We crossed this bridge to get from Zambia to Zimbabwe. (It’s also where we met up with everyone else later on to cheer on the bungy jumpers and zip liners.)
Travel/visa tip: Try to book Devil’s Pool tickets more than a week in advance. Because of limited spots, we were split into 3 groups – the morning group with breakfast included, the lunch group, and the afternoon tea group. H, Rachel and I already decided on afternoon tea but, splitting the other 2 groups became an unnecessary nightmare. As for visas, we were able to get them upon arrival at all the border crossings on this trip. Just make sure that you have relatively crisp USD issued from 2006 and on, and try to have exact change. They tend to give you a hard time about getting change back. As of Aug 2016, the Zambia visa for U.S. citizens was $80 and Zimbabwe $30 or 35. Carry a pen with you.
Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya), Zimbabwe
The afternoon tea group (minus the Canadians since the Zim visas were double the price for some reason) decided to hit up the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls in the early morning to avoid long lines at the border. We began at the David Livingstone statue by Devil’s Cataract and made our way to Main Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Rainbow Falls at a leisurely pace. We didn’t go chasin’ them.
There was literally no railing at the edge, and a simple trip could have you free-falling, then floating down the Zambezi below. Hand clamminess level: high.
Interesting that they would call this Rainbow Falls. Can someone tell me why?
History tidbit: The indigenous name for these falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya or, translated, “The Smoke That Thunders.” David Livingstone, a Scottish missionary and explorer who supported the abolition of slavery, named the falls in honor of Queen Victoria. Because Britain.
Armchair Falls and the Eastern Cataract towards the end of the trail. Rafters below were beginning to set off into the river on the right.
After reaching the end of the trail, we circled back and spotted the breakfast group chilling out in Devil’s Pool on the Zambia side. If you can’t see them…
…here’s a closeup, (They’re in the top, middle in the zoomed out photo.) That’s where we were going for the afternoon. YAY.
Devil’s Pool / VIctoria Falls, Zambia
Before our scheduled departure, we grabbed a delightful lunch at the Royal Livingstone Hotel, a place so out of our league that they had their own giraffes and zebras roaming around their privately-owned premises. From here, we took a boat ride to Livingstone Island, the access point to the Devil’s Pool and, of course, hors d’oeuvres, scones, tea and beer.
The backsides of Alex, Rachel, H, me, Mandy and Isabelle as we all leaned against the naturally formed rock enclosure. Rachel’s extremely nervous, hysterical laughter was definitely a highlight to the experience. What weren’t highlights were the asshole little fish in the pool that nipped at our legs.
A view to the left, to the left.
And, the view to the incredibly ominous-looking right.
Yup, we swam around somewhere along the edge back there. Hell yea.
Our cozy campsite was on grounds that were adequately fenced off to keep out the cool animals that could kill us. If you look closely to the right, you will see our laundry tree. We felt pretty genius about it because the branches were sturdier than the clothesline. Then we later found out that there was a nice ant colony that also very much liked the tree and, later, our clothes. Quite literally, we ended up with ants in our pants. Monkeys also later made their way to the trees and it became a legitimate concern over the safety of my banana shirt. But, unlike some U.S. citizens, they know when something is fake.
Our group for the second leg: George, Hayley, Erin, Chris, Courtney, Tanja, Ashley, Mandy, Viv, Connor, Isabelle, Kate, Hayden, Robyn, Nadine, me, Shani, Taryn, Alex, Rachel, Casey (?) and Whitney. We then said goodbye to 11 and hello to 9 new people.
Our Zambezi River whitewater rafting group was split into 2 rafts and the guide taught us some basic skills at the very beginning. Before entering the rapids, we were to stop paddling on his signal, duck into the raft, and hold onto our paddles against the “oh shit” line (rope handles). But, I have Trump hands and it’s damn difficult to hold onto a rope and a paddle simultaneously while going through thrashing water. The bumps of the raft against the rocks easily dislodged me and the guide kept yelling at me to hold on. I don’t handle people yelling at me well, especially when I’m trying my best to follow directions. Sorry that I’m not anatomically equipped to handle whitewater rafting. Even my childhood piano teacher yelled at me when I struggled to play octaves. But, I can damn well properly wash the bottoms of small jars.
Just to elaborate a bit more, my previous whitewater rafting experience was in the Delaware Water Gap. “Whitewater” in Delaware is a loosely used word. “Whitewater” in the Zambezi, on the other hand, is fucking terrifying. I was under the impression that we’d want to avoid raft flippage. Our guide promised not more than two. TWO. And, both times, the raft ended up flipping on top of me, once on the bottom flat side where there are no air gaps to help you out. I had to inverse crawl my way out. Then, when I finally freed myself, I gasped for air only to have the whitewater constantly splashing in my face. It’s hard not to panic. (That is me in the yellow helmet about to be pummeled by the raft in the above photo, by the way.)
There was another guide, though, who was a real beast. He sat on a wooden platform within the raft with 2 oars attached and paddled the shit out of the Level 5 (6 is the highest) rapids. He even went through the “Washing Machine” like it was just still bathwater. That is exactly how it sounds like.
Mfuwe / South Luangwa National Park
This campsite had a small pool but, by the time we arrived, it had become a very pretty shade of green. “Pretty,” in this case, did not look sanitary. So, we chilled on the loungers and watched the sunset instead. I went to bed early since I opted for the morning game drive and fell asleep to the sound of Patrick and Catherine’s pronunciation of “mayor” in a very thick Irish accent. Then, I woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of elephants and/or hippos roaming in between our tents. I’d say that it was an interesting night of sleep.
Road blockage en route to our morning game drive.
We indiscreetly followed this elephant around and he was obviously annoyed by it. He abruptly stopped walking to turn around and shout WTF with this facial expression.
LEOPARD. Marking its territory. When I see its cute tail and paws, I momentarily forget that it’s not just a cat. Then, I realize that it would rip me to shreds if I, let’s say, walked up to it and hugged it or something.
I didn’t even have to zoom that much for this photo. It was right in front of our 4×4 and the driver had to tell us to carefully sit back down or else it would think we were threatening it. Oh, okay.
Boulders in the water? No.
Hippos. Why do they look so damn cute from afar? Another animal I want to hug but clearly won’t.
Reflection after sunset.
We weren’t able to catch a kill but, we saw the aftermath of one during a night drive. After watching the leopard go through many unsuccessful attempts at dragging the carcass up the tree, it was getting pretty late and we had to go before closing time. It was a little disappointing that we couldn’t stay longer. But, on the way back, we stopped abruptly to let a hippo family cross the road in the pitch black with nothing but the headlights to illuminate them. A baby hippo trailed behind in complete cuteness. “Ain’t no one fucks with tiny hippo. Ain’t no one.”
While falling asleep in the 4×4, I got whacked in the face on 2 separate occasions by a low-lying tree branch. That shit had thorns.