Tag Archives: Livingstone

Return to the Rainbow Forest

Last weekend I went to Livingstone with the other SALTers. I did not bring my camera, preferring to not ruin another one, but the occasion seems appropriate to post the pictures I took one the previous trip, with the other three Zambia SALTers and two South Africa SALTers, who got special permission to come north and meet up with us.

In November, we walked across those rocks. The ones with the water rushing over them.

In November, we walked across those rocks. The ones with the water rushing over them.

Much of the time, there was mist obscuring the falls, but occasionally the wind blew the mist away enough that we could see them.

Much of the time, there was mist obscuring the falls, but occasionally the wind blew the mist away enough that we could see them.

View from the Knife Edge Bridge, with the falls behind me.  See the double rainbow?

View from the Knife Edge Bridge, with the falls behind me. See the double rainbow?

The entire area around the falls was a bright, verdant green that is not really captured by my semi-misted camera.  Most of Zambia is very green in rainy season, but the foliage here, under a constant gentle sprinkle, made the rest of Zambia look dry by comparison.

And again.The entire area around the falls was a bright, verdant green that is not really captured by my semi-misted camera. Most of Zambia is very green in rainy season, but the foliage here, under a constant gentle sprinkle, made the rest of Zambia look dry by comparison.

Much of the area was under constant downpour.  Many of the paths and railings were covered in some slimy algae-thing.  This one had a small waterfall running down it.

Much of the area was under constant downpour. Many of the paths and railings were covered in some slimy algae-thing. This one had a small waterfall running down it.

Most lookout points were in fact stand-and-get-drenched-while-staring-at-mist points.  I brought my poncho, which kept my shirt mostly dry, and a few portions of my skirt.

Most lookout points were in fact stand-and-get-drenched-while-staring-at-mist points. I brought my poncho, which kept my shirt mostly dry, and a few portions of my skirt.

After soaking ourselves in the spray, we walked down the path (better known as ‘really long staircase’) to the Boiling Pot, which we’d missed the first time. We had adventures with baboons, which is a story better told in person, and more-or-less dried in the sun.

Note: The next three pictures aren’t mine, they’re Shawnti’s; my camera was unhappy by this point, although it had not quite gotten to the stage of total nonresponsiveness.

Tithonia and bridge to Zimbabwe.  There was Tithonia all over the place during rainy season; I enjoyed it very much.

Tithonia and bridge to Zimbabwe. There was Tithonia all over the place during rainy season; I enjoyed it very much.

Path to the Boiling Pot.

Path to the Boiling Pot.

Curtains of mist would waft across the Boiling Pot, possibly damping tourists sitting on the rocks before dissippating.  I found them gorgeous.

Curtains of mist would waft across the Boiling Pot, possibly damping tourists sitting on the rocks before dissipating. I found them gorgeous.

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Smoke that Thunders

While in Livingstone, of course we went to see the falls. Again, photocopied receipts of work permit applications were accepted as if they were the work permits themselves, so we got in for the resident price of 7,000 kw (which is the price of seven chicken eggs, ten guineafowl eggs, or a meat pie in the grocery store, and less than $1.50 US), considerably less than the non-resident price.

Once inside the fence, we wandered along the path until we came to an outlook point.

November is absolutely the worst time to visit the falls in terms of water volume, but I still found my first view of them somewhat breathtaking.

November is absolutely the worst time to visit the falls in terms of water volume, but I still found my first view of them somewhat breathtaking.

We followed the pleasant wooded path down some stairs and over to the other side of the promontory, which looked out across another lovely canyon.

What can I say, I like bridges.  And the light was pretty incredible.  This bridge was part of the brainchild of a Frenchman around the turn of the last century who wanted to make a road from Capetown to . . . Cairo?  Marrakesh?  Somewhere in the north of the continent.

What can I say, I like bridges. And the light was pretty incredible. This bridge was part of the brainchild of a Frenchman around the turn of the last century who wanted to make a road from Capetown to . . . Cairo? Marrakesh? Somewhere in the north of the continent.

After some discussion about where the water at the bottom of this gorge was coming from (and, for Chris and I, some eavesdropping on someone else’s tour guide), we followed the path back to the falls side.

Mind you, while I can only imagine how impressive it is in full torrent, personally, I tend to prefer elegant, trickling waterfalls that dribble over cascades of rocks, and I'm sure that I will not be able to watch individual streams of water in March or May.

Mind you, while I can only imagine how impressive it is in full torrent, personally, I tend to prefer elegant, trickling waterfalls that dribble over cascades of rocks, and I'm sure that I will not be able to watch individual streams of water in March or May.

Note that rocky cliff; you’ll see it again.

I feel that I should include other people in a few pictures, just for verisimilitude.  The landmass in the left background is Zimbabwe, which has a better view of the falls, but we didn't go over there.

I feel that I should include other people in a few pictures, just for verisimilitude. The landmass in the left background is Zimbabwe, which has a better view of the falls, but we didn't go over there.

I was constantly surprised by the lack of guard rails and attention paid to the tourists. Mostly there were guard rails, but aside from the lookout points, they were usually only about knee-high, and in several places, the chains had rotted away entirely, leaving a meter or two of rocks and grassy scrub between the path and the lip of the gorge. In one notable place, the fence was composed of wooden sticks not even as thick around as my wrist and branches covered in inch-long thorns. (Actually they were technically prickles, since they weren’t modified twigs. But they were still an inch long. It sometimes seems like almost everything here has thorns (prickles), as if to remind the unwary expatriate that yes you are in Africa. I believe it’s actually a physical defense (as opposed to a chemical defense, like those bitter plants in Chobe) because water is so scarce in dry season that anything that doesn’t fight back gets eaten to the ground, and sometimes below that. I find this lots of fun combined with the fact that I wear skirts all the time here. I’ve mentioned that Zambia is very hard on clothing, yes?)

After going as far as we could while still in Zambia (actually, I'm told that we missed a path somewhere that would have let us hike down the gorge to the Boiling Pot, but I'm just as glad we didn't, really), we turned around and went back around the end of the gorge.

After going as far as we could while still in Zambia (actually, I'm told that we missed a path somewhere that would have let us hike down the gorge to the Boiling Pot, but I'm just as glad we didn't, really), we turned around and went back around the end of the gorge.

It was somewhere around here that we met the baboons. We’ve been warned several times to be wary of the baboons at the falls; they’re very used to people and will take anything that looks like it might be food, including water bottles and Shoprite bags. Alison has promised to give me a copy of the photograph of the baboon waltzing along the path next to us in pursuit of another baboon’s muffin.

Remember that cliff?  The advantage of visiting the Falls in dry season is that you can climb around on top of the falls.

Remember that cliff? The advantage of visiting the Falls in dry season is that you can climb around on top of the falls.

If you weren't near the edge, bits of it were oddly otherworldly, completely separate from the rest of the area.  I could have believed that we were not 20 meters from the top of a hundred-meter plunge into roiling water and sharp rocks.

If you weren't near the edge, bits of it were oddly otherworldly, completely separate from the rest of the area. I could have believed that we were not 20 meters from the top of a hundred-meter plunge into roiling water and sharp rocks.

Don't worry; they're not AS close to the edge as it looks.

Don't worry; they're not AS close to the edge as it looks.

I spent a while being surprised that so much of the footing was stable, but after a good distance it occurred to me that anything that would wobble when I stepped on it was unlikely to remain in place under the full force of the water in rainy season. This did not stop my from testing things before I stepped on them, especially when going from rock to rock across the streams that fed what waterfalls there were.

And take a look at those rocks!  Though I'll admit that it was also at times disconcerting to walk along narrow stone ledges between partially water-filled deep circular gouges in the stone, rather along the lines of what a giant might use to make elephants into soup.

And take a look at those rocks! Though I'll admit that it was also at times disconcerting to walk along narrow stone ledges between partially water-filled deep circular gouges in the stone, rather along the lines of what a giant might use to make elephants into soup.

I'm not as close to the edge as it looks, either.  Although it was still rather closer than I was entirely comfortable with.  One hundred meters is a long way.

I'm not as close to the edge as it looks, either. Although it was still rather closer than I was entirely comfortable with. One hundred meters is a long way.

Chris and Matt, who, if you recall, went rafting, told us that those cute little wavelets are the height of a man when you're down there among them.  That deep green circular swoosh on the left is the boiling pot, by the way.  At least, that's what we decided, because of course none of this was labeled.

Chris and Matt, who, if you recall, went rafting, told us that those cute little wavelets are the height of a man when you're down there among them. That deep green circular swoosh on the left is the boiling pot, by the way. At least, that's what we decided, because of course none of this was labeled.

This side didn't have any fencing or guard rails at all. I suppose it would have been rather impractical to build any, since this area is under water for some large portion of the year, and would have spoiled the view of the falls, but I cannot imagine this big of a tourist attraction in the United States being so utterly without guards and protective everything.

This side didn't have any fencing or guard rails at all. I suppose it would have been rather impractical to build any, since this area is under water for some large portion of the year, and would have spoiled the view of the falls, but I cannot imagine this big of a tourist attraction in the United States being so utterly without guards and protective everything.

I, a slow scrambler, was somewhat perennially behind, which gave me ample time to reconfirm what I had decided at Lockinvar: my water-sandals, while pretty good, are not Tevas, and definitely not hiking boots.  (Not that I would've kept up if I had been wearing hiking boots, especially since I kept deciding to hike some distance away from the cliff, where the land might be a bit flatter.  Even so, my legs were sore the next day from the rock-scrambling and (really very moderate) slopes.  I don't do stairs here.  Macha is almost entirely flat, and there are very few two-story buildings, none of which I go in on any kind of regular basis, so I go up at most two or three steps at a time.  Which just goes to show that choosing to live on the third floor in college did indeed help keep me in shape.)

I, a slow scrambler, was somewhat perennially behind, which gave me ample time to reconfirm what I had decided at Lockinvar: my water-sandals, while pretty good, are not Tevas, and definitely not hiking boots. (Not that I would've kept up if I had been wearing hiking boots, especially since I kept deciding to hike some distance away from the cliff, where the land might be a bit flatter. Even so, my legs were sore the next day from the rock-scrambling and (really very moderate) slopes. I don't do stairs here. Macha is almost entirely flat, and there are very few two-story buildings, none of which I go in on any kind of regular basis, so I go up at most two or three steps at a time. Which just goes to show that choosing to live on the third floor in college did indeed help keep me in shape.)

After a while, we did come to one sign, a discreet notice asking us to please not go any further in order to help protect the environment.  Not that there was anything to stop you from going ahead; in fact, several people did.  Personally, I had to wonder what the daily traffic of tourists with enough gumption to hike out that far could do to a landscape that managed just fine with the full force of the Zambezi river rushing over it much of the time.

After a while, we did come to one sign, a discreet notice asking us to please not go any further in order to help protect the environment. Not that there was anything to stop you from going ahead; in fact, several people did. Personally, I had to wonder what the daily traffic of tourists with enough gumption to hike out that far could do to a landscape that managed just fine with the full force of the Zambezi river rushing over it much of the time.

I had a lot of difficulty taking pictures of the falls because the viewscreen of my camera just wasn't big enough.  I felt like I needed a panoramic lens that could capture an entire sweep of landscape.

I had a lot of difficulty taking pictures of the falls because the viewscreen of my camera just wasn't big enough. I felt like I needed a panoramic lens that could capture an entire sweep of landscape.

By the time we finished the trek back to the path, we were all very ready for food, so we caught a taxi back into town and ate at a very nice Italian place that served excellent pizza and sandwiches and also gelato. It wasn’t as good as gelato at home, but it was pretty good ice cream. We spent the afternoon just lounging about, and that evening went to an Indian place. There’s a story there. The menu of this particular restaurant was posted at the hostel, where I noticed it because it was a) very cheap, b) Indian, and c) the second-cheapest item on the menu was goat curry. We tried to go the first night, but when I asked the woman at the desk, she started drawing a crazy squiggle across the little free map, then told me it was complicated, and did we just want Indian food? I wanted goat curry, but I said yes, and she directed us to a different place way off in the other direction. I asked if it was cheap and she said it was reasonable.

And — I suppose that it was on the expensive side of reasonable. (Aside from the fact that you had to order rice separately if you wanted it, which I thought was odd, and Alison, who’s lived in India, found very weird.) It was nice restaurant. Probably only moderate-nice by US standards, but I would’ve put it in the running for Nicest Restaurant in Livingstone. Admittedly, the food was REALLY good. They didn’t have goat curry (and I got a lentil thing, anyway, because Alison agrees with me on the Restaurants Are Best When You Share theory, and she’s vegetarian, and meat was more expensive).

So we tried again for the cheap Indian place on the last night in town. It turns out that it was all of two blocks away and on the main drag, so I can only conclude that the first woman either didn’t know where it was or for some other reason didn’t want us to go there. It was a step and a half above hole in the wall, and there was outdoor seating — but when we looked at the menu, it was NOT what had been posted at the hostel. It was nearly as expensive as the really nice place. And there was no goat curry in evidence. We looked at the prices and concluded that we would go back and eat what they were serving at the hostel that night.

“I’m sorry,” I told the waiter, handing him the menu, “but this is more money than we want to spend.”
“Wait, wait!” he called, as the others were already walking away. “We have another menu! Like this!” He indicated the specials on the chalkboard, which were indeed much cheaper. “I will get that one.”

We looked at each other and shrugged, figuring that we could still walk away. And he returned with a much more durable menu, the first two pages of the one that had been posted at the hostel. The goat curry had been on the third page.

“Do you think it’s kosher to ask him for the third page?” I asked wistfully. A moment later he came out with it. We could only conclude that the first menu he’d given us was the muguwa menu.

They were out of goat meat. But I got to try puri, which is an Indian flatbread, except it’s not flat because it puffs up into a ball. And the replacement curry was good.

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More pictures than you ever really wanted

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.

I've forgotten what sort of bird this is.

I've forgotten what sort of bird this is.

It was amazing. I don’t know if I have the words to describe how incredible it was.

These are Bee Eaters.  And there's a different bird of the same gorgeous, iridescent blue that hangs out around Macha.

These are Bee Eaters. And there's a different bird of the same gorgeous, iridescent blue that hangs out around Macha.

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.)

Hippo out of the water.

Hippo out of the water.

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.

A convocation of elephants!  Does anyone know what the proper word for a group of elephants is?  'Herd' is terribly boring.

A convocation of elephants! Does anyone know what the proper word for a group of elephants is? 'Herd' is terribly boring.

This was a bachelor herd. The next elephants will be from the breeding herd, which is to say females and children (calves?).

Hippoes are one of the most dangerous of all African animals, responsible for the most deaths per year, I think.  It's very unusual to see so many out of the water during the day; the guide said it was because competition for food is so intense.

Hippoes are one of the most dangerous of all African animals, responsible for the most deaths per year, I think. It's very unusual to see so many out of the water during the day; the guide said it was because competition for food is so intense.

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.

Apparently hippos sunburn very easily.

Apparently hippos sunburn very easily.

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.

These two climbed into the water while we watched.  Unfortunately I was taking pictures from the wrong side of the boat, so most of mine are out of focus.

These two climbed into the water while we watched. Unfortunately I was taking pictures from the wrong side of the boat, so most of mine are out of focus.

Have I mentioned how CLOSE all of these animals were?  I don't think I cropped this photo at all.

Have I mentioned how CLOSE all of these animals were? I don't think I cropped this photo at all.

Cape buffalo.  Another very dangerous animal.

Cape buffalo. Another very dangerous animal.

Monitor lizard.  Also, Namibia.

Monitor lizard. Also, Namibia.

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.

Impala napping under a tree.  It was REALLY HOT that day.  The rains in Botswana won't start for perhaps another month.

Impala napping under a tree. It was REALLY HOT that day. The rains in Botswana won't start for perhaps another month.

Why did the elephant cross the road?

Why did the elephant cross the road?

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.

Family of baboons and impala.

Family of baboons and impala.

I don't generally think of baboons as adorable, especially not the TERRIFYING ones at the falls, which will take food, Shoprite bags, water bottles . . . they told us that a guy got in a flight with a baboon at the falls a few months ago and wound up going over the edge.  I do sometimes make exceptions, though.  Note that the little one is nursing, and the medium one grooming mama.

I don't generally think of baboons as adorable, especially not the TERRIFYING ones at the falls, which will take food, Shoprite bags, water bottles . . . they told us that a guy got in a flight with a baboon at the falls a few months ago and wound up going over the edge. I do sometimes make exceptions, though. Note that the little one is nursing, and the medium one grooming mama.

Kudu.  I think that they are absolutely gorgeous animals, and the top of my list for underappreciated African animals.  Giraffes, too, but I could at least picture a giraffe before I came here.

Kudu. I think that they are absolutely gorgeous animals, and the top of my list for underappreciated African animals. Giraffes, too, but I could at least picture a giraffe before I came here.

The guide said that the little guy was less than a month old.  Baby elephants don't learn to use their trunks until about six months old.

The guide said that the little guy was less than a month old. Baby elephants don't learn to use their trunks until about six months old.

Our guide called impala "the MacDonald's of the bush" because of the golden arch on their rear end.

Our guide called impala "the MacDonald's of the bush" because of the golden arch on their rear end.

Those are all elephants.  I think they said that Chobe has a population of something like 800,000 elephants.

Those are all elephants. I think they said that Chobe has a population of something like 800,000 elephants.

I love giraffes.

I love giraffes.

Warthogs!  I think Alison described this look as 'eighties punk warthogs.'

Warthogs! I think Alison described this look as 'eighties punk warthogs.'

No lions, unfortunately, but still an incredible trip.

Remember all those elephants?  The whole drive in looked like this due to overgrazing.  The only plants left was one that was so bitter that no one would eat much of it, and baobab and acacia trees -- and even those were at risk.  Did you know that an elephant can strip the bark from a baobab tree?

Remember all those elephants? The whole drive in looked like this due to overgrazing. The only plants left was one that was so bitter that no one would eat much of it, and baobab and acacia trees -- and even those were at risk. Did you know that an elephant can strip the bark from a baobab tree?

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!

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