Well, our 4-day stay here at Livingstone/Victoria Falls is just about over, and since this is a major tourist hub, there was plenty of entertainment to be had...
Right out of the gate on the first day we decided to take early morning microlight flights right over the Falls, which turned out to be a fantastic decision. The weather for our flight was crisp, clear, and most importantly windless - perfect for microlight flying. So up we went simultaneously in separate planes in these tiny (hence micro), seemingly weightless (hence light) aircraft. Having never been in a microlight before, my first sensation was how exposed you are to the elements in the air. No ceiling, no windows, just two wings, an engine and the wind in your face (oh, and don't forget the pilot).
Right after we were airborne, we could see a long plume of mist (aka "smoke") emerging from the Zambezi River ahead, and the smoke gradually grew bigger and bigger as we approached the Falls. The pilot then took a slight left maybe a couple hundred yards away so that we could circle around and and see the Falls from the front. From just a few hundred feet above, the entire length of the Falls was laid out in front of us... quite an impressive sight. Plunging into the gorge below and stretching horizontally for almost a mile, with the smoky mist hanging in the air above, this was an amazing way to see the Falls for the first time! Before landing we did a few circles around the national park to see our favorite safari animals from the sky. Nothing beats a view of an elephant charging through the forest from above.
After the flight we made our way to the entrance of the Falls on foot to see how things looked from the ground. Our first impression here was the sound, which we were unable to hear from the microlights. It truly lives up to what the locals call Mosi-O-Tunya: "The Smoke That Thunders." Seriously, you can feel it's presence before you can see it... a powerful rumble that just sounds imposing. Seeing the Falls was spectacular as well, particularly because you can get so much closer to them than we would have thought. We were drenched in no time just from the mist, and we even managed to see a few rainbows as well.
After a day of relaxing and trying to save money (Zambia is expensive), we went for an "adrenaline day" at the Gorge with our newly arrived travel mates, Alex and Jo. Another picture perfect day, spent at the cliffs along the picturesque Bakota Gorge, basically reenacting detours from the Amazing Race. In fact, one of the activities, the Gorge Swing, was actually featured on the Race in 2000.
We started things off by abseiling down into the gorge. We then upped the ante a bit with two goes on the Flying Fox. This involves putting on a harness which is strapped to a cable that stretches from one end of the gorge to the other, then sprinting off the edge of the cliff. The rope attached to the cable is pretty short, maybe a few feet long, so you end up flying across the gorge Superman-style along the cable. This was extremely fun and had the not-to-be-underestimated benefit of us not having to climb back up the gorge afterwards (a steep, 30 minute climb in 85 degree heat).
This all led up to the adrenaline climax - the famous Gorge Swing. Like the Flying Fox, the Gorge Swing involves a cable stretching from one end of the gorge to the other, with you attached by another cable. The cable attaching you, however, is 160 feet long. It's essentially a bungee jump down into the gorge, right next to the cliff. The major difference is that instead of bouncing back in the air like you would after a bungee jump, you swing out into the middle of the gorge. Once you're all strapped in, attached and ready to go, you step to the edge of the cliff and dangle your toes over. After an irresistible look down and a deep breath, you count down... 3, 2, 1... and take the step of faith into a 3.5 second free fall. Falling about 100 times faster than you had imagined (they say up to 180 km/h... get out your mile-to-km charts) you are yanked (literally... we got some minor whiplash) back into reality when your cable catches and then there you are, swinging in the middle of the gorge. A great experience, but one which will definitely require a visit to the chiropractor when we get back...
Today, our final day, was somewhat disappointing in that we were unable to cross the border into Zimbabwe due to the uncertain political situation there at the moment. So no lion walk, so seeing the Falls from the other side, and no dinner feast of warthog, zebra, etc. I guess it's a small price to pay considering the conditions many of the Zimbabweans are facing today. Hopefully their election results will be resolved soon and (fingers crossed) they can move forward to a better situation. As an alternative we were able to schedule a walking safari in which we saw rhino, elephant, and giraffe on foot at close range. A great day.
We've enjoyed our stay in Livingstone immensely. Not only did we get to stretch our adventure sports muscles but we took a much needed break from camping. Ah, fresh towels, a bed and air conditioning. Life is good. We'll miss you, Livingstone!
On to Botswana next... The free internet ends here but we hope to post again soon!