Victoria Falls - Zambia border crossing, Chipata

Trip Start Aug 28, 2008
Trip End Nov 06, 2008

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Friday, September 19, 2008

We were due for a couple of days of rest after the last two days of travelling by the time we got to Livingstone.  We'd had two days of leaving at 6.30 each day and getting in just before sundown.  The heat is starting to crank up as well the further south we get.  On the way we stopped at the wheelhouse bar still on Lake Malawi.  The bar was a bit crazy - it was set up over water on big pillars but had started to collapse so walking into it made you feel lightheaded.  Crossing the border the next day I heard the words I was hoping to hear - Irish go free! That kind of makes up for Tanzania.  Our first night in we met two Italian guys - they were in their early 20's but were motor biking with one of their dads and a support vehicle from Italy to Cape town - pretty impressive stuff.  I'm afraid I can't tell you their names though because I spent the whole evening just calling them Ewan and Charlie (see Long Way Down for reference).  We also met some South Africans in the bar who were quite keen on shooting buffalo and lions etc and we had a very interesting conversation about the rights and wrongs of it.  I've concluded that in their case it's shooting pests to farm owners - a bit like foxes in Ireland but on a much larger scale obviously. 

Livingstone was a welcome sight when we got there - two pools and the restaurant looking out over the Zambezi.  We had a four day break there before having to travel again and we were going to make sure we made the most of it.  We were also splitting onto different trucks after Livingstone, so it was our last few days together as a group - sad times.  You could tell we were close the the Zimbabwe border - one of the many touristy things that you could buy was a 100 billion zimbabwian dollar note - a couple of people bought them for a us dollar.  Once we'd set up camp for the night we headed out to Rhapsody's restaurant for our last meal together.  It took a while to get served but it was a good night.  The journey back in the taxi van was a little less relaxing - they squeezed 16 of us into an eight seater.  We began to run out of air by the end of the ten minute trip, but it's all part and parcel of Africa.  The next morning we were up and out at 8 to see Vic Falls.  To be honest it was a bit disappointing - we were there at the lowest water level during the year and there was no water on the Zambian side of the falls. Like literally, there are bigger waterfalls in Ireland. But still the view over the gorge was pretty cool.  We all ventured out into no mans land between Zambia and Zimbabwe to get to the Vic Falls Bridge where some of the guys were booked in to do some scary stuff.  There was a zip line across the gorge for starters and then the brave (Stacey, Sian, Petra, Carly, Rosie, Nigel and Ali) all did bungee jumps off the bridge.  My stomach turned the first five times I watched but it got to the point where I almost got enough guts to do it.  I got my purse out to see how much I had money wise when Stacey and Sian started to tell me how they nearly vomited at the bottom.  Right then, maybe not this time.  I quite liked my breakfast but I don't want to see it again.  Worse again was the bridge swing.  The very very brave did this.  It basically is like a bungee except you're in a harness rather than having your legs strapped.  Somehow it just seems worse because you actually have to force yourself to walk off the bridge into mid air.  It was very scary and I'll never be able to do it I'm pretty sure on that.  Sian really did vomit at the bottom of that. 

The next day we decided to take it easy - it's hard work watching all your friends jumping off a bridge, so we spent the day by the pool where Carly managed to persuade me that it's not so bad actually jumping straight into the pool instead of inching in over half an hour.  That night there was a band in the bar - the first entertainment we'd seen the whole trip long so we had a bit of a dance after dinner.  Ian and I had a dance off but he won hands down, I was too embarrassed to get up after he'd finished because everyone was staring in our direction.  It was a good strategy!

Fully rested I headed off with Petra, Adam, Simon, Sarah, Ian, Jemma, Ian and Lizzie at 8 am for a full day whitewater rafting.  I thought this might be a less nerve wrecking adventure when compared to bungee.  I was wrong.  Our raft instructor kept shouting at us for doing it wrong, not paddling in time and all sorts and we were really nervous going through rapids all morning.  We survived a grade 5 and got a bit of confidence up, which actually didn't work in our favour, because we flipped at the next rapid.  It's the scariest thing in the world.  The problem is you're never sure as you're going down when the next wave will hit and therefore it's very difficult to catch your breath at the right time.  So you just need to take a breath in when the whole raft flips upside down and starts off down the rest of the rapid upside down, leaving you in foaming water wondering if you'll ever taste fresh air again.  Luckily I didn't get caught under the raft but a couple of others did and it really shook them up.  I think I'd have gotten out then and there if it'd been me.  As it was I somehow managed in my struggle to survive to catch not only the rope on the raft but also found I was desperately clinging to my paddle.  As if that would help me float... Anyhow as we came out the other side I spotted Petra holding on too but we were on the wrong side of the raft and heading towards rocks so I managed to edge around but Petra had to let go.  I stretched out and shouted at her to grab my legs.  Can you imagine seeing an upside down raft with me hanging off the back and Petra hanging onto my legs.  It must have looked hilarious but I told Petra I saved her life... We are firm rafting buddies now and talking about going in Wales sometime.  By lunchtime we'd had enough of Simba, our guide, shouting at us, especially seeing as everyone else seemed to be having so much fun with it so we asked to switch.  After lunch we had a new team and a new guide and the atmosphere changed immediately.  Our guide was Enoch and he put us at ease straight away.  We started doing much better paddling wise and we actually started enjoying the rapids.  We jumped out of the raft in calmer waters and went around dunking people and floating through some smaller rapids.  The heat was unreal so it was really nice to be able jump in.  Enoch decided we should take one of the other rafts, so we paddled alongside, jumped in and threw everyone out.  We then took out the other Acacia raft.  I am covered in bruises and was aching for days afterwards.   We paddled 31k's and you use every muscle to try and stay in the raft.  We were so exhausted that evening but my feet were actually clean! I discovered that the tan line from my flip flops wasn't actually a tan line after all.  Gross.... 

The next day we were all on our way to Botswana with our new truck/bus mates...
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