To Jo'burg and onto Zambia - July 29 - Aug 3
Aug 3, 2009
|Wednesday July 29
Having got to Heathrow at 4am for our early flight to Amsterdam, we were both a bit tired and moody. Well, we were a lot tired and moody but with just enough excitement to keep us going! At the KLM desk in Terminal 4, there wasn't a person in sight until about an hour before we were due to take-off which made the passengers waiting to check-in very restless and annoyed - us included!
Once checked in, we got to Amsterdam just fine and from there we boarded our long flight to Johannesburg. While I had done long flights to and from Australia in 2003, this was the longest flight Elizabeth had ever done - a good 11 hour stint! We were both pleased to find that the KLM entertainment system had a great choice of films and after some food, a couple of films, a quick nap, some more food and another film, we were pretty much ready to land although that last hour always drags, no matter how long the flights are!
On arrival, we picked up our bags and headed out to get a cab to our hotel, for just one night. We fixed a price with a driver and headed out to the car park. Along the way, another man offered to help us down the escalator with our bags. Another man appeared and told us we needed to tip him, which I would've done anyway. I went to get a $5 bill out of my wallet and the second guy told me that was not enough and it should be at least £10! At this point, Elizabeth and I told the guy to stop and put our bags down and told the second guy there was no way he was getting any more and to leave us alone. The f**king cheek of it!
On arrival at the hotel, we found out our room had been flooded and we were transferred from the Outlook Lodge (our original hotel) to the Elizabeth Lodge. Maybe it was fate! The room was nice and big but very cold. We were both grateful for the heated duvet!
Thursday July 30
On Thursday morning we took the short flight to Livingstone and we were lucky that we sat on the right side of the plane, getting a great view of the Victoria Falls as we came into land. We were met at the airport by Kim from Jollyboys Lodge and we got ouselves checked in.
We'd chosen to stay at Jollyboys because one of my friends, Sue, part owns it with Kim. Sue wasn't around when we first got there but we arranged to meet her later on in the day for a drink.
After arranging a load of trips and activities for the next week or so, we headed into Livingstone for some lunch and a look around. The town was quite busy and buzzing with locals and tourists alike. Apart from a couple of cab drivers asking us if we wanted a lift anywhere, we were not hassled once to buy anything or such like. I certainly expected [I]some[/I] attention!
At 5.30, Sue hurried into the hostel to collect us - she'd wanted to get there earlier so we could get to a bar called the Waterfront to watch the sunset. Racing out of town, towards the falls, we made the bar with 10 minutes to spare and sat there with a Mosi beer in hand and a sky lit by bright reds and oranges as the sun descended. A lovely way to spend our first proper evening in Africa.
Friday July 31
Despite wanting a bit of a lie in, we'd decided to do a morning of rafting today on the Zambezi down below the falls. Having been picked up early, we headed for some breakfast and our safety briefing and we boarded the trucks to the rafting sight. Sue has warned us that there was a tough walk down the gorge but she didn't tell us how tough!
The top of the walk was pretty steep but the path was firm. As the gorge steepened, the path became less stable and was replaced by wooden branches which formed a kind of staircase. The guides were walking down the stairs so easily but everyone else was struggling a little, including Elizabeth. She was really struggling and the more she struggled, the more she got nervous and upset. By the end, she was really shaking but she'd made it down in one piece and I was proud that despie her being scared, she'd carried on and made it. Compared to that, the rafting would be a piece of cake!
On the raft, our guide was the leader of the group which meant that we were often the last to go over the rapids and got to watch everyone else go first. While this was good to see how tough they were, it was not so good when someone flipped over or fell out! One raft did flip on one of the rapids but this was only due to one of the men in it doing it deliberately. Most people thought he was a bit of a prick for doing it!
On one of the rapids, we went through two quick rapids (The Ugly Sisters) which we made through fine but as we came to the third (The Mother), we all had to duck and hold onto the rope as a huge surge came over and filled the raft. Still, everyone stayed inside and we stayed upright! The rafting was great and a lovely way to see the river and, of course, it was easier than the walk down!
Back at the Waterfront where we'd been the night before, we went on a sunset "booze" cruise - a 2 hour trip up and down the river to watch the sunset and drink as much as possible. By that point though, we were both tired and we took a seat by the edge and watched the world, and the many hippos, go by...
Saturday August 1
On the Saturday, we got our first proper view of the Victoria Falls! Our tour guide collected us and we headed for the falls. In the car park, we were greeted by a couple of baboons and they weren't the only ones we saw.
Inside the national park, we could hear the water rumbling and every now and then we could feel the spray. As the path led round and we came to the first viewing point, the view was amazing and the power of the near 100m high falls was awesome. The combination of the waterfall spray and the glorious sunshine created the most amazing, bright rainbows as well. As we walked further around the path, the spray got heavier and we donned our rain jackets to try and keep us dry! The falls just go on for ever, being over a mile long, and the views were truly great.
On our walk back, we saw a large male baboon on the path and our guide quickly shepherded us out of the way. He warned us how violent they could be and told us to "always let them have the right of way!"
Having had our first taste of the power of the falls and got some great pictures, we headed to the crocodile farm where we wandered around and saw many large crocodiles, most of which had been caught because they had been attacking either the livestock or the people in the nearby villages. The guide at the croc farm was jumping in to all the enclosures and getting up close to the huge beasts, getting them to react and snap and growl, making for some amazing pictures. When we reached the largest croc, he again leapt in and ushered the two smaller females into the water. With the words "I'm not supposed to do this and my boss doesn't really allow it...", he allowed us to come into the enclosure to not only get closer to the massive male croc, but to also touch it! Elizabeth took a picture of me touching him and, although she wasn't keen, the guide encouraged her to come and touch him too!
From there, he showed us the baby crocs and you could feel how soft their stomachs were compared to the tough, scaly backs. He also showed us a wide variety of snakes which they kept at the farm, allowing us to hold a couple of the smaller, non-venomous brown snakes as well as putting them on Elizabeth's head!
One snake that we didn't want to touch, however, was a type of bush viper - this snake had a venom which caused your blood to not clot and could kill you due to loss of blood or massive internal bleeding within seven hours. There was no anti-venom. The trouble with these things too is they look so harmless and are such a lovely, vibrant green!
In the afternoon, we met up with Sue at Fez Bar and watch the South Africa vs New Zealand rugby match and went out for dinner afterwards with some of her friends to a lovely restaurant called Rhapsodys. The food was excellent, as was the wine, but the dinner was most remembered for our request for water, just regular iced water. When the waiter bought it over, it was not in a jug but a teapot! As Sue said, "This is Africa"...
Sunday August 2
Another early morning, and another trip onto the river. We took a breakfast cruise in a small boat with a chap from Wales and a French family. Along the way, we saw loads of hippos in and around the water, plenty of crocodiles, water monitor lizards, kingfishers and a bushbuck - a type of antelope. One particular crocodile was sunning itself on the bank with its jaws wide open. The small boat edged right up to the bank and the French family at the front of the boat were getting very nervous, urging our guide to not get any closer. Of course, the Welshman and I were telling him to get as close as possible!
After dropping the French family at their hotel, we headed back to the main dock and passed by another large hippo family. Just as we were about to head off one of them opened its mouth and showed us a full view!
After a lazy afternoon, we headed back towards the falls for a different perspective - a flight over the falls in a microlight! My microlight didn't have a working camera on it but we made sure Elizabeth's did so we made sure we got some pictures over the falls. The flights were only 15 minutes long but it was amazing - we'd now been on the Zambezi a few times in boats, we'd seen the falls from eye level and we'd seen them from the sky. It was an amazing experience. As I came into land I saw a large family of elephants near the runway, my first view of them in the wild! After I landed, I watched Elizabeth come into land - she came in from the other end of the runway and excitedly told me she'd seen the elephants too but also some giraffes and zebras!
Monday August 3
Today was our last day in Livingstone before our safari to Botswana so we had a lazy day around town and the hostel pool!
In town, we headed to the craft market to try and find some bargains. First off, we bought a wooden hippo which cost 25,000 Kwacha (about $5). Just next to that, the stallholder was (amazingly) called Peter - I wondered how many times a day he changd his name to that of the tourist! We were looking at the wooden masks he had and he picked out 2 that he thought we'd like. From a starting price of 50,000 Kwacha EACH, he eventually bargained himself down to 20,000 Kwacha for BOTH! I hadn't even said a word and he'd done the talking down himself!
Finally, we found two amazing etching pictures we liked but were put off by the price - one was 150,000 (about $30) and the other 120,000 (about $24). We decided on one we liked and bargained away hard. Eventually, I made a final offer of 150,000 for both and the vendor discussed it with the artist and we struck a deal. Whilst the price wasn't huge, we felt like we'd got some really good bargains and some amazing souvenirs from our first trip to Africa!
After a trip to Olga's for pizza for our tea, we headed back, packed our bags for the safari and got an early night.