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  • Writer's pictureThe Old Farmyard Forceleap Farm

Zambia - Water, water, everywhere!

Sometimes, you can feel very small. That is how I felt as we flew into Livingstone which is situated near the mighty Victoria Falls. As we descended over the endless African plains, you could see in the distance a small whiff of cloud rising from an undiscernible crack in the ground. Although I knew this was the spray from the falls, known locally as the Mosi-ae-Tuna or the smoke that thunders, from the air it looked so insignificant. But on the ground, you are humbled, as you are left wondering at this force of nature, and how you could ever have considered it “insignificant.” The Victoria Falls is certainly mighty, especially halfway through the rainy season, and over the next few days, we examined them from every angle. But only on foot, when you get up close and personal, can you feel its true power. Your soon soaked to the skin by the spray and deafened by the constant thundering roar of the water cascading, over a mile long, and 100-metre-high cliff. The boys swung between feeling quite frightened, to total elation!

You make your way along a track with rather rickety looking fences, that stop you plunging to a certain death below (bit of a parent’s nightmare). We took photos and counted how long it took for water to drop from top to bottom. We watched the baboons squabbling on the steep sides to the canyons and the swarms of dragon flies, flitting through the mist of the spray. After viewing them from the Zambian side, we walked over the bridge into Zimbabwe and saw it all from there.

The next day, I completely broke the bank, and booked us onto a helicopter flight. I knew the boys would love riding in a helicopter, but it is only from the air that you can see how it works geologically. First, you cruise over the large delta above the falls, which several rivers flood into. This creates the mile wide curtain of water that then cascades over the falls. At the base of the falls the mighty Zambezi River is forced into a zig zag of canyons, with a series of wild rapids and disappears under the impressive Livingstone bridge, and away towards Mozambique.

It is certainly an impressive sight, but having said that, boys being boys, their favourite thing in Livingstone wasn’t the falls… or the helicopter ride. They loved the rather shabby $5 reptile park in town, where they got to hold a crocodile and various other reptiles. I can’t complain, as it was certainly far cheaper than the helicopter!

I also made them go to the Livingstone Museum and then to the railway museum for a “peu de culture” as Mum would have called it. Although Mikey was fascinated by the classification of species, illustrated by a big display of different groups of insects, and Toby liked mock firing a machine gun from World War I, it was at the railway museum they really came alive. Not sure they learnt much about the fascinating railway history or the establishment of Livingstone, but they met some other kids and they all proceeded to do parkour around all these old steam trains. I have to say, although it was slightly anarchistic, it did look like a lot of fun!

Finally, we went to the canyons, and they did the zip line. I refused to do it as I felt it was irresponsible as, in the unlikely event of the line snapping, I would plunge to my death leaving 2 small boys on their own in the middle of Africa. The guys resolved this dilemma by letting us all go together, the theory being that, if the line broke, then we would all plunge to our death together, so that was alright! But I have to say it was very beautiful and great fun zooming out over the 100m drop with my boys!

After a few days at the falls we few back to Lusaka and then back to the farm. We have not been without water there either, with fishing, boating and swimming in the dam and swimming every day in their pool, often joined by the dogs!

I have made friends with Nola, Donna sister, and she is planning an awesome sustainable garden and training venue for gap year students to learn life skills such as growing food, sewing and how to look after themselves. She has got plans to grow all sorts of fruit and nut trees, herbs, and medical plants, as well as lots of veg, grain and oil crops, not to mention the livestock. She plans to have bees, fish, chickens and maybe goats, although she is a bit worried about them and what they might do to her trees! She wants to be as self-sufficient as possible and so grow all the feed for her animals in house. This might take the form of crops, but also fodder trees and even producing loads of Black flies as a protein source for chickens and fish. She has ponds growing duck weed and cress in her current garden and even plans to plant Kapok trees to produce stuffing for pillows and other hand crafts she makes. I introduced her to the project I used to work on in Chisamba town by taking her on a visit. Percis, the current manager took us around and we looked for possible collaborations.

We were all moaning about the recent lamentable electricity supply in the area. This was until Percis explained that yesterday’s power cut was actually due to a woman being electrocuted. She was in the field and slipped grabbing some loose wire as she fell. She was killed, but extraordinarily the baby tied onto her back survived. How is that even possible? We all felt a bit uncaring. It was rather like moaning about the traffic on the motorway and then seeing a bad accident, you soon stop moaning! so we moved on to discuss that ever fruitful subject, water. At the project there is windmill, which is broken, and as it is used to power the water pump to bring the water from their bore hole to their overhead tank.

On the way home a Terrapin was speeding across the road. Before you could say “Jack Robinson”, Nola was out of the car and grabbed it for her kids as a new pet. We named it “Skunk” as it promptly pissed very smelly wee all over her in fright. It has now settled into one of her ponds alongside the duck weed and several cray fish she is trying to cultivate and seems to be quite happy.

Last weekend we went with Doug, Donna and the girls on another family expedition, this time to Lake Kariba for an 18th birthday weekend. It was great, although it took a good 6 hours to get there. We had to pass through Lusaka and then the escarpment, which is littered with wrecked lorries, as it is one of the most dangerous roads in the world, let alone in Zambia.

We have had quite a bit of rain and so most the rivers we passed were roaring. There were also some serious landslides on the surrounding hills. These are often a consequence of deforestation and then people trying to farm on the exposed slopes. This results in soil, rocks and even boulders being strewn across the roads in places. It also means all the rivers were very muddy, an indication of erosion of topsoil, which is concerning to see. At one crossing, there was quite a lot of local spectators standing on the bridge, as the river was only about 1m below the bridge, when it is normally more like 6m!

We finally arrived in Siavonga, and at Lake Kariba Inn, which is a lovely hotel perched on the side of a hill with Zebras and Impalas wandering around the garden. It is run by Crystal and Jason who are old friends of Donna and Doug and funnily enough share the surname Townsend! There was swimming, with some cool slides, a delicious lunch buffet, and more and more family arrived as the day progressed. In the afternoon, the group had swollen to around 50 and we all went down to the lake, boarding various boats or crafts.

We then spent the whole afternoon based on a large barge out on the lake, drinking, chatting with watching the kids (including quite few big kids) having a go at jet skiing, water skiing and tubing while trying to avoid the choppy water in the middle of the lake or the crocs in the shallows. It is amazing how well people stay on their feet, when there is that extra level of jeopardy involved!!

When we went home, we ended up leaving Toby there, as he had made friends with Zak, the owners son. So, he had an extra 4 days, riding motor bikes, swimming and going on the lake, before we picked him up in Lusaka when Christal and Donna went into Town to do a big shop.

Apart from going away to see water in Zambia, we have also spent a few days on the big dam here. This is a new dam, about 4-5 years old and so has loads of tree-tops sticking out of the lake.

But we have had some fun time with a few of these guys friends swimming and fishing in the dam. As you jump off the motor you tend to try and ignore the fact that crocs have been spotted in the dam.

Mikey was initially very nervous about swimming and at the beginning refused to get onto the boat, let alone get off it! But it really is something to sit back in boat with a good bunch of people chewing Biltong and sipping beers, watching the sun set as the kids do back flips (or belly flops) off the motors at the back of the boat. Watching Mikey go from a proper strop, to squealing in delight as he masters the whole thing is awesome.

So as I say, water, water everywhere and lot of fun to be had as a result!

Although that is our story and our experience, for many others here in Zambia, water, water everywhere means Cholera. Lusaka is in the grip of a major outbreak, with over 600 deaths so far, and the rains have not stopped yet. I am sure really tragic scenes are being played out each day in Lusaka, while we have such an amazing experience here, and that is sobering and feels surreal. The other day, we drove around the ring road in Lusaka passed the football stadium, where victims are taken for treatment or to die. The issue was in plain view as you passed whole districts of housing submerged in dirty water. The danger of building on the floodplain was very obvious. But that is where many people live, so very difficult to find a solution, over treating those you can, wash your hands and pray for the people involved. So water water every where is not always fun!

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