Travel Journal

Livingston, I presume

(Wednesday 26 January 2011) by Mike and Julie's sort of round the world trip
Day 164-166 1/16-18/11
It was almost a six hour ride down to Livingston from Lusaka and, although we stunk from not having bathed for two days, the bus was comfortable. We got something to eat and then looked for accommodations. There seems to be only two in the area: Jolly Backpackers and Fawlty Towers. After checking both, we decided on the latter as they had free Wi-Fi although it was so slow I was not able to upload journal entries and I am getting further behind as we travel through Africa.
We cleaned off most of the layers of dirt we had accumulated and I made reservations for the “Gorge Swing” the following day and we visited a proper supermarket. Lately we have been going into good size stores and they would only be stocked to about 10% with no variety in the plan. Perhaps I have been brainwashed by our consumer society, but it was pure joy to walk down aisles and aisles of stocked good with seven different brands of potato chips and an in-store deli and bakery!
The next morning we were picked up and driven to the Gorge which is a few kilometers from the falls and fully on the Zambia side. We had chosen the full day option which was 100 USD as opposed to the half day for 90 USD and we were the only ones there. Looking at the log book, no one had come the previous day but there were about 10 the previous day. Talking to the operators, it was definitely the off season and the crew there outnumbered us four to one.
After signing away our lives with the legalize, they begin to give us very detailed instructions on what to do and the proper safety procedures. Of course this was given by an operator with a strong accent and we only understood half of it, but how important can this be? Fortunately the instructions were reiterated several times by other guides with clearer instructions so we were good. First up was the abseil which is a fancy name for repelling down a cliff. We went down face to the cliff wall first showing good form. Once you reach the bottom, there is a fifteen walk back up to the rim of the gorge. By the end of the day, Julie and I knew the path quite well. When we returned, we did the flying fox or zip line. This place was shown on the Amazing Race, but I think back then they actually crossed the gorge back then, now you only zip about a quarter across before being reeled back to the platform. We opted to do the superman jump rather than the sitting position and went a couple times that way. Then we returned to the abseil and went down face first which was a little more difficult than the first time and we sometimes got turned around the wrong way on our decent.
Now it was time for the big one. There is a line across the gorge with a bungee cord attached to the middle and the other end tied to your harness. I suppose they had calculated that the distance down was greater than half the distance across or the first few attempts would have gone badly. I was unsure Julie would go a second time and wanted to do the tandem jump with her and then solo after that. We were joined together holding a strap behind each other’s back and a strap in front of us which the instructor was rather keen that we held it to our chest so our necks would not brake or something like that. We backed up to the ledge and when the instructor counted down to zero we pushed off into the abyss. I’m not sure who yelled louder . . . probably Julie. I’m told I yelled an obscenity, so don’t listen to the video if we offer to show you it. We survived, obviously, and made our way back up to do it again. I guess some people never learn. Because of our height difference, Julie did strain her arm holding the strap behind my back but it got better by the time we reached the top.
This time it was solo and I went first. Since I’m still working on eliminating my fear of heights, I wanted to go face first and actually experience seeing the bottom and stepping off. The feeling of free falling and watching the side of the cliff racing by you and the bottom rushing up is rather unnerving. To be honest, running with the bulls was more frightening because you can actually die doing that, whereas you can mental prepare yourself that this is safe and no one has died or been injured doing this. With that said, I did repeat the same obscenity again on the way down.
Julie had kept her eyes closed on the first jump but was eager to do it again so she could see the drop and did a forward step off the cliff. If you do get a chance to see that video, listen to the sound – it’s like she’s strangling a cat on the way down.
It began to rain so they pulled the bungee cord in because they mentioned rather offhand that if it’s wet it will stretch an extra 15% which could be bad. We had a great lunch there, probably the best food we’ve had for a week. I would highly recommend doing this as they instructors were great and really took care of us. Of course we were they only customers there that day so we definitely got full service. A half day gets you only one abseil, two flying fox, and one gorge swing and no meal, so sign up for a full day for the extra ten bucks.
The main drawback for Livingstone is that you are constantly approached by men selling the same crap. They also approach you asking your name and where you’re from, try to sell you necklace, Zimbabwe money which was taken out of circulation, or copper bracelets, and then when you say no, they ask you for money or a sale so they can buy bread. After a while my response got to be: “Bartholomew, Antarctica, Already got them, No sorry.” Also the internet here sucks. Free Wi-Fi was the main reason we went to Fawlty Towers, but it was so painfully slow, we checked out the next morning and left our bags as we went to Victoria Falls – of course taking advantage of their free shuttle.
We paid the 20 USD entrance fee and entered the park. There were several paths in the park and the one we took went to the scenic view of the fall which was quite a bit away from the falls but it allowed you to take in the whole view. At over a mile wide it is hard to envision its true width when you get up close. We next went to the knife’s edge which is a narrow bridge spanning a gap near the waterfall. We had thought ahead and brought ponchos but not enough to wear river shoes or have flip-flops to change to at this portion of the fall. Our shoes ended up hopelessly soaked for the rest of the day as there is perpetual water coming down from the mist sent up from the waterfall. We kept our cameras as dry as possible under our raingear. I especially like the shot of Julie in the saffron colored poncho which make her look like a monk.
We next went up to the top of the waterfall and looked out the edge from one end. There were signs posted that if you want to cross the edge it is your responsibility and no one else could be held liable; an interesting approach as our country would just put up bars and say it was forbidden to enter. I had wanted to visit the Devil’s Armchair which is a natural pool at the edge of the waterfall on an island where you can lie in the pool only inches from the edge; however, because it was the rainy season the water levels were too high to allow this but the advantage was the falls were at full strength.
Next we visited the Boiling Pot, also featured on the Amazing Race, which we had to descend down to the river and away from the falls. The current is strong at this bend of the river and creates a vortex which looks like, you guessed it, a pot with boiling water. Above this is the bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe and which occasionally has bungee jumpers going off it although there were none we saw today. Beyond that, on the Zimbabwe side is the impressive looking Victoria Falls Hotel which I think is a bit over our budget.
We return back to Fawlty to collect our bags and headed over to Jollyboy Backpackers which had simpler rooms at a lower rate than Fawlty’s and definitely less than the Victoria Falls Hotel. Julie felt a touch of a cold coming on so I got some ramen noodle soup and we used the common kitchen. We signed up for a shuttle to take us to the falls the next morning so we could cross the border into Zimbabwe.

  • Wheeeeeeeeee without Me by The Elder


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