us. We decline the ultralite plane ride over the falls for the much safer helicopter flight. OMG😉it is the best view of the river and falls ever!!!!! We also see a lot of wildlife on and around the river. Our first view of elephant swimming across the river.
We had about four hours before our river safari so headed into Livingstone to do some curio/souvenir shopping. There is a sling row of small shops all trying to sell similar items. Wow, it was like flies to the honey pot. We were the honey or money pot. They just wouldn't leave us alone to look or think about what we liked. Constantly making suggestions on what we might want to buy. Of course they are trying to make a living. Angie ended up purchasing a stone carving of giraffes and some earrings. Francine had had enough. And it was too too hot. Around 100F/40C. And it stayed that way for
our entire stay. However cooled down at night. With great relief. We return to the lodge and relax around the pool. Francine wears her shorts bought in Malawi. Water and Malawi fabric =running dye. Francine's upper legs were purple and she had given herself the older lady purple rinse.
In the afternoon, around 4pm
we did the river safari on the Zambezi River in the small motor boat. We purposely choose not to do the booze cruise, imagine that! The fact the small boat can get closer to the shores and animals. And there were only five of us on the boat. First up we were given our very large gin and tonics to set the mood. The cruise started and we were not disappointed, we got to see hippos and one was just a few feet from our boat and that surprised us all. About one meter/yard from the boat the hippo raised his head up out of the water. We all became aware of its presence by francine's scream of surprise. Another surprise was the herd of elephants crossing the river. We were able to see this from the helicopter this morning but now we are just
about 20feet/6meters from us. Little did we know that elephants swim. Yes they really do! We also saw the monitor lizard that was after a birds nest, as the bird had its wings spread and acting wounded to draw the lizard away. The lizard was about 4 foot long and looking mean. We only got to see baby crocodiles on this cruise. We stopped on an island, first the crew checked to make sure all was safe, no wild animals around. We had a platter of food, marinated beef, chicken, samosas, carrot and cucumber and an amazing dip. The thrilling part of the cruise was that we came to within 300 meters from the edge of falls with the mist raised high above the falls. The most breathtaking sight was the sunset, with the red African sun that you always see on TV and the Orange glow that filled the sky.
The next morning is the long anticipate trip to The Devils Pool. The deep pool on the edge of the falls. There are six of us in our group. A short boat ride to Livingstone Island and a short walk to the opposite side of the island,
a little swim in the Zambezi River that we have to carefully negotiate because of the current. There are a few sections of rope across the sections of water just in case. We come to some rocks that are just above the falls. Each person slides gently off the rocks into the water and the current quickly takes you to the edge of the deep pool and you then turn around and sit on the edge of the falls, just a foot or less from sure death... Francine was a little skiddish with the turning around and raising herself backwards on the ledge and didn't quite trust the local to help, but in the end was able to do it all herself. More deep breathing for the height challenged Francine. What a rush sitting in Devils Pool!!!!! Only a 180 meter/yard drop to the bottom. An added excitement were the fish that more than nibbled on your legs, it was a struggle to keep them away and not give into panic. Leaving the pool was much harder than getting in, fighting the current was very difficult and even Angie a strong swimmer, needed a strong hand to pull her through
the current as did everyone else. Another height challenge met head on by Francine. Our next surprise was swimming and walking back onto Livingstone Island and being led to a large marquee/canopy without side. A large table was set for us to have breakfast. Coffee, juice and delicious eggs Benedict and crispy bacon on a muffin. Great conversation with other travellers and then back on the boat and then to the lodge. Angie was talking about being bitten by Mosquitos and contracting Dungi fever. Francine pointed out you only get Dungi Fever in the Masai villages where the huts are made from cow dung and mud. The rest of Africa gets Dengi Fever.
Fishing.. We had heard about catching the Zambezi Tiger fish. So named for its stripes and long sharp teeth. Francine wears her Broome Fishing Club shirt (this did not aide in the catching of fish) and we are both ready for four hours of catch and release fishing. Using lures and drifting. There are three girls on our boat and two men in the other. None of us even get a bite. It is just too hot. A few cool drinks and a lot of animal
sightings make for a good afternoon. Elephants over there. OMG there are about 50 of them cooling off at the riverbank. Francine loses interest in the fishing and starts observing the elephants and taking photos. It is the longest time we have had to just sit and watch these beautiful creatures. And there are several hippos nearby. We stay away from them as they are very territorial and are told that we would come off second best/worst if the encounter were too close. And one croc about 5ft long. He was watching us more than we were watching him. Also up along the shore line is a village with music blaring and everyone in party mode. It is the 50th anniversary of independence and the entire country is celebrating. We wind up the expedition with another beautiful sunset and return to our lodge.
One of the cool things about our lodge is the possibility of hippos roaming the grounds. We check every night whenever we are awake and it pays off when Fran wakes up around 1am
to see a large hippopotamus right in front of our place. It was a delicate decision to open the door to take
photos. We know they are aggressive in the water, but what about land? We throw caution to the wind and go outside and try to follow the hippo while looking around for others. We are stalking a hippo! We begin to laugh and find ourselves looking rather silly but filled with the excitement of the chance encounter😝
Early in the morning we are excited to visit a park that allows close encounters with, lions, their cubs, cheetahs and elephants. Not knowing what to expect we are surprised when a female and male lion are lead out of their enclosure and we follow them out into the open area. They freely walk and when they lay down we are allowed to sit next to them and pet them like we would our pets. We even hold their tail as we walk along the trails.Amazing to be this close to these lions!! Next we go to see the cheetahs during their morning run. These are the fastest mammals on earth. The can reach a speed of 64mph. So when we walk them they are on leashes. They are daytime hunters and are constantly monitoring their environment for prey. We are
cautioned not to hold on to the leash if they take off as it would be a very dangerous to our health and well being. As with the lions we get to sit, lay next to these magnificent animals and pet them. The cheetahs actually purr like house cats. When we visit the 2 Cubs at the center they're hot and not to interested in having visitors. They growl at us and not too thrilled with playing with the toys in their pen. Still we enjoy the interaction and learn that are reflexes are still pretty good. When they growl we pull back really fast. We also get to ride an elephant for 15 minutes which is more than enough time to get a sore back and legs. But what a ride on a massive animal. We have a driver on each elephant, it obviously is a skilled position. My driver was from Zimbabwe and we had a very political discussion involving how media has distorted his country and lied about what's happening to the white land owners. I listened and kept in mind that my staying on this elephant depended on this driver.
Our afternoon adventure is called
Under the spray. It is a swim at the base of the falls. The agent told us that we would take a boat to the bottom of the falls and will be able to swim and go behind the falls. Sounds great! But the reality was so very different. First we have to carry our oars, life vest and helmets down the boiling pot trail. It's about 360 ft/108 meters steep down the Batoka gorge and paddling across the boiling pot to the massive black basaltic rocks that needed to be climbed to reach the swimming hole. Not to mention the walk around the steep wall of the canyon that can very dangerous as the baboons above on the rocks cause them to fall and potentially deadly. It was 100degrees and the black rock made it even warmer. A lingering touch on the black rock was burning. Francine wore her flip flops that were not appropriate for the conditions. But we never expected these conditions in the first place. I began to climb the massive black rocks to the swimming hole then realized how ridiculous the whole thing was and went back to the raft and sat in the cool
water with a full view of the falls and the bridge. Francine defied the odds and made it to the swimming pool with a lot a vivid language that kept her focused. Francine found swimming in the pool difficult with the current and the effort was tiring as was the entire outing, and climbing out of the gorge still in our future. According to the guide Angie was the oldest person he had ever had on this trip. After the difficulty encountered along with the extreme heat its a wonder we made it out in one piece. Luckily we had lots of water, but we both felt we were on the edge of heat exhaustion. The festive part of our stay in Zambia was marked by the 50th anniversary of there independence from Great Britain. Banners and clothing celebrating were found everywhere and the hopefulness of the young country was infectious.
The stay in Zambia reluctantly came to the end and the travel through the two borders was more exciting that our first encounter. Filing out the forms one required question was occupation, I always responded retired. However this border official wanted to know what my job was. Francine
answered for me and stated, occupational therapist. The official wrote in large blocked letters, "THE RAPIST". And asked me if this was the correct spelling, I said no! And kept saying noooo! When he started to laugh, I relaxed and laughed too, Who needs this kind of humor from a foreign official. I 've seen too many "locked up abroad" tv shows and didn't appreciate his little joke.
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