When in the village…

Day 293, Tuesday 23 October 2012 – Livingstone, Zambia

I was glad I was in the room last night as it hammered down in the early hours, but having said that the tent is pretty waterproof. I had left the tent all zipped up over the past couple of days but someone must have unzipped the rain flap a bit yesterday as I discovered it slightly open and a large puddle had accumulated inside the door. Unfortunately this morning we had to check out of the room and the truck had gone off for a service so we had to stick the bags in the tent, a bit annoying when you have a few thousand dollars worth of camera gear! I had also planned on spending a couple of hours or so in the truck working on photos and blogs as I am still way behind and didn’t get anywhere near as much done yesterday as I wanted – but I did enjoy the long lunch, the swim and the lie downs!

The weirdest thing happened last night, I woke about midnight or so and it felt like I had swallowed a bug that had stung me on the back of the throat, i felt a sharp sting and then there was a small amount of swelling that restricted swallowing a bit this freaked me a bit, but it was not enough to block airwaves or anything and it went down after a few minutes. I was sleeping under a mozzie net so not sure what happened, this morning I was wondering I dreamt the sting and the reaction was psychosomatic – the swelling definitely happened. Weird…

After making final use of the hot ho water in the chalet by having the first shave in two weeks I checked out and went and sat by the campsite and typed this under a tree. The rain stopped earlier this morning and it is coolish when the breeze is blowing, but there is a lot of cloud cover still and it could get grotesquely humid later on – my freshly shaved face hates the humidity.

In the early afternoon Leonie and I got a lift into Livingstone on the camp shuttle, we wandered up through the town to the local museum. Town is Ok, a typical large African town, a bit dusty and dirty and the colonial era buildings in a mild state of disrepair. A lot of the state and local government buildings have these mission statements on walls or boards outside, I think they are sweet.

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I humped my great big camera around all day but didn’t really take any photos, a bit dumb of me I guess.

The museum was interesting, it wasn’t worth the $5USD entry fee, it did remind me of the museums in New Zealand – about thirty years ago – lots of moulding stuffed animals etc. There was a village scene which was good and a highlight for Leonie (I missed it) was hearing the sound of water and turning around to see one of the local boys peeing on the sand floor of the mock village. Hilarious!

I was not feeling 100% today so after the museum we went back to the shopping area, changed some money and bought some snacks and things for the next few days.

I spent a bit more time blogging at the neighbours place before heading back to the camp site for a night back in the tent and the first dinner with the new tour buddies. It was a bit of a weird meal, all us old hands knew how the system worked and the seven newbies obviously didn’t. We had also gelled as a group and with the crew and the others were still meeting each other as well as us.
As soon as dinner had finished there was a massive frenzy of cleaning up by the new folk as they were keen t get involved, they even cleaned up all the chairs – it was only 7:30 and people drifted off to bed. Weird. I went to the bar and had one drink by myself – I was hoping to find Bill there but he had already left.

It is tomorrow morning in New Zealand, and my son Aiden’s birthday. I tried to call him from my cellphone but didn’t have any joy so sent him a text. With nothing else to do I went to bed.

A wee bit of luxury

Day 292, Monday 22 October 2012 – Livingstone, Zambia

Even though I slept under a mozzie net I had a few bites on me this morning, not sure if it was from the shower or not, I couldn’t see them under the net when I was in bed. The campsite here is the worst place for mosquitoes that I have seen in Africa so far, the showers are really bad. I have been using repellent on my ankles but had bites on my back – unusual.

It was good to sleep in a room, but due to the mosquitoes we had all the windows closed so it was quite stuffy, even with the fan on. The room came with a cooked breakfast, which was average at best, but at least I could get a plunger coffee which was not too bad. Though we did get to watch some elephants swimming across the Zambesi in the distance which was pretty, make that very, cool.

The plan for the day was to do very little and I am glad to say I exceeded myself and did even less than that. I had hoped to crack a few blog posts out and get a long way into photo reviewing, I achieved a bit but not as much as I would have liked.

I did have a very nice lunch at the neighbouring hotel, made use of their internet to check some bank balances and upload a couple of blog posts and have a couple of quick dips in their pool. I am surprised I have enjoyed the relaxing so much, it is not normally my thing at all.

At 4:00 Bill (from first leg), Leonie and I caught a cab to the Zambesi Sun hotel where we met up Dave and Nancy (also from the last leg) for a G and T on the river bank deck of the neighbouring Royal Livingstone hotel. The cab driver who dropped us off, asked us if we wanted him to collect us later, gave us his number and drove off without us paying him. Obviously they really trust westerners !

On the walk between hotels we saw a giraffe just off the path as well as three elephants grazing on the river bank, plus vervet monkeys galore – I love Africa !

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We sat and watched the sun disappear into the cloud over a hippo infested section of the Zambesi River just before it hit Victoria Falls. We could see the clouds of spray billowing up and out of the gorge, a stunning back drop for a convivial drink.

We went back to the Zambesi Sun and had pizza for dinner, I love pizza and this was good!

The end of trip one.

Day 291, Sunday 21 October 2012 – Livingstone, Zambia

Not a bad sleep at all last night, I woke a couple of times but was reasonably refreshed when I was woken at 5:30 by the sounds of other overlanders packing up for an early departure. The camp here is very crowded, at least six trucks around us and there is always one group leaving early in the morning and packing up a site is never a quiet process. Swings and roundabouts of course, we do exactly the same to everyone else.

Official breakfast time was 8:00 but we are all so used to getting up early that most of us were up with the coffee on well before then, for half the people it is their final meal with Africa in Focus and for some of those it is their last on African soil, for this time anyway.

The first tour – “desert and water wanderer”, has been fantastic, I cannot believe twenty one days have passed so quickly, I guess I was lucky in that I was with a pretty good bunch of people and personality conflicts were minor and had no impact on the trip itself. I have been really surprised at how much I enjoyed the trip, but not surprised that I have loved what I have seen of Africa so far. Roll on leg two – Livingstone – Nairobi.

At 10:00 we farewelled five of the group when they took a taxi to the airport, those of us that stayed behind went our separate ways, I did another load of laundry and then made use of the empty truck, plugged my laptop into the power, cranked some tunes and edited photos for a while.

After lunch Leonie and I moved into a twin room for a couple of nights away from the tent. Leonie spent the afternoon at the hotel next door and I did more photo editing, blog writing and music listening in the room in the relative cool. It was great to have a decent shower and then get out and not get covered in dust walking back to the tent, sometimes it is the small things that make a difference.

At the camp site in Chobe we ordered custom souvenir t-shirts , mine was slightly different to the others as I have Uganda and Rwanda added to mine. It was suppose to have the flags of the ten nations I am visiting on the trip and say Cape town to Kigali, but it only had the standard seven flags and said it Cape Town to Nairobi, it went back again and came back with two more flags and nothing else. I took it anyway. It is the first souvenir t-shirt I have bought on any of my travels. Most overlanders seem to have them on Livingstone.

Brett, our tour guide had told of us a gate that leads from our camp ground into the five star David Livingstone Hotel next door and the code for their free wifi, which is one hundred times better than the costly wifi in the campground. I popped over in the afternoon to upload a blog post and grab some emails down to my phone for reading and replying to offline. Some of the others were lounging round the pool and using the free towels, love it.

At 5:00 we went down to the campground bar to sit in on the pre-trip meeting for the next three weeks tour and meet the new crew mates. There is a vast age range on the next trip with some under thirties and an over eighty. For a change I will be in the much younger group. I hope I have a beer buddy like Stuart from the last leg, also that as I am fit and able I wont have to do more work than everyone else – putting up tents can be a drag!

After the meeting the last of us from the first leg went into Livingstone for a curry and a couple of beers to say farewell to Stuart and Jackie who are the last to leave. It was a good night, the food was great, hardly cheap but worth it.

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We topped it off with a brandy and coffee and then it was time to sleep in a real bed.

The mist that thunders

Day 290, Saturday 20 October 2012 – Livingstone, Zambia

I immediately fell asleep when I got to bed and sadly discovered when I woke at 4:00 that it was actually only midnight, again. i didn’t sleep much after that either. But being awake meant I did get to drink a couple of bottles of water and flush out the dirt cheap vodka I was drinking on the booze cruise last night. I felt fine and dandy when I did get up at 7:30.

Like a lot of the camps this one is surrounded by a double fence, outside is electric and inside has barbed wire on the top. There are a lot of elephants in the area and they will come through campsites if the sites are not protected. It has been suggested that we do not go outside the camp and walk into town due to the elephant risk. Later in the trip the fences and gates are more designed to keep the locals out, which is a bit of a shame really.

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Eight of us have decided to take a day trip into Zimbabwe, I am partly doing it so I can get another stamp in my passport. However, the main objective is to see Victoria Falls from the Zim side as it actually has water over in it, at this time of year, in the peak of the dry season the Zambian side is almost bone dry.

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The truck took us to the border and we walked across, the Zambian side was fairly straight forward but the train had just arrived before us and it took almost an hour to get through into Zimbabwe, we were very pleased there was air conditioning in the office, it would have been awful otherwise as it is very hot.

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To cross between the two countries we had to walk a few hundred metres, there was a great bridge crossing – though not a lot of water flowing at the moment. The walk from the border to the park entrance was quite long through a long section of dusty and dry road works.

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A statue of Livingstone

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We spent about two hours wandering the path along the side of the falls, they are spectacular even in the dry season and definitely deserve their place as one of the seven wonders of the world. I took a lot of photos, but I do suck at waterfalls for some reason, and definitely not through a lack of practise either. I am sure some of the others have some better photos than me. The falls are known as the “mist that thunders” and from a distance you can really understand why. In some places the mist fell like rain on our heads and I am glad I took plastic bags for my camera.

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On the way back to the park exit we did spot some of the local wildlife.

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We were going to walk into the local village for lunch and curio shopping. However, it was quite hot and we had been out longer than anticipated so decided to lunch at the cafe in the park. Not a decision I regret – the food was fabulous, but even better was the espresso thick shake! So nice I had two.

After lunch we walked back across the border and once back in Zambia took a taxi back to the camp site.

Leonie and I moved into our new digs, a fairly basic bungalow, at least I could have a hot shower and step out and not have instantly dirty feet, luxury!

There is a gate between the campsite and the five star David Livingstone Hotel next door. The gate is not locked and has been used as a rest area before. We spent a bit of time there over the next few days. The pool was great, the bar service friendly and prompt, the food wonderful and somehow we seemed to have the admin login to the fantastic wifi : The wifi in the campsite was not free and not very reliable so this was hugely popular with some of our group.

We had dinner at the truck, a couple of beers and another early night.

“Why don’t you act your age”

Day 289, Friday 19 October 2012 – Waterfall Camp, Livingstone, Zambia

It was not a big drive day today so we got to lie, though as usual we were all up early, breakfasted and hanging around waiting for the off.

It was a short drive to the border which is on the Zambesi River. We passed through the Botswana immigration post and were down by the river waiting for the ferry across the Zambesi. We had been advised earlier in the trip to not take photos at border crossings but were all a bit unsure on this one as we were not exactly passing secret military installations. I snapped a couple on the little camera.

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The entry into Zambia was interesting, instead of filling in arrival forms, we all wrote our names and details on a piece of paper ! it was still a slow process, the border here was chaotic with a lot of trucks queued in each direction.

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The drive from the border to the historic town of Livingstone was fairly short and we arrived in the early afternoon. The town is named after Dr. David Livingstone who was the first European to find Victoria Falls. Livingstone spent much of his life in the area and was one of the first to highlight in the west the awful practise of kidnapping local villagers to be sold into slavery.

Livingstone is the final destination of the first of the two tours I am doing and the start of the second, so though five of us doing both have five days in town. We are staying at the Waterfront Campsite on the edge of the Zambesi river. Leonie and I organised a room in the camp for two nights from tomorrow. A chance to get clean, wash some clothes and make use of some electricity.

Once we were settled in we were off on a sunset “booze cruise” on the river. Just before we left the heavens opened and a good tropical downpour passed through. I finally got to use my umbrella on the walk to the MV Makumbi, the boat that was to take us up river for the “sunset”. As the weather was bad I didn’t take my camera, and I didn’t miss anything either.

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The boat ride comes with a meal and all the booze you can drink, we all made pretty good use of the bar, even those who don’t normally have a drink knocked off a tipple or two. I stuck to vodka and tonic, though the vodka was pretty rough. It was a good trip, we didn’t see much of a sunset due to the weather, but we did see a few hippo in the river which is always cool. It was a fun time with a load of laughs and fortunately it was all over by 7:00 pm or it would have gotten all very messy.

The boat docked right outside the camp ground bar and most of the group did not make it much past there, settling in for a couple of drinks. We were shown a game by Stu which was a real hoot and ended up with the couple behind us stomping off and telling us to “act our age”, that brought about huge bouts of laughter from all of us, and remains one of the funniest things on the trip – even three weeks later as I type this. I won’t reveal the game as it has a twist and I am going to use it one day!

It was not a very late night, but there were quite a few wobbles and staggers on the way back to the tents, and I wont reveal who ended up falling into a flower bed – but not one of the kiwis!