February 2, 2016 – We can’t go through it…can’t go around it…so we’ll have to go over it. I’m referring to Kenya, of course.
We’d decided it was time to leave Ethiopia and carry on. But the question was, where to? If you look at a map of Africa, you’ll see Ethiopia’s somewhat hostile neighbours: South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea to name a few. The border with Kenya is fraught with tension and we’d heard the north of that country itself is plagued by bandits making it potentially dangerous for independent travellers to cross it by bus. So we studied the map again and reviewed our options. Having already criss-crossed Kenya by bus on our last trip to Africa – not to mention Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda – we decided we’d fly right over Kenya and Tanzania and pick up our overland trail in Lusaka, Zambia.
So we booked a flight, but gave ourselves one last day in Addis Ababa first.
Despite my being horrified by it when I first arrived, Ethiopia’s capital had really started to grow on us both. Like many African cities Addis is a few pockets of modern urban sophistication linked together by a huge, sprawling conglomerate of neighbourhoods that seem more like villages grown wildly out of control and fused together.
We stayed at a B&B run by an Ethiopian-Canadian couple who moved back to Addis after 25 years in Canada – they served proper pancakes for breakfast and I can tell you, that was a fantastic break from injera – Ethiopian bread that has the appearance and texture of a tire.
Addis is surprisingly safe to move around, even at night (using common sense) and we never ran into any trouble other than a group of teenage boys who tried to pickpocket us. They weren’t very good at it and it was quite apparent what they were up to. They rushed us, crowded closely around us both, blocking the sidewalk and jostling us. One tried to hand me a bundle of rags he was carrying – they want to distract you away from your pockets and bag, basically. Oyv flung his arms out to both sides in front of us and bellowed at them to get lost in his ‘screaming voice’ which very few people ever get to hear…
One really great thing we did on our last day in Addis was attend a service at the International Evangelical Church. The congregation was a mix of locals and people from all over the world, and we felt right at home.
We can thank Mom for that experience, as it was her work contacts she put me in touch with in Ethiopia who suggested it to us.
And then, after a movie at the multiplex (The Revenant), we went to the airport for a middle-of-the-night flight.
Arriving in Zambia from the chilly Ethiopian highlands, we felt the heat and humidity the instant we stepped off the plane. According to our latest plan (they change all the time) we went straight to Livingstone, on the edge of Victoria Falls. The town is of course named for the first European ever to lay eyes on the Falls in 1855. That was David Livingstone, famed as much for his disappearance in Tanzania and subsequent discovery 6 years later by Henry Stanley (‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume’), as for his attempts at missionary work here. Apparently he succeeded in only one convert, who later reverted anyway. Livingstone coined the name Victoria Falls: their local name is Mosi Oa Tunya, ‘The Smoke that Thunders’.
Livingstone is a lovely little town, full of cafes and restaurants and colonial-style architecture. In fact together with the red dirt roads and beautiful tropical jungly vegetation it reminded us both of Australia’s Northern Territory.
Excited to finally reach the intense heat and sunshine we stayed at a little guesthouse with a pool.
We were equally excited about the fact that the guesthouse let me use the kitchen to make us lunches with fresh produce we bought in the markets.
The national food in Zambia is not up to much: they really, really like fried chicken and soggy chips (fries).
And so, we saw the Falls for the first time from Zambia’s side.
Here’s a view from the top:
And another, from the footbridge:
The park is teeming with baboons so we got in some free wildlife viewing on the way. Not a small achievement in southern Africa where they’d charge you for looking out the corner of your eye at an earthworm, if possible.
We walked out onto the bridge spanning the gorge:
To do this you need to get a little note from immigration on the Zambian side that will allow you back in, because the bridge also connects Zambia with its neighbour Zimbabwe and so once you’re in the middle of the bridge, you’ve actually left the country – and entered what the locals called ‘ZimZam.’
While we were still in Zambia on a walking trail in the park, we realized just how fluid and small the crossing point is. We reached a high fence and two Zimbabwean guys raced up on the other side of it and tried to exchange currency and sell us Zimbabwean souvenirs through the bars. Also, somewhat worryingly, around the same point from where we could see vehicles at immigration, we heard a man shouting ‘I will shoot you! If you don’t get out now, I will shoot!’ Which gave us something to keep in mind for our own border crossing later on, at least.
The next day we went back and crossed the bridge without the note (or any shooting incidents) and processed immigration on Zimbabwe’s side. Then we went to the Falls again, from the town on that side which shares their name.
We looked back at Zambia, to the place we’d stood the previous day. While on the Zambian side there is a nice little path and little wooden railings, on the Zimbabwean side you can just stroll right up to the edge of the cliff in places. It is not anything like Niagara; but in Africa there is very little worry about things like people plunging to their deaths, and so on.
There are many great viewing points – here you can see me in the middle right side of the photo:
Because you can get so close on Zimbabwe’s side, and the volume of water is greater, the spray is unbelievable and we got soaked to the skin. By April, at the end of the rainy season, the spray will be heavy enough to completely obscure the falls from view.
Basically, the Falls are absolutely spectacular wherever you view them from.
We saw a crossroads sign at our backpackers’ lodge in Vic Falls. It showed the distance from Cairo, where we started out (it feels so long ago!):
And it showed the distance left to Cape Town, at the bottom of South Africa, our projected ending point:
And we hit the road again, in ZimZam.