So, back in the present...
The mid-morning border crossing from Vic Falls (Zim) through to Livingstone (Zam) was pretty easy – a quick in and out with a couple of new stamps. No worries. Once on the Zam side, we stopped off at a small shopping complex to get some lunch, snacks and cook group supplies. It was only about 10am but I had to get a bottle of ‘Mosi’ (‘Mosi-Oa-Tunya’ – “The smoke that thunders” – the local name for The 'Falls). Maybe I’m biased, but I still rate this as my favourite beer in Africa – much better than Primus (Congolese beer) which is rated pretty highly by most who try it.
From there we went to ‘The Grotto’ (which I’m pretty sure was called ‘Grubby’s Grotto’ when I went there 10 yrs ago). The Grotto is a sweet wee campsite based on a plot of land with a big colonial building on it that used to belong to a diplomat or consulate. The owner is a Kiwi guy called Grubby. We were ‘pre-warned’ about this guy before we got there: he’d recently been away to watch some rugby and we were told that chances are, he’d either have been arrested or beaten up...that’s the type of guy he is! I never really had the “pleasure” of sharing more than a few words with him but I’m told that after a drink or two, his ‘interesting opinions’ were expressed very vocally. One of his favourite words was probably one that some of our co-passengers would use to describe him...but I’ll leave it at that.
The Grotto is the number one place to base yourself for the Zambezi white-water rafting – the company ‘Raft Extreme’ runs out of The Grotto and is the only company (we’re told) with a 100% safety record. I did the rafting 10 yrs ago so didn’t fancy forking out $120 to do it again, even though this time the water level was good enough to do the whole course (I think it’s about 23 rapids) whereas last time, the water was too high and we could only do half the course. More on the rafting later...
The first night we had at The Grotto was Booze-Cruise time! From memory, I think we spent about $40 to get a return transfer to the launch site, cruise around on the Upper-Zambezi as the sun set, with a bbq dinner onboard and free bar too! Again, this is something I did 10 yrs ago (with my mate Cairsny and a couple of other British lads we’d met) so I knew what sort of debauchery to expect: last time, the four of us had the boat to ourselves so the skipper came and added fuel to an already well-lit fire by introducing some drinking games. Needless to say, one of the lads was feeding the hippos his partially digested dinner before the night was out!
This time around was equally eventful. Sure we saw hippo, elephants, crocs and monkeys on the banks, but I think it’s fair to say that everybody’s attention was focussed on the bar and the clock: two hours to get our money’s worth.
|High spirits on the top deck.|
|We spotted a hippo within the first 5 mins of the cruise.|
|Not long after, we saw a herd of elephants.|
|This little fella struggle with the concept of drinking from the river and kept ending up on his face in the mud.|
|This littl'un struggled too.|
|Big croc on the Zambezi riverbank|
The first hour went by pretty politely and that’s when we saw all of the animals. Then we had the BBQ (which was delicious, although I think the veggies got a bum deal as a few of the meat-eaters from another group had unknowingly helped themselves to their veggy pizza) before the drinking games began.
There was a desperate look on everybody’s faces as we realised we were on the return leg of the journey so the barman got to earn his pay. Kenji got things rolling by knocking back three bottles of Mosi in a row – I told him it would catch up with him...and it did. There was also a short-lived effort of the drinking game ‘Fives’ (involving putting either your fist in the circle or your five fingers and when it’s your turn, guessing the outcome). The loser does a dirty combo shot of everybody’s drinks. We did a few rounds before Kerry became the first real casualty of the night. Game over, man.
|A game of 'Fives', simplified to 'Ones' (for some of the special cases on the truck). "Who's that handsome devil on the left with the cool shades?" I hear you ask.|
|Gabrielle "Gabarone" Ferrazzi - The Italian Stallion|
|Despite the maniacal look, the ladies flock around Gabarone...|
|See what I mean?|
|Cheers! Kezza & Jules|
|Sunset on the Upper Zambezi|
|Homeless (Kyle) & Surrogate Mother (Kay) sharing a joke.|
|Get in there, Berbs! (Preferably with the one on the right!)|
Back on dry land, live music awaited us and the girls, loaded up on disco juice, started to throw some shapes. As the booze flowed, more and more people donned their dancing flip-flops and a few of the brothers-from-other-mothers either found a corner of the bar to hide from their girlfriends or sat outside for a cultural local ‘erb experience.
|True to form, Kay & Kim are first to hit the dancefloor back on dry land.|
|Laraldo & Jen bustin' some moves.|
|Jen's face suggests that Kenji is good at giving massages.|
|Marjane & Kay defying (?) the Aussie pisshead stereotype.|
|Laraldo, Berbs & Jules - so gangster it hurts.|
|Queen Kim enters the scene.|
|Kezza & Matt - just about making eye contact with the camera.|
|Not sure what this pose is about Kay!|
|Jen, Yoichi and Son - who is holding who up?|
|Gabarone - chilling outside and experimenting with the camera|
|Kenji busting some moves to all the girls delight. Note the bottom-lip bite. A standard drunken dancing male pose.|
|Son: "Maybe you'll dance the funky chicken on your 75th wedding anniversary."|
|Queen Kim - "We are not amused!"|
|Paddy - giving it the Arthur Fonzarelli.|
|Laraldo, Son, Kenj and Jen - Good times.|
|Tollie-Man - the passenger formerly known as Berbs aka Dave aka Mark from Dewsbury.|
|Homeless & Gab - The Rastafarian & The Pastafarian.|
|The Sober Section doubled up as the casualty ward.|
|Laraldo's not impressed with Jen & Son's time-keeping in the ladies' loos. (Not sure why Matt or the photographer are in there.)|
|Jules, Jen and Kerry - strictly for the homies.|
|BANZAI!! Yoichi after we encouraged him to neck three double brandys and coke.|
|Marjane: Working the pout. Kimbo: Nervous. Laraldo: Oblivious. Ish: Biggest smile ever invented.|
|Yoich - centre of attention!|
|Yoichi & Marjane at the end of a boozy night.|
|Kezza & Jules saying "Cheers!" again.|
During the night, Laraldo busted her toe on a step and Jen did the same on a piece of a glass – just before we got our transfer home.
|Laraldo, giving it the puppy dog eyes and looking for sympathy after busting her toe.|
|Get in there again Berbs!!|
|Matt showing no respect for the Zambezi.|
|Homeless doing likewise.|
|Jen in pain after cutting her toe. Pat looking excited about it.|
Strangely, the transfer home was one of the highlights of the night: the cabby’s mate tried kicking things off with some local sing-along songs but soon realised he’d bitten off more than he could chew as we overpowered him with drunken chants of co-passengers’ names.
|The bus ride home from the booze cruise - messy.|
|"YOICHI!!!" "YOICHI!!!" "YOICHI!!!"|
|Game over, man.|
Back at The Grotto, the drinking continued and Grubby himself joined us – possibly for the pure pleasure of winding some of the other passengers up? I decided it was time for bed when I found myself behind the bar serving up drinks and then on top of the bar wondering how the hell I could get down without falling over in front of everybody.
|Get in there again Berbs!|
|Is Berbs asleep on his feet?|
|The toe twins feeling sorry for themselves!|
|A closer look at the injuries...and the 'grubby' (no pun intended) feet.|
|Get in there Berbs!|
|Jules & Grubby (owner of The Grotto) having a heated discussion.|
|It's the end of the night and Berbs is still working the magic.|
|This was my last photo before stumbling back to the tent.|
The next day was a recovery day at the side of Grubby’s pool (awesome) and the day after that, we were told that the full set of rapids had just been declared open and safe to go down. Ish, Matt, Berbs and Sonya stepped up to the challenge and from what I hear, despite a shaky start for Ish (read: almost drowned) it was a great, but tiring day.
We left The Grotto the next day and made our way north via Lusaka before going to Chipata for some more cook group shopping in the Shoprite they have there. That night we stayed at ‘Mama Rulas’ on the outskirts of Chipata – some of the guys had a few bevs which culminated in my quiet night being disturbed as Berbs and Homeless decided to jump on my tent whilst I was in it – I woke up to Homeless’s face imprinted in the side of the flysheet about 5 inches from my face.
|Homeless - peering out of the truck and dodging low-hanging branches as we drive through Lusaka.|
|A typical day in the back of the truck. Reading, iPodding, watching the world go by or waving to the locals.|
Interestingly, we met another Af Trails truck here – they were heading the opposite direction to us (i.e. South and ending up in Cape Town). The driver – Carl – was one of Marjane’s best mates and we ended up talking to the passengers on the other truck as if they were long-lost relatives. We even got a chance to compare the two truck’s interiors, which was pretty cool as our beast and home for the last 6 months (Ruby) is soon to be retired from the fleet and the new truck we are due to get would look something like (but not the same as) the truck these other guys were on.
The following day we got up early and made our way to South Luangwa National Park – I’d heard nothing but good things about this place from some of the US Peacecorps guys I met last time I was in Zambia and its reputation was still going strong.
Click here to go straight to 'Zambia Part 2' to read all about our close enounter with elephants...