AFRICA 2019 - Part 2: A swim in the Devil's Pool, The Blue Train, and a Great White Shark cage dive!
Updated: Jan 11
Continuing directly on from 'Africa Part 1', there's no rest for the wicked. ;) It's going to be pretty hard to top how amazing our last week was, but we'll give it our very best shot!!
A quick stopover again at the Fairmont Nairobi, before a 4.30am pick up for our flight to Livingstone, Zambia; to the magnificent Victoria Falls.
Time to catch up on some wifi, after being on the Masai Mara for 3 days off grid -
and happy to be so.
Check in on home, all good...and load some pics.
They treat security very seriously here, and just driving into the Nairobi International Airport before dawn, we had to exit the car and walk through metal detectors,
and we were still probably a kilometre from the terminal.
I'll never complain about too much security. I think it's a blessing.
So, after a 3hr/15 min flight, which took us right past Mt Kilimanjaro,
her summit just peeking through the clouds -
(be still my heart - such strong memories of an extraordinary time of my life)...
...we arrived in the sleepy little town of Livingstone. I love it here. No more razor wire, and the only set of traffic lights in town weren't working,
due to their constant rolling blackouts...'power loading'... However, you do have to give way to the elephants.
Hard to describe, but the more remote a place, the more I feel at home. Whilst I really enjoy the likes of London and Paris, I'm truly a lover of the great outdoors. Give me a green and blue view over concrete any day.
We had 3 days booked at the David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa, and when I first booked it, I didn't think we'd find stuff to fill our days. Pffft, that's a joke! If you come here, 3 days is the absolute minimum you should allow. I easily could have filled another couple of days.
Possibly it's something I could have researched more, but hey, at the time,
I thought 3 days would be plenty!
Besides, all I really wanted was to swim in the Devil's Swimming Poll at the top of
Victoria Falls - I thought the rest would be a nice fill in. How wrong was I?
There is so much to do and see here. It's absolutely fabulous.
Also, it depends on what season you are here for.
This was August... the beginning of the dry season - and the best time to swim at the falls. (Actually, like Australia, they hadn't had much of a wet season, and they were in drought, just like us at home.)
Now we have done this, I wouldn't be opposed to returning here one day, in the wet season, to see and feel the might of these 'wonder of the world' falls, as they plummet to earth under a cloud of mist. Apparently you can't even see them through the spray, you just hear them, feel them, and get soaked by them. It'd be an experience, that's for sure!
Here's our gorgeous digs for the next few days:
As we arrived in by about 10.30 am, our room wasn't quite ready yet.
That's OK, and to be expected at this hour.
Instead, we walked into the activities office to see what was available. I had quite a few things booked, but not a helicopter ride over the falls, which I was told was a 'must'. I wanted to wait to see how the weather was like, and yep, it was perfect now. When I asked "Can we possibly go today?" they replied, "There's a spot now, are you ready?" ..."Born ready! Let's do this!"
As we were walking out through the foyer, they came to let us know that our room was ready... how fab...so I said; "I'll be back. Gotta get to the chopper!"
Pretty much me as I was typing this...:)
I've never actually said that before. Two ripper movie quotes by the same guy, in the one sentence. I'm such an idiot, but I love it, it's who I am - bad movie quotes and all! Sorry kids.
Yeah, nah, not sorry. :)
There are 3 choices of flights to do and these are in order of length and cost: 1: Fly over falls.
2: Fly through gorge and over falls. 3. Fly through gorge, over falls and then over National Park.
Our agents back home had suggested we choose number 2,
so we did, and boy, what a great choice.
We left over National Park anyway, heinously dry from drought, and then we
descended into the gorge. Have I wanted another word for wow?
How about 'holy shit' ?
This was INCREDIBLE!
We followed the river, just metres above it, banking from left to right as we snaked around the tight bends - it felt like a scene from Mission Impossible!
It was absolutely thrilling!
Even if we didn't do the Falls, I still would have been ecstatic.
It was such an adrenaline rush!
We then rose above the falls, and did a figure 8 over it, so we all had a great view. I was front and centre, literally, so blimey Charlie, I was totally spoilt for a view!
David Livingstone is to have proclaimed when he first saw the falls:
"Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by
angels in their flight..."
Yep, fair call, I'd pay that. It's the perfect description. :)
(Hover over his name and click on the link. His story is truly remarkable.)
Imagine if he saw it from up here - Aren't we lucky these days?
May I just add, that Dr Livingstone was so enamoured here, he did such great work, particularly in his plight to end slavery, that after he died, they removed his heart and buried it here in Zambia, - the rest of him is interred in
Currently, being the dry season, and in drought, most of the water is channelled off, towards their hydro electric system, that's why the falls look somewhat diminished... However, in the wet season, nature takes hold and this entire cliff face of 1.7 kilometres is completed covered in a torrid of water. It is twice as high, and twice as wide as Niagara Falls.
My dream of swimming at the top, comes down completely to the amount of
water going over on the day. (My travel agent came here during the dry season, but it had just rained heavily, and they couldn't go.)
It's never guaranteed.
We get to do a walking tour of these tomorrow, then, hopefully, do the big swim the following day!
So, not the day we had imagined after getting up a 4am in Nairobi. Far out, the best part of travelling is just saying 'YES' and doing it! What a brilliant start to our stay in this truly amazing location.
Back to the hotel, via the 'Elephant Crossing area', and seeing many of the steel fences around here have just been trampled/pushed over. They go, where they choose. Fence? What fence?
We found our room, facing the Zambezi River; gorgeous, and more mosquito nets -
and for good reason! We had a balcony, but couldn't use it for the hordes of mozzies outside,
but at least it was a beautiful view.
Time to check out the rest of the place, and grab some lunch and perhaps a bevy...?
Now, if you're going to have a burger and fries...have a burger and fries to indulge in!
(For what it's worth, I don't eat the bread... )
The food here is plentiful and really cheap!
With the next two days having various activities planned, we sincerely enjoyed the rest of the afternoon, laying by the pool, relishing in doing nothing... for a change!
Then as day turns into dusk, the colours of the African sky transform into an artist's
palette of technicolour.
As we say in Australia..."Ahhh, the serenity!"
A new day dawned, a carbon copy, weather wise, of the day before. Such is the dry season here.
We enjoyed a buffet breakfast overlooking the river, and yes,
that's a crocodile just cruising past...
as they do!
We headed off later for our walking tour of the falls. It was just Trev and I, so a private tour, even better.
Sometimes its nice to have a one on one...or in this case, a one on two. :)
I had booked in for a Gorge Swing later...off the Victoria Bridge.
Like a bungee jump, but not so much of a 'dead drop',
more of a free fall and huge pendulum swing after that.
Right up my alley, but not Trev's.
He'll kiss my cheek goodbye on this one and video me. That's this afternoon. Walkies first.
This was great.
Views to die for, (well, hopefully not...) and a wonderful history lesson.
We had baboons and vervet monkeys for company,
and when we got to walk across a narrow bridge,
Trev was under the usual strict rules (from me),
of no jumping or swinging! He does that, it's his thing. And no-one likes it! At least this wasn't a rope bridge - those he really has fun on... "Child! " I tell him..."Am not" he says! :)
Cute little vervet monkeys. The their faces are just so expressive.
And here is where the fun for the day ended for me.
Well, at least for a few hours. I've had a nagging pain issue for the past few years, (enlarged ovary ) that comes and goes, and all I can do is manage it with heavy pain killers the moment it starts. Well, it started right here, on this walking tour, and the pain killers didn't work. My biggest fear, that I have said to the doctors back home was,
"What if the pain killers don't have effect, and I'm in some remote place like
Antarctica or Zambia...?
Almost foresaw my own future there.
Anyway, we made it back to our hotel, and 5 strong painkillers, one anti inflammatory, and 3 hours later, it finally subsided.
However, I had to cancel my gorge swing, (not happy) as I would have had to walk out of the ravine, and I was struggling just to breathe at this stage.
Gotta get this sorted once and for all when I get home.
Anyway, once it goes, I'm completely ok, at least until it happens again,
as there's no pattern to it. 'Fingers crossed, and keep the pills handy' is our motto.
I don't want to be a kill joy; there's lot's more to see and do.
Feeling much better later, just in time for us to climb aboard none other than,
'The African Queen', for our sunset Zambezi River cruise.
A wonderful few hours, heading towards the grandest of African sunsets, gawking at hippos and elephants whilst eating delicious canopés, and enjoying an open bar. What's not to love?
A light supper back at the hotel deck, and I truly hit the wall...
so we decided to crash back at our room. Crash being the operative word there. With all the meds I took today, combined with a few wines on the boat, I may or may not have gotten tangled in the mosquito net and pulled it
half off the ceiling as I lumbered into bed. Oops. I'm sure I'm not the first. Anyway, that's what I'm going with!
Whoa, what a day!
Another day, and again, more carbon copy picture perfect weather for us to enjoy,
what was looking like a 'double bucket list' day!
Firstly, we had a morning horse ride booked. Giddyup!
For those who know me - horses are my thing.
My passion, my life. I've owned, ridden, shown, bred and loved them for over 30 years.
However, Trev, whilst a great supporter of my passion, and always there to help build or do anything I need for them, he has never really been into horses, and we only had our first horse ride together 2 years ago, in a fertile, active volcano in Ecuador! As you would. :)
So since then, I thought it would be cool to try to do a ride, on our travels, but somewhere different - somewhere, obscure.
So a safari ride, amongst zebras, giraffes and maybe elephants, is what we are doing today!
Okay, THIS is more like it!
A very happy day indeed for this little red duck!
I've always wanted to ride with African wildlife. Such a thrill. Big tick!
Afterwards, we had to high tail it back to prep for our next adventure, and one of my goals in life, and that is to swim in the Devil's swimming pool,
right on the edge of Victoria Falls.
And yippee, it's going to happen!
That is, of course, until we got picked up by our driver, who said we couldn't swim today because there was ice in there.
Now call me stupid, but I had been so pumped for this, I believed him and squealed "Noooooooooo!!! I don't care, I'm still goin' in!"
He just laughed, along with Trev.
Yup, gullible Mandy again!
So, that out the way, WE were on our way...!
First, once all insurance waivers were signed, we jumped into small boats and were taken for a short spin on the river, out to Livingstone Island, which is located bang in the middle of the Zambezi River, and right on the edge of the falls.
This is the very location where Dr Livingstone first sighted the falls.
It took us a lot less time to get there than it did him, back in the days!
They have some permanent structures there, to cater for the day trippers, so this is where we left any clothing or belongings we didn't need - basically it was just down to your swim wear, and your cameras.
Along the way, we honoured the great Livingstone, and paid respect at one of his many memorials, as we edged closer to our goal.
See the people in the background, in the distance, right on the edge? That's where we're headed!
But first - we swim!
And I don't mean wade. Swim.
--- This is the same river, only 1 kilometre or so away, where we saw the crocodile swimming past us at breakfast. Ok, I'm hoping they know there's a waterfall imminent and they best not be around... haha...???
Now, there are two things in life that Trev hates more than anything, (besides perhaps, swimming with crocodiles...) Early mornings, which I have mentioned. And - swimming in cold water. He abhors it.
And when the driver this morning joked that there was ice in the water - well, he probably wasn't that far off. After all, it's still winter...
IT. WAS. COLD!
They had two ropes going across the river, just to guide you in, as you can imagine the current is super strong. They even advised me to put my GoPro in the dry bag alongside my phone, for them to carry across, as they said they have seen them get
ripped off their casings.
OK, cool....? Yikes.
A few steps into the freezing water, and holding onto the ropes at first, we were told to follow the guide in, then let go, and swim hard up stream, diagonally against the current, to a place you can stand, then swim the rest of the way diagonally across the river downstream, to the other side. Not that far, just a few minutes really.
That was a few minutes of hearing Trev yelling
"Cold, cold, cold, argh, cold, cold, brrrr, cold" the whole way.
Poor blossom. He wasn't a fan.
If you were a weak swimmer, I wouldn't recommend this.
You can get fairly close on foot, and experience it, but you won't be able to get to the Devil's Pool unless you can swim the river with it's freezing temperature, and it's currents.
Once we hit rocks under our feet, we linked hands like a monkey chain, and walked the rest of the way as a group, over rocks, as we clambered out of the river.
Check the video on the wall, pretty amazing.
I think if I had've done that, I may have washed those poor dudes right over the edge!
They let you in as groups, or couples, or singles, and they help you up onto the rock shelf which acts as a great natural barrier, and must be the ultimate infinity edge pool
in the world!!! The guides grab your camera and takes tonnes of video and photos of you, they really know the best shots. None were blurry, I was very grateful for that. Not like you can redo it.
The rainbow below the falls is just glorious. And they say, on a full moon,
they have a 'moon bow'.
Trev must have shrunk so much in the cold water...wink, wink, that his wedding ring disappeared, right here. We didn't noticed for a few days, but when I did a 'photo recon' I found he had it on in some of these photos, like above, but not others, like below!
It's a funny story now, as it was only a cheapy that we had bought in Portugal last trip, (which was another replacement..) so now I've threatened to have his ring tattooed!!! ;) ;)
Look Mum, no hands! AND NO RING!
Too funny, we aren't worried. And like I said, it makes a funny story to tell. What a place to lose it!
We weren't allowed to do this.
They're pretty gutsy, these guides! They have an incredible responsibility, and we felt safe the whole time. As long as you listen, and follow their instructions to a T. If you swim too far across, you will go over. Best do what you're told...
We must have had a good 30 minutes in the pool, all by ourselves, aside from one guide, and we were reluctant to get out. By this time, we had acclimatised to the water temperature, and it felt invigorating.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and it was time to go.
More monkey grip walking with our group, swimming against the current, and then out to towel off.