30 April, 2013

Zambia {Day 6 - Victoria Falls}

Amongst my other ignorances about Zambia, before I visited I had no idea how huge a country it is. In fact, it's about the size of France, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands combined! So, coming from the tiny UAE, where a one hour drive is considered a long trek, I was surprised by how lightly the Zambian residents regarded sitting in a car for up to ten hours in one day.

Anyway, last Wednesday, after a six hour drive, we arrived in Livingstone at about midday and checked into the Waterfront hotel. It was such a peaceful place, right on the Zambezi river, with a view of the falls in the distance.

This sky is so perfect it almost hurts! Doesn't it look like the kind of typical sky scene that children draw... Big fluffy white clouds surrounded by bright, bright blue.

We made our way down to the falls in the late afternoon, briefly getting distracted on our way their by this talented dance group...

Now, are you ready for it...

Yes I am wearing exactly the same top as in Kiambi but whatever, we were packing light and outfit repeating isn't really an issue out there!

The force of the waterfall is so strong that there's an unbelievable amount of spray given off, especially at this time of year as the water level is really high. If you're looking at the falls from a distance, all you see is the spray rising up into the sky; it could be mistaken for smoke. 

Up close, you basically just get completely drenched!

This is the bridge that you have to walk cross to get to the other side of the gorge and just look at it... its basically just a stream of water! Unsurprisingly, its quite scary to cross - slippery moss covers the path and, suspended above the gorge with only a thin fence for support, you feel both vulnerable and exhilarated.

I ended up looking like a drowned rat afterwards though...

Oh and I spotted some courageous daffodils on the cliff edge...

Unfortunately, no photo or description that I can try to give you will ever actually convey how breathtaking the falls are. But in terms of the impact they had on me, I was honestly completely blown away and at one point felt my eyes prickling with almost-tears. Standing infront of the roaring cascade, completely soaked through, it's impossible not to be made aware of how small you are. Instead of emotionally belittling you though, it kind of makes you feel like a bigger person as a result of the experience, as if everything that was bothering you has been washed away by the powerful deluge. Maybe that was just me, though, perhaps everyone has a slightly different reaction to the awesome Vic Falls.

After one last look at the falls, we reluctantly pulled ourselves away and headed back to the hotel, just in time to catch another dreamy sunset...

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing with a cool drink in the candle light, whilst I started mentally preparing myself for my morning bungee jump that was looming ever closer by the second!

29 April, 2013

Zambia {Day 5 - Road-side shopping}

Day five was a transition day. 
We left our campsite in Lower Zambezi early in the morning and, after a quick breakfast back at Kiambi Lodge, started driving back to Lusaka. 

^^This is actually an exceptionally good stretch of road for Zambia - most of the time you have to swerve all over the place to avoid potholes. But I guess that made every drive seem like more of an adventure for me!^^

On the drive back we passed these girls...
(Proof that women can multitask!)

And then stopped to buy some sugar cane from this group of photogenic ladies...

^^Girl knows how to pose!^^
∧∧ Possibly my favourite photo of the whole trip ∧∧

We also couldn't resist buying some fruit on the way home...

And I picked up some beautiful chichenge (african fabric) and some fun bright earrings. I have plans to design a few clothes out of the material, i'll show you once they're done!

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing in the garden with tea and a good book. We went out that night but it wasn't a late one as we had to get up early for another trip the next day... this time to Victoria Falls! Busy busy.

Zambia {Day 4 - Canoeing along the Zambezi river}

I think this might just be the most beautiful day I've ever had. 

We left Kiambi lodge early in the morning and spent the day canoeing down the Zambezi river, just us two and our guide, Jealous (yes that really was his name!). We covered a total of about 20km (!) and then camped overnight at a quiet spot downstream. 

I was absolutely overwhelmed by how pervasive nature is in Zambia, and in this area especially. There was just so much of it and it was so undisturbed. I think it's the only country I've visited where the strength of the natural world is immediately tangible; humans just fit in around everything else, rather than it being the other way around.

^^Keen beans ready to go!^^

^^Even the sand here was beautiful - it had tiny crystals of mica in it so it literally glittered! ^^

We stopped for lunch on a little island...

Then had a little post-lunch snooze...

^^I mean seriously, this sky doesn't even look real does it!^^

Before long we were back in our canoes and, sated by food, we were much quieter than in the morning. Occasionally we would talk, to coordinate our rowing strokes or to ask Jealous about a certain bird or other creature, but mostly we rowed in compatible silence; the only sound being our oars rippling the water. 

It wasn't always as peaceful as it sounds though, as the Zambezi is infested with animals that you definitely don't want to crash into! We were dodging hippos and crocs here there and everywhere and so had to be completely focused on the river ahead. We did have a close shave with a hippo at one point but thankfully our little arms moved fast enough to row us to safety. In my mind, hippos were docile, harmless creatures (perhaps because I'd only ever seen them in cartoons) but apparently not!

Later on in the afternoon, we met an energetic group of male elephants and were not only lucky enough to see them crossing the river, but they also played in the water in front of us! It was the most amazing thing to witness; we were so close but they didn't seem to mind and we didn't feel threatened at all.

I experimented with the panoramic setting on my camera... 

And we just carried on rowing and rowing...

Then at last... we arrived at our campsite! A second guide had gone on ahead and set everything up for us, so it was all ready when we arrived and, even though it might not look like much now, it was heaven in our eyes by that point! We even had a "bush shower" set up, hidden amongst the trees but facing the river (there's definitely something liberating about showering outdoors isn't there)!

Once again, after dinner and some time spent staring at the stars, we pretty much went straight to bed. Kat and I read in our tent, under a solar-powered lamp, whilst our guides chatted for hours outside, under the moonlight. The tent was actually very comfortable but we did wake up at one point to some noise outside; we cautiously elephants but couldn't see any so it must have just been monkeys!

What a day.