Sunday, January 31, 2010


The morning after rafting was an interesting one. We all emerged slowly from the tents as we tested how much muscle use we still had and whether the sunburn had faded any. It was decided that the 4 of us that had bought the double entry visa for Zambia would be able to make it to the border and more importantly the 1.3km walk from one border to the other.

The border of the 2 countries is spanned by a bridge across the Zambezi River. To get there we took a taxi, passing an accident along the way. Our driver seemed to have passed it a few times already that morning and proceeded to give us all the details on injuries etc. At the border we organised for the same driver to pick us up for the return leg. As the driver drove off, we heard a voice calling to us. Not wanting to go through the negotiation and haggling phase again we continued on. The person was quite insistent and eventually Craig went to find out what he wanted. We had ordered T-shirts to be made the day we arrived at Livingstone and it was this person who had recognised Steve and thought that we were leaving Zambia permanently without our shirts. We reassured him that we would be returning to our tour group that night and he continued on his way. That is service!!

The Zambian border crossing was quite relaxed. They decided that we didn't need to fill out any forms and just stamped us out. What was more interesting was that they seemed to assume that we were Bungy jumpers and surprised that we were going to Zimbabwe. On the way across the bridge we saw the bungy launch point and also had a good vantage point of where we had started the rafting from.

The rafts set-up at the end of rapid 1

The Zimbabwean border control again was fairly relaxed, no need to fill in forms, just hand over the required amount of money. What did surprise us was we were then given a small ticket which had a number which corresponded with the number of people in our group. We had to show this ticket to the person on the gate. This is the first time we had encountered any kind of real control over who was actually going over the border. Up until now, we think it would be possible to get from Kenya to Zambia without a passport, as you could easily blend into a group and walk straight through the gates. We stress that this isn't a recommended process, plus the stamps make your passport look really good!
Officially into Zim and the first thing we are offered is money. Yes, you have read correctly, for a few US$ you can own your own Zim$50,000,000,000,000 note (50 trillion) plus a few others thrown in free. It doesn't matter that it is absolutely useless. Our friends managed to find a $100,000,000,000,000 note. Very jealous. After this slight detour, we headed straight for the Victoria Falls National Park, where we wandered around for the next few hours.
The entrance to the park. Mosi-oa-Tunya or 'smoke that thunders' is the traditional name for Victoria Falls.
David Livingstone - the first westerner to see the falls.
From the Zimbabwean side, you're further from the falls, though the overall views are better. From the Zambian side, you can almost stand on top of the falls, though your perspective is narrowed. One of the viewing platforms was quite close to the edge and thus we managed to get quite damp. We can only imagine how wet it would be when the falls are in full flow during wet season. Given it was quite hot we were welcoming of the spray and concentrated on protecting cameras rather then ourselves.
The mist rising behind us at one of the first platforms
This warthog looks rather skinny considering the abundance of lush grass constantly watered by the mist.
The Falls cover an area of over a kilometre and there were lots of viewing platforms. We could even see a group of people that were jumping off rocks into a rock pool located on a Zambian cliff. They did give a few people a shock as it looked like they were headed for the Zambezi which was a around 100m below.
Looking down the length of the falls. In wet season you would not see any rock, just a solid wall of water.
'Cataract' section of the falls
The full drop at 'Cataract'
Smaller falls down the length the face.
We stayed in Zim for lunch and couldn't believe how quiet the town of Victoria Falls was. It was only a couple of years ago that this was the preferred tourist destination for the falls. It is sad how politics has turned so many people away. After lunch we were headed for the local market when the tourist police stopped us. It seemed that they were quite bored, and we were escorted around the town.
There were heaps of these baboons around the town scavenging for food.
Our brief experience of Zim is that the falls are far more amazing from the Zim side, so if you can venture across definitely do so. All the people we came across were very happy to have tourists around and more then willing to help us out. We felt that the tourist police were a little over the top, but accept that for many others it would be a comfort.

Back on the bridge and we were in time for our friend Dan's bungy jump. He was looking very nervous so we did our best to calm him down and then ran off to take photos and video. We got there in time to see a girl jumping who had jumped the previous day but her video hadn't worked. She was redoing it because she was using the jump as a fundraiser for a charity so needed proof! Watching Dan has confirmed that both of us would need to be paid a very large amount of money before even considering it! Dan's verdict was that the jump was fine, the painful bit was when they pulled him up!
The view down the Zambezi from the jump platform
This girl was doing her second jump.
Dan leaps!

Thursday, January 07, 2010


When we arrived in camp it really hit us that we were at the half-way point of the trip. In a couple of days time we were going to be packing up our bags and tent and moving to a new truck. We'd be saying farewell to many of the people we had just become friends with and starting all over again with new tour leaders and a few new people. Sad in one respect and exciting in another. Having to live in such close quarters with everyone it is amazing how quickly you become a 'family' and develop routines.

First impressions of the camp at Livingstone - it is huge!! There are so many different tour companies here, some of which we recognised from the road, but even more that we have never heard of. The accommodation is quite varied, from the camping we are used to right through to luxury bungalow style cabins. It was a bit of a challenge to find a vacant space that was large enough for us and the truck and still be resonably close to any of the shower blocks.

As soon as we had the tents up we went to a briefing of the activities on offer. We had looked into this before we left England and budgeted for the extra cost. In the end we decided to do the Sunset Cruise as a group, White Water Rafting, and Elephant Riding. Claire was quite keen to see Victoria Falls from a Microlight (think lawnmower engine attached to a couple of seats with a wing above you) but since Steve wasn't keen we decided for a scenic flight on a proper plane later on in the trip.

The cruise was definitely a good time and included dinner and drinks, but mainly drinks. Sunset was amazing and we even saw some animals. Before we had even left the pier a crocodile was spotted and shortly after we started to see the heads of hippo's as they surfaced for air. During the cruise we also saw elephants, and giraffe. When we returned to the camp, there was a 'disco' but it seemed only our truck decided to attend. Oh well, we had a great night!
Our tour group and leader

Claire with Fiona - the aussie tour leader
Sunset down the Zambezi
Elephants walking along the bank
A few of the girls from the truck
The next morning it was time for White Water Rafting along the Zambezi. 7 from our truck had deicided to take on the challenge of the full day experience and a couple turned up with sore heads. The safety briefing was short and sweet - Wear a helmet and life jacket, if you flip keep hold of the rope, and finally, if separated from the boat stay in the middle of the river and keep your feet in front of you (apparently that is beneficial if you hit one of the rock walls). The paddles float so no need to worry about those. The start point for the rafting was also the entrance to the Victoria Falls viewing platforms. It was this point that we realised that Zimbabwe was only a few metres away and our lifejackets had ZAMBIA printed on the back of them. The walk down into the gorge took forever and we were glad that we had kept our shoes with us.
Top of the gorge. Zambia on the left, Zimbabwe on the right. You can also see rapids 2 and 3.
Our boat with guide Scotty
Eventually we found the boats and were told that we were doing a 'wet start'. This meant that we had to jump off the rocks into the water (about 5 metres) and be dragged into our boat. Any remaining sore heads from the night before were quickly cured as the water was freezing! The next few hours were action packed as we attempted 8 of the first 10 rapids before lunch. The ones we missed out were Rapid 1 which was deemed too difficult (thus the wet start) and so was the 6th, although it was amazing to stand on the bank and watch the safety kayaks go through.
Claire some how managed to find the water 3 times that morning. The first incident was in flat water between rapids when she lost concentration laughing at someone else's misfortune, and was rewarded with a quick dip and blood nose. The second dip was on the hardest rapid of the day when she managed to flip over the back, travel under the boat and pop up at the front, looking absolutely terrified. Luckily the boat had been pushed up against a rock and Steve and Mike in the front spots were able to pull her back in. Amazingly her paddle was still in her seat! The third incident was a deliberate flip by our guide Scotty. Claire found herself under the boat in an airpocket and was able to pop out on the side okay. Steve didn't manage to hold onto the rope whilst underneath the raft, and found himself floating down the river where the safety guys picked him up.
Claire fell out somewhere here...
and reappeared here...
finishing the rapid like this.
This was the next rapid. All survived!
A few rapids later - the boat starts to rise...
notice Scotty pulling on the rope...
remember the safety briefing - keep hold of the rope
looks like only one person was listening...
Steve definitely didn't hold on!
After lunch we tackled another 15 rapids which were slightly easier then the morning. Our guide told us he was going to flip us twice in the afternoon, but as some of the group hadn't handled the first flip very well, he decided to be nice. As we floated down the river we saw a small Crocodile and Claire was glad her nose was no longer bleeding! When we pulled in after rapid 25 we discovered that we had to take a cable car up the gorge to meet the truck. This was an interesting experience as we had to sign a waiver first, in the car the operator left the side doors open (as it was a bit windy) and told us we would probably get a decent bump when the car changed from the vertical cable to the horizontal cable. More then a few were a bit nervous of the height and very relieved to touch solid ground again.
Solid and dry ground!!
In the truck and it was about 30min drive over very rough ground and through a couple of villages back to camp, where we were shown our photos and video of the day. All in all it was a great day, we finished with one blood nose, one twitsted knee, a maybe broken foot and 7 very sunburnt tourists. All of us were exhausted and were in bed at 8pm.
We tried to load the video directly onto here, but it was a little big. Our fellow traveller Dan has loaded it onto Youtube so follow this link:

Saturday, January 02, 2010


The drive into Zambia was uneventful but the border crossing did take a bit of time. We are getting used to the system where you fill in a card at one end (Note: it is good to take your own pen), get stamped out, walk to the next building which could be anywhere from 100m to 1km away and fill in another card. Then you hand over your money and passport and hope for the best. Our driver (Blessed) is from Zimbabwe and had told us that Victoria Falls was better to see from the 'Zim' side. The Victoria Falls and the town of Livingstone is the main reason we are going to Zambia so we decided to get a double entry visa just in case we wanted to go across.

While waiting for the return of our passports one opportunistic person was trying to find a wife. Apparently Claire is worth 10 000 houses, if only she would divorce Steve first! What he didn't elaborate on was the type of house, so we gave it a miss as we have seen some very simple 'shacks' and some beautiful mansions during our driving so far.

With passports back and Claire feeling quite relieved that she still had enough spare pages to get back to Australia we headed to our next camp. This camp was called 'Mama Rula's' located just outside of Chipata and was one of the better sites that we stayed at. A small incident when Craig managed to drop the wind guard for the gas stove on his toes, luckily we have a selection of medical personal on the truck so he was treated and hobbled off to luxury of the thatched bar and TV. Reception was limited although sport seems to be the universal channel. The rest of us relaxed in the shade playing cards, reading and using the bars electricity to go through the hundreds of photos we had taken. For dinner that night we decided to share with the leader and driver of the Tucan truck that had arrived just after us. We were getting to know the tour leader of this truck fairly well as they had followed us from Karen Camp in Nairobi.

Like us, the Tucan group subcontracted to local operators for the safari components. During their trip to the Masai Mara, the van that they were travelling in was involved in a major accident that required some airlifting to hospitals. During the 3hour wait for medical assistance the local Masai built them a shelter for shade and provided water. Those that weren't injured had elected not to continue their tour past Zanzibar so the truck was essentially in transit through the Zambia when they picked up the next group of passengers. It made us realise why Fiona and Blessed were always talking to us about wearing seat belts and asking about the local drivers and were we comfortable with the driving.

After the short drive to Chipata we had quite a long one of around 600km to Lusaka and our eventual camp site of Eureka. It was the first time that we were long periods without service stations or facilities so the roadside 'bush bathroom' was in use. One unlucky person received a bite/sting during the process but apart from being embarrassed she was fine. On the way through Lusaka we made a quick stop at small shopping centre. It was difficult to choose between getting some more snacks at 'Super Spar' or the internet cafe that actually had a working connection at reasonable speed. In the end Steve went for technology and Claire went for food. Fruit is a bit sparse in East Africa so it is good to stock up when you get to the western-style supermarkets, but just be prepared to pay a lot for it.

The campsite at Lusaka was quite large and has its own game reserve attached to it which can be explored on foot. We headed out as a group but only found a disused quarry so went back disappointed. The 2 of us made a late decision to try the other direction on our own and were rewarded by finding a small herd of Zebra including a young foal. We were crouching behind some trees watching and they came to within about 20m of us. We are pretty sure they knew we were there as the front couple kept looking our way but they were still content to graze and let the young foal walk around. In the end Claire realised that she was on cooking duty and we had to return to the camp. We also saw a few Gazelle but they were quite skittish and we didn't get very close.
This was the last night of our tour before reaching Livingstone where we would be changing trucks. When we arrive in Livingstone tomorrow all our meals are up to ourselves but we still use the Acacia Africa tents and truck to store our stuff. For dinner we tried to use everything fresh that we had left so it was an interesting mix of pasta and salad.