Victoria Falls

Trip Start Oct 31, 2006
1
4
18
Trip End May 2007


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Flag of Zambia  ,
Sunday, November 12, 2006

Caution:  The following entry exceeds the recommended length for travel blogs and encyclopedias...
 
Shortly after our arrival in Zambia we learned two things. One, the Falls don't come cheap and two, no one in the service and tourism sector will say no to a tourist...now, in large part that may be because of a language disconnect.* So that a typical exchange may go something like this: "Can you take us to the Fawlty Towers?" "Yeah, you need taxi, I have a taxi."
"OK, so how far is the Fawlty Towers?"
"Yeah, sure you come in my taxi. I take you."
"OK, never mind about how far, but how much will it cost?"
"Oh, yeah my taxi is nice and good price."
"OK, so what is the price?"
"Where are you from?"
"No, what is the price?"
"Oh, you American, sure, so, like $15.00."
"We are Colombian" [Yes this has become our standard response in Africa]
"Fifteen dollars!! But they told us it was only 8km from the airport. That sounds like a lot."
"No, no come, I take you, come on, nice car."
 
This is how we met our new Zambian friend, Nicolas. Nicolas drove us from the airport to the hostel and turned out to be a good buddy for the remainder of our stay.
 
*There are 72 languages spoken in Zambia.
 
We booked our lodging at Fawlty Towers, a popular hostel in town. However, it was a bit too faulty for us. We thought we could rough it for three days in a small room with a welcoming roach and a toilet whose cleanliness rivals that of a highway stop. But we discarded our zeal for hostel adventure and called Nicolas, to rescue us. He suggested we check out the Zambezi Sun-which turned out to be a piece of Disneyworld along the Zambezi River. Staff dressed in native attire, with zebras and baboons parading around the grounds during the day, and a calypso/reggae band playing covers of Shakira and Lionel Richie....no joke!
 
We walked around Victoria Falls-a World Heritage Site, haggled with various curio vendors and enjoyed sundowners at the neighboring hotel property-Royal Livingstone. It is absolutely gorgeous!! We watched the sun set over the falls along with the hippos. 
 
Livingstone is the adventure capital of the world-well, right after Queenstown. On our second day we planned a day white water rafting trip along the Zambezi. Nine rapids ranging from Class 1-5, five being the most intense. Steve, also known as Captain Carnage by his Bundu Adventure buddies, was our river guide. Again, here comes another example of communication disconnect, I asked Steve whether it would be OK to hike down the 2000 feet to the 'Boiling Pot' in my flip flops. The BP is where we embark on the raft to begin our trip. He said-yeah, sure, no problem. I asked again just to make sure, because the path looked steep and rocky. But he assured me that it would be OK because my shoes will get wet. Why I thought this was a reasonable and assuring answer to my question...no clue...but nevertheless, I hiked down to the BP in my $2.99 target flip flops, which nearly killed me as I had to cross tons of slippery rocks to get into the raft. 
 
With clear skies we boarded the raft with four others, two from South Africa and two from Australia. I tightened my helmet and life vest and was ready to conquer the great Zambezi.  OK, really I was scared out of my mind. Within the first few moments of sitting in the raft and staring at the first rapid, a class one, I had imagined already all the ways I could die. Being sucked down in a whirlpool, crashing into a huge rock and getting knocked out or tipping over and drowning. By the way, one of the rafters was an elderly Doctor from Australia who advised us that we, as the collective we, have a better chance of survival drowning in salt water rather than in fresh water...something about osmosis...so clearly, my chances did not look at this point.  Uddy tried to assure me that this would be great. As the supportive and adventurous wife that I am, I put away those silly thoughts of death on the Zambezi and gave Captain Carnage a woohoo and thumbs up.
 
Not even two minutes thereafter, we tipped over on a Class One rapid. As I struggled to hold on to the raft and catch my breath, all I could think about was why I didn't have the waffles for breakfast. At that moment, I was in a cave of green light...so this is what heaven looks like....but then I heard Uddy's sweet voice scream baby are you OK and I remembered Captain Carnage's "safety" instruction which said when you are under the raft you will see a green light get out. I got out from under the raft after swallowing about a gallon of Zambezi water. They couldn't pull us back in the raft because we were floating quickly to the next rapid ahead-a class two. So I had to take on the next rapid holding on to a kayak with my new fear factor friend Josee. She and I grabbed Uddy and the three of us held on to the kayak. If you are wondering about Uddy at this point-don't bother, he is absolutely loving every second of this.
 
After rapid number two, we got yanked back into the raft and this where my near nervous breakdown began. I needed to get out ASAP. There was no way that I could go through another seven rapids. Unfortunately for me, getting out was not so easy given the fact that there was no place amidst the mountains and rocks to pull over; and evidently, fear is not a medical emergency which warrants a Bundu chopper rescue. With that, I had to brave another two rapids, class three and four, respectively. The class four rapid swallowed us up and spit us out against a rock. My fear gave way to a near heart attack, which I thought would definitely warrant an air lift out of this nightmare. Instead, Josee and I were able to make our grand exit after rapid number four at the power plant. The manager provided us, the sopping wet tourists (who spent two of the four rapids in the water...not on the raft), a lovely tour of the plant which provides electricity to all of Livingstone. Thereafter, we jumped on board the Bundu bus and headed to the finishing point of the rafting trip, where I would greet Uddy with a beer and a high five. He would have gone another nine rapids...go figure.
 
The following day we toured Livingstone. Nicolas took us to the Maramba market where the locals buy and sell everything. That afternoon we were on our way to Tanzania with an overnight stop in Johannesburg.
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