Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Searching for Gravity part 1

Warning: long post, prepare some coffee before you start reading or just search bungee and jump to there. Pun intended.

It's been a little more than a month since I jumped off a bridge. But then, as what sometimes happens, I put off writing when there's a lot to say. Hanging off a bridge makes you think about a lot of things. I would hazard a guess that it's the view. :)

I was looking forward to a quiet weekend in Easter. December holiday was a whirlwind of traveling, seeing people I love, eating food I'd missed and boy, was I exhausted. "I want a retreat," I said but couldn't decide on one. There was always something slightly wrong with the plan. It turned out that the non-plan would work out best. There was a few days left before Easter and I had no idea what I was doing. Holding out for a travel buddy was useless. The Seychelles wasn't a possibility anymore and staying in Dar was not what I wanted. Have you ever used the to: everywhere function in Skyscanner? For days, I scoured the nets for inspiration, trailed off in class because I was distracted, and my dear old friend insomnia came back with a vengeance. Finally, lovely Kimmie said, "Why don't you go to Victoria Falls, it's not toooooo far or long. And a long weekend is a perfect amount of time there. Talk to Sam." Done and done. The next visa day at the Zambian High Commission, I was there bright and early.

I must have gone to the ZHC ten times that day. Visa guy had told me that my passport would be ready for pickup in 30 minutes or so, yet I had been disappointed every time I came back - "He's in a meeting with the ambassador," I was told, "no one knows what time they'll finish," and "I'm not sure if you can pick up your passport tomorrow because it isn't a visa day." By the ninth time I came back to the office with my head hanging low, I decided to tempt the Fates and purchase my ticket. Lynn, a colleague, reminded me that we had lost our flight the week before because of the rains and we had to cancel our Serengeti trip. I crossed all my fingers and toes and managed to get my passport the next day. And with that, the trip was on.

Before my flight the next day, I loaded up on candy bars and pencils. The former because I wasn't very hopeful about my food prospects and the latter because of Pack for a Purpose. Don't forget to check that out next time you travel, much better option in my opinion, than scrambling for pens or change to hand or not hand to adorable kids and hopeful homeless people begging on the street.

I flew with Rwandair and arrived pretty late in Lusaka. Without further ado, I took out some kwacha from the airport ATM and met the driver my hostel had sent me. I stayed at Lusaka Backpackers outside of town since I was heading out early the next morning and only needed a place for a few hours to rest my head and get a shower. It wasn't bad, quite a nice setup for a budget hostel, with lots of seating, a bar (that closed early), and a pool.

The next morning, I trudged out of the hostel after saying a quick hi and bye to my Scandinavian roommates. I was trying to prep myself for an early morning conversation with a taxi driver. Side note here if you've never been to Africa: haggling is a must and you need to agree on a price before anything else. I can't haggle to save my life (my sister despairs of this) and hate the feeling of being ripped off <too much> which is a stupid combination. Yes, I'm a nincompoop. However, I lucked out and got a guy who quoted a reasonable price and reached the bus station just 3 minutes after my reservation was supposed to expire. I had booked a bus to Livingstone just before I boarded my flight because if I hadn't, I'd have to stay in Lusaka an extra day which I didn't really want to do. The bus station was busy and the Mazhandu staff more high tech than I expected. All of them had handheld tablets and were constantly checking bookings. You either book a seat or purchase one within 24 hours before your departure time -former needs to be picked up an hour before or you risk losing it. It was a holiday weekend so I held my breath as they told me they'd have to check if my booking was still available, otherwise I'd have to leave in the afternoon or evening.

Second stroke of luck that day was I didn't lose my seat and boarded soon after. Sat next to a nice woman who was friendly enough but not too friendly that I needed a timeout. I also didn't have to battle for space as I sometimes do.  Because I don't take up a lot of space, some of the time people I sit next to take advantage of that and try to take every bit of available space and more whether they need to or not. The bus was more comfortable than I expected. It's not a luxury bus like it claims to be if you have high standards but it was certainly cleaner and the seats softer than some of the long distance buses I've been on.

About 7 hours later, I reached my destination with my full, tiny, little bladder screaming obscenities at me. Such is life. Arrived at Zinga Backpackers where they claimed they didn't get my booking which I had booked online the night before and called in in the morning and four hours before arriving to confirm. Not to worry, though, I was told. I was given a private room at no extra charge. The next night, however, I found out that the dorms are better because the private <shacks> have showers open to the elements, meaning the room was musty, sheets were damp with wet patches and the room smelled like wet dog. Dorms were cozy, had drier and more comfy sheets and access to a hot shower. Pros and cons depending on weather I'd say.
Up, up and away

Now, how'd I end up doing the things I did that weekend? They handed me a menu of activities at the bar and then I chose everything I'd never done before. Brave? More likely, I lost my marbles.

Flying over Vic Falls sounded like good fun so I figured Microlight was the way to go. The ride wasn't bumpy at all. I thought it'd be like small planes where you feel every possible thing and constantly feel your insides going low, low, low, low (song time). The wind whipped my arms hard every time I held them up but feeling the air on my cheeks and the spray from the falls, priceless. Binoculars would've been great, but the rainbow winking at me didn't need one. Bliss.
the cap helped protect my eyes

Next was the Falls. If you haven't been there but you're planning to go, bring a waterproof camera, waterproof pouch for your money, a bottle of water, and wear a bathing suit and/or quick-dry clothes. Nothing else.

Now, let's go to the Big Air Experience. If someone had asked me the week before, "would you ever bungee jump?" I'd probably have said, "sure, possibly someday, I don't know when or where." And there I was, I didn't really understand gorge swing - I was imagining Tarzan, actually. Zip line was a no-brainer. What decided me was doing all 3 was cheaper than doing them separately. Asian genes shouted "sale!" And I heeded it. Zip lining is fun, I'd do it everywhere if I could. I like seeing the view from above and I can imagine being carried by... Angels :) next came the bungee jump. It was surreal, over too quickly. I tried a little scream when I fell, in honor of my darling sister. Mostly, I was trying to figure out what I was looking at. Then it was time to do the gorge swing. Now, that was my favorite. I pinwheeled for a moment, a second of panic during free fall then realizing I wouldn't be able to do anything anyway, whether I fall all the way to the bottom or the whether the harness would hold me. So I let go and enjoyed it. It's as fun as being on playground swings except you're high up, it's as safe as being cradled in my dad's arms except you have cables holding you up. 


I was badly tempted to swipe my plastic and have two more gos on the gorge swing. That wasn't the end though. To round up my supposedly quiet weekend, I went on what they call Walk with Lions. I joined a group of about fifteen people - two of us traveling alone and the rest were families. I knew I'd get to touch lions but didn't quite expect it to be 10 minutes in. All the same though, I was the eager beaver who decided to go first when nobody seemed to want to cone forward. I was excited to pet Terry, who seemed none too enthused about having yet another gawking tourist scratch his belly. Lions are not that different from house cats, except for the part where they can maul you and tear you into confetti like pieces, albeit a tad bloody. I was shunted off to the side while the families had their group pictures because I hadn't paid for video coverage and professional photos. Eventually I had some time with the female, K, and when the guide said, "she won't mind if you put reach your arm to her other side," I did, and ended up with a one-handed cuddle. After all, I wouldn't mind this possible posthumous convo about me: 
 A: Whatever happened to Angela? 
 B: Oh, she got mauled by a lion in Zambia. She hugged it a bit too hard and it went ballistic.

With that, my Zambia adventure came to a close and I had to get myself to a night bus back to Lusaka. Straight to the airport and back to my Africa home. I definitely want a repeat, especially the gorge swing. I don't think I've become an adrenaline junkie but now, the child who used to wish for wings or the power of flight has found other ways to see from a different perspective. And you know what? I wish they'd let me step off by myself. Then I'd know I was truly brave, for sure.