Thursday, 5 October 2017

Livingstone, I presume!

Elephants on Chobe River
I'm with Livingstone when he said that Victoria Falls was a scene so lovely it must have been gazed upon by angels. I mean it probably wouldn't have been my choice of words when you consider the type of friends I have! They would have been checking my pockets for a secret stash of particularly intense marijuana if I had used EXACTLY those words! Non the less - our sentiments and the emotions it conjures up are still the same today as they were back then. Of that, I am sure. In fact, thankfully Africa still has many sights that leave you breathless and in awe of mother nature (no stimulants required!). But be careful! It's addictive!


The drinking giraffe - priceless!
The most amazing things for me so far has to be the wildlife and the friendliness of the people. Both come in abundance in Botswana, and now crossing into Zambia, I am finding the same thing.

I spent one last night in Botswana, camping on the banks of the river Chobe in Kasane. I treated myself to a boat ride, and boy was that special. There are a lot of people here, but it is easy to block them out (or embrace them, depending on how sociable you feel) once you start seeing the abundance of wildlife that this river attracts. Dozens of elephants, hippos, crocs and birdlife. I even got to see my first drinking giraffe! What a sight as it sprawls it gangly legs and reaches down for a sip, before springing effortlessly back up again! I am having quite a few 'first' experiences lately - a mother and baby elephant swimming, a pied kingfisher catching a fish, and who can forget, the best damn Irish coffee I have ever had! The latter not technically a 'first', but I had to give it a mention!

Since crossing the border and arriving at Livingstone, I have been spoilt rotten - I mean REALLY spoilt! Ian Brooks of Gwembe Castle and Livingstone Reptile Park contacted me and offered his phone number a week or so before I arrived. He said that if there was anything I needed then just to call. I asked if he had some tent space for a few days. He said this was no problem and even came to meet me at the border with a couple of biking friends. From there things just got better and better! Arriving at the park I asked if there was a shady spot I could put my tent. Ian said, 'No need for that, you have the castle!'. I could not believe it. This place was 5 star luxury and totally unique.  I had the whole place to myself? With a pool? Surely I could not be this lucky! I often wake up and have to really think hard before I can remember where I am. This is not surprising considering I move around so much, but waking up in a castle? Now that REALLY had me confused!

Ian in the pool at Victoria Falls
I ran up and down the spiral stairs, jumped on the four poster beds, and ran up to the turrets where I had a great view and a roll-top bath! Life did not get any better than this! I mean, I'm ecstatic when I just get a bed and a flushing toilet! This really was something to enjoy while it lasted. Don't get me wrong - I love my tent, but one of the things I love about it is that it helps you really appreciate the little things in life. This was more than a little thing, and I planned to enjoy it for as long as it lasted, just as Ian had intended.

That evening Ian and I went for a walk across the great Victoria Falls for sundown (Locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, 'The Smoke Which Thunders'). It's dry on the Zambia side this time of year and so we clambered along the rocks and even found ourselves a small pool on the edge to dip into. The following morning after a great night sleep in a luxurious bed, Ian called and said that Livingstone Adventures were offering me a complimentary flight in a helicopter over the falls! Whhhaaaaaaat? Really? Yes really! I was a little excited as you can imagine. It had always surprised me that I had never made it into a helicopter, and now I was going to be doing it over one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
Victoria Falls from above

The flight was of course, amazing. I had a great pilot and felt like I was on a motorbike in the sky twisting through the clouds! Very cool! I did not meet Daan, the owner, while I was there and so I went back the next day to find him and thank him in person. We sat and chatted a while before he then suggested I try their sunset river boat cruise down the Zambezi - complete with G&T! I thought that perhaps I should check my own pockets for particularly intense marijuana about now, as surely I must be tripping! I decided that if I was, then I should get some more, because this was the dogs proverbial's!

The two hour cruise really was beautiful. I think my Grandmother would have said it was, 'very civilised' as she quaffed her G&T! In fact, I think it did actually cross my own lips! Where did the girl from Wales suddenly go? No fear, she is only ever one or two complimentary drinks away! But seriously, the rivers in this part of the world are full of wildlife. It really is just 'the norm' to see hippos and elephants all around you.

Sunset on the African Queen
The following morning I met another biker and tour operator named Jo. Jo runs Bundu Adventures, and during breakfast, he invited me to join them for a swim under the falls the following morning. I had been planning to leave but how could I refuse? To walk across, fly over, and swim under the falls was something I could not turn down. I had planned to just look at it from distance so every bit of this was a bonus.

The walk down the 750ft drop into the gorge reminded me of being in Wales. Rock hopping and scrambling down until we got to the river. From here we jumped on a raft and paddled around to another outcrop of rocks, where we got out, climbed over, and jumped into the water on the other side. We were dripping with sweat by now so the cool water was so refreshing. The perspective of Victoria Falls from the bottom of the gorge is breathtaking. The rock faces tower more than one hundred meters all around you and water cascades down from where the back basalt meets the blue sky. Here we swam in the pools directly underneath the falls. It was kind of a wet adventure, so I left my camera behind. You'll just have to trust me that it was beautiful - or check out their website for some of their promo pics.

Livingstone really was an amazing experience for me.  Thanks so much to Ian Brooks of Gwembe Safari,  Daan of Livingstone Adventure and Joe of Bundu Adventures. You made my time here very special and one I shall never forget - although I think you have ruined me slightly! How can I ever go back to budget travel after this?

Thank you.

Thinking of coming to Southern Africa?

Yes it's real! 
DO! The only downside is that it can be quite an expensive place to visit if you really want to see and enjoy everything. I have been extremely lucky, but if you are considering visiting on a budget, do check the costs of park entry fees, excursions, and of course, accommodation. If you are not camping, or lucky enough to be put in a castle, then you may find yourself forking out a great deal more than you had anticipated! Also remember that motorcycles are not allowed in many national parks. All this can be worked around if you have time and energy to figure it out. You can hitch a ride into a park like I did in Nambia, and there are plenty of very good campsites if you are prepared to do without your air-con. My only advice would be to do your research before you book the flight! If you still want to come, then you will be guaranteed a tremendous time! The service is wonderful, the people are friendly, the sites are breathtaking and......well I could go on forever! If you have kids then bring them here for memories that will last their lifetime.

Clearly I'm loving it!
Sunset on the Zambezi

Gwembe Caste
Rhonda and the Elephants 
Bath in the turrets
Hippos in the Chobe River

















2 comments:

  1. Steph, you take such brilliant photographs. What camera are you using? (I'm assuming you use some sort of compact camera given the space and weight limitations.)

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