Hidden away in central Africa, on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe lies one of, if not the greatest, natural woders of the world. Known locally as “Mosai O Tunya” or The Smoke That Thunders, Victoria Falls is the most awe inspiring sight that I have ever seen.
However, it was one hell of a train journey getting there, one which I will never forget! We left Dar es Salaam on a Tuesday morning and didn’t arrive in Lusaka until Friday evening! The train broke down several times and left me stranded, the only white girl, in the remote Zambian countryside. An area known to be inhabited by MANY wild animals. Locals kept teasing me by telling me how over 350 Indian workers were killed when building the tracks many years ago-most eaten by hungry lions!
As I stood there, with no electricity, no food and no sense of civilization for hundreds of miles, children started to approach me. Looking for something so simple, something kids back home throw away without thinking… all they wanted was my plastic water bottle! I stood there surrounded by about 30 kids, and decided I would teach them the Hokey pokey- it’s my party trick, I guess. When the train eventually pulled away, I looked back out the window to a huge group of kids screaming and waving at me in dirty, tatty clothes all smiling and shouting, “Oh hokey pokeyyyyyy!”. A totally surreal moment!
At the beginning of the journey there was a wide menu of food and every day that passed the menu dwindled from “chicken or beef”? want rice? want chips?”… to simply “rice or… rice?” on Thursday. By Friday we had run out of food and were living on bananas sold to us by vendors that would run along side the train trying to sell things through the windows!
We arrived late Friday night and realised we had nowhere to stay. We had to hitch a lift off a local man who brought us to a missionary house. It was the most bizarre night I have ever spent. The “missionaries” charged me 5 dollars to sleep on their kitchen floor with a blanket and proceeded to try and convert us to born again Christians. Help! We got out of there real early the next morning and hopped on a bus to Livingstone.
On arrival in Livingstone I felt like an explorer who had been trekking through the wilderness and had stumbled upon a bit of heaven on earth, a natural miracle. You can hear the falls before you see them, with million of gallons of water toppling over the jagged edge every second, creating a mighty thunder. One can explore the world heritage sight freely, walking down to the devils fishbowl and seeing the falls from both the Zimbabwean and Zambian sides.
However, there is lot more to do in this seemingly sleepy Zambian town than sit around and watch the magical sun set over the Zambezi. Welcome to Adrenaline Junkie Paradise! From bridge jumping, bungee jumping, flying foxes and gorge swings to white water rafting grade 5 rapids.
Always up for risking my life for the sheer craic, I decided to do the bungee jump. The idea of throwing myself off a bridge in Zambia and ending up in Zimbabwe excited me to no end… until I got to the edge! I have never been so scared in ALL my life. As my legs threatened to collapse below me I dove off the bridge and saw my whole life flash before me, the land… the gorge… the bridge… the falls… the water. I was falling head first into the rocky roaring Zambezi. Then a huge tug and like a catapult I was thrown back up into the air. I was alive. I wanted more, what a feeling! I was crazy with adrenaline, bouncing up and down, heart beating.
I decided to do the gorge swing, which involved walking off one of the world’s most stunning cliffs, except when you near the ground it turns into a gigantic swing, eventually putting you safely on the gorge floor. For just 90 dollars,you can do this as many times as you like, and if you haven’t already lost your sanity you can do a tandem joint which is ten times scarier as you free fall 140km ph!!! You really get your money’s worth as you can rockclimb and abseil as many times as you like -all included in the price!
I arrived back to my wonderful “Fawlty Towers” backpackers in time for their delicious BBQ buffet that takes pace each night by the poolside. I was sleeping in a spacious dorm with a few other travellers in a huge wooden bunk bed. The hostel had the added bonus of a cheap and cheerful bar and a beautiful swimming pool for lazy days. The staff could not have been more helpful, booking all my activities from their reception.
Following was a lively night at the bar exchanging “near death” experiences. An early start the next day with a a free breakfast included in the day’s rafting. We set off down Zambezi, me being the only girl in our raft, paddling hard and hitting each rapid with a louder cheer. Our raft was the only one to flip 3 times, causing me to loose my paddle. Every time we flipped, more bruises formed. One guy got a black eye and we were all forced deep down underwater for frightening amounts of time with several near drowning incidents, not to mention the presence of CROCODILES!!
It was the most incredible adventure but was terrifying at the best of times! I will be back for more someday!