Not your average travel blog
It’s a normal, but it’s an expensive and slow, procedure. After two and a half hours of frustrating queueing and lazy conversation, with enough paperwork to build a reliable raft to cross the English Channel on, we crept over the border and made it into Zambia. With money for old rope, we found our sky rocket a few hundred dollars lighter. As with most borders around Southern Africa, there are no signs or sufficient guidance on where to go or what needs to happen to acquire all the required papers before crossing. Naturally, it’s a ground swamped with uncertainty, and where there is uncertainty, there are Artful Dodgers everywhere.
Livingstone is aptly named the Tourism Capital of Zambia. Tourists of all species fall out of the trees like over-ripe fruit. Being there in the off season however, the jam is greatly reduced.
We hike down into Africa’s probably most famous landgash with paddles. We appear a little optimistic considering the amount of water that’s battering the gorge all around us.
A fairly steep hike with plenty of possible limb-altering rocks to negotiate at the bottom. Following a short cliff-climb, holding onto the ropes which are clenched tightly into the rock-face, we gingerly make our way over boulders, into the rib. Paddling upstream towards the vertical soda-stream, it is clear just how huge the falls are. A kilometre above us, the water begins leaping over the edge. Even in dry season the noise drowns out some of our conversation.
The colossal, mist-filled caverns to our left and right, with the swirling dark pools below us, and. with bellowing clouds of drenching moisture flying all around in the atmosphere are a daunting reminder that we are floating mercilessly at the base of the largest wall of water in the entire world. The curtain of liquid stretches 1.6 Kilometres, end to end. In wet season, there is no chance of being where we are.
Without hesitation, we jumped in.
The depth of the pool at the bottom of the falls is apparently over 80meters deep. Fish get trapped here and occasional fishermen risk their lives to pull out a whopper. With water falling from 180meters above us, I think what it might be like to stand under a hundred poweshowers. If it wasn’t for the overwhelming, surrounding cliff face, and the water stinging as it hits your face, it is difficult to compare it to anywhere else. Indeed on occasion, especially in heavy rains each year, elephants and hippo get washed over the falls. The sound of a screaming elephant as it plummets to its death, to be obliterated by the power of water on rock, I’m told, is harrowing at best.
Fishing for tigers is a pastime you may think of as very unpopular, or even impossible in Africa. However, with Tiger Fish being some of the best sports fish on the continent, it’s a favourite hobby of anglers with a penchant for battling with river monsters. We were successful in that we did catch some, but at one point I packed up and sat on the tiny tinny to take in the scenery.
Giraffe wandered down for a drink, herds of elephant enjoyed a good spa, warthog wallowed, stealthy crocodiles floated around the boat and basked on the sand to warm up their cold, cold mashochistic hearts, hippo surrounded us, antelope nervously drank from the waters rocky edge, the birdlife was overwhelmingly active, especially kingfishers, fish eagles, herons, bee-eaters and storks.
The flora held the banks together in swathes of green and brown, often interrupted by troops of screeching baboons and cheeky vervet monkeys. We slowly navigated around the dangerous rafts of hippo and picked up speed in the deeper channels.
Even though there were moments when it was maybe a little unnerving, most of the time the paranoia was of no concern. Twice we sailed straight over hippo that popped up in our wake, obviously unhappy at our presence. Strangely, we also had one hippo follow us slowly for more than half a kilometre upstream as we fished from the rocks. Popping his head up not far from where we were casting and right next to where we had moored the boat. Curious, old, likely cantankerous, intrigued, but likely the grumpiest of all vegetarians (the hippo!); our concern was probably verified as he showed us impressive oral weapons. However, not to be distracted by our task, dinner was caught, and we headed back to the bank for a sundowner.
When in Rome, and when guests (not George – above) disappear with local girls, (only to find out the next morning that they almost had a very untidy run in with three elephants who stepped out in front of them while driving into town) it’s time to let ones hair down. Or on this occasion, the hair that you’ve won from a pair of soul-loving locals in a rather tense pool marathon.
In the morning, the ATM decided to swallow our cards. We headed out with some concern over how we’d resolve the situation. This isn’t unusual in Africa, with most banks these days simply lying about their boastful foreign services.
We managed to pay all our bills and had enough cash to fill our fuel tanks… once.
This would be a problem for tomorrow.