After our introduction to the Falls in Zambia, we wanted to venture to Zimbabwe to see how the Victoria Falls experience in that country compared. We were visiting during the dry season and, as outlined in my prior blog post, the falls in the Eastern Cataract were all but completely dry, though the gorge was still very dramatic. Our first inclination was to travel via guided tour arranged by the Activities desk of the Royal Livingstone Hotel until we found out how corrupt and unfair their pricing mechanism is, so we decided to go by ourselves. I’m glad we did it this way. We were a little concerned about visiting Zimbabwe by ourselves because we’d heard of the heart-breaking poverty and high crime rate, but Victoria Falls is carefully policed and quite safe. I can’t speak for the rest of Zimbabwe, but I’d not hesitate going back to this part of the country.
Greg, Oscar, Sylvia and I breakfasted early in the morning and immediately began our journey to Zimbabwe, the temperature already around 30 degrees C. But this seemed cool in comparison to the 46 degree C. (115 degree F) heat that was to follow later in the day. The walk over Victoria Falls bridge provided vertigo inducing views of the Zambezi River gorge some 100 meters below and, of course, there were vendors everywhere hawking their wares — pleasant but persistent.
The border crossing was fairly smooth, with easy exit from Zambian immigration and a short wait in Zimbabwe (and cost of US$ 55 each). A five minute walk beyond immigration was the entrance to the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls, requiring another lofty admission (US $30.00 each) so my wallet was much lighter by this time. Once these hurdles were crossed, the pleasant part of the day began as we walked through refreshingly cool shade of the misty rainforest of the southern part of the gorge.
While the Zambian side of the Falls had been very dry, the Zimbabwean side offers year round water flow at fairly high levels, so be sure you come here if you want the full experience of Victoria Falls — especially if you’ve journeyed half way round the planet to be there as we had. The views of the water of the Zambezi River pouring over the precipice, the thunderous sound of the water crashing into the gorge and the thick cloud of mist (which made photography tricky) were heartening and refreshing. We explored the entire rim and Zimbabwean preserve before heading towards the exit.
We took a cab to the Victoria Falls Hotel and enjoyed some drinks and a pleasant lunch on the shaded patio. The Victoria Falls Hotel is an elegant British Colonial Hotel of the type I grew to love during my many visits to Sri Lanka. It is situated with an excellent view of the gorge and Victoria Falls Bridge, and stepping in is like entering the past so be sure you stop by during your visit.
After lunch we walked to the Craft Market. This is run by private citizens but with government oversight and is a safe place to shop. The quality of the crafts was excellent and the vendors were very motivated to negotiate good prices. Some of the best carvings we acquired during our trip were at this market. By this time we were dehydrated and approaching heat exhaustion. It would have been nice to have an extra hour at the market but we needed to head back to our hotel to try to cool down. Between a combination of cab and our feet we gradually cleared immigration in both countries and made our way back to our hotel. We were seriously dehydrated and took it easy the rest of the day, but with nice memories of our brief visit to Zimbabwe and Mosi-oa-Tunya (the Smoke that Thunders).
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