Week 10: Zambia’s Zambezi

We’re in Zambia!

We started off the week with our second border crossing, this time into Zambia. We loved it immediately – it was more like the Africa we had been expecting. After a good hour going from window to window at the check point, and then a good hour driving on completely Swiss cheese potholed roads (another immediate change from Namibia), we rolled into Livingstone.

playing pool
Playing pool with some backpackers we met.

For the Queen

Livingstone – named after the “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” – is the base town for one of the biggest highlights in Zambia: Victoria Falls. There are a number of activities to participate in to experience the Zambezi (which flows into the Falls), so we signed up for a walk to Devil’s Pool (a natural infinity pool!), white water rafting in the gorge, and then a sunset cruise above the falls. Afterwards, we were sore, exhausted, and deliriously pleased with ourselves :P

victoria falls
View onto Vic Falls…The rest of walls of the gorge  are completely covered in water and mist when the Zambezi  is full.

The Decision to Drop Zim

Our next stop was going to be crossing over to Zimbabwe to see the falls from that side (Vic Falls is very much like our Niagara and straddles the border), and then head on to Mana Pools, a national park on that side of the Zambezi to do a three night canoe trip. However, after some more perusing of the guidebooks, we realized that we could do the same canoe trip from the Zam side  (I know it <em>sounds</em> obvious):

Mechanics under Landy
Landy sidebar:  Catastrophe avoided when what we thought was an exhaust-falling-apart disaster was nothing more than a missing nut, quickly replaced by some teenagers at a ‘garage’ on the side of the road. (That’s their legs sticking out from under the car…it’s the best I got).

1. We never planned on visiting Mana Pools per se, only doing the canoe trip on the river, so we weren’t missing out on anything by doing it from Zambia.
2. The camps on the Zam side are cheaper.
3. The camps on the Zam side are open year round (the roads don’t turn to slog in the wet season).
4. We save ourselves the driving time.
5. We avoid the extra Zim visa, road toll, temporary import fee, insurance, etc., etc.

So we scrapped Zimbabwe, but only temporarily.

Canoes, Bush Camps and Elephants

Our canoe trip was amazing, though we shortened that, too, from three nights down to just one. We floated right up to loads of elephants and then slept in the bush listening to lions grumbling somewhere across the river.

Kat with elephant
That’s only one of the ten elephants we were surrounded by….

Through Lusaka

Moreno with watermelon
Everyone in Zambia is selling something on the side of the road. We finally gave in and got some juicy watermelon!

And that brought us to the end of the week, as well as to the capital of the country, Lusaka, where we stumbled on the Sunday Market and were finally able to find ourselves some souvenirs!

It’s ‘Go’ Time

From here on in, we head north to Zambia’s most impressive wildlife park and then into Malawi. Already! The last week was a lot of fun, but as our preferred ‘slow travel’ has inadvertently picked up more of a ‘group adventure tour’ pace, jumping from place to place tasting a tiny bit of everything, honestly? We’re exhausted.

We really love Zambia, but are now seriously craving some beach time, so we’ll probably be in Malawi and Mozambique in no time.

road scene
A typical scene driving past a Zambian town…chicken cars, shacks, you name it.

Stay tuned, and thanks for reading!!

First Impressions: Livingstone


Zambia is beautiful. It is greener, lush-er, colourful-er than anything we’ve seen in the past nine weeks in Africa, the humid opposite of Namibia, and the Africa that we had come to see.

From the unorthodox air of formality at the border post –

an unclear order of a multitude of counters where we paid unexplained and unnamed fees, incorrectly entered information dismissed with the wave of a hand, breastfeeding with half the community present at the insurance window, and a suggestion box in the corner to let them know how best to run their border control

– to the fullness on the streets:

tall trees and bushes, semis swerving along potholed roads, children in tattered clothes running barefoot on the dirt, women in colourful patterns carrying something – everything – on their heads, and everyone on bicycles…

This is what we were waiting for.

bridge to zambia
Bridge over Zambezi into Zambia

Immediately Livingstone, the base town for Victoria Falls, felt familiar. It reminded me of Southeast Asia, a backpacker haunt, where the air is humid, the nights are hot, the music is on, and the chair is always in the lounge position if not actually a mattress. And I loved it.

vic falls
En route to Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls.

But we entered after sunset, a bad idea for any town, and any camp: it is dark, it’s hard to get your bearings straight, you can’t see what anything really looks like, and inevitably the lights won’t work, the wifi will be broken, the water will be cold, and a dog around the corner won’t stop yapping. And being far away from the center, on an unlit road in a compound can only build on fear of what’s out there.

Dusty colourful towns on the edges of roads is just what we wanted.

But the muezzin call woke me up at 4:45am and I loved it. And we moved camps to a backpacker haunt that’s off the main strip right where women in colourful patterns carry groceries home, children in white and brown uniforms walk to school, and silver taxis with a purple stripe carry business men to work, and it is exactly what we wanted.

Love love love.

Except the mosquitos. Damn they’re vicious.

Week 8: Birthday Animals

This week was all about the animals it seemed.

Cheetahs, Hyenas & Leopards! Oh my!

We started off the week a few kilometers from Etosha at a campsite that had some predators for viewing. We’re actually not quite sure why or how they came to be there so we’re not sure how happy we should be about the whole thing, but in the least it was really interesting seeing some of the animals up close. Like cheetahs – not as delicate as they looked from afar, they actually look like they could rip your face off if they wanted, but then they meow like kittens when waiting for food. Or brown hyenas – pretty much look like something horror movies are based on, but up close, the young ones are just like puppies. And leopards – terrifying with an angry purr and hiss that you can feel deep in your gut.

Put him in a little red riding hood and he's the monster from The Village. Straight up.
Put him in a little red riding hood and he’s the monster from The Village. Straight up.

Giraffes at Etosha

Then it was on to our second day at Etosha National Park, but what we were looking forward to was the view at the waterhole by our campsite – a waterhole floodlit at night where you can watch animals come to drink 24 hours a day. Didn’t quite get the shot I wanted, but it was still amazing to watch the giraffe (my current favourite) and rhino so close and at night.

Lions at Erindi

Then we opted to splurge for a couple of nights at Erindi Private Game Reserve and invited Brian along. The three of us spent the next couple of days lounging by the pool, getting sunburned, photographing animals at the much more realistic waterhole, and waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of lions grumbling. Once you know what it is, a lion’s hum is the most unmistakable sound that cuts through right into your brain, but it is remarkable to listen to.

Hippo at Erindi waterhole, Namibia - Anywhere Bound
Not a lion, but another giant at the reserve. They’re huge! And they look fake in real life. True story. Behind him on the right is another adorable warthog that stopped still when he realized there was a hippo close by.

Birthday George Bush Sr. Style

By the end of the week, we left Brian in the north and headed back to – wait for it – Walvis Bay, probably the least exciting place we’d visited up to this point. Originally, we were supposed to be in Zambia by now, where I was planning to possibly bungee Victoria Falls for my birthday, a bucket list item for a long time, but as we’re still in Namibia waiting to hear about Moreno’s passport, we figured we’d wait somewhere we knew and somewhere closer to the capital.

In my bomber jacket ready for takeoff.
In my bomber jacket ready for takeoff.

Walvis Bay fit the bill, though I wasn’t sure if it would exactly deliver on the enormity I was trying really hard not to place on my birthday. But Moreno came up with an idea he wasn’t even so sure about: Walvis Bay may not be the adrenaline capital of anywhere, but Swakopmund, a mere 30km away, is the adrenaline capital of Namibia, and maybe signing up for a skydive would ail my adrenaline fix.

So in George Bush Sr. style, we celebrated my big 3-0 by jumping out of an airplane. So good!

Coming Up

We’re here for a couple more days and then we’ll hopefully be on our way to Windhoek and then northwards Zambia bound with Moreno’s new passport.

Fingers crossed.