Traveling to Victoria Falls: Zambia and Zimbabwe
Stuck in luxury. The Manhattan Hotel in Pretoria, South Africa has five star accommodation. Surrounded by a prison, bus and train stations, the sketchy unsafe streets imprison us in irony.
We cannot get a visa for travel into Zimbabwe. The application website does not work, and the bus company will not wait for us to get one at the border. Even a trip to the Zimbabwean embassy proves fruitless. They won’t let us through the gate. Okay, travel plans change. We will fly to Livingstone, Zambia to witness Victoria Falls from the Zambian side.
Stand in the center of a rainbow on a walking bridge over a gorge. Let the mist of Victoria Falls cleanse you like a cloudburst ascending from the ground. Cry in the moment as one-million liters of water per second fall down a 108 meter (about one football field) drop.
Words and photos cannot describe or compare to feeling, breathing, wearing Victoria Falls. The earth simply split open in the middle of the Zambezi River and now takes us all in. From a distance, the mist looks like smoke from a major forest fire. No wonder local folks call the Falls Mosi-oa-Tunya, which literally means the “Smoke that Thunders.”
Let’s take a two-hour tour to Livingstone Island, where Scottish explorer David Livingstone was the first European to witness this amazing sight. Depart from the ultra-luxurious David Livingstone Lodge on the Zambezi Riverfront. I thought the tour was going to be stupid. I was wrong.
After a short boat ride to the island, six of us hold hands while following one guide. We traverse over slippery rocks in the Zambezi River within feet of the edge of the Falls. The rainy season is late this year, which gives us an opportunity to “swim” in the Angel’s Armchair.
One by one, we go out with a guide who holds our hand while we lounge in the rapids on the lip of Victoria Falls. Zim! Bam! Wee! What a thrill! Crab crawl back to land over rocks and through the rapids. I hope that I did not ingest too many parasites by swallowing Zambezi river water during this adrenaline rush. Later, Mare reads sad stories about travelers losing friends, and guides from this activity.
Dammit. We’ll walk into Zimbabwe. Yes, after numerous customs/immigration checks on the hot road, we are in, baby!
The view from this side is also spectacular. We can see where we swam yesterday. Outside of the park, hawkers and hustlers fill this border town, and we’re wearing thin. One guy persistently wants my tennis shoes. We have only enough US dollars for two beers and no lunch.
Back at the “Jollyboys Backpackers Hostel” we meet many interesting travelers. One man from Scotland has been riding his bicycle for the past seven months. He started in London, destination Cape Town. He was hassled in Egypt more than anywhere else, being hissed at as “Ferener.”
Another young man finished his 27 month Peace Corp stint in Lesotho, purchased a Triumph motorcycle (never rode before) and has been riding Southern Africa for several months. They both tent camp, in this unrelenting heat.
Then there are the 40 or so teachers in training here for a month. All but a few are women from Norway. They are young, blond and beautiful. Makes hanging out by the pool a pleasure, for me.
We made it to Zimbabwe. No big deal. The big deal, Victoria Falls, a true “Wonder of the World,” will mesmerize you from either side. Ron Mitchell