The family headed down to Livingstone over the long weekend for our annual chilly winter camping trip. Usually we go to Kafue National Park and camp at a lodge that has $260/per person/per night chalets and $14 campsites but opted for the tourist mecca (Victoria Falls/Livingstone) down south instead so we could try a few new things with our friends who are moving away. We also gave up out usual fancy room with air con, cable, breakfast buffet and a giant bathtub in favor of camping at a backpacker lodge at the edge of town.
The completion of the Zimba Road has made the trek to Livingstone a viable long-weekend option. It took them 3 years to do it but isn't a thing of beauty?
Below, the bypass/detour Zimba Road....This dirt trail was in far better condition than the actual road but it was still not cutting it as a replacement for a proper tarred road. For two years this was the road for getting that last 60km to Livingstone.
Ahhhhhhhhh. The Chinese did a most excellent job with the new road.
There was a big group also staying at the lodge from Gonzaga....on a 5 week psychology class doing research at a chimpanzee reserve in the NW province (what a way to get your biology credits! three weeks at the reserve and two weeks of travel and tourism. -- they popped over to Botswana to go to Chobe along with some travel within Zambia).
Above, The Overland Vehicles that took around the Gonzaga group. These monstors are based in Zambia but can travel to Botswana (where they transport folks to Chobe national park but also where they fuel up at $600 a pop, much cheaper than if they fueled up in Zambia), and Zimbabwe (were their business operations are based)
The place was recently refurbished and was quite OK, the staff was super helpful and nice. Even the food was good. BUT the establishments surrounding their compound were noisy as all get-out. Three bars/parties with loud music until 3am and then the roosters starting in at about 3:20. And can I just say that a mummy sleeping bag is perfectly suitable for one of me but quite uncomfortable with one of me and one 5 year old. He's small but he's not THAT small.
Going with another family meant that we could divide and conquer. O joined them for an elephant safari while FPFJ stayed behind and hung out with the cheetahs, white lions and caracal. Only the lions, which were 4 months old, did not think that my little guy looked like a delicious snack. There was a group of 3 others there with us doing the full-on 'ENCOUNTER' and the animals were out to be pet and played with.
Another party doing their "cheetah encounter" they had the cats on leashes when they were out of the enclosures but they paying customers also got to hang out with the cheetahs INSIDE the enclosures. Yikes. We were doing the free, 'voyeur encounter' and had fun just watching the spectacle as well as enjoying the big cats up close with a wire fence between us. Even a little bit of fencing is nice when you are traveling with a tasty snack (aka Finn).
It was nice to do something new and I was surprised at the level of professionalism and the ethics of the operation. I'll be honest to say I'm quite afraid of elephants and the idea of sending O into the bush with two little girls and another mom wasn't high on my list. That said, it ended up being quite alright, and totally awesome. And, like I said already, I was totally impressed with the whole operation.
The elephants are free to roam the grounds but are called into service when it's time for an elephant safari. The animals are all orphans from Zimbabwe or are otherwise 'rescues.' The big momma ele is about 50 years old and the smallest one, Mouse, is 11 years old. They have 7 elephants, all of whom came to Zambia on foot from Zimbabwe over the Victoria Falls Bridge in 2009.
In every photo I took you can tell exactly where my delicious little 5 year old is....just follow the stare of the predator and you can see where he is too! It's a bit unnerving. The staff were great and made sure they knew where he was and asked that we carry him if the animals were getting ideas (which they did). Creepy.
No trip to Livingstone is complete without a visit to Victoria Falls. So, visit we did. We all hiked down to the Boiling Pot (a gorge at the base of the falls), hiked around by the knife point bridge and at the top of the falls. Everyone got thoroughly soaked.
Double Rainbow? (search for the youtube double rainbow clip if you are ever bored)
This is from a dry-season trip to Livingstone -- when the water is raging (below), rafting operations come to a grinding halt. Livingstone is the adrenaline junkie's paradise.
O, doing his part to hold up the Victoria Falls Bridge. From the Boiling Pot you get a good view of the bridge...and the bungee jumpers who take the leap mid-span. TJ enjoyed his views overhead with Pilot Pascale. Check them out! (the 'cloud' is the mist rising from Mosi-y-tunya, the smoke that thunders. Does it ever!)
Thanks, Gesuales for a wonderful weekend!
Sunset on the Zambezi