On Friday to Sunday we had our official tourist time with a visit to Livingstone, about 400 km south of Lusaka. This is a world famous tourist site due to the Victoria Falls, one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It is considered the world's largest waterfall, although as it is the dry season here, the falls were several smaller falls instead of one massive wall of water. The falls were discovered by famous African explorer David Livingstone who renamed the falls after the reigning British monarch, Queen Victoria.
We left early Friday morning and our first stop was at the Munali Coffee farm where Brian and Harold had been a few times before.
The farm lost much of its coffee capacity during a drought some years back when its water reservoirs ran dry and It could no longer irrigate. It still produces lovely coffee but has diversified into wheat, soy, premium flower and garden seeds for the European market and other crops. We had a lovely tour with Jesper, the second generation owner – operator (approximately our age) and I was thrilled to finally get to visit this coffee farm that Brian has often talked about. Because Zambia goes from about April to November without any rain, the coffee and other crops dry very well and rusty and mold aren't problems. We enjoyed lunch with Jesper, his mother and their farm foreman and his wife, and then it was on the road again, on schedule to arrive in Livingstone around 7 pm.
Our first mechanical incident was a cracked radiator. We added all the water bottles we had in the van and it was enough to get us to a small town. We had enough mechanically minded men to solve the problem, because we were blessed to find a store that sold anti freeze and quick drying epoxy. It still was over and hour until we started off again with night approaching. Fortunately we decided to stop in a town called Choma for supper, about 2 hours from Livingstone, as it didn't seem we would make out dinner reservation at the guest house where we were staying. About 9 pm, still an hour out of Livingstone, now in full darkness, the van started to make a terrible noise and smell. With the aid of cell phone flashlights, the men were able to deduct that this was an engine problem that wasn't repairable on the side of the road. So, it was seeming that the 8 of us spending the night in an 8 passenger van along the pitch dark high way was a real possibility. Fortunately, we had stopped by one of the very few village type settlements that had lights along the highway. We had driven for very long stretches without seeing ANY lights in the country side. The village had no services, but at least it was a location marker.
Even in apparent difficult times, God provides. The guest lodge where we would be staying was one where Harold and Brian had stayed several times before. The Lusaka Athletes in Action staff had suggested that this facility had gone down hill (probably an understatement!) and that we should stay elsewhere. Harold had decided that we would stay there anyway because he had become friends with ' the captain ' over the years and wanted to see him. This is where God's planning comes in. We called the captain's guest house to see if they could find some numbers of transportation options, even though this seemed futile as not many businesses are open this late. A while later we got a call that the captain had a bus, and had woken his drivers and they were making the hour long trip to fetch us. While we waited we got to enjoy a most spectacular night sky, and were incredibly relieved that we would not be spending the night on the side of the dark highway. We arrived at the quite sketchy Queen of the Hills guest house, but realized that if we hadn't been booked in here, we would be still oon the side of the road.
Saturday we visited the magnificent Victoria Falls (still magnificent even though water flow was very low). We had afternoon plans to visit a crocodile park, but it took over an hour to wire gas money back to Lusaka so that the other Athletes in Action van could drive down to rescue us. In the end we missed the crocs and headed straight to dinner on the banks of the Zambezi River. Brian, after one of his previous trips, talked about how he dreamed that one day we would get to have dinner on the Zambezi together. Mission accomplished. We considered it our 24th wedding celebration. (Although the mood ended as our accommodations were the least romantic place we had ever stayed in!)
Sunday started with a 7:30 pick up for a 3 hour game park safari and rhino walk. We saw over 15 elephants that migrate throughout the southern African countries, herds of zebra, cape buffalo, and wildebeest. We had a great giraffe encounter as we spent several minutes watching 2 young males fight, essentially wrestling standing up, trying to knock each other over! Very interesting. And to continue our travel adventure theme, we had to stop and get out of the safari van as it got a flat tire.