Day 2: “THIS IS AFRICA!”
After yesterday’s rather subpar experience with Victoria Falls, we looked forward to today as we had booked a helicopter ride to see the falls from the air. We also booked a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, which was highly recommended.
But before these tours, we did another round of the Zambia side of Victoria Falls – this time with the sun behind us so we expected to see rainbows in the right places.
Knowing which viewpoints yielded good and photographable views from yesterday’s brief visit, we went straight to them.
After getting our fill of photographing the falls, we went looking for the Boiling Pots trail to the bottom of the falls. We didn’t bother with going back to yesterday’s walkways and overlooks knowing they would still be ridiculously misty.
It didn’t take long to find the well-formed trail descending deeper towards the base of the falls. As the descent flattened out, the trail passed by some strange bus noisy structure with the turbulent waters rising out of it and feeding a stream that drained into the Zambezi River.
We weren’t sure if that was the Boiling Pots or not (it turned out it wasn’t), but as the trail kept going, it seemed to get stuck on a flooded part where a water crossing was necessary. However, the water was moving fast and it wasn’t clear that the way forward was through the water…
On the way back up, some local said that the Boiling Pots was just on the other side of the water crossing.
With Julie already way ahead of me hastily getting back to the top so we could catch a taxi back to Livingstone in time to be picked up for our chopper tour, I knew I couldn’t go back and see the Boiling Pots for myself.
And so by 10:45am, we were back at the falls entrance. When the taxi driver (Angus) dropped us off at 9am, we arranged to meet with him before 11am. So there he was waiting for us, and we made it back to Chanter’s Lodge without the same drama as yesterday afternoon.
At 11:30am, we were picked up by the tour operator for the helicopter tour of the falls. The flight was slated to be only 15 minutes, but given the lack of views we were getting from the ground, we knew aerial views of the falls was the way to go.
With the exception of Julie’s poor seating, the pilot was good at ensuring that we’d get decent photos from both sides of the chopper as he made about 3 or 4 circuits of the falls from different angles and different heights. Of course the lucky guy in the front seat got the greatest views.
When all was said and done, we were quite happy with our tour. Heck, we even saw a wild elephant alone in the wildlife sanctuary just upstream from Livingstone Island just before we had to land. That was the very first time we saw a wild elephant!
Wow, quick work!
Instead of heading back to Chanter’s Lodge, we had the tour operator drop us off at Rhapsody for lunch. Nothing extroardinary.
From there, we caught another taxi (probably paying more than we should) into Livingstone where we browsed around the street shops and braved the aggressive (almost harassing) vendors in an attempt to buy some souvenirs. We ended up buying a few carvings of animals even though we hadn’t seen the animals in person yet.
We then walked all the way back to Chanter’s Lodge from the street shops arriving there by 2:45pm where we saw Richard again.
With the Yellow Fever problem ever weighing on our minds, we relayed him our concerns as well as other concerns about crossing over to the Zimbabwe side. You see, the local clinic he suggested we might try would be closed tomorrow as it just so happened to be an African holiday.
To allay our fears, he told us, “Relax! This is Africa! They won’t stop you though it might cost you a few dollars…”
When Julie relayed to Chanter that she had read trip reports of delays lasting several hours at the Zim-Zam border, Chanter allayed them by saying they were most likely for vehicles and not for people crossing by foot.
At around 4pm, we were taken by a tour van from Chanter’s Lodge towards our sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Along the way, the van ride was made interesting by the fact that it was filling up with other clients; especially a large crowd from the Fawlty Towers, which was a backpackers joint. That made the van much louder and rowdier.
It was quite clear that the young guys on there tried to impress the young girls who’d give them the time of day. It was also quite clear that they were probably after the open bar on the boat more than the scenery and wildlife.
The second level was taken over by the backpackers.
The top level was where the older clients (including us) were.
While Lonely Planet says the dry season is the time to come here because the river width and depth is less, we’re beginning to wonder whether the array of lodges on the banks of the river were somehow impacting the habitats of the animals.
Anyways, the sunset was interesting, especially with a tall flat-topped acacia in the distance.
That’s because the backpackers, drunk off their “booze cruise” experience, were loud and rowdy in the van. The singing (more like howling and screaming) was ear-splitting. Some of the locals and the older clients shook their heads and tried to mind their own business; albeit rather futilely.
By 7pm, we were mercifully back at Chanter’s Lodge. Clearly full from the sweet snacks and bottomless drinks of the booze cruise, we had dinner, but had trouble eating much of the food…