Livingstone, Zambia, Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Tom was able to post a few entries for the trip journal in the early morning before we began our day of touring. Our first event was an "elephant experience" which involved interacting and feeding the mostly-wild elephants. Again, this place was an animal-rescue organization, but just for orphaned elephants. Most of the day, the small herd roams around just being natural elephants. However, the place also does some training so that the elephants can be touched and ridden - both with careful supervision by the handlers. There was a handler on each of the four elephants selected for our interaction: an older bull, a female and two babies, one about two years old and the other five years old. The baby is no small creature, but weighs about a hundred pounds at birth. We could touch the elephants and talk to them, and we were encouraged to feed them and to sit on their leg while they were "sitting" down on all four legs. We placed the feed in their trunks (actually their nose!) and they then stuck it in their mouths. We could also say "Trunk up!" and they would let us put it right in their mouths with a nice view of their teeth. The biggest surprise was how coarse and prickly the hair on their trunks was, and also how covered with red mud they were since they love to shower themselves with mud. The session lasted about 15 minutes, which was plenty of time for both of us!
We then went to nearby Thorntree Lodge for lunch. Both of these places are right on the Zambezi River, upstream from the falls. The river in very much in flood and is almost right up to the buildings; normally, the river is quite a bit farther from them. Lunch, after washing up, was great, and we thought that this lodge was more enjoyable than the over-the-top Royal Livingstone where we are staying. It was serene and we both fell asleep on the verandah while waiting for our next adventure.
Makuni Village was next, an actual native village with the traditional round thatched huts and fenced compounds. The village had decided to be open for tourism as a source of income and we were taken around and visited with some of the people who were going about their daily business of grinding meal, washing their clothes, and cooking. These families must have agreed that visitors could come to their compounds, although we are sure that others probably said no. It was clean and well-maintained - a normal day to them. Finally we went to their crafts market which was mostly wooden carving by the men and endured the gauntlet of "buy this, buy that, mine is better than his". Our Classic Journeys guide bargained for us and we bought a few of the more well-made and appealing items. (By the way, the chief better do a good job, because he cannot resign or just step down, but instead would be killed by the people through poisoning. a spear, or being buried alive. The local guide insisted this was still true!)
By this time we were quite exhausted, so we were taken back to our hotel where we took well-deserved showers before dinner.