Day 126: A Promise Almost Un-Kept…

After 126 days in lockdown, there is still no real sign of when a sense of normality will return. I know that life as we knew it before COVID-19 will never be the same, but still, having the freedom to do some of the things we used to, would be nice. Anyhow, I’m not going to rant. It just sets me off into a downward spiral.

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Day 115: Boozy Comfort Food and an OTT Dream

It finally happened! I made the Boozy Jack Daniels Mac and Cheese that I’ve been hinting at in a previous post here, and here. Oh. My. Word. It was delicious!

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Cape St. Blaize Lighthouse

As the lighthouse high on Cape St. Blaize winks and watches Mossel Bay was the opening line of my primary school’s anthem. Today I finally got to see that view for myself.

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What’s Been Happening

So, remember the list of goals I made last week? Well, I have ticked off at least one – the renewal application of my passport. I sat at Home Affairs for a while yesterday as they were offline, but once they were back on, the process was dealt with quickly. In seven to fourteen days I will have my new passport, so should a trip come across my path, I can grab it with both hands.

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Devil’s Pool, Victoria Falls, Zambia

I’m a huge Batman fan, and I particularly love Joker (as portrayed by Jack Nicholson) and his signature line “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”

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No, I haven’t, but I have swum in the Devil’s Pool, which is way better.  I guarantee it.

This was by far my most favourite excursion.  Make no mistake, all the others touched me deeply on some level, but not many people get to see the Falls from this perspective; the Devil’s Pool is only open for a few months a year (when the water levels are low) and the number of people that get to visit during the open window is about 80 per day.  So I am very privileged to have been one.

The day started super early:  first to watch another breathtaking sunrise and then hop on to the transfer bus which took me to the border post.  Farai, the manager on duty at Old Drift Lodge kindly had a light breakfast packed for me, in case I got hungry.  Once through Zimbabwe, I was met by another driver who took me into Zambia, to the Livingstone Island launch site.  Check-in was done with Prince, a Zambia local, who says he has been doing this job for many years.

Launch Site

I signed the indemnity form, which I got to keep as a souvenir.

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Prince said that I was in actual fact signing a marriage certificate; that he was going to make me a Zambian woman.  I had a good chuckle.  Soon more people arrived and once the first six were ready, we set off.  I was in a group with an American father and his daughter, a Canadian man stationed in Lusaka for work, and two students (from the Netherlands and Japan) who are studying English in Cape Town.

The speedboat ride to Livingstone Island takes about seven minutes and in some parts the water is a little tumultuous, but nothing remotely rapid-like.

Rapid Water

That happens further down, in the gorge below the Falls.

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For the most part, the water is flat, not unlike it was during my sunrise cruises at the lodge.

A short swim across a small area is required, but the water is smooth and there is a rope for support if required.  You don’t have to be an exceptional swimmer, but some relative swim-fitness won’t do you any harm.

I expected the water to be freezing (as it is in South African natural pools), but the water was a comfortable temperature, like that of a tepid bath.

Our entire group slid into the pool under the careful instruction of our guides, Kevin and O’Brien and remained in the water until it was our individual turns to get onto the ledge and experience the wonder of this natural infinity pool.  It is a little scary, especially when the mudsuckers decide to lightly nip you but with adrenalin flowing through your veins, you don’t get a chance to think about fear, only have fabulous you feel!

The view is indescribable and the sound of the water rushing by so close to you is almost deafening.  I am so grateful that I got to see not one, but a double rainbow.  Later that afternoon, when I did the rainforest walking tour, the clouds had covered the sun and no rainbows were visible.

Some friends said I was completely robbed of my senses wanting to be so close to the edge, but as an excursion-goer you never feel unsafe because all through your turn on the ledge, a guide is either next to you if you’re sitting, or holding your feet while you’re trying to pull out your best model-pose for the other guide who is photographing you.  One thing I know after this experience is that I would suck as a model.

Devil's Pool Feature PhotoPose

After our excursion, we took a walk along the warm, black basalt rock and got to see a statue of Dr. David Livingstone and were told some history about him.

Black Basalt Rock

Livingstone Statue

After that we headed back to shore, where a light breakfast awaited us.  There was an option of a croissant with cheese and tomato, or Jungle Oats with some berries.  I opted for the former, which was delicious.  The coffee was a welcome boost after the energy I expended in the water.

I would definitely recommend this excursion to anyone wanting to experience the Victoria Falls from within the waters of the Zambezi River that feeds them.

Double Rainbow

Go on!  Be a little daring!

Bushtracks Express Dinner Experience

Trains are in my blood.  My maternal grandfather worked for the South African Railways all his life, and The Toppie started out his career as a steam locomotive stoker.  When we were still living in Johannesburg, I caught the train from Park Station to Doornfontein to attend school and back again every day for four years, before we left to come and live at the coast.

When I saw that there was a dinner experience on a steam train at Victoria Falls, I was like, Shut up and take my money!  The train only runs twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, and booking is essential.

The Bushtracks Express boards at the beautiful Victoria Falls Station, a stone-throw from the legendary Victoria Falls Hotel.  It was the first hotel built in the village and is known to the locals as The Grand Old Dame.

Station 2Station 1Station 4Station 5Station 3Flaming Jacaranda 1Flaming Jacaranda 2

While waiting on the platform there was a gentleman playing the saxophone.  When he did a Satchmo number, I shed a few tears, because in that moment I thought about The Toppie, and how he and The Bean would have loved to have experienced this.

Saxophonist

The train chugged into the station with a familiar toot-toot.  While waiting to be checked-in (which was a quick process handled efficiently), passengers enjoyed cocktails on the platform before boarding the luxurious coach for its destination:  The Victoria Falls Bridge, where guests could disembark, purchase souvenirs from the vendors, take photos of the sunset, and even get into the drivers’ seat for some photos.

BushtracksWelcome DrinksCoach 1Coach 2

I opted to sit at the rear of the train, on the balcony, hoping for some reprieve from the heat.  The train manager, Tulani introduced himself and shared some history about the railway line; Cecil John Rhodes envisioned a railway from Cape Town to Cairo, but unfortunately the line ends in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.

Tulani 1

Prince and Melinda, two local celebrities provided the entertainment, filling the air with both local- and international songs.

Prince and Melinda

The food provided on the excursion is of the finger-variety, beginning with simple snacks like peanuts and dried figs, progressing to canapés of seeded crackers with hummus and guacamole, to goat’s cheese and salmon, to other savoury treats so delicious I gobbled them up before taking a picture (#facepalm) and the perfect dessert to round the evening off.  Drinks are included in the fare paid for the trip.

Snack 1Snack 2Snack 5Snack 4

Before the train comes to a stop on The Victoria Falls Bridge, it makes a short stop at the hydro-electric power station, where Tulani shared some interesting information.

The stop on the Victoria Falls Bridge lasted about 45 minutes, which was more than enough time to purchase souvenirs, take photos and drink in the sunset, while listening to thunder in the distance, and seeing the occasional strike of lightning.  I was even fortunate enough to sit in the cab, and make the train toot-toot myself (and I made sure I did it good and proper, but the video clip I have is too large to share on my blog).

Train 1Train 2

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The ride back to the station was a bit more jovial. (A few drinks will do that to you!)  Passengers joined Prince and Melinda in song, and some danced.  Tulani even grabbed me for a few twirls, which I found very sweet.

Tulani and I

There are many benefits to solo travel, but moments like that are when one misses having someone to share the fun with.

As we slowly re-entered the station to the synonymous na-na-na-na-na-na of Hey Jude there were cheers of “one more song!” which were heard, and we all joined in to pata-pata for one last time.

I left that station with a full tummy, a happy heart and the coolness of the first raindrops on my face.

What a memorable excursion it turned out to be – the first of many during my visit to Victoria Falls, in fact.

 

 

The Answers…

For those of you who did play the game in my previous post, here are the answers.  How many of you noticed the line in the Title of the post?  I’ll be blogging at my local spot again tomorrow evening 😀

I see trees of green What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong
In the last moments of the dawn In the Last Moments of the Dawn, Chris de Burgh
Jambalaya, crawfish pie, fillet gumbo Jambalaya / On the Bayou, Hank Williams
Jack & Diane Jack & Diane, John Mellencamp
Strutting into town like he (was) slingin’ a gun Jesse James, Cher
Making love to his tonic and gin Piano Man, Billy Joel
Like the deep blue sea, on a blue, blue day Blue Eyes, Elton John
Life is bigger, bigger than you Losing my Religion, REM
The world over the rim of his teacup Streets of London, Ralph Mc Tell
She’s gonna get you from behind Devil Woman, Cliff Richard
Jesus loves you more than you will know Mrs. Robinson, Simon & Garfunkle
A gamblin’ man House of the Rising Sun, The Animals
She was brushing her cat in (the) black limousine Dark Lady, Cher
Find which side (his) future lies Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John
When the time is right, I’ll cross the street (I belive in) Angels, Abba
Put a gun against his head Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen
Drug dealer on speed dial Rockstar, Nickelback
Lying on the floor where you left (her) Just like a Pill, Pink
It’s a quarter after one Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
You can check in any time, but you can never leave Hotel California, The Eagles
I’ve got a feeling I’ve got a feelin’, Black Eyed Peas
End of Lonely Street Heartbreak Hotel, Elvis Presley