Last weekend we went to Livingstone, home of Mosi-oa-tunya, better known as Victoria Falls. (It’s also spelled Mosi-o-tunya.) Mosi-oa-tunya means ‘The Smoke that Thunders,’ which in my mind is an excellent name for a waterfall, and certainly much better than just naming it after the queen.
Chris, Matt and I met up in Choma, where we did some grocery shopping and paid a visit to Immigration. (It turns out, whoops, that we didn’t have a three-month visa, we had a thirty-day visa that could be extended twice. We weren’t trying to be illegal immigrants! Luckily Matt had gone in the day before, figured this out, and gotten the talking-to, so all Chris and I had to do was show up, pay 1,500 kwacha each for photocopies, and fill out a little bit of paperwork. And the guy was nice enough to give us a 60-day extension, rather than the usual 30. Mind you, our work permits have been approved for months, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but they’ve run out of booklets in Lusaka, so we have work permits but don’t have them, we just have photocopies of the receipts with a note that they’ve been approved.)
We met up with Alison on the bus, and after two hours and some crazy in-bus movie, we found ourselves in Livingstone. None of us had any clear idea where we were going, between forgetting to look stuff up on a map and not being able to do so due to lack of power and/or internet. The cab drivers told us which direction our hostel was in, and also that it was an ‘unwalkable distance.’ We were dubious about what constituted ‘unwalkable distance,’ but figured that we had three hours, snacks, and water. After roughly two blocks, we found a sign (or rather, a mural painted on a wall, which is how people do roughly 80% of advertising here) informing us that the place we wanted was 300m in the direction we had come from. Since none of us have a terribly accurate idea of how far 300m is, we wound up at Livingstone Backpackers, rather than Jollyboys Backpackers, but we eventually made our way to Jollyboys, which turned out to be a whole block and a half from the bus station, not in the indicated direction.
While there, we discovered that top bunks in a 16-bed dormitory get really, really warm at the end of the hot season, even if it rains, but mostly we were so exhausted that we didn’t care. The showers were amazing (by which I mean comparable to so-so school showers, but amazing nonetheless), as were the spigots with water coming out of them at the turn of a tap. There was a pool, too. It was almost entirely filled with white people, which we found weird. (And such a variety of people, too!)
Friday night we spent gobs of money (okay, $10, but it felt like a lot) at a really nice Indian restaurant. Saturday the guys went
raftinginflatable kayaking, and Alison and I went to Chobe National Park in Botswana. Alison had been thinking of doing both, but decided to just do the river cruise/game drive in Chobe because doing both would cost too much. Me, I had no intention of going down Class 5 rapids in something I couldn’t steer, and hearing the guys talk about it afterwards, I am very confident that I made the correct decision.
Chobe was amazing, though. The trip was door-to-door service from the hostel. I saw a giraffe from the van — my first real, wild giraffe, and I spotted it! I learned that truck drivers may wait three weeks or a month to cross the border; no wonder AIDS is such a problem along truck routes. The line of trucks seemed to stretch on forever, unmoving, most of them apparently unattended.
I stood in Zambia and surveyed Zimbabwe, Botswana, and Namibia. The crossing into Botswana was probably the easiest I have ever had; I didn’t need a visa, and the woman could barely stop reading the newspaper long enough to stamp my passport. She didn’t even look at the picture page. After that we were supposed to walk across a carpet with foot-and-mouth-disease-deterrent goo, but we had a hard time figuring out where it was because there was absolutely no one paying any attention to it. I could have tapdanced across, utterly ignoring the carpet, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed.
From the border we were taken to the lodge, where we paid, got refreshments, and used the restrooms, and then we embarked on the river cruise.
It was amazing. I don’t know if I have the words to describe how incredible it was.
Mostly I don’t even try to take pictures of birds with my camera. (And mostly, they were terrible, like usual, but these are the good ones.)
Alison said at some point on Friday that Lockinvar was pretty lame. I protested, on the grounds that we’d had a great time. She hurried to agree that it was lots of fun, but pointed out that as far as National Parks go, it was terrible, both in terms of animals and maintenance. Which I had to admit was true. All I can say is that it’s a good thing we did it first.
This was a bachelor herd. The next elephants will be from the breeding herd, which is to say females and children (calves?).
We, of course, hoped that some of the hippos we saw in the water would do the classic mouth-opening pose, which is actually very rare, despite it’s prevalence in pictures (probably because hippos in the water with their mouths shut make uninteresting pictures). One of them actually did open its mouth, but that was on the boat ride back into Zambia, the light was awkward, it was some distance away, and none of us had cameras out anymore.
We did have some interesting discussion about the “o’clock” terminology: our guide initially thought that you refer to an animal as “such and such o’clock” to indicate how far away it is. I figured out that something was up when he referred to birds on the starboard side as “twelve o’clock,” but didn’t figure out what was wrong until we got to “twenty-four o’clock.” He was using our new system like a pro by the time we finished, though.
I think that the river cruise was in some ways more impressive than the game drive, because there were animals ALL THE TIME (not pictured: crocodiles, impala, sable antelope, lots of birds), but the game drive was better for pictures, because we were higher, and the animals we did see were very close to the road and not really afraid of people or vehicles.
Have I mentioned that the lunch they fed us was DELICIOUS? There was ice cream and watermelon for dessert. GOOD ice cream, not watery like most of the stuff here. I hadn’t had ice cream in over two months.
No lions, unfortunately, but still an incredible trip.
After the drive, they took us back through the border, my photocopied receipt worked excellently as proof-of-residency (meaning that I did not have to pay $50 US to get back into the country), we met up with the rather sunburned guys, and had supper at a Mexican restaurant that may have been the slowest restaurant in the world. I was so exhausted that I was seriously concerned that I would fall asleep before the food came, even after we were joined by a bunch of young people that the guys had met rafting.
Pictures of the falls later. And it’s raining AGAIN!