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The Habdogs' Adventures

Windhoek to Livingstone

ZAMBIA | Saturday, 11 January 2014 | Views [311]


Day 14 - Saturday  21st December 2013. Windhoek to Kalahari.  

Today we crossed the border from Namibia to Botswana, traveling into the heart of the Kalahari Desert.  For the first time this trip the scenery remained constant - flat plains with small scrubby trees. We also hit daylight rain for the first time,  and subsequently had to make a few DIY adjustments to the truck with blu-tac and masking tape as we'd sprung a few leaks around the windows.  As there really wasnt much to see we treated ourself to our first truck movie.  

The excitement for the day was when Wes got the truck bogged less than 50m from our camp. He had it up to the axles in sand and it kept sinking. Wes, Vladia, Lauren, James, Kathleen and ourselves had an absolute ball getting covered from head to toe in sand as we dug the truck out inch by inch. Needless to say, like in any group, the were plenty of additional assistants, but also 'supervisors' with clean hands. An hour and a half later the truck was back on firm ground, and what wasn't sandy now was after a celebratory sand fight.  

After pitching the tents we went on a walking tour with some of the local Bushman.  They taught us about the plants they use for medicinal purposes as well as how the hunt. Unfortunately due to the rain it was only a short tour and the much anticipated traditional Bushman dance was cancelled.  

Learning Points:

1. Who would have thought getting bogged was so much fun!

2. As great as bushman are they can be unreliable due to their nomadic lifestyle.

3. Africa has so much sand!!!    


Day 15 - Sunday 22nd December 2013. Kalahari to Maun.   After 14 days of being constantly warned  about scorpions and being made to move our tent before packing them up we finally found one. They do exist after all! It was only a small one but apparently one of the most poisonous.  We managed to make it out of the campsite without getting bogged and enjoyed our short (3hr) drive to our next campsite at Maun.  

Today Vladia set us a survival challenge which Sam and Lauren may have got a little over excited about. Whilst Vladia packed for our overnight excursion to the Delta our challenge was to cook dinner over the campfire (which we had to light ourselves) only using the following ingredients: potatoes, tinned tomatoes & onions, one can of pears, sausages and a packet of marshmallows.  Our plan was to cook bangers and mash with onion and tomato sauce, followed by pear crumble (we figured 'gathering' was only fair and therefore using our own supply of biscuits for the crumble was not breaking the rules).  

The weather however had a different idea and just as Habby and James thought about starting the fire the heavens opened. There was fat rain, chubby rain, rain the got you from the side and rain that came straight up at you from the ground. It bucketed down for an hour and we were ankle deep in water digging trenches around the tents to stop them from flooding and salvaging what we could from the campsite to drier ground. Nothing was going to break our 'positive attitude' though and we were most certainly not  going to lose the challenge so we took to shelter in the pool shed and got stuck into peeling the potatoes.  This is the point where our stomachs and positive attitudes were challenged... There were maggots (Sam's worst nightmare) in the potatoes!!! But this is Africa, and one must eat, so the nasty little intruders were thrown out and we got on with our job. In short, it stop raining, our gear was mainly dry and we passed the challenge with a delicious meal.  

Learning Points:

1. It doesn't rain in Botswana it pours.

2. Bring on Master Chef African style.

3. Giiven it's the wet season Habby is going to have to get over his hate for camping in the rain.    


Day 16 - Monday 23rd December 2013. Maun to Okavango Delta.  

We'd all had a restless nights sleep thanks to Vladia's pre departure safety briefing in which she told us:

1. We weren't allowed to leave the campsite without a Poler (local guide) unless we wanted to be an animals dinner

2. After dark you were not allowed to leave your tent unless you wanted to be an animals midnight snack

3. Sleep in the middle of the tent if you want to avoid being chewed on by a hyena.

4. Keep tents closed at all times to keep wild friends out

5. If you see a hippo run fast in zig zags (their chubby legs can only run in straight lines).

6. If you come across an elephant hide behind a tree or in your tent (they're stupid and will think you're  a rock).

7. If you see a lion don't panic just say a quick prayer because your life's in God's hands.

 With the above thoughts on board we left to catch our mokoro, a traditional dug-out canoe that took us deep into the delta. The Okavango Delta is the world's largest inland delta and each year some 11 cubic kilometers of water reach it. The Delta is home to Africa's Big 5 along with many other species of wildlife. We thoroughly enjoyed our relaxing 2 hour ride in the mokoro as our polers guided us to our campsite. The afternoon was spent lazing around reading books, taking a siesta in the shade, swimmimg and trying to pole the mokoros ourselves.  

Whilst Vladia was cooking up a storm our polers took us on a 'lion hunt'. Unfortunately the score is now big cats 4, Sam and Habby 0 as once again we failed to spot them. During our 3 hour walk we spotted zebras, wilderbeast, antelopes and a giant baobab tree. We sang and danced the night away around campfire with fire flies and stars above.  

Learning Points:

1. We are not sure whether Vladia is lying or over exaggerating as no dangerous animals were spotted or heard anywhere nearby.

2. Despite our pretty umbrellas Botswanan sun burns white Aussie skin. 3. The Okavango Delta is one of the most beautiful places on earth.


Day 17 - Tuesday 24th December 2013.  Okavango Delta to Gweta.  

You will all be happy to know that we didn't get eaten despite hearing lions and hippos in the distance. We had a delicious camp fire breakfast,  helped pack the mokoros and then we were off crusing the delta again, back to Mokoro Station. We had another short drive today (3hrs) to our next camp at Gweta. On the way we stopped to buy last minute Christmas supplies includimg alcohol for the Sangria and punch.  

We had a lovely lazy afternoon lounging at the bar and in the pool, and finally we got around to decorating the bus and Christmas tree. We celebrated our Christmas Eve/European Christmas at the restaurant. Despite our best efforts we all failed to finish our enormous plates of food. We capped the night off with a walk under the clear starry sky.  

Learning Points:

1. We like the idea of celebrating 2 Christmas's - maybe we should try it at home.

2. Apparently you can get locked out of the park when you go for walks at night.    



Day 18 - Wednesday 25th December 2013 (CHRISTMAS!!) Gweta to Kasane.  

Merry Christmas!!!

In summary,  Santa didn't find our tent and Christmas was never going to be the same without family,  but all in all, for a Christmas away from home, it was a pretty fantastic day. With stomachs full of delicious pancakes (thanks to Sam) and nutella we all piled on to our festively decorated bus and headed towards Kasane. We traveled along Elephant Highway,  which lived up to its name and kept us happily spotting them for a few hours. After a quick lunch of sausages in bread we made our punch and sangria in preparation for the afternoon boat cruise down Chobe River. It was just  spectacular!  There were so many herds of elephants and pods of hippos, and we were able to get up really close to them.  The captain had advised us that the more we drank the more animals we'd see, so between our group we gave it our best shot and walked off the boat 10kg punch/sangria lighter (and still walking in a straight line). For Christmas dinner we had a braai (African BBQ), followed by cake and the famous Hendry brandy sauce (which we made from scratch!). After dinner we played stealing santa, with many great and funny gifts ranging from emergency ration food to african souvenirs to barbie dolls.    

Learning Points:

1. In Africa supermarkets are open on Christmas Day!

2. We know this is stating the obvious but hippos are really fat!

3. It was the first and will be the last Christmas lunch of sausages in bread    



Day 19 - Thursday 26th December 2013. Kasane to Livingstone.  

An early start to Boxing Day saw us up at 5am for a game drive in Chobe National Park before crossing the border into Zambia.  We didn't see any lions BUT... if you count spots and an ear... we saw a leopard!! Finally!  Apparently sightings of the cats during the wet season are much lower as the food is more plentiful so we were pretty happy to tick off another of the Big 5. We also saw lots of elephants,  warthogs, impala, zebra, giraffes,  and (bloody) baboons.  

The border crossing was pretty uneventful but took hours! We had to catch a barge across the croc and hippo infested waters, and then sit beside the truck in the sun waiting for the paperwork to be completed. It was only a short drive from the border to our campsite on the Zambezi river but we were all exhausted by the time we got there. Our challenge for the afternoon was trying to get out some more US dollars for east africa. Our plan was to catch a taxi to the Livingstone Hotel (which has its own bank!!) to get the money out and then head back  in to town. It was during this mission that we scarily realized how blaze and dependent we had become on Vladia as we had to ask the taxi driver where he'd picked us up from because we couldn't remember! Good did come from this though as the taxi driver, Bison, kindly took us under his wing and became our personal chauffeur for the rest of our time in Livingstone.    

Learning Points:

1. We need to start paying more attention to where we are and where we are going

2. We could have easily entered Zambia without a passport or with someone else's as Vladia was able to take the pile of our passports to get stamped without us even being present

3. There are big cats in  Africa (finally!)    


Day 20 - Friday 27th December 2013. Livingstone.    

There is nothing like cram-packing your rest days on a 54 day tour says Sam! Today we went on two tours - in the morning we rode the African elephants and in the afternoon we went for a walk with the lions. They were both amazing to say the least.  Both activities were undertaken at a privately owned Conservation which is aiming to help rebuild the numbers of elephants and lions in Zambia. There were 7 elephants on our tour, and we were lucky enough to get the biggest bull elephant (known as the gentle giant) called Danny. He is estimated to be over 40 years of age and had been doing tours for 11 years. We were particularly thankful for having the tallest elephant as we walked through the river as we saw many hungry crocodiles waiting for us to fall off!  

On our lion walk we had three cubs (11-12 months old). They were just adorable and so playful. The lions only participate in the walks until ~18 months of age because they then become too big for the trainors to keep control of and therefore more unpredictable and dangerous in their behavior. We loved getting to pat them but it was very hard resisting the urge to scruff them up a bit as you would a pet cat.  

Tonight we had a farewell dinner for those that would be leaving us at Livingstone. We had a private buffet of local cuisine followed by a performance by the  local acting/dance group. The girls were particularly fond of watching one man who had very impressive musculature!  

Learning Points:

1. Sam confirmed her favorite animal as the elephant

2. The Conservation (and it's animals and tourists alike) is protected from poachers and wild animals by armed guards carrying .375 rifles 3. Lions are just like big pussy cats    


Day 21 - Saturday 28th December 2013.  Livingstone to Zimbabwe and back.  

Today we set off with our little family of 6 (James,  Lauren, Rob, Kathleen and ourselves) to see the falls from both Zambia and Zimbabwe. We walked down to the "Boiling Pot" which is the first rapid for the white water rafters and watched them repeatedly fall out of their rafts. The  629m hike back up was horrendous but soon forgotten as we cooled down in the mist from the amazing Victoria Falls. The view of the falls was breathtaking with many rainbows formed along the canyon.  

We then ventured across the bridge to the border of Zimbabwe, crossing our first border without Vladia. We figure this  achievement made up for our little incident with the taxi the other day! We first went into the township to explore the markets, an exhausting 45 minutes of haggling, and then entered the falls. It was hard believe but the falls were truly even more spectacular from the Zimbabwe side! Words just cannot do them justice! Whilst in Zimbabwe the heavens opened once again, and we made our return border crossing looking like drowned rats!  

Tonight we had our pre-departure meeting for the east african leg of our tour.  We have 9 new people joining our group,  now totaling 15. On first impression everyone seems pretty fun so here's hoping the next half will be just as great as the first.  

Learning Points:

1. We can cross a border ourselves

2. The Victoria Falls are definitely better on the Zimbabwe side

3. Not doing the white wafer rafting was a good decision

4. We have been close enough the the end of many rainbows to disappointingly confirm that there are no pots of gold there

5. Pre-departure meetings are far more enjoyable when playing a drinking game involving Vladia's common sayings    


Day 22 - Sunday 29th December 2013.  Livingstone.    

There are many stupid things we have done in our lives, but swimming through croc and hippo infested waters to hang by our feet over the Victoria Falls is definitely up there! But it was AMAZING and (because all went well) we certainly don't regret it!!! We are also thankful we arrived back to land safely to then tell our parents what we'd done. After hearing terrifying stories from previous survivors the night before you could say Sam was pretty stressed in the lead up. To be fair however,  up until the night before we didn't actually realise what we'd signed up for. We thought we would be in some sort of man-made swim up pool on the edge of the falls, not actually swimming through the rapids into "Devil's Pool", a pool at the brim of the waterfall. Furthermore,  unlike you would expect with Australian safety standards,  there were no harnesses or ropes protecting us from plunging into the canyon below, all we had was a false sense of security and faith in our guides to catch us should we slip! There were two ropes tied across the brim of the fall where we swam through the rapids but thanks to VicSwim, we didn't need them.  

Our tour started with a boat ride to Livingstone Island which lies 180m from the falls. We then walked over the island to ~50m short of the edge where we entered the water one-by-one, swimming across the rapids to a small rock shelf overlooking Devil's Pool. Our guide crazily back flipped into the pool, but we all gingerly slid in and swam across to the edge. Due to the strong current we didn't spend long in the pool, but we did make the most of our stupidity and had a go at looking over the edge as the guides held us by our feet!! It was amazing but bloody scary! It certainly took our minds off the little fish that were nibbling our toes in the bottom of the pool. We celebrated our survival with a delicious breakfast on Livingstone Island before heading back to the mainland.  

Our afternoon was comparatively very boring, but we treated ourselves to an accommodation upgrade and lazily sat around the pool by the river, enjoying our last relaxation time before heading into east Africa tomorrow.  

Learning Points:

1. Swimming in the Devil's Pool is an extreme sport, not some luxury 5-star pool overlooking the falls

2. When undertaking a challenging or potentially dangerous activity don't listen to the stories of people whom have previously completed such - they will always be over exaggerated and leave you unnecessarily trembling in your boots

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