Jun 14

Zambian Detour: Livingstone and Victoria Falls

by Nikki


Now, how to get to Livingstone? To hitch or not to hitch? In Choma all of the other volunteers suggester I hitch as well, apparently this isn’t a new phenomenon. Not quite convinced of my own capabilities as an independent hitcher just yet, I opted to take the bus. A $10  set back that I felt I could live with.  Livingstone is one of the southern most towns in Zambia bordering Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River provides a natural line between the two countries all the way through Victoria Falls to Mozambique. I arrived around 11am and headed to Jolly Boy’s hostel, as per Nia’s instructions. At Jollyboys Backpackers I stored my luggage, ate a bit, and planned my days adventure. There are lots of hotels and accomodations in Livingstone, but Jollyboys takes the cake in my book. Its extremely social, theres always something to do, and their lounge is top notch with a sunken in cushion oasis thatched roof teepee with a second floor window into the stars.

Victoria Falls:

A 5 minute cab ride away, and well worth the trip. Entry into the national park is roughly $20 and, in high season, you will get soaked. Theres a bridge that crosses directly in front of the falls, and is practically flooded in high season. Crossing it was horrifying and spectacular all at the same time. An hour could easily be spent wandering through the different walkways within the park to see this world wonder from every possible angle. You can rent a poncho on sight, but I highly reccomend bringing waterproof casing for all electronics. I brought my own poncho, rented one to wear, and rented another one to wrap my camera in. The bredth of Victoria Falls will blow your mind, and remind you that, in act, nature is really the boss at the end of the day.

Once I got my fill at the national park I took the short walk to the bridge at the formal border crossing from Zambia to Zimbabwe. The bridge itself is a safe zone between the two countries where travelers from both sides can get another great view of the falls and dabble in some adventure sports. In order to get to the bridge I went through make-shift customs where I was given a stamp on a piece of paper in the immigration office. The stamp is returned in exchange for re-entry into Zambia once you’ve had your fun. No matter the time of day, you’re guaranteed to see wild baboons hanging out at the crossing looking for a free meal, or climbing on the maize and sugar trucks trying to steal a treat. They didn’t disappoint.

Feed me woman!

After a show-down with a baboon over who gets to cross the street first (he totally won), I made my way to the bridge and got one more look at the falls. From the border, the original bridge I walked across in the national park isn’t even visible through the mist of upward rain caused by the water plummeting to the bottom of the gorge.  Even from here, there was a subtle fog of watery dew hitting my face from the falls, but since it wasn’t overflowing from the bottom up like the first (now invisible bridge, I’m felt more confident.

Now there’s a new dilemma headed my way, to bungee jump or not to bungee jump? One of the biggest attractions at the bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe is bungee jumping over the zambezi river below, to get an upside down view of Victoria falls. Normally, I’m all about adventure sports. But Bungee Jumping is my weak spot. I’ve happily jumped out of planes, but bungee jumping…you’ll have to push me off the platform to get me to go. Actually, come to think of it, the one time I did bungee jump, I got pushed off the platform…and squealed like a pig the whole way down. Confronted with this exciting challenge that I normally would sign up for, even when scared shitless, I decided to stay on solid ground this time. Why, you ask, did your usually adventure hungry friend decide on sanity for once?

My friend Nia jumped this very same day, just two hours before the Australian girl took the jump that almost took her life. Fate dealt Nia one lucky ass hand, and though I love Zambia and all of its wonderful people and natural wonders….I think I’m better off without needing favors from fate to keep me out of the jaws of crocodiles, just this once. Who know’s what I’ll be doing next week.

So, having abandoned the days adrenaline rush, I decided to do a river floating tour down the Zambezi. Zambia never fails me at making things unexpectedly exciting. On my way to this adventure an elephant decided to  join the party, making an appearance in the bushes alongside the highway. I wouldn’t classify Livingstone as a rural area where Elephants just roam the highways, but apparently they’re known the block traffic on a regular basis. Mother nature still has some say around here!

Elephant Crossing

The Zambezi River

Once out of Mr. Elephants way I found myself floating down the Zambezi River with a Mosi Beer in my hand, happy to be alive. I learned on this trip that river floating is very different from river “rafting.” Rafting implies a component of adventure that isn’t guaranteed on a float. Though I didn’t know this when I signed up, I quickly got over it once I discovered the beer was included. I can hardly imagine drinking while on a rapid, so it was a fair trade in my eyes. I’ll save the adventure rafting for the source of the Nile River in Uganda (God help me, I’m nuts).

Beer in hand, I ran into my old elephant friends cousin along the water! And after a close call with some Hippos and one too many beers I made my first visit to Zimbabwe for a potty break! That’s right, I break the seal in style.

After a long day of chasing a waterfall way better than the ones TLC describe, The sun sank into the Zambezi River, telling me it’s almost time to catch the night bus back to Lusaka.


Back to Lusaka

Companies like Mazhandu Family Bus Service keep a very nice and reliable fleet of buses. I caught a 10pm Mazhandu Bus from Livingstone back to Lusaka and arrived around 5am the next morning, giving me more than enough time to relax re-pack and catch some more Zzz’s before my 3pm flight back to South Africa. Second to hitching, buses are the best and cheapest way of getting around Zambia. My only complaint is that, like night buses in South America, the air conditioner turns the place into an ice box. Luckily I came prepared with wool socks, long sleeves and a fleece.

Photo courtesy of www.thebestofzambia.com

Once back in South Africa, I felt even more motivated to get this show in the road and high tail it to Tanzania! See you there!

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