Alicia’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 31 Aug 2010

Location: Livingstone, Zambia

MapWe woke up at 5am and made our way to the airport. We got all our luggage checked in, got fragile stickers placed on our box of wine and luckily didn't have to pay extra in order to check an extra item. Since our flights were booked separately they couldn't check our luggage all the way through, so we had to collect our bags in Joburg, recheck them, and then go through security again, yay! Luckily we had plenty of time between flights. It also provided us the opportunity to store our box of wine in the luggage lockup in the Joburg airport rather than bring it with us to Livingstone and back. We will just pick it up when we fly back through Joburg on our way home. Our second flight was a bit late, but we still ended up landing at about the same time. The landing was pretty rough and I ended our second flight with a decent headache on top of being extremely tired from getting up at 5am and working through all the logistics of several airports.

The Livingstone airport was tiny, like REALLY tiny. I've been to some small airports in the U.P. and in northern WIsconsin, but this one was by far the tiniest, and it was an international airport! The passport screening, baggage claim and customs control were all in one room too small to fit everyone from our plane that landed. The line for passport control went out the door onto the area where the plane landed. We got through customs much more easily than I was expecting and exited the doors to see a guy sitting there casually with an AK-47 on his lap, yikes. It's hotter here, much hotter, but it felt nice after the damp chill of Cape Town. I was sort of excited because there was a guy picking us up from the airport and he had our names on a sign. I've always wanted my name on one of those signs at airports. Our driver led us to his car and as we walked behind him I got a nice whiff of his B.O. which was reminiscent of every nervous and sweaty Indian software developer candidate I ever interviewed.

It was about a 30 minute ride to the lodge and on that ride we noticed as we passed through town that now we are in the Africa that everyone thinks of when they think of Africa. Our driver pointed out 'downtown' which was one main street lined with buildings that they looked like they belonged in the bad part of a big city. They were mostly brick and cracked plaster with hand painted signs and tin roofs. He pointed out the hospital and all I could think of was 'omg, please don't let anything happen to me where I would need to go to that hospital'. After I thought that, he told us that that was the NICE hospital and there was one on the other side of town that was originally built for the blacks and that this one was originally for the whites, though now anyone can go to either hospital. On the brighter side we also saw a giraffe and even an elephant as we drove through a national park.

We arrived at the lodge and were shown to our room. We have three huge 'windows' looking over the river. I say 'windows' because really it's just that most of that wall is missing, no glass or screens, just open to the wild. We had a mosquito net around our bed, so I wasn't too concerned…until I saw the wasps. They were huge, black, scary looking things and there were 5-7 of them buzzing around the back of our room. The lady who is the lodge manager told us not to worry, that they are not aggressive, but they do sting, so don't swat at them and they will eventually fly away. Um. Okay.

As soon as she left the whole day came crashing down on me. The 5am start, the extra steps during travel, the headache, the heat, and finally finding out we were sharing our room with big black scary wasps. One flew at me and I crouched down in a ball to avoid it and started crying. Mike tried to console me. I climbed onto the bed, shut the netting around it and tried to calm down in a bug free environment. I ended up napping for a bit and woke up feeling much more rested, my headache was gone, and the wasps had vacated our room for the time being. I thought to myself 'okay, I think I might actually make it through this'. I sat down next to Mike and took in the amazing view of the river, while we were sitting there we heard an elephant trumpet, how cool!

At 4:30 we left for a sunset cruise on the river. We motored up and down the river spying crocodiles, birds, monkeys, and lizards. Our guide kept spotting hippos, but as soon as we would turn to look they would go underwater. We came across some waterbuck, a warthog and a giraffe and then finally, just before sunset, we spotted 3 hippos in the middle of the river. The sunset on the river was wonderful, it was so peaceful, all we could hear was birds and the movement of water. For sundowners we tried some Zambian beer which ended up being quite good.

Back on land we sat down around the fire with the other guests. There was a mother and daughter from Seattle and a guy from Pittsburgh who is studying abroad in South Africa and came up to Zambia for his break. All Americans, how strange! When we first talked to the guy from Seattle I was surprised when I heard someone talking who sounded like us, it's been so long hearing nothing but a British or South African accent. Mike can't tell the difference which I think is funny. It seems so obvious to me, especially after being here for two weeks and hearing the differences.

As we ate dinner together I realized that the daughter from Seattle was my personality twin. We are both extremely picky eaters, and in many of the same ways! We both take the cheese off pizza and we both brought a staple snack to eat when we inevitably didn't like what was served for a meal (I brought granola bars and she brought trail mix). She also has the same fear of spiders and we both do the same weird behaviors around spiders and both agree that the spiders are plotting against us. Everything either one of us said ended with the other person going "me too!!", it was very weird. After dinner we sat around the fire for a bit and got to hear more about other people's experiences. When we wanted to go to bed we got halfway down the path before we were told to stop. There were two elephants eating just off the path to our hut. We stood in the shadows and waited, but they just hung out and kept eating. It was too dark to see them, but we could hear how close they were crunching trees with their trunks. It was too dangerous to try to get to our room so we had to go back to the fire and wait till they moved off a bit. Eventually the elephants moved enough for us to get to bed. Despite the heat here it still gets very chilly at night. We slipped into our bed and realized we had heated blankets, it was amazing and we slept pretty well.