The day started early. We were up at dawn and off to Chundukwa River Lodge for a morning horse ride through the bush.
My horse was a male called Ringside – a sweetheart who, unfortunately, did not feel the same way about me. He dragged me though several thorn bushes and tried to buck me off a couple of times. I was very proud of the men of the family, neither of whom had ever been on horseback before; they rose (or rode) to the occasion in the spirit of family adventure.
According to my daughter the ride was too tame and slow, but she will no doubt go on a more exciting ride very soon in Lusaka, without us amateurs!
From the lodge we drove through Livingstone to the very manicured and posh Royal Livingstone to join the crew who would take us to Livingstone Island for breakfast. This is the vantage point from which Dr David Livingstone first saw the Falls, and named them after Queen Victoria.
We just thought we were going for Breakfast. I will let the photos speak for themselves, but let me just note that this was an awesome first ever view of the Mosi-oa-Tunya.
While at the Island, we met the most amazing couple. They were visiting Zambia from the UK, celebrating their 60 year wedding anniversary. They were both over 80, but they are still the most adventurous couple I have ever met. For their 50th anniversary they hiked into and out of the Grand Canyon. They were doing toboggan runs at the age of 70. When we declined to let the kids swim to the edge of the Falls in the baby pool (the river was flowing at such a terrifying speed) I half expected Jack and Joan to come back soaked to the waist and whooping like a couple of kids. Sadly they didn’t, but they certainly know how to enjoy themselves. Inspiring.
We wasted a bit of time after breakfast checking out the Zambezi Sun (we prefer Waterberry lodge), generally just killing time while the weather took a turn for the worse; it is what we do best.
We visited the Victoira Falls World Heritage Site in a thunder storm; crossed the metal Knife Edge bridge while forked lightening lit up the Eastern Cascades and got well and truly drenched by the spray. Some say Rainy Season is not a good time of year to see the Falls, but it was spectacular. As we were setting off along the footpath towards the viewpoint, a baby cobra slid across the path and into the woods. Still deadly, even if it was only small.
Back at the lodge all was calm and relaxed by the pool. Children studied, adults relaxed and read quietly by the river. The wind picked up, a few branches dropped off trees and… wait a minute, that branch isn’t a branch, it’s a snake. As it slithered into the bush, climbed the bush and into the tree, Kevin, one of the lodge managers, appeared and identified it as a Black Mamba. By the time I got the camera it had disappeared. Yikes. Deadly even though it was just a baby. Enough excitement for one day.
The visit to the Victoria Falls Bridge was quite an eye opener. Again, quiet due to the season I believe, however there were some brave (mad) souls who felt the need to dive off the bridge toward the raging Zambezi below, before being yanked unceremoniously up and down for a few more moments by their bound ankles before being slowly hoisted back to relative safety. They call this madness bungee jumping, and of course my 14 and 17 year olds are desperate to do it. They can stay desperate until they are old enough to do it without my permission or my presence. They offer the choice of three activities on the bridge: bungee jumping, gorge swing ( like the bungee but you go feet first and swing out over the gorge on a metal line) and the gorge slide, which is a zip wire from the side of the gorge to the bride. So naturally I only let them do a tandem gorge slide, which of course is disappointing because there is less likelihood that you will a) die b) be severely maimed or c) wrench your back, neck legs and everything else and need physio for the next 49 years. Ah well. I’m a mother, it’s my job to be the ‘Fun Police’.
Next on the agenda was the rather sad Reptile Park down the road. While paying our entrance fees we noticed they were selling Croc Sticks. We asked politely what they were, and were told ‘Ah yes, you can buy, 25 kwacha’. On further questioning we were told the croc meat comes from a farm which rears them for food, hence on days when the cafe is actually open you can enjoy ‘Croc Bites’. Not a crocodile conservation project then… Otherwise that’s like going to the RSPCA and being offered Cat Stew or Collie Kebabs.
They do undertake some education programs for locals, so they may learn to understand the behavior and actions of crocodiles. They hope to instil in locals a respect for the beasts as well, although I think this country has a long way to go in terms of animal welfare. I have heard many times ‘The only good snake is a dead snake’ and there are also misconceptions about chameleons and owls which probably go back centuries, linked to witch doctors and superstition.
Anyway, our guide took us along the battered, rickety walkways to show us their selection of adult crocodiles. Having had their weekly feed two days earlier, they were particularly lethargic whilst they sought a bit of sunshine to warm their bodies which they need in order to digest the last meal. We were disappointed to have missed it, but the guide tormented them mildly with a stick to demonstrate how the crocodile cannot attack something from the front, they must turn their head do attack with the corners of their mouths.
We were able to view black mambas, cobras and pythons safely behind glass this time, but weren’t allowed to handle the ‘safe’ snakes on account of their likelihood to vomit so recently after a meal. Charming, eh?!
The highlight was being able to handle a baby croc (my daughter is the brave one), but the whole excursion felt rather like when you visit a seaside town a the end of the summer season.
Next – birding on the Zambezi!