After breakfast we wander into modern Lusaka town, consisting of walled compounds and luxurious shopping malls, both quite new to us since we reached the African continent. We use internet, ATM, etc. We are nearly knocked over by a slow reversing pickup. The pickup stops, asks where we are going and offers us a ride! We pass the mausoleum of the first President. Doesn't look too appealing. We are dropped outside the Dutch embassy, which happens to be opposite the Oriental Garden Restaurant with delicious Indian food! It costs us nearly USD 25 but we are very well fed and watered. We decide to shop around for a tent, since accommodation prices are much lower and our planned dates for visit to the Victoria Falls coincide with a National Holiday and high season because of a lunar rainbow. We contact Kim, a local with a tent on offer whom we met in Mutinondo, to see if the tent is still available for us to borrow. Since she is delayed with car problems, we are juggling our plans: lack of accommodation in Livingstone owing to the national holiday, waiting for tent yes/no and wondering about buses. We decide to wait a further day in Lusaka as we have a spare day in which we can get ourselves properly organised. E is still suffering with a nasty cold so no need to rush things. We have a beer at the Frog pub and are back at the backpackers for happy hour. Supper is pies we bought in the very expensive shopping mall! And they are really good pies, got to watch this, they are becoming addictive.
Next day we are waiting to hear from Kim if we can borrow a tent, and so decide to wander down the motorway of a road to one of the shopping malls to price up camping gear, and stumble across a bit of western culture as the cinema multiplex is showing a morning screening of the latest Batman film. In we trot and are the only people in it...we wonder if they will wait till it is full before starting the film, like they do with their buses!
The tents are too pricey, Kim says the tent is also not available, but then we contact again the accommodation in Livingstone (Jungle Junction) and it seems they have room after all.
Next day we take a bus to Livingstone which begins at 10am with the usual money requests to store our bags in the bus from the baggage handlers (we stand our ground and refuse, patiently repeating the price is included in the ticket costs), followed by a very loud young preacher blessing the bus and all of us inside, and continues with a bumpy ride where all and sundry falls from the overhead storage on to the unsuspecting passengers, and ends around 5:30pm arriving in Livingstone.
E quickly purchases some cold beers from the SPAR supermarket and we hop into the back of the waiting pickup truck that is taking us to Jungle Junction at Bovu Island which is about an hour further up the Zambezi river. We enjoy the ride, sitting on our packs facing the back of the truck, beer in hand, we leave town and pass through the edges of a national park, where we see giraffes. The sun sets, and the brilliant stars come out as we come off the main road on to a dirt track. 30 minutes later we are loading into a small canoe to make the final section of our journey to the island. We are paddled across the fast dark water under galaxy upon galaxy.
We are shown to our hut by Alice. It is a Fisherman's hut, located along several winding paths. We then gainfully join a small party of folks celebrating a 40th birthday, eat chicken 'n chips and have a few drinks.
The fisherman's hut walls that are waist high and then open to the roof, with open front. It's a cool morning and the fluttering of small birds on the low wall of the hut wakes us. The showers and toilets are outdoors, and are cleverly constructed. A wood burner is on the go for hot water for the showers. It's a beautiful place to walk around, following the paths in the sand that have been cut through the undergrowth. The communal areas are full of carved wooden posts built round large trees, and given bamboo and dry grass roofs. The bar overlooks the river. We breakfast by the water and watch for hippos and vervet monkeys. We walk along the island and take a leisurely day, with a plan to had back to Livingstone in the morning and visit the falls.
At 10am the following day we take a pickup back to Livingstone and check-in at the Jolly Boys hostel. In town we get some supplies (pies) and make a reservation on the bus to Lusaka leaving tomorrow afternoon. We then find a shared taxi to take us to the Falls. By midday we are entering the park. The man at the kiosk tells us about the walks and also about the baboons, who may try and take your bag as they look for food, and if they do, let them a) because they are wild animals with big teeth, and b) because they will run off down the valley with whatever they have taken. Wise words, which soon become a reality for us!
Inside, we soon reach the first viewing deck and the awesomeness of the falls presents itself; a wall of foam whiter than white and so much water thunderously cascading into the cavernous gorge below, behind a curtain of spray that covers us. Walking along the paths we reach a view of the bridge to Zimbabwe. Here C looks round to see a small hairy hand grasping the water cooler bag she is carrying on her shoulder. The hairy hand has a hairy arm attached, and a hairy body and a head with large teeth. She calmly turns releasing the cooler bag from her arm and the baboon gleefully scampers to the far side of the viewing deck with his prize. The cooler bag has been of great use to us as a carrier for water bottles, keeping them cool in the African days. We watch as with simian strength the baboon tears the bag to shreds, opens the bottle with a foot, pouring out the water and drinking some. A small crowd has gathered laughing and joking at our misfortune. A lady near the front turns to leave, and the baboon's hand reaches out and takes hold of her handbag, no doubt containing many important things. She lets out a shriek and begins pulling the bag, and a tug of war ensues. It is at this point that E & C turn from the scene with hidden smiles and wander off.
Later we follow a path down to the riverside at the base of the gorge. The path leads us through thick undergrowth heavily populated with baboon tribes. From our right comes a terrible high pitched scream and violent thrashing of branches in the trees. Out of the bush race several baboons in a wild and fervent state, tearing down the valley towards the path, stopping at the edge to scream at each other. The path is littered with baboons, and we must walk between them, stepping over them in some areas, an altogether quite intimidating experience. The views of the river and the falls are splendid, but we are happier once we have returned to the top of the gorge, away from the daunting primates.
The next path takes us above the falls and we have a spectacular view of the profile of the gorge, and then the placid Zambezi as it approaches the lip of the falls. People are walking out over the small islands above the falls going to the edge. We decide against this rather rash idea, and rest on the banks in the late afternoon sun.
After a night of watching some of the Olympics at the hostel, we check out and then take a taxi back to the falls, hoping to visit the Zimbabwe side. However, we find that we are no longer able to simply obtain a day pass to the other side. Infact we must exit Zambia, and on our return buy a new visa. This procedure with visas for Zimbabwe plus park entry fees proves to much, so we dispondently abort the plan. Instead we walk over the bridge to the Zim side before turning back. We then walk to the nearby Livingstone hotel which has beautiful grounds along the Zambezi, and armed with our binoculars we happily spot hippos, elephants and impala.
We then take the afternoon bus back to Lusaka, and purchase onward bus tickets to Chipata near South Luwangwa National Park.
Our bus next day is a cockroach infested rust bucket of a bus, but it gets us to Chipata, and we stay at Dean's Lodge, awaking the following morning to, of all things, rain....