Another border crossing, another river crossing, again you’re told stories how hellish it was by others... There were no long queues for us at the river crossing, there was a long queue of trucks but smaller vehicles were put to the front. Before that it was the Botswana immigration, customs and police. The usual building in the middle, one side for exiting and the other side entering the country. Paulina had to exit the Landy as I drove onto the roll on roll off barge once I gave the right kid our boarding ticket (don’t want passengers inside in case it rolls over), the kid was the one in the Liverpool football top. At places like this nobody wore uniforms and you are never too sure who is the person directing you, even the border police, after a while you learn to watch carefully to the dynamic of the different people moving around and can tell who is who, other times you have to guess.
From Botswana to Zambia
Once on the other side there were various things to do with no real order to the layout, just a dusty area with parked vehicles and a building to side with loads of people around it. Vehicles pointing to the river where leaving so vehicles pointing to the gate were coming into Zambia, simple! As soon as people saw the Land Rover you could see the money in their eyes as they looked at us. We ignored them all and walked up to the building to start the process, telling the fixers we’ve been through before, it’s no worries. Paperwork was completed and passports stamped in the immigration, next was round the back to customs with all the ownership documents for the Landy, they had completed paperwork stacked high on the floor.
Paulina went to get some cash changed as we needed to buy insurance and we saw a place for changing money just outside. I stayed to be scrutinised by customs, sat at there cluttered desks with boxes of paper work around the desks. They looked very bored and uninterested, unless money was involved.
Paper work completed after a second attempt to get the correct number plate written down, it was a great hassle for him. Paulina returned with local cash, she thought the place was crazy and wasn’t too sure about the people but here was one of the safest places with police and officials around, just ignore the fixers and the worst that can happen is they follow you around. One started to follow us outside so we split directions to go around the building on opposite sides, that threw him and he was all confused who to follow so I stopped a little to keep his attention, saw Paulina disappear round the corner, he glanced towards her then I bolted.
We meet up in front alone and headed for the insurance company office, Paulina spotted it while getting cash. Inside the wooden hut Samuel was very happy to see us and he could organise the 30day insurance for 150,000Kwacha (30USD) with no problem and a smile, he talked a lot. The price wasn’t over the top and we got down to filling in the paperwork, hand written with carbon copies. When completed I handed over the cash and Paulina inspected our new insurance document. Seems there was a discrepancy between the Samuel’s asking price for the insurance and what was printed on the certificate. Oh it had been a long week for him, busy and got confused, he apologised for the overcharge. All things being equal, all things being random why is the error never in your favour???? He had a nice little scam going, hence the talking a lot, not being too greedy that makes people check.
With money returned, all the paperwork and cash matched up. The fixers would earn a bit of commission for every person they brought here if they managed to distract the client from checking and not being found out! Samuel was a busy person indeed!
“Dr Livingston I presume” Livingstone was a short drive away and to the Victoria Falls, one of only two places I managed to put a pin on my wall map when planning the trip, Timbuktu was the other and I hoped this place had better food!! We drove down to where the Falls were to get our bearings then back up to Livingstone looking for a cheap back packer’s to put up our roof tent.
Livingstone was a tourist town and had everything you would want, including a large well stocked supper market that would be good to pick up supplies. We found a back packer place that let up put up our tent in the car park, it backed onto the grassy area with a block of independent rooms and a kitchen. We had become accustom to the tent with mattress by now and much preferred it to sleeping in a lumpy old bed, it was a nice large space (with two bungee cords clipped up on the internal supports of the tent holding the netbook we could also watch movies, cinema style viewing and with our wee speaker). Sleeping on top of the Landy meant I could sleep easier knowing I would hear anyone, less chance of breaking in.
Vic Falls was a assume sight.
Much better to see it not in full flood because of the mist it generated from thundering water could be seen 50km away. The falls are actually been carving its way from left to right for 100,000 years. Zig-zagging was now on the zag and that meant it was cutting into the Victoria Falls side of Zimbabwe but at the rate it is moving they are not worried.
Before leaving Livingstone there was a long promised mission to be done and a promise Paulina made one night as we spoke on Skype a long time before this moment. The mission was a promised bungee jump from Vic Falls bridge. It’s about 100 years old (the bridge not the bungee!!) and the main route for the border crossing. This was to be one of my personal pinnacles to the Africa trip, a land mark and that night on Skype Paulina promised me she would jump together (hehehehehe) thinking for sure this day would never arrive.
For those of you who don’t know her she is much more reserved than me and to jump off something for fun was not inbuilt to her DNA. We inquired about the bungee and other activities… It turns out you could not bungee in tandem any more but we could do a gorge swing!
We planned to drive up to Lusaka and would have to come back this way but before the drive up we decided to do the jumps now in case the plan changed. At the place for the gorge swing there was a wooden platform over the edge, it was a vertical drop until the rope tensioned and swung you along skimming the trees to the other side of the gorge, then back and forth before lowering you to the ground and walking back up to the top.
We had the safety briefing, donned the harnesses and walked to the platform (along the way I made good the sure both me boys were fine, not to be trapped, adjusting the straps on my legs). Paulina was quiet and looking very unsure. The local safety guy checked our harnesses again and attached the single rope to both of us. I was tempted to make some jokes but I was sure Paulina would not find it funny (I couldn’t believe she was really going to do it!!).
We had a practise of how to stand and bending the knees and falling backwards, easy when you’re practising!! The time came for the real one, we edged backwards to put our heals over the edge, I was holding Paulina harness with my arm beside her. “One…two…stop!” the guy called.
He didn’t like our position. Again, “One…two…stop!” the guy called again. Paulina was not committing to the fall so he was blunt with her finally saying she didn’t have to do it. Again, edging back to heals over the edge (I was getting nervous by now!). “One! Two! Three!!” Legs were bent we both learned back and then… it was quiet apart from the rush of air, falling… no turning back now. The snap from the rope came quickly and I tried to hold Paulina tight, together we swung right over to the other side then came back again. I assured Paulina and she opened her eyes as we swung, she had fear in her eyes but also proud that she managed it. I was also proud of her.
We were lowered to the ground and our legs were unsteady during the climb up and out, stopping occasionally. She had done it! We had done it! (((So be careful what you promise someone no matter how unlikely you might think it may happen, it may come true!!!!))).
Next up was the bungee jump, 110meters off the bridge. It was a professional run outfit it seemed, with lots of people going through procedure they should have it down to a fine art. Once your weight was taken they wrote a jump number and the weight on your forearm, they shouldn’t hook me up to the wrong elastic band now I hoped! The bridge had a barrier at either side to allow single traffic only or to limit the loading from lorries, it was a century old after all and it looked that age with its rusted functional design of triangle supports.
Out in the middle was the jumping platform mad from scaffolding secured to the side of it. There weren’t many people and we watched a couple of people jump, they survived. Next up was me, harness fitted, double checked, instructions given, my personal camera gripped firmly in right hand with video running, last smile to Paulina, shuffle to the edge, feet half on half off, (((“what the hell am I doing here!”))), (((“That’s a long way down!”))), I hear the count down, then JUMP! I screamed all the way down, which meant I had to stop and take another breath half way but ohhhh boy does that gets the heart pumping!!! I bounced around for a bit, Paulina said she lose sight of me as I came back up the first time.
Once I finish bouncing around a guy was electric winched down on a wire rope to collect me. It was worth the 40,000 odd kms to get there and it completed the Africa trip for me. Watching the video in the café afterwards my BIG JUMP off the top was more a bend the knees and roll off the edge (was funny), well I was a long way up!!! And it was a long way down!!