Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Vacation in Livingstone

• Travelled down by bus (about a 6 hour trip from Lusaka) with Meredith, Emily, Musi, and Andrea. On the way we passed me and Meredith’s towns and our provincial town. We were proud to point them out to our friends (and all the bus passengers that were shocked that we actually live here lol).
• Arrived to find that our hostel was right next to the bus station! How did we get so lucky?!? The hostel was awesome- totally catering to young white tourists- pillows and comfy chairs/lounges everywhere, all open with a woodsy/outdoorsy feel, nice tropical looking pool area, amazing outdoor bar/restaurant area (with the best most variety of American style food I’ve seen in Zambia yet!), simple yet clean rooms, self catering kitchen, on-site travel/activity booking agent, etc.---Amazing! And Affordable! If you are ever going to Livingstone, look up Jollyboys!
• On our first day, we just lounged around at the hostel, simply enjoying being on vacation, and not having to answer to anyone. Plus, I think we might have been a bit tired from going out dancing the night before ;-)
• Our second day, we had booked a Game/Safari Drive in the morning and a Sunset/Booze Cruise in the evening. The Safari drive was awesome- we had a great guide (who even broke the rules a little bit and let us get out and walk)- and we were lucky enough to see all of the animals possible in the park except for the Rhinos- we saw crocodiles, elephants, giraffes, buffalo, baboons, wildebeasts, zebras, etc. We even got to walk up close and look at a Buffalo carcass that some vultures were eating!
• After resting back at the hostel for a bit, we were picked up for the cruise. The boat goes down the Zambezi for about 1.5 hrs before sunset. They serve snacks, dinner, and all you can drink alcohol. The boat stops for the sunset, then returns back much faster than it came, at which point there is a crowd of young tourists downing more drinks as quickly as possible. Me being that smart one that I am, had decided to drink wine that night, since it is expensive in Zambia and I hardly ever get the chance…bad decision! LOL. Let’s just say that my friends were able to continue partying on into the night with friends they made on the boat…while I had to stay back at the hostel in bed  P.S. Don’t ever try to mix Red and White wine…yeah, it tastes okay…but did not make me feel okay!
• The next day, we decided to take a trip to Victoria Falls. We just walked the paths around the Falls, crossed the Knife Bridge, took some pictures, and watched our friend Musi bungi jump. As we were sitting up at the top of the falls, we saw a large group of people gathering on the shore, and we saw some boys coming from a distance, wading through the fast flowing current before the water goes over the edge. As they got closer, we could see there was one boy in front, feeling out the path and guiding the others. There were about 8 Zambian boys following him, and they were carrying something heavy. Finally, we could see that it was a body, all wrapped up in plastic and blankets. The crowd silently watched and waited as the boys slowly and carefully picked their way through the dangerous waters. They finally reached the shore and the crowd parted as they loaded the body into the back of a waiting truck, and drove away. There was a News Crew there that was able to give us a bit of information--- There are illegal guides that will take groups of people along the edge of the falls to pools of water where you can swim and even look over the edge. This boy (he was in his 20’s) and his friends had gone with such a guide last week and the boy had somehow been swept away/drowned while they were swimming. His body never went over the edge, but the search party was not able to find him for almost a whole week. It was only his friends and family doing the search and retrieval…the park would play no role in assisting. Sadly, these kinds of things happen all the time here, and nothing is ever done about it. I wonder if it would have been different if it had been a tourist to drown?
• We were having so much fun in Livingstone that we decided to stay an extra day and book a whitewater rafting trip. Me being the adventurist I am, I convinced my friends to do the full day rather than just a half day trip. LOL might have been a mistake…
• Anyways, the day started with a big group intro, safety instructions, and all that good stuff. It was fun because we already knew many of the guides (I even partied with some of them the night before). For the ones that didn’t know us yet, they soon did, as they were shocked and delighted to hear us speaking to the others in Tonga and Nyanja. After safety briefings, we took a little drive to the Falls, unloaded the gear, and hiked down to the bottom of the Falls- the “Boiling Point”. They set the rafts in the water and loaded us in. There were 7 or 8 rafts in the group. My guide was kind of like the leader, so on the first rapid, we stayed back and supervised as all the others went first. I think the first 3 in a row failed and flipped! Oh well! We had no choice now- we were already in it for the day! Finally, my raft tackled rapid 1… and we made it through! After that we continued on… all boats making it through 2 and 3… then a few flipping on 4… mostly good on 5 and 6… THEN WE GOT TO 7… the longest and hardest rapid of the trip- I think half or more of us flipped- my boat was first to attempt and we flipped right away- I tried to hold on to the safety line, but my hand slipped and off I went down the rapid! Did I mention this is the LONGEST rapid? Meaning I got dragged and tossed and dunked under the water for what seemed like forever! Now I am usually a pretty tough and adventurous kind of girl…but I was seriously scared for my life! I have never been through something so terrifying- I SERIOUSLY thought I was going to drown. I was frantically trying to swim toward the edge or to the nearest safety kayaker, but it didn’t help. I finally gave in and let myself float away, finally being rescued by another raft down where the water finally calmed and smoothed down. I looked around and the river was littered with paddles and people in orange life jackets. The rafts collected everyone, and then took a little break to sort out and redistribute everyone to their correct rafts. Many, like me, were scared and flustered and out of breath, choking and coughing up the gallons of water they swallowed. One boy had a bloody nose and a chipped tooth. I heard later in the day that another girl had chipped her tooth also. Crazy! The next few rapids were terrifying, mostly because I was dreading a repeat of number 7. We stopped and had lunch after 10, which I could hardly eat because my stomach was still doing flips. My friend decided she had had enough and quit for the day. Me and my other friend reluctantly decided to continue. Luckily rapids 11-25 were much calmer and simpler than the first 10, and I think we made it the whole afternoon without any rafts flipping  After the hard day rafting, a bunch of the guides came back to our hostel to hang out at the bar, and then we went out dancing with them in the evening. All in all, an exciting day!
• Finally, the next morning we had to say goodbye to Livingstone. I can’t wait to go back! Going for New Years’ if not sooner! We took a bus to Choma, where we spent the night, more out of laziness than anything… and then finally returned home to village life the day after that.

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