Zimbabwe, Zambia and Victoria Falls. An amazing intersection of countries with one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
There is a raging debate on which side is better for the viewing of the falls, but after being to both I can say it doesn’t really matter, you still get to experience the incredible sight of the falls equally from either.
I left Botswana and headed for the Zimbabwe border, hitching a ride with a tour that was heading over the border on a day trip. Immigration took one hour for the 10 people in the line, all the paper work was done by hand and the immigration officers often got up and walked out the back for no apparent reason and then returned when they felt like it. Once we got through I went to get my bags out of the bus as I’d only paid them to get me to the border, but the driver side, “I’ve decided to take you all the way into town. This border is one of the most intimidating and corrupt border posts in Africa. If you try to head out of that gate on your own, the officers will take you for everything you have, even though you now have a visa.” So I ended up getting a ride all the way to my hostel in Victoria Falls.
The town itself is very touristy. Lonely Planet says that it has the best infrastructure in Zimbabwe and it’s because it’s a town built for tourists. The streets are lined with restaurants, hotels, gift shops and tour offices. Tourists outnumber locals by far.
You can see the mist and hear the roar of the falls even before you can see them. On the Zimbabwean side there is a 1.5km walk along the edge of the ridge opposite to the falls with about 12 lookout points. It really is spectacular. I forgot to take my raincoat and was too much of a tight-ass to hire one so I got pretty wet but it was very refreshing after walking in the hot sun. It was low season, meaning that the water level was at its lowest and the falls are not a complete curtain of water that you would see after the rains, but nevertheless it was still amazing.
After a bit of hesitation (especially with the price), I decided to sign up for white water rafting in the Zambezi River. It is considered one of the best places in the world to do it with multiple class 5 rapids and an amazing setting in the gorge. I watched a video of some of it and soon realised that it wasn’t going to be a pleasant paddle with a couple of waves thrown in!
We went through 19 rapids in total, with about five class five rapids. It was incredible! The adrenaline was pumping through my body the whole time. We fell in three times, flipping the raft entirely the first time. The second time I was under the water for an extended amount of time being tossed around like clothes in a washing machine until I was finally brought up for air before being dumped again by another rapid. I was pulled into the raft so out of breath that it was like I had run a marathon.
It was also comforting to see some crocodiles sharing the water with us, so between that and the giant boulders, the water was not where we wanted to be! By the end of the day, I had blisters on my hand form hanging on too tight, a black knee from hitting a rock and sore leg and arm muscles but I would do it all over again!
I left Zimbabwe and went to Livingstone, Zambia which is not as touristy despite sharing the attraction of the Falls. This time I didn’t want to view the falls again from a safe distance so I decided to do the Devils Pool walk. We walked across the top of the falls over rocks and through puddles and streams of water. We eventually made it to what they call Livingstone Island and Devils Pool, which is an area at the top of the falls with a deep pool right on the edge which you can swim in!
As soon as I got in the water I could feel the current pulling me towards the edge. There was a submerged rock just as the water tipped over into the gorge that we sat on for photos before just casually hanging on to the edge of a waterfall and waving to people on the other side. It was unbelievable to be on the edge of one of the Seven Wonders of the World and an unforgettable experience.
It’s safe to say that Zim and Zam can both amaze you and scare you! I’ve left with a big chunk out of my funds (due to my unintended participation in tourist activities) and a badly bruised knee but it has definitely been some of the best things I have done. I’m now craving my next big adrenaline-filled activity or near death experience!
*post adapted from my trip here in December 2014 and from my original blog site elishasbigtrip.wordpress.com