Day 2: From Zam to Zim and back again
Victoria Falls Travel Blog› entry 3 of 34 › view all entries
September 15th, 2009 – by: Biedjee
The great thing about travelling to Africa is that you don't need to worry about jetlag! With daylight saving time Zambia is on the same time as Holland, so when we got up at seven in the morning it really felt like... well, yeah, like seven in the morning.
Livingstone is the tourist capital of Zambia, its drawcard being the nearby Victoria falls. These are the largest waterfalls in the world (by volume) and lie on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Our hostel provides a daily free shuttle to the falls and at 10:30 we were at the entrance of the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park.
The Victoria falls are 1.7 kilometres wide, and an average of 90 metres high. Even though it is going towards the dry season there was still plenty of water to fall. We did a nice walk on the knife edge track which boasted splendid views over the Zambian side of the falls.
It was absolutely terrific, however, the largest chunk of the Victoria Falls actually lie in Zimbabwe. Initially we had thought of spending the first couple of days in Zimbabwe and then cross the border into Zambia to start our tour. However, in the end we left two days later than initially planned, so it seemed too much hassle to do, and we opted for Zambia instead.
And so we walked across the border. First up to the Zambian border post to get our exit stamp, and then across the bridge which spans the Zambezi river gorge. This bridge is also the spot of the third-highest bridge bungy jump in the world, and Robbel and I had both been keen on doing a jump. I'd done it once, in New Zealand and always said that if I would ever get the chance, I'd do it again. So here was that chance. Erm, well, I looked down and all of a sudden I wasn't so sure any more. Mainly because we were the only ones there. There were no other people jumping at the moment. So all of a sudden it didn't all seem that much of a good idea.
Anyway, we had to visit the Zimbabwe side of the falls first, so we figured we could always have another look this afternoon, or tomorrow.
At the other side of the bridge we got our Zimbabwean visa and we were into a new country. 48 hours since leaving Holland and we'd already been to France, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe - that must be a new world record!
Some people say that as soon as you cross a border you can feel you are in a new country. Well, the roads looked the same, the waterfalls looked the same, the surroundings looked the same, the people looked the same. That is, until we started talking to people. Zambia seems like a fairly stable country and Livingstone must be the wealthiest city of the country by far. Zimbabwe on the other hand is a school example of a failed state, and under the present regime of Mutabe the economy has collapsed, inflation soared, and safety issues have scared away most of the tourists, thus drying up the last remaining source of income.
We were approached by several touts who were friendly but persistent. I am used to hearing stories like “oh, if you don't buy from me today, my family don't eat for a week, and I have seven little children and blah blah”. However, for the first time I had the feeling these people were actually telling the truth.
We figured we owed it to the people to buy some souvenirs here, and at least provide them with a wee bit of income today. I was shocked at the prices. Normally, when you visit a country that has been declared bankrupt you will find it very cheap indeed. Not so Zimbabwe, as everything that has to do with tourism is regulated by the Mutabe regime. So entrance to the falls itself is actually twice as much as it is on the Zambian side, and souvenirs are expensive even to European standards, because none of the artefacts are actually made locally, but instead the sellers have to buy these from factories based in the capital Harare.
Money is also worthless in Zimbabwe. At least, Zimbabwean money. They stopped printing new notes when inflation reached the point where half the space on the note was taken up by zeroes.
We couldn't resist buying a souvenir note of one hundred trillion dollars, or 100,000,000,000,000. These notes were already worthless the moment they got printed, and the millions of notes that were brought into circulation are now sold as souvenirs for a couple of (US) dollars.
Meeting these people was was heartbreaking. And to think that these were people who at least had a job and some form of income. I can't imagine what the rest of the country looks like.
Anyway, I digress. We were here to see the falls from the Zimbabwean side. In one word: Absolutely frigging fantastic stunning.
And this was low water. I can't imagine what this looks like in high water. Actually, I can, because apparently there isn't much to see when the water is high. The waterfalls produce a constant mist of water, rising up high in the air. During our visit this was a nice way of cooling off a big, after the warm walk. During high water season this spray is so heavy that you are soaking wet in an instant, and can't see the falls at all.
This is what gave the falls their local name: Smoke that thunders.
We strolled around the falls for a couple of hours, before we went back across the border, back to Livingstone again.
Tomorrow our tour officially starts, and today there was a pre-departure meeting. At six o'clock we took a taxi to the Waterfront lodge and campsites, which is a stunningly located complex at the banks of the Zambezi river.
Here we met Juliana and Riaan, who will be our guides for the next three weeks. In fact, our group turned out to be very small, and only two other guys were travelling the exact same stretch as we would. Three others were already on the bus, and had started in Johannesburg a week earlier, while five more would join from another tour which had started in Nairobi three weeks ago. These overland tours just go criss cross over the continent, with several different routes meeting in set places, so that you combine several tours into a two, three, five, ten of forty week adventure.
We ended up staying at the Waterfront having dinner with four others of our group. As great a location this is, you don't have to go here for the food... or the service... Altogether it took nearly two hours for our stew to arrive, and it wasn't quite worth the wait.
After saying our goodbyes to the rest of the group we headed back to our hostel.
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!