As I left Malawi, I began to see the end of my horrid G Adventure overland tour and my moral started to lift. We still had a long way to go to get to Livingstone, including a stop in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka. Of course, true to the tour agency’s prime principle of protecting us from exposure to locals, we avoided the city altogether and went on a little campground in the middle of nowhere. I was less annoyed than I had been in Malawi, probably because this was not my first trip to Zambia.
On the way to Livingstone, we spent two days doing this between breakfast and dinner.
The highlight of the day was eating this strange, cold hotdog containing a sausage of a tone of pink the picture can’t do justice to. Someone told me this kind of meat die was banned in the West a number of years ago. I’ll try and stay positive; it was the best lunch I had that day. In all fairness, travel times are such lies in G Adventures’ travel itineraries that if one was to stop for a proper lunch along the way, said lunch would be the only time one would be outside the truck during day time. So zero blame to our excellent guide for making the sandwich call.
Livingstone (Zambia) and Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) are touristic towns (especially Vic Falls, which was purpose built as a tourist town), and the offer of activities is very wide ranging. Unfortunately, we got there late and were really left with only one day to do anything. For me, rafting the Zambezi was the number one priority, even thought I had done it the year before. In fact, my less than 48 hours stay there was very much a repeat of my stay there last year. I should rather say that everything I did this time, I did last year, because my previous stay was much longer, and much more adventurous, including retrieving a lost Land Rover in the middle of a bush village, and possibly my best wildlife adventure ever, a canoe trip in the Lower Zambezi National Park, thanks to the idea of my friend Pierce, whom I had met a few months earlier in Namibia.
I expected that in the dry season, rafting the river would be a little wilder, or so I had been told. Perhaps I misunderstood, but it was actually a little tamer. In the boat, fellow G Adventure detainees Chris from Austria (front left) and Australian couple Jonathan and Sarah (rear), along with two Ozzie medical students working in Zambia who got paired with us, and me with the helmet cam. Better lower expectations right now, my GoPro camera had a major malfunction, and I got virtually no video of the rafting. I don’t know what went wrong. The icon that appeared was not in the user manual, and I have since gone diving twice with it, and it works just fine.
Of course, I say the river was tamer, but it’s still the Zambezi, one of the prime rafting spots in the world. We certainly ran into whitewater, although in this picture, it seems Sarah is trying to run away from it.
And while most of the rapids were not nearly as violent as last November, we did flip twice, including one flip which was nearly as rough as the ones I experienced last year (one of the 5 or 6!).
Let it be known that I am quite fearless in the water, or under water. If I am worried about something, it is due to a perfectly rational concern about a real danger. I was quite amused that so many people on our tour were terrified about rafting, a few to the point of deciding not to go. That being said, I can’t criticize them, because we all have our irrational fears. For me, by very, very far, the most scary part of the day was taking this cable car back up from the bottom of the canyon. They even made us sign a separate disclaimer for it. I really, really hate cable cars.
When you find a good thing, sometimes it is worth repeating, so I suggested we head into town for dinner at Cafe Zambezi, which I visited with my friends last year. Amusingly, in both cases, we had a birthday girl in the party. In this picture, from the left, Steinar and Anna (hidden), from Norway, my handsome self, Melanie, from Switzerland, Chris, Katja the German birthday girl, Sarah and Jonathan (not seen because he is taking the picture). The place looked just as bad from the outside, but the inner courtyard had just been renovated two weeks ago, and I could barely recognize it, although the picnic tables were the same.
Cafe Zambezi will offer three types of meals, if you look at it from an “experience” point of view. First, great food, such as this excellent crocodile skewer Katja and I shared.
It will also allow you to sample real typical local cooking, such as goat meat in foil with a kind of boiled kale and nshima, the tasteless Play-Do like maize paste that constitutes the staple of all subsistence farmers and poor people in the country and the whole region. It’s nice to try so you know what the locals eat, but Jonathan’s expression conveys very accurately how exciting the dish is. And he is not prejudging it; he and Sarah had just spent 3 months volunteering in Kenya before joining this tour, so he knew what to expect. We all shared this plate and I think a pizza raised his spirits a moment later.
The third and final type of meal you can have is the weird kind (although I will grant you that crocodile might fall in that category for some people). Last year, I came here with a local driver/fixer, and he said he had never tried Mopani caterpillars (then he ate nearly the whole plate). So, perhaps he was not very adventurous, or perhaps it is more a gimmick than a real local deli. But we ordered it anyways and it looked completely different than last year. It also tasted OK, not great, but OK.
Last year’s caterpillars, being inspected by my Australian friend Rosie (on the right). This is how I described them in my blog: “I highly recommend having them with a very large glass of strong antidepressants crushed and dissolved in vodka. Have the drink first. It won’t make the dish any less revolting, but at least you won’t remember the next day.”
The fun thing about insect food is not so much eating it, but rather watching your friends eat it. As you can tell, Sarah is having a lot more fun than Katja.
But a moment later, she has the most serious face I ever saw on her!
An unconvincing smile…
And finally, Katja the birthday girl. I discretely asked the manager if she could put a candle on a piece of cake or something of that kind, and she said yes. But, the birthday dessert became sautéed banana and ice cream, and the candle went. But, the waiters decided to sing, and to do so properly, one came to the table and asked all of us the name of the person celebrating the birthday. So much for the surprise, but this is Africa and getting fussed about such things would make one’s experience truly miserable.
And that was the end of my unpleasant, 19 days organized trip. I won’t miss any part of it, but that very evening in South Africa, I already missed some of the great people I met there.