Posted by: Caroline | March 14, 2010

Victoria Falls

Because Victoria Falls is the premier tourist destination in Zimbabwe in addition to being a decent-sized city, we assumed there must be must be a bus from the capital. Otherwise, we were going to have to travel 6 hours south to Bulawayo on one of the painfully slow school buses and gamble to find a Vic Falls-bound bus (also 6 hours) late in the day. We started by asking our hotel receptionist, who told us to go to a particular bus station. We walked all the way there only to discover it was an international bus terminal without a single domestic journey. Some guys on the street, distressed at seeing so disappointed, pointed us to a bus company; the bus company told us no. We found a bus company on the Internet; it turns out it had gone out of business. At this point we had spent hours running around in the midday sun. We were hot, irritated, and sweaty when we ducked into a travel agency–and without asking for a dime, the agent told us to hop in his car and drove us to the Sheraton hotel to buy tickets with CitiLink, the only bus company that does the (obviously lightly advertised) route. He even dropped us off at the American Embassy when the smiles on our faces after purchasing tickets melted into worry about picking up our passports on time. Oh, by the way, if you plan on doing any traveling in Africa, just go ahead and get additional passport pages. Our booklet was positively brimming with full-page visas after visiting four countries.

CitiLink is the most luxurious bus line in Zimbabwe, and I sorely needed it. Cruising around on public transporation has been a worthwhile experience, but I was ready for leg room. And a DVD player!

The day after our 12-hour journey, we walked to the Victoria Falls National Park, dodging touts and their wooden giraffes or Zambezi River necklaces all the way. The first time you hear, “Hey friend, I like your shoes,” it’s funny; on the twenty-seventh occasion, it loses its charm. The touts have a catalogue of stock phrases; “Hey! Where are you from? Obama! I like your shoes. Remember me from yesterday? At the airport?” It doesn’t faze them a bit if you kindly explain you weren’t even in the city yesterday, much less at the airport, and that you would much rather keep your shoes than trade it for a zebra print bowl.

Once inside the park, however, you are free to explore the natural wonder without a single disturbance. To say the falls are impressive is an understatement; the massive amounts of water churning over the cliffs, transforming from a fast-moving brown and blue river into white cascades, are incomprehensible.

Cataract View

Main Falls

Bridge to Zambia

The spray from these falls reaches so far that it felt like it was raining as we walked the stone path through a falls-grown rainforest. At Danger Point, an aptly named lookout over a sheer drop to the churning Zambezi River, your proximity to the spray ensures you will be completely soaked at the end. No pictures of this unprotected ledge were possible because our cameras were safely packed away from the spray in layers upon layers of Ziploc bags.

A bit of fun before our departure

Upon leaving the park, we were greeted by this warthog. Animals just seem to roam free here, kind of surprising considering the large population and tourist activity. Elephants lunching on the side of the road or baboons convening outside the police station are common sights.

Baboons in the street

Dinner of crocodile nuggets

The next day, we walked to the nearby village. Refreshingly, the pleas to buy carved hippos were replaced with genuine greetings and cheerful surprise at our presence. Everyone in Zimbabwe asks how you are, sometimes multiple times: “How are you?” “Fine, how are you?” “Fine, and you?”

We walked over to the market and bought a sarong (about 75% cheaper than at the tourist shops in town), two oranges, and the most delicious, semi-frozen Coke we have had on the trip. Coke could have filmed a commercial of me right there and made even more millions, I’m sure.

Later that evening, we cruised the Zambezi River until sunset, spotting some crocodiles and hippos along the way.

One of our favorite parts of the trip was meeting Jessicca, a Zimbabwean who obtained her undergraduate and graduate degrees in the U.S. It was so enjoyable talking to her–we stayed up far too late at our hostel bar trying to have a discussion over the deafening sounds of Justin Timberlake–because she bridged the cultural gap for us. She could speak as freely about Zimbabwean politics and media as she could about immigration policies in the U.S. or how hard it is to find a decent cup of coffee in Zimbabwe. Here we are with her friend Chenai on the far left. By the way, Alex’s Georgia shirt almost prevented her from ever talking to us!

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Responses

  1. I love it when you and Alex get a picture of the two of you together.

    And I think you could make a series of t shirts from just the fun signs you’ve found on the trip!

  2. The falls are amazing — to see the power of the water in your pictures, and how it has made the peaceful, beautiful little area you found to go with it.

  3. […] can take you to all sorts of fantastic places. It also ends up sending you through some places you wouldn’t make a huge effort to get to: […]

  4. […] the trail had a bunch of stalls selling basic stuff. No hassle whatsoever, in stark contrast to so many places we have visited before. There was an exotic quality to the place that made these among the […]


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