Cruising is such a lovely way to travel – you go slowly and get to see local life as you interact with them – the downside is that often you miss out on the interior. Being based at Slipway has been great because we have had the opportunity to explore more of Tanzania and now we were going to visit a couple more African countries and see another wonder -the Victoria Falls.
We were really excited to go to Zambia as we were going to stay with one of our oldest friends who lives in Lusaka. Chris introduced us to each other 33 years ago, his sister was my best friend from school and is Godmother to our eldest and his father did the speech at our wedding so we had a lot of catching up to do – we had not seen each other for over 30 years as Chris moved to
Zambia around the time we moved to Australia and we had not been in same country since. Of course when he came to pick us up, he and Ian walked past each other – did a double take and then recognised each other! Not the strapping young 26 year olds anymore but older and greyer – the moment we spoke though the years fell away and the hugs and back slapping started. We set off for home with a pit stop for some essentials – red wine and fillet steak and ended up at a delightful cafe/restaurant for lunch where his wife Charles and daughter Maddy met us. Lusaka was a real eye opener for us. We were used to Dar es Salaam which is very crowded and not very modern. In Dar there are only a couple of malls and the main shopping mall consists mainly of phone shops and a couple of supermarkets with very few places to eat and quite small. Lusaka seems to have a shopping mall every mile or so and they are still building more. They are huge – and well patronised. We spent a couple of hours in just one of them and it had everything you could possibly want – with the prices half that of Tanzania. The overall feeling was that Zambia was a prosperous country with a good future. We saw no tuk tuks or beggars and it felt very safe. We spent a few days here with Chris and Charles staying at their property just outside Lusaka. A couple of days after we arrived Charles’s sister and brother in law arrived so we had a full house – we a bbq (or braii as they are called in Africa) and talked and drank whiskey way into the evening.
Charles started a company called Little Ndaba in 2013 to give local women the opportunity of supplementing their family incomes by making handcrafted soft toys to sell internationally. The company is closely involved with the elephant orphanage, the conservation society and the women and children’s projects.
The individual sections of the toys are made by women from the villages in their homes and then these parts are brought to Lusaka where they are stuffed and sewn together by local women who gather round to have a natter and earn some money to supplement their family income. By giving women this opportunity for working outside the home, Little Ndaba has helped many ladies give themselves a sense of pride in their work, the benefit of financial security and the added value of having a commitment.
After a lovely few days, it was time to head south to Livingstone to see the Victoria Falls. With promises of not leaving it 33 years again before we saw each other,we said goodbye to Chris and Charles and set off for the bus station.
Lusaka bus station is an eye opener. You are pushed and pulled to a waiting bus with people screaming at each other to get your patronage. Your bags are pulled off you and it took all our strength to keep hold of them. Hawkers, kids and beggars all hassle you to either buy something or just give them money but, once we got in the bus we were quite impressed. There are USB ports to charge your phone, and a movie playing from about 6 tv screens. For the grand sum of $20 we eventually set off for the 8 hour journey and quickly found out it was the National day of Prayer and so complete with our own preacher on board who shouted his message for the first 40 minutes – we sat back and enjoyed the passing countryside. 11 hours later we arrived….
We had pre-booked a small guesthouse in Livingstone is we headed straight there and decided to explore the following day. Livingstone is lovely – busy of course because of the Falls but a real little working town. There is so much to do and we were glad we had extended our stay to 4 days. The first thing we did was book a visit to The Devil’s Pool. This is only open for a few months a year and is a natural rock pool right on the edge of the falls which you can sit in and look out over the water. There is actually a ledge to prevent you from toppling in – but it is still amazing to be in such a precarious place. There was a 20 minute walk across the top to get there but well worth it.
We decided to do a whitewater rafting day down the Zambezi – which turned out to be one of the best days of our lives. I had rafted before in Bali but this was completely different. For a start there are huge grade 5 rapids and even one grade 6 rapid. It is known as the best one day rafting trip in the world – and can only be done at when the water level is low – so really only between August and December. There are 21 rapids to go over in the full day followed by a very very steep climb back out of the gorge. My legs were like jelly by the time I got out but I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. With names like Oblivion, The Terminator and Devil’s toilet, these rapids are big – your adrenaline is running high and you flip from high excitement to sheer terror. It’s fabulous…. Our rafting guide had the delightful name of Potato, and he was brilliant. Most boats flip and people are flung out but we stayed upright the whole day – I think because we were older he made sure we stayed inside the boat but there was the time when I turned round and Potato himself had fallen out. Another time he told us all to jump out and body surf down the next rapid – I was out in a shot and had the most exhiliarating 5 minutes of my life hurtling down the Zambezi bouncing around like a cork. If you ever come to the Victoria Falls do not miss the whitewater rafting – so far it has been the highlight of this whole journey. We spent the day paddling, laughing, getting very wet and marvelling at the gorge. We watched people at the top swooping down on the swing and we all screamed and cheered them on. After spending the day in a washing machine, we went back and were treated to a great dinner including beer and didn’t get back to our hotel until dark. Potato did a great job – the company was called Bundu and it included about 100 great photos taken by their photographer and emailed to us all.
One of our favourite places to eat in Zambia was a restaurant called Cafe Zambezi. Our bill came in the several currencies – the US dollar and Euro are accepted everywhere. We had a drink there that night with some friends we met rafting and had a couple more days before we walked over the bridge into Zimbabwe. We had adored Zambia but Zim was waiting.