Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
19.07.2017 30 °C
18 July 2017
A free day in Victoria Falls. I’m feeling exhausted and should be having a sleep in but there’s a good reason I was up at 5.00am. Jude and I and three Aussies were picked up just after 6.00am. We wasted a lot of time picking up from other hotels and waiting for a Chinese group to pay.
Eventually we arrived and were divided into two groups. We were given a big stick and started walking and crossed a creek. Then the excitement started as two lions came bounding across the creek and playfully wrestled in front of us. The lions, a male and female, are still cubs, just under two years old. We were given a briefing about how to walk with the lions – never go near the head but stroke their back and rear. There was a guy with a rifle shadowing us at a distance … just in case.
Everyone in the group had a turn at walking alone with the lions while the group walked behind. The staff take your camera (can’t have anything dangling around your neck) and they took lots of photos of each person.
The female was a bit flighty and kept running off – maybe the hunting instinct kicking in. When I was walking the lion deciding to lie down so I got to kneel down and stroke the lion. Then the two lay down together and everyone had a turn of kneeling down for photos. Sorry the colours are off in the photos but that's what happens when you give your camera to someone else.
This was absolute joy … I can’t believe I walked with lions!
We were out for 45 minutes and it was time to go back. A cooked breakfast was waiting for us and then we watched the video of our walk. Of course I bought the video. Another USD30 on top of the USD150 for the walk. This type of experience doesn’t come cheap but I’m so glad I did it.
After we were dropped off we had to pack up and change hotels. Then we walked to the markets. At regular intervals along the way there were men trying very hard to sell their wares and they won’t accept no. My standard reply was ‘Australia, no wooden things’.
The markets were hot, dirty and exhausting. I found the markets overwhelming and claustrophobic. I would have bought some things but the constant hassle was too much for me. I couldn’t look at anything because as soon as you stop they start bringing out more and more things- you want lovely scarf, bag, table runner, carved animals – best price in markets. I started walking around with my arms behind my back so they couldn’t place things in my hands.
The stalls are crowded in so about every metre is a new person saying hello, and asking where you’re from. I got so many ‘down under’ and ‘Aussie, Aussie, Aussie’. A few people asked if we had pens, insect repellent or clothes to give them, I was also shown Australian dollars and asked to exchange for USD – one guy said the bank won’t take AUD. I thought that AUD was one of the legal tenders in Zimbabwe, anyway I wasn't going to get stuck with fake AUD - I later found at a café that we could actually pay in AUD so it is accepted in Zimbabwe.
We had a late lunch and went back to check into the hotel and meet the pick up for our next activity, a helicopter ride over the falls. The ride was only about 12 minutes long (yes, another USD150 ... an expensive day) but tit was great to see the full length of the falls from above. i got to sit with the pilot and could also see straight down.
So this was supposed to be a relaxing day but once again I was exhausted (I'm also battling on with a horrible cough and chest infection). At 7.00pm I met Jude for dinner but I was overtired and decided not to eat ... at that point sleep was more important than food.
The lion walk program is controversial because of the interaction with humans they cannot be released into the wild. However,when they get older they are released into a reserve. The male lion that we walked with had an unusual gait because of surgery, He was rescued because he couldn't walk and would have been abandoned to die. Originally I had reservations about doing the walk but I loved it ... it was one of the most exciting things I've ever done