We weren't used to these levels of comfort, but we were liking it. Soft coach seats and enough room to ensure our knees would not be bleeding at the end of the 7hr journey, that was what we had bought in Lusaka. With Jet Li on the TV (as usual), but this time with sound we could hear, in English and with sub titles, this journey was going to be an easy one - not likely. It was possibly a couple of hours into our journey when we ground to a halt and pulled over on the single laned bitumen road heading for Livingstone. There was a queue of cars, so like everyone else we alighted and went to inspect the hold up. A hundred metres ahead there had recently been an accident invloving 2 semi-trailers. It looked particularly nasty with one truck lying on its side on the road fringe and another diagonally across the whole road, its cab crushed on the drivers side and part of its load spread out beside it. Who and where the drivers were Im not sure, but a handful of traffic police were on the scene to do, well nothing I assumed. People wandered about, climbing over everything and milling around as they do in Africa, whilst cars backed up trying to push through the gap between the two wreckages, with barely millimetres to spare. Perhaps the cops were overwhelmed, but they stood around doing nothing as the scene became increasingly chaotic and eventually a couple of onlookers took charge. "We can stay here all day doing nudding, we be waiding here for 6 hours or we do someding", our coach driver perched on the load of salt bags on the back of the truck yelled to the crowd. "Lets move dis salt". The crowd stood still, not knowing what to do, the cops looking on with a pointless stare. "C'mon, we are not Tanzanians" he cried. Perhaps this was the jolt the crowd needed, not wanting to be tarred with the same brush as the Tanzanians who are often considered lazy (having some merit) by their African neighbours. Men from the crowd hesitantly moved forward. The plan was simple but would never be seen in the Western world, unload the hundreds of 50kg salt bags off the back of the truck, throw them off the side of the road and then drag the truck off aswell allowing the road to reopen.With dozens of hands the bags were thrown off the truck, and I pitched in aswell dragging them to the side of the road, or flinging them in pairs into the gutter. There was coarse salt everywhere, every few bags were splitting and local opportunists whisked others away for a lifetime supply. Eventually the truck was unloaded, bags of salt piled high on the side of the road and coarse white granules covering the tar like snow at Perisher. By now a local white farmer had been called in with his tractor, and as people stood around in dangerously close proximity Kaz and I watched from a distance as the truck was dragged far enough to the side to allow a single lane of traffic. By this stage the highway was backed up for kilometres, and sensing an opportunity cars began coming from everywhere to make it through the gap. It was only when one of the white guys who had taken charge demanded the police control the traffic that partial order was restored, although it took some time for enough space to be created to allow a clear path for some traffic. We were fortunate in the sense we were near the front of the queue, and it wasn't long until we were back on our way.The rest of the journey was far less eventful, and even enjoyable. Jet Li did his thing, and so did the driver, getting us to Livingstone by mid afternoon. We collected our bags from the undercarriage, stinking of dried fish and sitting behind a 50kg bag of salt that had mysteriously appeared. We made our way to the hostel but our plans went awry when the hostel was full. Accomodation had been arranged for the following evenings after Mum and Dad had arrived but in the meantime we needed somewhere to stay, and all the budget options were booked up. We hadn't seen them for a month and a half, but Boner and Susie were also due to be in town.They had our tent and camping gear in their car, and we figured if we could get a hold of them then we could pitch our tent. We had not heard from them and where unsure of their exact movements but eventually we were able to get them a message, and they returned our call with the details of their location. We were in Livingstone for 2 reasons, to meet Mum and Dad who would be joining us for 2 weeks on the AAA, and to see the world famous Victoria Falls. We were greatly looking forward to both (if we hadn't been we may never have left Zanzibar), we had not seen my folks for the best part of 2 years, and it had been over 3 since we had first visited another amazing set of waterfalls on the other side of the world - Iguacu. We hopped in a cab and made our way to the Zambezi Waterfront Lodge. As we drove along, we could see the billowing spray from falls rise above the treeline like clouds of white smoke. The locals named the falls Mosi oa Tunya, "the smoke that thunders" and immediately it was apparent why. We met with Paul and Susie, his parents off in town running their errands, and we immediately caught up on the past few weeks over a cold beer. We spent the rest of the afternoon round camp, myself occasionally ducking off inconspicuously to confirm Karens surprise birthday plans for the following days.Mum and Dad, like Boners parents had hired a fully equipped 4wd for throughout their stay, and coincidentally the Bushlore reps were camped at the same lodge. To save some time the following day we arranged to undertake the briefing that same afternoon, and also for a lift to the airport to collect my parents the following morning.Back in the tent we slept reasonably well, the sound of hippos grunting and frogs croaking sending us to sleep. It was in the middle of the night that the beer and wine finally caught up with us and immediately after stepping out of the tent to go to the loo Karen let out scream and jumped backwards. "Oh my god I just got bitten by a huge spider", "you sure" I sleepily replied. "Yes it just bit me" she panicked, "its just there". Quickly slipping on our thongs, she pointed round the side of the tent where a hairy black spider, lay in the grass. It was huge, Id give her that. It looked like a Tarantula or something of the sort, its fangs raised and clearly visible I was worried about stepping on it to kill it even with my thongs on, but I quickly gave him the good news, and we sat down to assess the damage. It was worrying I must admit, "what are we going to do if shes been poisoned" I considered, "what the hell do we do - we're in Africa". After closer inspection and luckily for us, 6mths in Africa had been harsh on her feet, and on this occasion the spiders fangs had failed to penetrate the tough skin of Karens heel, she was ok - immediately I felt a wave of relief, and then dropped some gag about it being another reason not to pay for a pedicure. We lay in bed a little shaken after that but didn't sleep quite as well.We waited in the car park for Bushlore the following morning, and when they never arrived Pauls parents offered to take us to the airport to collect my folks. In typical African style the Bushlore guy had decided to change the plan and not let us know. I was extremely pissed off when I approached him at the terminal "What the hell happened, where were you?" I quizzed. "We were in town and I figured you find some other way out here" he remarked and laughed it off. It was so typically African, I was used to this sort of thing by now, but I was so annoyed, plans, times, dates, appointments they often mean nothing to them, but today to us, missing my folks would have. Fortunately, although we were late, the flight and airport staff were running on African time aswell and 10mins later, Karen and I popped out from behind the Bushlore welcoming card to greet my folks.It wasn't the first thing that Mum said that I remember most, it was the second "you look disgusting with that thing" she said pointing and referring to my beard (in retrospect I hope it was my newly acquired facial hair and not Karen she was pointing to). Although I did not respond so harshly at the time, I will level the playing field now by saying that they had both aged considerably since our last meeting 2 years ago.After finalising things with Bushlore, we made our way back towards town and the falls. Although still a day early, from here on in was a complete surprise to Karen for her 30th Birthday. Mum and I had been scheming and planning for quite some time (Thanks Mum). We drove towards the falls and to Karens surprise pulled into the wonderful Zambezi Sun resort, backing right onto the falls. I still don't think she knew exactly what was going on but because the next few days mostly belonged to her I will let her tell it in her own words.Turning 30 wasn't nearly as bad as I thought. In fact I wish I got treated like this every birthday. I had such an amazing 3 days, Africa was an awesome location to have a birthday. The experience was fantastic and I must share it with you. Girls I will warn you now that Dave might make some other partners / husbands look bad ......................... maybe you should get them to read this so they have plenty of time to plan for your next big day!!Most of you are already aware that Dave likes to do special surprises on Birthdays, Christmas, Anniversaries etc but this time he went well and truly over the top with surprise after surprise, he spoilt me rotten .......................... and I LOVED IT!!! You can check out the photos of my birthday aswell.After backpacking for 4 months throughout Africa I was fully aware that we would be staying somewhere nicer than usual (this means hot water, maybe a tv, a simple breakfast included, you get the idea) Dave's parents were also joining us for the next 2 weeks and I knew we wouldn't be roughing it too much, however I also wasn't expecting to stay at the Zambezi Sun. An absolutely beautiful African resort located only 300m away from the magnificent Victoria Falls, in fact whilst lazing by the pool you can hear the roar of the water falling over the vast cateract and see the spray in the air, and at the same time watch Zebra mowing the lawn and cheeky monkeys climb in the trees. The resort was heaven - and the best part was that we had it for 3 nights. This was surprise number 1. We spent the afternoon checking out the falls and getting soaking wet by the spray. Due to all the rain the falls were the highest they have been for years and walking around the paths was like walking in a huge downpour of rain.Surprise number 2 started on my birthday at 6am when I was woken up and told to quickly get ready (with some guidance by Dave as I didn't know what type of activity we would be doing at this ridiculous time). In the lobby we were met by a friendly African and ushered into a minivan, I still had no idea what we were doing and was even more surprised when we drove to the Zimbawe border. It looked like I would be spending my birthday in 2 countries - Zambia and Zimbawe. We drove for about half an hour until we reached the Lion Encounter head quarters (Surprise number 3 and its only 7am!). Here we got to walk with the lions, No leashes, No collars, just us and the lions in the African bush. This was an absolutely amazing experience, as you are helping to ethically re-introduce the offspring of rehabilitated captive-bred African lions back into the wild. We spent an hour with 2 juveinle cubs - one lion the other a lioness (who was quite cheeky and always ready to pounce if given the chance). We could walk beside them, sit behind them, pat them or simply watch them play with each other. These lions were part of a 4 step program. Step 1 is with the cubs when they walk through the African bush and get fed by their keepers, step 2 is when these cubs are put in a large area with no other predators and have to hunt for themselves (under the observation of the keepers) when they are ready they are put into an area with other predators (hyenas, leopards etc) and form a pride which has offspring. Step 4 is when these offspring are released into areas of Africa which used to have lions. The lions in step 1 will never be released into the wild due to their human contact. Being apart of this experience was amazing - I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone. This surprise was going to be hard to beat. We spent the rest of the morning shopping in the local craft markets (being my birthday worked a treat and I got a lovely stone sculpture) and wandering around Vic Falls - Zimbawe was very interesting but also very sad because of the hardships the locals are facing. Next it was off to the Victoria Falls on the Zim side - which was amazing as it gave us a better vantage point. Once again we all got saturated!Surprise number 4 occured back at the hotel when I was ushered into Julie and Bobs room (Dave's parents). I was first presented with a small gift from mum and Dad (lovely shoes and going out tops to wear - I only had my backpacking clothes and I was not happy that when I turned 30 I would look like s***!!! Dave had arranged this with my parents a couple of months earlier and it was absolutely perfect I wouldn't have to wear my hiking boots out to dinner!), next out came the bottles of MOET that Dave organised for his parents to bring over - I was so happy to see one of my favourite French Champagnes after so long - it was like being reunited with an old friend (outside of South Africa it is hard to get decent wine and bubbly.) Whilst drinking the fine bubbly Julie and Bob surprised me more with an amazing pair of Chanel diamond earrings. They are absolutely stunning and I didn't think my birthday could get any better until ............................... Dave presented me with a magnificent 4.2 carat Tanzanite from him and my parents (yes even in Africa he was ringing my parents and organising this incredible present) The Tanzanite (surprise number 5) was without a doubt the best - I was nearly in tears. The gem is absolutely gorgeous and huge (who said size doesn't matter). For those of you that don't know what a Tanzanite is, its a beautiful blue gem which is particularly highly prized because it occurs in only one place worldwide - That's in Tanzania (thus the name) at the foothills of Mt Kilimanjaro. Thanks to the help of the New York jeweller's Tiffany, it has rapidly become one of the most coveted gemstones in the world. Whats more it price every year is increasing as it is becoming quite rare! Lucky Lucky me - I plan to get the gem set into a white gold ring surrounded by diamonds. It will be fabulous - thanks Mum, Dad and Dave.Next I dolled myself up (first time I used a hairdryer in months!!) with all of my lovely new gifts and was ready for more wine and dinner. I assumed we would be eating at the Zambezi Sun but Dave had another surprise in store (number 6) he had booked a private table on the egde of the Zambezi River at the incredibly opulent Royal Livingstone Resort (the best and most luxurious in Livingstone). It was beautiful, we had our own private waiter and the table was surrounded by lanterns which were reflecting off the river, in addition we could see the spray and hear the thunder of the falls and also the hippos grunting at the waters edge. The food was divine - the company excellent. Dave, Julie and Bob had gone to a lot of trouble to organise all of this without me knowing.As you can imagine I was sad to wake up the next morning - I wish everyday could be like my 30th. I had such an amazing day - without a doubt the best birthday ever, and I never expected to be treated / spoilt so well. Little did I know that there was more in store!!! Hard to believe I know. We spent the day relaxing by the pool trying to digest our unbelievable breakfast. In the afternoon - just when i was thinking about food again I was presented with a huge, mouth watering chocolate cake that the Zambezi Sun had made (surprise number 7 - I'm losing count). In my own words "its not a real birthday without a cake". Whilst still cleaning my plate I was informed to go and have a shower and get ready to meet up with our friends Paul and Susie and his parents for a few drinks where they were staying. I did however find it strange that Dave was telling me to wear my earrings and the new shoes. I soon found out why - my last surprise for my birthday was a luxury sunset cruise down the Zambezi River with everyone on The African Queen. The cruise included unlimited beer and wine so as you can imagine we were all quite merry as we watched the beautiful sun set over the African bush and mighty Zambezi River. A perfect ending to a perfect birthday!And thats how it all unfolded. It was over in a flash, far too quickly to enjoy the resort to its full potential, but it had come together well thanks to all involved and as Karen said she was spoilt rotten, perhaps deservingly. I was always telling her turning 30 wasn't going to be so bad.We left Livingstone the following morning, we had squeezed in a lot but there was plenty left to do another time. We did some brief shopping at the local markets on the way out of town and the headed for the Botswanan border.