The African Expedition

 

 

Three countries, two GoPros, one drone and more extreme sports than you can shake a selfie stick at. Here’s the video….

The write up…

Too much Toto?

After a friend recently moved to Lusaka a group of us decided to make the most of his relocation by planning the perfect two to three week trip to explore the region. Armed with two GoPros, an SLR, a Mavic Drone and more than one playlist featuring Toto, we headed to the airport. Our flight to Lusaka was via Dubai on the cavernously large A380. Despite our best efforts the upgrade we’d been hoping for never arrived so we consoled ourselves with large amounts of red wine. The scenery as the eastern tip of Africa came in to view was pretty crazy. Perfect island beaches with miles of sandy coast and luminous blue waters.

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We met our other friends at the airport and drove for 30 minutes or so back to central Lusaka. The ride back served as an introduction to the city, street sellers lined every road, baboons casually strutting between traffic and a dry heat unlike anything I’d experienced. Space here is abundant, my friend’s house was big enough for 6 people, yet he was the only one living here. After an eventful night out that evening and far too little sleep we caught a 30 seater prop plane up to Livingstone where we’d be spending the next few days.

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The Devil’s Pool and The Smoke that Thunders

Our venue of choice in Livingstone was the Jollyboys Hostel, it had a laid back vibe and cheap beer which is the combination we were after. The first of our outings was to take a look at Victoria Falls, after getting a cab to the area we trekked for a good hour or so in the blazing heat towards the increasingly loud thunder of the falls. Some of the views on the way looked like CGI. It seemed almost ill fitting that something like this suddenly opens up in front of you despite being in the middle of a relatively flat and seemingly arid landscape.

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The place we were heading to is called ‘The Devil’s Pool’, an area where you can literally lay at the top of the waterfall with your head over the edge. It feels like a pretty unnatural place to be swimming towards the precipice. As you gradually poke your head over, a seemingly bottomless drop comes in to view. You can definitely understand how people have died here. All the time we’re sat there our guides are skipping up and down the edge of the falls, inches from certain death in order to try and get the best angle for us on our cameras!

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Cocktails and Zebras at The Livingstone

Next up was a visit to the Livingstone for cocktails on the Veranda. The architecture of the old building is pretty stunning, I can’t imagine it’s changed much in 150 years. It has an old and somehow distinguished smell and is decorated lavishly but tastefully with African masks and ornaments. There are Zebras wandering round and views of the Zambezi with Hippos only feet from you. We had a few drinks with a couple of people we met at the falls and told them about the last night’s antics. Fortunately they had a sense of humor, this helps when the story features a friend on a car roof and a late night act of charity gone terribly wrong.

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Jumping out of a perfectly good plane

The next day is the one we’ve been looking forward to the most, we’re off to Zimbabwe to go skydiving over Victoria falls. The border was absolutely chaos, we gave a guy $20 to speed the process up but it didn’t seem to make much difference. By the time we got to the airstrip we’d missed our time window thanks to airline traffic. The guys were fairly cool about it even when we didn’t arrive with the right amount of cash (there’s a huge cash and petrol shortage in Zimbabwe at the moment so dollars are king). We used the two hour wait to go to a cool cafe on the gorge with out of this world views where we had a couple of cocktails for dutch courage.

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When we got back we suited up and took off, Mitch and I went second. It was the single most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done and probably my greatest life experience to date. Ascending to 10,000 feet took ages which gave me all the more time to think about the jump. Eventually the door opened and my feet were dangling out the plane, you don’t really have much choice to jump or not as the guys you’re flying tandem with pushes you out hard. Free falling is the most bizarre feeling, I tried to focus so I could remember it but your sense are overloaded. Air is rushing past your ears at a crazy speed, we did a double front flip and I remember seeing the underside of the plane. I could feel us hitting terminal velocity as the noise level stops increasing. The guy tapped my on the shoulder and I raised my hands above my head, the air pushing past was so strong! The freefall was 35 seconds but it went past in a flash with the chute opening softly way before I expected it. After that there was almost complete silence as we were drifting around over the national park and Victoria falls below. We did a couple of crazy turns as ridiculous angles which was awesome. I then stood on his feet so he could listen the harness for landing. Having that much space around you is really liberating. We eventually touched down softly on the runway, had a beer and watched the rather embarrassing video footage. I love skydiving.

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Waterboarding ourselves in the Zambezi

Next on our activity list is whitewater rafting in the lower Zambezi. We had a safety briefing at at lodge and walked down a track to the river. It was 6 per boat with the GoPro strapped to a helmet. The river was pretty wild, crazy views of the gorge with people bungee jumping above us and helicopters circling. The first rapid was tame but the second was brutal, we all got chucked out of the boat and I drifted away really quickly, a kayaker pushed me towards another boat and I eventually swapped back. Being in the river was pretty intense, it was a struggle to breath. We flipped twice more on the other rapids, at one point I was stuck under the boat which was fairly panic inducing! We got the footage which I’ll edit later, it was really well put together and made us all look ridiculous.

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Baboons on the runway

Got up early and headed to the airport, today we’re heading to South Luangwa National Park to go on Safari for a few days. The original plane they’d scheduled was full so we had a private plane to ourselves. We were sat behind the pilots with only 12 seats in total. Listening to the Rolling Stones as we’re banking over the Lower Zambezi at 400 feet could only have been improved by a glass of champagne. The plane made a couple of stops along the way at one point having to pull out of a landing due to baboons on the runway!

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The lodge we’re staying at took us on a walking safari the next day, we got a ride in an open top jeep in to the national park, our guide showed us round whilst a guy with a massive rifle kept watch, we saw buffalo, zebras and a lot of animal dung which our guide was particularly fascinated by.

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Later that evening we head out on a night safari. We started out whilst it was still light gradually fading to pitch black. This was basically the highlight of our time in this area, we saw everything we wanted including lions, zebras, leopards, wild dogs, hyenas and wildebeests. As it was a night Safari we were driving whilst the guy in front flashed a light in front of us, occasionally stopping to open another beer. We saw so many animal in such a short amount of time that it felt like the animals had been coerced in to performing a rendition of the Lion King just for us.

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A long way from Starbucks

Our next destination was Malawi, halfway through a very long drive one of the group left his camera on the roof, whilst he spent 2 hours driving back to see if he could find it, we hung around the small village and decided to try and get a coffee. This involved buying all the constituent parts from a shop including some very out of date ‘coffee’ granules, a metal mug and some bottled water. We boiled it on the local hairdressers stove, it tasted like an actual arse. The stop was worth it for a couple of photos I took in the town though.

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The kids were fascinated and terrified by my camera at the same time.

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Paradise found

Eventually we arrived at Monkey Bay in Cape Maclear and headed to the Gecko lounge. Had a couple of drinks before realising we were in the wrong place and were actually staying at the Funky Cichlid down the beach. We had our own rooms for the first 3 nights which was cool. This place is simply incredible, it really feels like South-East Asia with a sandy beach in front of the lodge facing an island about 1 km in the distance across the perfectly clear water. There are kids constantly performing terrible renditions of different songs before asking for money, fortunately our speaker could go louder than they could.

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Next up we went spearfishing, we took a boat with 3 guys over to the right hand side of the island and filmed some cool shots with the drone on the way, listening to music and drinking beer in such a perfect scene was very cool. Once we got there I did a few back flips off the boat, at one point fucking my toe up. We were then given our spears and brief instructions. We were about to start when the park patrol came asking for the fee. We were told by the boat guys that we couldn’t start until they left because all the fish are protected! They were so abundant that I can’t see why though. I was the first to catch one though the guy threw it back a due to its size! The boat guys cooked them on a small fire they created and we are them on the boat, the fish tasted so good, probably the freshest fish we’d ever ate.

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We spent a few more days at Monkey Bay mostly just chilling out, kayaking, scuba diving and water-skiing (poorly). This place feel incredibly undiscovered, as there’s no airport nearby I can’t see that changing anytime soon, it was a hell of a drive to get here and we face a 14.5 hour drive back to Lusaka on our last day.

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Even though this was more the length of a holiday than what most people would consider a period ‘traveling’, this trip trumps all previous time I’ve spent abroad doing either. Partly because of the amount of things we’ve done, partly because of the surroundings and partly the people. In the first three days out here we ticked off more than I’ve managed to fit in most weeks away despite the previous night’s excesses. The landscape here is unique, although it feels parched with the air zapping any moisture away from the entire place is bustling with life. I expected to see a few wild animals if I was lucky but evolution has made such a seemingly testing environment the perfect habitat for a hugely varied ecosystem. I’d love to come back when it rains. Apparently during the wet season the entire landscape changes to a bright green, the otherwise hazy air clears and the entire place becomes unrecognisable. The people here are some of the nicest I’ve met, everyone starts their conversations with ‘How are you?’ and most people have an infectious smile on their face making it impossible to complain even in the most inefficient of situations. God bless the rains down in Africa – *Toto’s Africa chorus fades out.

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