vic-fallsAs we rolled into Livingstone (5km from Victoria Falls), we were surprised to see how buzzing the town was at 6.30 at night. There were people everywhere and the place was buzzing!

We set up camp in the dark (first time in 4 weeks which isn’t bad!) and we were all pretty weary from the super long drive. So we had an early night. We were up early though to order some t-shirts that we designed and then went to a presentation of all the activities we could do at Vic Falls.

To say the least, we were shocked by the cost of the activities! US$125 for a 15 minute micro flight over the falls. I figured I would be terrified for at least 8 of the 15, so it wasn’t worth it for us! But we did decide on a few – walking with the Lions and White Water Rafting.

vicfalls2We spent the rest of the day hanging around the campsite (the Waterfront), relaxing and reading etc. That night, though, we went on a sunset dinner cruise on the Zambezi River. It was a beautiful setting – watching the hippos play in the water and then two elephants fighting on the banks of Livingstone Island! After initially helping ourselves to the bar and then smuggling beer off the boat (noting that we don’t drink beer or much of anything for that matter), the group was pretty happy after 2 hours of cruising! I was just happy to find Ebron near the dance floor at one point so dragged him up for a dance!

Next day we were up for 9am departure to Victoria Falls! We were all so excited and once we get there, I scooted past the huge baboons and statue of David Livingstone to make a beeline to the first glimpse of the falls. And boy, were they awesome! We walked the whole length of the Zambia side and felt the spray – didn’t get too wet though! We reached the end and went back around to see the top of the falls from the bank of the river. It was so peaceful from this side and the thunder could only be heard in the distance. We sat for a while to breathe in the amazing view. We later found out that Adam had an encounter of the hairy kind when a baboon helped himself to his biscuit only to come back for the whole packet!

300 photos later and we decided to head back into Livingstone and take a look around. We negotiated a taxi price after asking a local guide, had some lunch then took a walk through the town. Kim was convinced he saw a mall further out of town (back the way we came), so we decided to walk to this imaginary mall. 30 minutes later, we were still walking with no shops in sight! So we stopped at the Zigzag hotel for a coffee and to use the free (but slow) internet on our iPhones. After a nice rest, we asked the waiter how far away this shopping centre was and she said it was an 8 minute walk. So we set out again to find it was only 4 minutes away – “African time” strikes again :)

vicfalls3We got back to the campsite fairly late, but in time for dinner. After dinner, we headed for Vic Falls again to see the lunar rainbow as it was a full moon. When we got there, the moon was still low in the sky, so we jumped at the chance to use the tripod by writing our names with torches and slow shutter speeds – we had great fun and almost forgot what we were there for! But we then saw the rainbow and it was amazing! The rainbow was white to the naked eye (the photos show it as coloured) and from some points it was really huge and just so magnificent – a truly wonderful experience and I’m so glad we got to see it!

Next day we were booked in for our Lion Walk at 6.15am with Adam and Belinda. We picked up some passengers from a ritzy hotel right near the falls, so I got out for a peek to see how the other half live. Wow.

We got to the park where the lions live and we were shown a video about how the lion conservation project was run. First stage is to get lion cubs and raise them by humans until they are about 18 months old. Then they are put in a bigger enclosure and taught to hunt for food by humans, but they are still assisted with their food. Next they are put in a controlled eco system where their prey is controlled, but there is no human interaction. They then have their own cubs that have had no human contact at all and it is these cubs that are then released into the wild to increase the populations.

vicfalls4They took us a short distance to where the handlers had the brought 3 cubs that we would be walking. They were adorable! We patted one of them and held his tail, which was a little strange. We then walked some more to the river where the cubs decided to put on a show and play fight! It was fantastic – and also awesome for photo opportunities. After an hour, we walked back to where we left off and said our goodbyes – after another pat :) We were lucky that the cubs were being fed that day, so they were quite active without full tummies!

We then drove back to camp where we said goodbye to Max and Ryah who were traveling South Africa before returning to Boston. We spent a lazy afternoon by the pool soaking up some rays and reading books.

The next day we had nothing planned, so we decided to check out the Livingstone museum after Ralph and Jackie recommended it. This was the same day that the second half of our tour joined us, so we took Craig and Rob along with us into town for the museum. We had been warned that it was a large museum and after an hour we were thinking we were almost done, until we saw that we had in fact only done a third of it!

The first section was about the early humans in Africa. We saw skulls and tools and read about the digs on the continent. The second section was entitled ‘Our Village’ and it gave a good thorough overview of traditional African life vs. Western life and how Colonial forces interfered with the ways of the past. It was quite interesting to read about their attitudes to the changes. The next section we visited was a display of all different animals in Africa and it was amazing to say the very least. Lions, zebras, snakes, mongoose, cranes, bugs, antelopes… the list went on and on of these animals in great displays.

We moved on through the museum to a temporary exhibit dedicated to Hiroshima and the A-bomb. I could have spent hours in there, and I was captivated by the video that was running which told the whole story before, during, after and years after the bombing and its affect on the local people.

The final section was the local Zambian political history which also included a section on David Livingstone. We spent only a short time in here unfortunately because it was closing time :( We wandered around town for a while, but given it was Sunday afternoon, not much was open – but the Premier League was playing so all the locals were in the pubs (along with some of our tour locals!). We caught a taxi back to camp stopping for ice cream along the way.

Next day we were up bright eyed and bushy tailed because we were going White Water Rafting! Whoo! Ok, so at the time I was terrified, but only because it was the first day they had opened the whole length of the rapids for rafting. So it was from rapid 1 to rapid 25 – a full day ahead of us. We were lucky enough to get a raft for our group – Belinda, Adam, Lloyd, Stella and Jonathon (the last two had just joined us and the first two were about to leave us). So we were pretty excited!

Our guides name was Babyface, but had been rafting for 13 years, so we were in pretty good hands. Anyway, we suited up after a quick briefing and got in the cars. We were surprised when they drove us right into Victoria Falls itself, inside the part where we viewed the falls from a few days before – we were literally starting AT the falls! We were both excited and nervous! Personally, I was more nervous than excited, especially given we had to actually JUMP directly into the first rapid and them swim to the boat to start rafting. It was a shock to say the least, but I figured that if I survived the first part, there was nothing to fear about the 24 remaining ones.

Immediately before Kim and I jumped in, there was a girl who was scared and didn’t want to jump. We started egging her on to give her confidence and within a few seconds, everyone was cheering here on – she had little choice but to jump! I can see where she was coming from – it was damn daunting jumping into a RAPID! So when it came to my turn, I just didn’t think about it – I just did it. The guide counted me down and off I jumped. Crazy. And COLD! I was only under a second before popping up only to get a mouthful of water from the waves rushing into my mouth. But it was soon over and I was looking for our raft. I was the first in and had to help drag others in then row upstream to find some more who had either jumped in other boats or were bobbing in the water looking for us.

Once we were all in the boat, we had some more instructions and then an explanation of rapid number 2. There were 4 x grade 5 rapids between 1 and 10 and number 2 was one of them. It was called The Vic Falls Bridge. He gave us an idea of what we had to do, but all we heard was that at some point we had to get down and hold on! So we were off and before we knew it, we were in the middle of it and through it… alive! Whoo!

It was awesome and we were excited for the next one. With names like Morning Glory, Devils Toilet Bowl, The Terminator, Commercial Suicide and the like, we had moments of nervousness, but it was Gullivers Travels (number 7) where we had our first spill. We came into it fine and then hit a MASSIVE wave and went up on what felt like vertical but recovered right way up. Only half our boat was missing – they were in the water! Kim, Lloyd, Belinda and Stella were overboard, but we dragged them in. Unfortunately it wasn’t before they were dragged over some rocks where Kim hit his bum and Stella badly bruised her ankle. But all limbs were in tact, so we were off again. It was so much fun and we loved the challenge of it!

On the quiet parts we were allowed to swim and even go through some rapids (small ones) while swimming. After a few grade 5’s, we became a bit too comfortable and Adam fell in on a grade 2 rapid which gave us a good laugh :)

Rapid number 12A, 12B, 12C and 13 were named The 3 Ugly Sisters / The Mother and Babyface had us convinced we were going in the drink before we even started. It was a long one at 150m long but we made it through relatively unscathed, but picked up someone else who had been spit out at the end.

Terminator was another big one, which was followed by Oblivion (number 18) aka Judgment Day. The same thing happened where the boat went almost vertical and 2 of us were in this time, Lloyd and me. I was giggling so much that I struggled to get in and back to paddling to finish the rapid!

After 25 rapids and it being about 5pm, we were pretty tired and getting cold, so we were happy to finish up and catch a rather wobbly cable car up the gorge and drive back to camp. We watched videos and photos of ourselves, but given there were a whopping 70 of us rafting that day, we only had about 2 minutes of airtime!

After our eventful day rafting, we decided to bite the bullet and pay for the two visas to go to Zimbabwe and back. So Tuesday was dedicated to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We said goodbye to Adam and Belinda and then caught the truck to Vic Falls on the Zambia side and then walked across to Zimbabwe, crossing the bungee bridge and watching crazy people fling themselves into the air. I overheard a girl telling her friend that it was horrible from the start to the end. Lovely. We made some ‘friends’ as we crossed, but they disappeared as soon as we got to the Zimbabwe side. We were happy to find out it was only US$30 for the visa into Zimbabwe, not US$55 as it was for the Brits and Irish.

We went straight into the falls (which we paid an ungodly US$20 each for the privilege) and immediately noticed how tame and HUGE the baboons were! Knowing that they were not afraid of women, Stella and I wedged ourselves between the men to protect ourselves. Seriously.

As soon as we saw the falls, however, it made it all worthwhile. The mist was so thick because of the MASSIVE amounts of water that was pouring over. The main falls are actually on the Zimbabwe side so we had a giggle when at one point, we were getting wet like we were in a rainstorm. We admired the view from every viewpoint and when we were almost at the tip of Zimbabwe; Jonathon spotted a warthog that was literally only 2m from us! We stopped to take some shots and admire his long hair strands that looked like they had been combed down his back. After a good giggle at seeing him dig up dinner, we sat at the edge and took it all in. From here we could see where we had jumped in at rapid number 1 the day before. We walked back and found the loo (hearing millions of litres of water falling every second will do that to you) and then headed into the town of Victoria Falls.

We caught a taxi to the curios market. It was roasting hot and because tourism in Zimbabwe is so low because of the political situation, we were hassled sooo much by the vendors. It was so hard not to feel sorry for them and I got to talking to some of them to hear how it had affected them. One told me that it’s no longer viable for them to buy food in their own country, that they would pool together to pay for someone to cross the border into Zambia, stock up on food and bring it back. It was very sad and just seeing them sell the multi-trillion dollar notes just breaks your heart. To think these people all completely lost any savings they had in a matter of days (or hours in some cases) and are left now, with nothing. They’ve stopped using local currency, relying instead on South African Rand, US dollars and Zambian Kwachas.

I got suckered into buying a small stone elephant before we headed to see how the colonial rich people lived (and I guess still do) at the Victoria Falls Hotel. To say this place is flash is an understatement. I purposely got lost looking for a loo so I could check out some of the hotel. It was lovely but very, very English.

We had lunch here which was great then wandered around the grounds. While I was off wandering, Kim and the others watched a baboon climb through a second floor window, steal something and then fight with another baboon over it.

After that entertainment, we headed to Steers in search of double thickshakes which went down well at first, but we all felt so full by halfway through, so Jonathon helped us out! Kim, being sensible, opted for a brownie instead – not sure if that is really sensible but….

Given we were at a resort, we bought a magnet, some medication for parasites and then headed back to Zambia. Along the way, we tried to buy some Zimbabwe trillion dollar notes, but the guy didn’t have any. It was quite sad to see these people desperately trying to earn money from us :(

When we got to Zambia, I tried to use my Irish passport to get in the country (as it was free as opposed to US$50 for an Australian passport), but they insisted that I go back to Zimbabwe and get an exit stamp in the Irish passport before they would gain me entry to Zambia. After trying to argue, I gave in and walked 15 minutes back to the Zimbabwe border. They gave me no hassles at all and stamped my passport straight away. So 45 minutes of brisk walking and we were back in Zambia :) We asked a taxi driver if he would drive us back to our camp for 13,250 kwacha as it was all we had left. He said it wasn’t enough, so we set out looking for other means of transport, but he soon stopped us and said he would do it. Poor thing. At least he got a good fare from the hotel after that!

Next day we packed up for our next destination – Botswana.

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