The first night in Zambia we stayed outside of the capital city of Lusaka in a border town called Chipata. There was an immediate difference between Zambia and Malawi. There were way more cars, way more white people, and many of the buildings were made out of cement as oppose to mud brick. These huts had a thatched roof with a pointy top. Zambia’s main income is copper and tourism. Unfortunately the government does not manage the natural resources very well and deforestation is a major issue, but if they are smart enough they may be able to rely on tourism as a source of income in the future.
In Chipata we woke up to zebras roaming around our tent and giraffes not too far off in the distance. A giant dog named Mufasa made sure the wildlife didn’t get to close to the visitors. After a full day of travel we spent 4 days in Livingstone. Livingstone was like entering a whole new world! We stayed at Waterfront Zambezi Lodges and Campground. There was a gorgeous restaurant, bar, and pool area that overlooked the river with the country of Zimbabwe on the other side. The first thing we needed to do when we got there was to book our excursions. Livingstone is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise but this is NOT the place for a Hobo. Livingstone is very expensive so I had to pick and choose what activities I wanted to do the most. Seeing as the bungee jump consisted of 2 towels and one strap around your ankles to hold you in I decided to skip that option. The microflights and helicopter ride were $200 + for 15 minutes which I simply could not justify. Whenever I travel I try to go whitewater rafting. I think it’s a great way to view the scenery, get some exercise, and bond with other people on the trip. The full day raft down the Zambezi River was a no brainer for me. I also decided to dedicate a day to go to Victoria Falls National Park and day to go to Devil’s Pool.
The first day of adventure was rafting. 13/14 people in our tour group also decided to do the full day rafting. Two of those people could not really swim and a few other were not very comfortable with the water. Before booking we watched the promo video of the raft flipping in huge rapids to some extreme music in the background. Those of us that had rafted before assured the rest of the group that the raft flipping was worst case scenario and they were just trying to market the day to look more exciting. I felt really bad once we got on the water because I realized my advice couldn’t have been more far from the truth.
Our rafting guide’s name was Steve and he had been guiding on that river for 23 years. You know those people that are bored with their jobs so they have to amuse themselves at work so they don’t go crazy? I think this was Steve. He took pure joy and pleasure in watching us struggle. For instance, one of the girls fell out on the first rapid. We pulled her in and in between coughs she told Steve she had swallowed a bunch of water, to which he responded with an ice cold face, “Keep your mouth shut then, Singapore.” I would catch him grinning sometimes when he thought we weren’t looking; he was genuinely amused by what we felt were near death experiences.
By the third rapid I had figured out that Africa must have a different way of rating rapids. Rapids can be class 1-5. I have rafted Class 4 and felt perfectly confident and safe but these were a class all on their own! On the rapid named, “Devil’s Toilet Bowl,” our entire boat flipped and I got stuck underneath. They tell you in the safety debrief to stay calm and walk your hands along the raft until you reach the edge. I did that but I wasn’t getting anywhere. After what felt like an eternity (even though it was probably less than 5 seconds) Steve reached under, found me, and pulled me out. Even though he is the least sympathetic person I’ve ever met he is in my good books now.
This wasn’t the only rapid we flipped on. There were 25 rapids total that day and we fell out on 6 of them. Now, that doesn’t sound like a lot but when you are being tossed around underwater in what feels like a washing machine with no idea when you’re going to surface again, it can get pretty strenuous. Once you do surface you then have to take a quick breath because you know you are going to get slapped in the face with another giant wave and go back down again. If you’re lucky enough to have been able to grab the “oh shit rope” that is tied around the edge of the raft you have to try not to get smacked in the head with the bobbing raft or squished between your raft and the rocks on the edge of the river bed. All in all, it was a terrifying outing but one of my favourite days on the trip so far. It was so much fun telling our stories in the bar afterwards and we still talk about it almost every day. At this point in my blog I usually insert some cool pictures. Unfortunately my waterproof, indestructible camera is somewhere at the bottom of the Zambezi River. Like I said, the rapids were a lot more intense than I was anticipating so I naïvely brought my camera. So there are no pictures of me rafting. 😦
The following day we went to Victoria Bridge which connects the country of Zambia to Zimbabwe. It was here that I watched some of my fellow travelers do the “Big Air Experience” which consisted of ziplining across the gorge, bungee jumping 111 m towards the Zambezi River, and swinging off the bridge. It looked terrifying. In the afternoon we went to Victoria Falls National Park too see one of the Natural Wonders of the World. Mosi-oa-Tunya which means “the smoke that thunders” is original name for the Falls. David Livingstone renamed the waterfall Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria upon his “discovery” of them. One million liters of water fall second down the 108 m cliff into the 1.7 km wide gorge. In the wet season it would looks like a giant, continuous curtain of water. It is the end of the dry season now but it was still a spectacular sight.
The following morning consisted of a trip to Devil’s Pool, the most extreme infinity pool in the world. We took a taxi to Livingstone Hotel which was beautiful and cost $800 a night! Needless to say we used a lot of the free moisturizer in the bathrooms and one girl even took some of the nice smelling potpourri to put in her tent. We took a little boat out to Livingstone Island. It’s a weird feeling voluntarily driving towards a 108 meter waterfall drop. When we got to the island we had the chance to stroll close to the edge (no fences, ropes, or warning signs in sight) and essentially get as close as we wanted to peek over the side into the gorge. The Falls were stunning from above and there was a gorgeous double rainbow!
After taking some pictures we were led to a chunk of water we had to swim across. There was a bit of a current but we made it across safely. Once on the other side we climbed up on a rock. The Falls were no less than 10 meters ahead of us with a little pool of water between us and the drop down into the gorge. Our guide backflipped in and simply floated to the edge where he climbed up and STOOD ON THE EDGE OF THE WATERFALL. One at a time we cautiously slipped into the water and allowed the current to push us to the other side where we held onto a little rock ledge so we wouldn’t topple over the falls. Once everyone was in we sat up on the ledge for a picture.
As if being nervous about toppling over Victoria Falls wasn’t enough, the Devil’s Pool was filled with little fish that like to eat the dead skin cells from human bodies. So once in a while you’d get a little nibble on your feet, legs, or even bum from these fish trying to get a meal. To get us out of the pool someone threw us a rope and dragged us back to the rock where we battled the current to swim back to Livingstone Island.
The next day we hopped on our truck-trolly with our new tour guides Lucinda and Colleen to continue our journey to the border of Botswana. The High Class Hobo had survived Zambia!