I am going to break the tales of this weekend into a couple of posts as I’m a little windy (and not to mention a week late).
In Zambia, Easter weekend is a 4-day holiday with Good Friday and Easter Monday off. So, Friday morning we were up and on the road by 5 AM heading to the airport for our one hour flight to Livingston, Zambia to go see Victoria Falls. 😊 I am still not too familiar with the area, including how to drive to the airport, so I type “Lusaka International Airport” into the GPS. Well, when GPS gives directions, it does not seem to take into count whether the road is paved, the condition of the road, which roads are private, or when there are just random guarded gates in the middle of the road. Today’s journey took us to a manned (and armed) kingdom entrance-type gate. We pulled up to the gate and explained to the man that we were trying to get to the airport. He said that they don’t let people pass through and directed us to the road that we should have taken (had we known that the kingdom gate existed). We played stupid (well, I guess we were as we don’t know how to get the airport) and he was kind enough to let us drive through the gate and also gave us directions to the airport (only two turns—but we know from past experience, that the ‘only two turns’ can still lead to hours of being lost!). We only needed to be at the airport an hour before the flight and since we thought we knew how to get to the airport, we didn’t give ourselves much extra time for those “two extra turns”. Needless to say I was a little nervous but we made it with no problem.
Once we landed in Livingstone, we were picked up by our hotel, the David Livingstone Hotel, which is on the banks of the Zambezi river. Wow. Let me tell you, I was not expecting this lodge to be as impressive as it was. As soon as we pulled into the gate, you see that the entire lodge had a thatched roof! Just amazing. We pulled up to the front doors of the hotel (the two large thick wooden doors were probably each 20 feet tall and eight feet wide). The doors were open so you could look right through the hotel’s open air hotel on to the Zambezi River. I couldn’t believe it. What an incredible view. The name of Victoria Falls in the local language is Mosi-oa-tuna which means “the smoke that thunders”. The smoke refers to the massive amount of mist that is created from the water crashing over the falls which causes clouds of mist (“smoke”) to rise into the air—over 1300 feet from the top of the falls (the falls are 355 feet deep so the mist is nearly rising 1500-2000 feet from the bottom!). Even though the hotel was five miles from the falls, we could look down the river and see those huge bursts of smoke billowing into the sky all day and night. Just beautiful. They say that you can see the smoke from over 30 miles away. The second part of the “smoke that thunders” name refers to the incredible sound that the water makes as it crashes over the falls—it literally sounds like thunder and you can hear it all day and night.
After checking in at the hotel and dropping our luggage, we hit the ground running and took off to Victoria Falls. We got a phone number of a local taxi driver, Evan, from a friend in Lusaka (thank you Martha!) and what a score he was! We spent the weekend using him as we went from one place to another and he didn’t charge us the tourist price. What a great find. We arrived at the falls and as soon as you got out of the car we could hear the roar/thunder of the water coming over the top. That alone is an incredible sound. It is a national park so we paid our money and walked right to the top of the falls where you can see all the way down. It was amazingly impressive and words cannot describe the awe you feel. As we were walking down the path to get closer and closer to the falls, we started to notice the mist come in. First, it was just a light mist but the closer we got, the mist turned into light rain which turned into heavy rain which turned into basically standing in the shower! It was amazing. I cannot believe how much water was falling out of the sky just from the power of the falls hitting the bottom and making this mist. When we crossed one of the bridges in the gouge, the water was coming down so hard we couldn’t see in front of us because the ‘rain’ was so heavy. We were now completely soaked from head to toe. We couldn’t even ring out our clothes because there was so much water. And it was surprisingly refreshing—not cold, not hot, just a perfect temperature. At the top of the falls, right when we first entered the national park, there were stands renting rain jackets and ponchos. We opted not to have them as we saw that people who rented them still looked soaked. The only thing that would keep you dry during the raining season (or ‘high’ water season) would have been a dry suit! We walked completely around the top loop of the falls and then down into the gouge to an area called the Boiling Point. It was a rocky and muddy downhill path filled with baboons running everywhere, laying in the sun sleeping, and grooming each other. The baboons were very accustomed to people and it was quite the sight to see a baboon walking right next to you on the path. When we got to the bottom of the path and sat down on the rocks, I understood why they call it boiling point. The water looks like it is boiling as it is just turning and flowing back and forth this is a dead-end/curve to the lower Zambezi river. Apparently this is where they start out the whitewater rafting trips. We sat there for an hour just watching the water and enjoying the view of the Victoria Falls Bridge! What an amazing sight. We finally decided it was time to go back up the hill. After what felt like a five minutes of heart attacks walking up the hill because, apparently, I am extremely out of shape, we made it to the top and started walking towards the Royal Livingston Hotel so we could watch the sun go down. This hotel is right at the top of the falls. As we were walking to the Royal Livingston hotel, a person who worked there asked us, “Have you seen the zebras or the giraffes?” We hadn’t so he showed us the way and gave us a brief history such as that they have a giraffe named Bob who does not like humans so they have to keep him away from the guests. We walked over to the area where we found Bob, a few other giraffes, and zebras. Most of the zebras were also not nice to people (for more details, ask Angela as she has a great bruise to show for it). According to our impromptu guide, he said they were sending Bob to a game park and may be getting rid of the zebras because the zebras have been kicking too many people as they are free to wander around. This was the first giraffe and first zebra I have ever seen not in a zoo. So amazing to see them just doing their thing. We finally get to the hotel area and went to their patio deck that rests on the banks of the Zambezi river not far from the top of Victoria Falls. We ordered a late lunch and a few gin and tonics, kicked back, and enjoyed the sunset. Truly amazing. After the sunset, we headed back to our hotel, had dinner, and called it a day.