I ended my Namibia / Botswana tour about two weeks ago in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. It was sad to say goodbye to the rest of my group, but after a few weeks of moving almost every day, it was nice to land somewhere and stay for a week. And Vic Falls is a great place to land — it’s a small town with friendly people (example A: I was walking into town one very hot day when a car pulled over next to me. It turned out to be Shephard, a taxi driver who had driven me and some friends around when I was in Vic Falls last year, and who treated me to a free ride into town.), so it’s easy to get around on your own, and the falls themselves are beautiful. There are also tons of activities to stay busy with (white water rafting, bungee jumping, and walking with lions, just to name a few), but honestly I did none of them. I visited the falls, relaxed, and hung out with some of the people I’d met on the tour, and it was great.
I forgot to bring my camera to the falls with me, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I did bring my iphone and it promptly got rained on by the falls and has not turned on since. When the water is high at the falls, as it is now, you get absolutely drenched walking through them. There is so much water barreling down that it sprays back up at you so and feels like it’s raining upwards, and at the same time the water creates clouds above the falls that pour down on you, even though the entire rest of the town is sunny. You can buy ponchos there, but personally I think that getting soaked is part of the experience. That said, next time I will buy a poncho just for my electronic devices. Live and learn 🙂
Since I have no photos on my camera of the waterfalls themselves and my iphone photos are currently and possibly eternally unretrievable, I’m going to cheat a little and post two photos that I took there last year, just to give you a sense of what it looks like. Not surprisingly, the falls haven’t changed much in a year.
The original inhabitants of the area around Victoria Falls named the falls Mosi oa Tunya, which means “The Smoke that Thunders” in Tonga. The thunder part comes from the sound of water falling. You can see from these three photos (sunrise, sunset, and mid-day views from the Elephant Hills hotel, where I spent one night before jumping ship for something cheaper) where they got the smoke part.
The first night in Vic Falls was the last night of the trip for the rest of my tour group, so we all went for dinner and drinks together to say goodbye. These were my pre-dinner drinks with Mark and Ebony:
We also got to meet our guide’s adorable five-year-old daughter.
I think my sunglasses looked pretty good on her.
As far as I can tell, the second-biggest attraction in Vic Falls after the falls themselves is a giant Baobab tree referred to simply as the “Big Tree.” As the name suggests, it’s very big and it’s also very old, but it’s not actually that big or that old by Baobab standards, so I’m not sure exactly why it’s so famous. But it is, so I figured I should take some photos of it. It’s guarded by a fence and by the Tourism Police (whose uniforms I randomly happened to match exactly) to stop people from carving their names into it.
After the rest of my tour group left town, I tagged along with a group of very fun and very friendly Australians on a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River, which was beautiful. I had met the Australians in Botswana because they were part of another group that was doing basically the same tour as my group (and with the same company), but camping instead of staying in hotels. They liked to refer to us as “the lazy group,” to which our tour guides would respond, “you sleep on the ground like snakes.”
After the Australians left town, Nyika, one of our tour guides, and two of his friends kindly adopted me and drove me around to see great views of the river, elephants hanging around near town, and one of the nearby villages.
This was by far the closest I’ve ever gotten on foot to a wild elephant:
Visiting the village on my last day in Vic Falls was a highlight — Nyika’s mother and sister-in-law cooked sadza and vegetables for me, and we also ate home-grown corn, ground nuts, and something that I can only describe as like-sugarcane-but-not-sugarcane. As a thank you, I cooked dinner that night at the lodge where I was staying, which by some miracle actually went pretty well considering that I usually cook about once a month and even then, mostly foods that are not likely to be appreciated or even available in Vic Falls. My grocery shopping there involved many trips back and forth through the same aisles, followed by concerned “do you need some help?”‘s from the staff, followed by grabbing random ingredients in the hopes that they would somehow form a meal later on.
After the week in Vic Falls, I caught a ride with the tour company to the airport in Johannesburg (about a two-day drive) and then flew to Nairobi to meet my friend Juliet. For anyone who doesn’t know Juliet, I met her when we worked together at the Amagansett Sunglass Hut in the summer of 2001, and these days she’s back and forth between Dublin and East / West Africa for work. She is currently sitting across from me at our hotel in Gondar (or Gonder, if you prefer), Ethiopia. She is very close to being convinced to write my next blog post for me, so stay tuned 🙂