It was so nice being in such a green country! I missed forests a lot!
Our first morning in Zambia, we headed down to Victoria Falls and went straight to the bungee jump. As soon as I walked onto the bridge, I thought of Gob.
It’s so high. One hundred and eleven metres! You really don’t appreciate how far it is until you’re preparing to jump off something that high (or maybe if you’re a 100m sprinter).
But, I knew I was going to feel that way, so I made sure to tell as many people as possible that I was going to do this, which meant I had to. Of course, I didn’t tell my parents I was doing this beforehand (neither of them are all too comfortable with heights, so I figured their daughter telling them she was jumping off a bridge in Africa wouldn’t sit too well), but I did make sure to leave an apology note in case I died.
I was terrified, I’m not going to lie. I found out I was the lucky thirteenth jumper of the day – so glad I’m not the superstitious type! I pounded two beers down before getting suited up, got strapped in, and waddled to the edge with a pretty decent buzz of adrenaline and alcohol. As soon as I felt my toes off the edge, I freaked out and told the jump master I couldn’t do it. Luckily for me, he was a bungee whisperer and calmed me down in two seconds.
After that, it was 4, 3, 2, 1, bungee, and I was in the air. My instinct to curl up in the fetal position kicked in after probably half a second. Instead of gracefully ‘flying’ as some people seem to be capable of doing, I tucked my arms in and curled into a little ball (which of course – thanks biomechanics – increased my velocity as I didn’t have my arms out for some drag). Also, most people don’t scream. I don’t know what is wrong with them. I screamed the entire way, and people in both Zimbabwe and Zambia have now heard quite an extensive range of Canadian profanities.
Honestly, the worst part was waiting to be lifted back up. It felt like a lot of time to think about the fact that only towels around your calves are attaching you to this cord, and you can really appreciate still how high you are over the river.
I promptly had another beer and laughed hysterically for the next two hours. I was hardly fazed by the man who tried to trade me a tiny carved wooden hippo for my leather sandals. After I recovered slightly, Julia, Emily, and I went to Devil’s Pool, on top of Victoria Falls.
It was so cool! I’d love to come back in the wet season and see the falls when they’re totally full, but it was amazing to be able to walk over the top where water normally runs, and then to be that close to the edge of the falls (though I had my fill of actually being over the falls for the day).
I had had enough adrenaline to last me a good while, so the following day Emily and I took it easy while Julia went for a day trip to Chobe Park. We visited the Livingstone Museum (which was mostly creepy, somewhat informative) and went for a walk with 10-month-old lions!
I could have pet them all day! They don’t purr (cheetahs purr, lions, leopards, jaguars, and tigers can’t) but they were so soft! They still had their baby coats – you can see their spots in the photos. There were two females and one male cub, and on the male you could see his mane starting to grow.
We got to spend about two hours with the cubs, and then got back to our hostel at just about the same time Julia did. She really enjoyed Chobe, and I was happy to hear she didn’t see any wild dogs (I’m dying to see them and would have been insanely jealous). For dinner, we went out to a local place, and I tried the Mopani caterpillars (and breem, a local white fish).
I couldn’t convince Emily or Julia to try any – Emily pulled the vegetarian card – so it was just me and a giant plate of worms. They were first sundried and then spiced and fried, so they were just crunchy, without all that much flavor. There were a couple that were less dry though, and those were a bit chewy… I couldn’t do those ones haha.
The following day we travelled to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Again, we took an InterCape bus (which was how we started this trip). I’ve now taken to calling them “InterChrist,” though the entertainment on this one started out less Christian (they had an ad for a movie called ‘Ingwe, 2Pac the First’). In the end, they did turn on the Jesus tunes though, and the bus ride ended in a prayer to Jehovah, thanking him for the driver, for the bus, for the people on the bus, for the roads (which were under construction, thanks for taking care of that, Jehovah), etc. Lusaka was just a stopping point for us – the next morning we were heading to Kapiri Mposhi, where we planned on catching the TAZARA train, linking Zambia and Tanzania.
And man, getting to Kapiri Mposhi tested my Amazing Race skills (which I am constantly honing so my dad and I can go on and win sometime in the future). We arrived at the Lusaka bus station at around 10am, after changing money and picking up train snacks. The bus company told us they were no longer selling tickets for the 10:30am bus, which we needed to catch in order to get to Kapiri by 2pm. So I bought 11:30am tickets, went over to the bus, got the attendants to put our luggage on the bus, and then told the driver that, “Oops, our luggage is on this bus packed in different compartments, so we need to be on this bus too.” They managed to squeeze us in, and we made it to Kapiri (after listening to ANOTHER Joho sermon that lasted 15 minutes at the beginning of the bus ride, and included the preacher going up and down the aisles looking for donations – I seriously have not had this much Jesus in my life since high school, where I had to attend church every Sunday). BUT, when we went to buy our train tickets in Kapiri, they told us they no longer accepted American money (as had been advertised and is widely accepted across Tanzania, our destination). So I hopped a cab, got back to the downtown of Kapiri, withdrew successfully from an ATM (despite Zambia’s weird limit that only allows you to withdraw 500 kwacha at a time), and made it back in order to buy our train tickets.
We bought first class tickets (because we’re ballers) and, wow. I will never complain about a bus or train in North America again. Within hours of being on the TANZARA, I affectionately renamed it ‘Prison Train.’
The Chinese built the train in the ‘50s, and I guess they weren’t exactly known for their emphasis on comfort. Julia and I have been ranking the worst bathrooms we have visited on our trip, and the TANZARA train bathroom is definitely in the top three. Luckily for us, the first class cabin toilets did have seats. I talked to some fellow backpackers in second class, and their toilet was a hole in the train floor. First class cabins had four people; second class had eight. Combine that with no electricity (that fan did not turn on once) except for a light that was on between the hours of 7pm and midnight, and you get yourself one crowded train that slowly drives you mad.
Not only was the train crowded, but it’s also known for its breakdowns. We were scheduled to arrive in Dar es Salaam midmorning of the 28th. Instead, we arrived at 1:30 pm on the 29th after a breakdown that required a new train engine to be sent to replace that of our train.
A couple interesting/random things I’ve noticed during my travels:
– Zambian drivers are insanely cautious. I can tell I’m becoming a proper South African because I kept harassing our cab drivers, telling them to go.
– Melissa was a (relatively) common name in Zambia – I met two people who had family members name Melissa. In Botswana, I would tell people my name was Melissa, and they would respond with the following: Merza? Martha? Merkeeza? Merta? Etc. Unfortunately, upon arriving in Tanzania, I realized I am back in no-Melissa land, as someone called me Marina.
– People either have no idea what Canada is, or they love it. After telling people I’m from Canada, I have had people ask me “Is that in Europe?” and “Is that in South America?” But, the Tanzanian border guard was delighted to see two Canadians, and referred to Canada as “the comedy country.” Because of who? Jim Carrey.
– Love of Celine Dion is not limited to South Africa. I cannot go to a country and not hear her.
We are now in Tanzania, the last country on my journey! I cannot wait to hit the beach in Zanzibar – my tan is coming along great; I even had one train passenger ask me if I was from California (it’s likely the only states she was aware of were New York and Cali, but whatever).
Hope everyone in Canada is enjoying the snow! I may update from the beach in Zanzibar!