THE AFRICA DIARIES: 10 DAYS IN VICTORIA FALLS
We were on the train for what felt like ages, and occasionally I would pass the time by taking naps. During one of these occasions, Lucas met a family and spent some time in conversation with them.
When we arrived in Zambia in the evening with no cash or food or transport, the family graciously invited us on the three hour drive to Lusaka with them. With three vehicles of family coming to get them, they believed they had the room to spare. We waited at the train station spending the time chatting and avoiding thinking about food.
It was late when their family arrived, but the kindness of the family stretched beyond giving us a ride. We stopped at an abandoned gas station to use the restrooms, and in the abandoned outdoor restaurant they unloaded a container of homemade samosas and sausage rolls and pizza, cookies, a jug of spiced tea, and even soft drinks.
When we arrived at their home at 2:00am, they insisted we spend the night there as there were no accommodation options at that time of night. They fed us spaghetti and chicken, curry and rice, naan bread, more samosas, and more tea before giving us a tour of their home and guiding us to a guest room to spend the night.
After over 54 hours travelling, the last thing we felt like doing was taking the bus to Livingstone, but early in the morning (before we could be given any more kind gestures) we went to the bus depot to finally reach our destination.
It only took another ten hours.
In our eyes, the hostel and the bed awaiting us were the most beautiful we had witnessed, though in hindsight that may have been because we didn't have to take any more damn trains or buses for a while.
Plus, in the morning it offered a free shuttle to Victoria Falls.
Stretching into two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe, Victoria Falls are the largest waterfalls in the world.
I could try to better describe the falls, but we all know I wouldn't do it justice. Photos alone aren't enough to capture the size and volume of the water rushing over the edge, though of course we still tried.
Suffice to say, as we got soaked wandering along the Zambian side of the falls, we knew we would have to see more.
Our plans to be romantic af and take a helicopter over the falls on Valentine's Day were un-romantically destroyed by strong winds and rain. We've learned our lesson and will never attempt to be cute again. Instead we ate lots of food and sat at a cafe long enough to make the servers uncomfortable. Romance.
The next day, the only thing that could lift our spirits was a cat. Obviously. So we visited a cheetah sanctuary and after copious petting, literally walked them on a leash.
We followed our cheetah encounter with a dinner boat cruise on the Zambezi. Maybe that sounds fancy, and it was, much to our surprise. For a cheap boat ride that would supply snacks and refreshments, we ended up with appetizers, full dinners, free alcohol, and a cruise along the hippo and croc infested waters of the Zambezi.
Eventually, as in the next day, we did get our helicopter ride. A first for each of us and one that will be difficult to top in our lives. The gorges of the Zambezi wound below us and mist sprayed upward from the falls as we circled in a helicopter with only one other person and our pilot. Best 12-13 minutes of our lives.
With only one more way to see the falls from the Zambian side, we packed our swimsuits and took a speedboat to the Livingstone Island on the edge of the waterfalls. As well as being the largest island in the river it also boasts the world renown Devil's and Angel's pools, where we swam in the Victoria Falls.
Although Devil's Pool was closed due to the rainy season flowing vast quantities of water over the edge, the Angel's Pool allowed us to swim on the edge of the falls and experience them from the other side.
To get to the other other side, we had to cross the border into Zimbabwe. At only 30 USD, we figured it was worth the beautiful walk across the Victoria Falls Bridge. When it turned out to be 75 USD for Canadians (only Canadians! Left us wondering how Canada pissed Zimbabwe off), it was still worth it, but maybe not as worth it for only two days in the country.
With their currency hyper inflating into worthlessness, they now use the bond coin as equal to one USD and hawkers persistently approach tourists on the street to sell them Zimbabwe trillion dollar bills.
Upon arriving at Shoestrings Backpackers, we were shown around the dilapidated hostel. When heavy rainstorms came the sagging roof began to leak...everywhere. Dorm rooms, lounge areas, all had puddles of water dripping onto cushions and beds leading to a rotting smell on all the fabric in the hostel. The company and food was actually pretty alright though.
The following day we made our way to the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, where 75% of the falls reside. The extraordinary view was very much worth the trouble, and would have made the entire trip to Zimbabwe a success, had it not also eaten the laptop.
Why did we have the laptop?
We didn't want to leave it in our rotting hostel. We're still judging ourselves enough for everyone.
Needless to say Zimbabwe was not our finest, nor favorite, hour. Compiling on our troubles, bus access from Zambia to Botswana was readily available, while from Zimbabwe to Botswana access was limited to private shuttles.
Choking back the cost, we have hired a private mini bus to take us to the border of Kasane, and will transfer across by foot and be picked up by another mini bus on the Botswana side.
Lucas won't forget his phone on the first shuttle, and we won't have to stay at another run down backpackers to wait for another shuttle to get it back... or maybe he will, and maybe we will. We'll let you know in our next diary.