In July I attempted to save the world. Jokes, I’m still working on it.
Greenpop, an organisation in Cape Town, invited volunteers from all around the world to get together and help with Zambia’s deforestation issues. Task? To plant trees in Zambia, kick-start reforestation in protected areas and to educate the local children and farmers about the importance of sustainability in the environment. In other words the people living in those areas had to know that there are better ways to live off the land than turning it into barren emptiness.
Trying to sleep there on my first night was a disaster. Due to some bus drama, I had to schedule a last minute flight and hence arrived a day late. This caused me to miss the whole orientation process, where vital information was shared. For instance, the 20+ gun shots you will hear during the night are not a bunch of guys killing each other but shots merely to chase the resident elephant herd away. Or that there is a hippo that supposedly ventures into the campsite. Should I mention the baboons? I remember sitting in my tent, thinking that I’ve never heard this many gun shots before, not even in Joburg. I was even worried that a wild animal would attack and ‘mug’ me in my tent for my suitcase full of goodies. Do baboons like jelly tots?
However, the next day I braved up and thought that if I was going to be injured in Zambia it might as well be an awesome story for people to talk about. I put my big-girl broekies on and I was ready to start working.
The lodge we were staying at was nestled along the Maramba River and was only 4km away from Vic Falls. You could actually hear the thundering waters from our campsite. Days were started with yoga on the river edge, and nights ended with a Mosi beer by the campfire.
To be honest, I was expecting a somewhat chilled escapade in Zambia. I was wrong. The blisters on my fingers and the cuts and bruises have only started healing now. Respected elders of the community aka The Botanist, Uncle Benji and Zimbabwean tree specialist Meg Palmer would accompany us to digging locations and point the spots for the trees. That’s when shit got real. If you think Zambia has any soil, you’re horribly mistaken. That shit is concrete. Together with the help of some locals, each day workshops were given and a couple of hundred trees were planted. Thereafter we were able to go back to camp and eat, my favourite time of the day. Other than the cabbage, the food was more than great and I’m quite happy I wasn’t forced to live off the Pringles that I had brought along.
- Visit the Vic Falls – This should be compulsory.
- Gorge Swing – Half the price of Bungee Jumping and in my opinion, more fun.
- White Water River Rafting – One of the best rafting adventures you will ever experience. You will be scared shitless of the crocs, hippos and mother-crazy rapids. Then you feel invincible once you have overcome it all.
- Livingstone Island – It’s pretty close to the edge of the falls and you get food (win).
- Visiting the Devil’s Pool – Literally on the edge of the freaking falls. To feel brave as F and for an opportunity for a hardcore facebook cover photo.
- High Tea at the Livingstone Hotel – I’m quite happy to act posh and get fat on cake, you should be too.
- Walking with Lions (I nearly died, nearly) – 4 Lions, a stick to ‘distract’ them, a couple of guards and 2 rifles. You walk around in the bush with rehabilitated lions beside you and pray they don’t see you as a Steers burger.
- Bicycle Tour through Livingstone – Because you need to burn off the calories after eating like the Queen of Fatties at High Tea.
I recommend that instead of doing something semi-decent once a year on Madiba’s birthday, we should try be more proactive in making a change. Buying a happy meal for the hobo on the street corner doesn’t count, neither does telling your Gran that you love her oatmeal cookies .
So here’s some current projects in regard with volunteering in Zambia :
- Planting Trees (Greenpop: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lion-Encounter-Livingstone/131990676865412#!/GreenpopTreevolution)
- Sports Development and Teaching in the Communities (African Impact: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lion-Encounter-Livingstone/131990676865412#!/pages/African-Impact-Livingstone-Community-Projects/209003329114029 )
- Rehabilitation and Training of Lions (Lion Encounter: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lion-Encounter-Livingstone/131990676865412#!/groups/107768506081/members/)
I returned home after meeting incredible people from all walks of life and feeling like a changed person. However I’m also broke and only have just enough money for Oppikoppi. So if you see me at a party, spot me a drink and I’ll give you a hug that’s worth ZWD 1trillion. Sweet!