Published: September 17th 2009August 2nd 2009
Today was my first full day in Zimbabwe. I woke up early and went to the restaurant in search of breakfast. I found the most amazing buffet waiting for me; bread, rolls, croissants, cakes, scones, jams, butters, whole fruit, sliced fruit, fruit kebabs, cereals, cheeses, cold meats, yogurt, fruit salad, fresh juices, tea, coffee and a menu offering cooked breakfasts! I got chatting to some American guests as I selected my breakfast from the overwhelming choice. The whole group of them have been working in an orphanage somewhere in Zimbabwe. It seems no-one comes to Africa for a holiday, so far everyone I have met has been working in an orphanage, building in a village, teaching, doing conservation work or any number of other jobs.
I took my breakfast to a table with a stunning view. The restaurant has no windows and is open to the park on three sides. I sat breathing the cool morning air, sipping my tea and watching birds flying around the waterhole. An American family was sitting nearby with six blond blue-eyed children enthusiastically yelling at each other over the table. I sat staring at a large group of birds by the waterhole when the youngest
girl squealed excitedly 'Look, look, there are penguins!' Her brother stood beside her and told her not to be silly. He raised his binoculars, stared a while, and then announced authoritively 'They're not penguins, they're... ostriches!' I may not have had binoculars but I'm going to guess they were some kind of stork... definitely not penguins, or ostriches.
After breakfast I returned to my room to gather my things for my first trip - a guided tour of Victoria Falls. Armed with my camera, spare memory chips and batteries I walked up to reception and soon saw a minibus pull up outside. I was surpriosed to find Lizwe again as my tour guide. We picked up people from the other hotels and drove the short distance to the falls. Crossing over the road, heavy macs draped over our arms we walked over a wooden bridge carved with African faces and animals and arrived at the visitor's centre. Lizwe gave a lecture, explaining everything very carefully as apparently I was the only native English-speaker in the group. We began to walk towards the falls, stopping first by Livingstone's statue.
Although the falls were well known to the local tribes and possibly
Voortrekker hunters and the Arabs, David Livingstone was the first European to see the falls and is credited with making them known to the world. Livingstone first saw the falls in November 1855, during his 1852-56 journey from the upper Zambezi to the mouth of the river. He heard about the falls before reaching them and was paddled across to the small island now known as Livingstone's Island. He gave the falls their English name in honour of Queen Victoria and wrote of the falls 'No-one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.'
From the statue of Livingstone we had a good view of the Devil's cataract, the westernmost cataract of the falls. We retraced our steps and then walked down the 73 stone steps tot eh cataract view. We all threw the oversized full length raincoats over ourselves, our bags, and most importantly our cameras. The spray from the waterfall meant the view was not as good as it had been further up but it was interesting to view the falls
from the lowest point we'd get to. Lizwe had the right idea as he stood on the steps above us under a large black umbrella grinning at us as we shrank into the folds of our waterproofs.
I hurried back up the steps and dried off in the sun a little while I waited for the others to come back up. When we were all reassembled we began the long walk through the jungle trees, stopping at each viewing point to look at the falls from each new angle. As we walked further along I was able to appreciate the sheer size and magnificence of the waterfalls.
Victorias Falls are formed as the full width of the Zambezi river plummets down a chasm 1,708 metres wide and 108 metres deep. The first few viewing points we stopped at only gave us partial views of the falls and the spray often obscured the view completely.
We walked on to the Horseshoe falls with a drop of 95 metres and then continued walking along the main falls. The wind started to blow the spray away from us and we got clearer views of the falls. I walked along the rocks, climbing over
the slippery surface to get a better view until I realised Lizwe was calling me and I'd unknowingly strooled along behind the sign that said 'danger: slippery rocks'! I walked down to a dryer spot and then as a group we proceeded towards Victoria Falls bridge. The bridge spans the second gorge and crosses from Zimbabwe to Zambia. Although the bridge has been the site of conflict between the two countries and during the the war the newly independant state of Zambia restricted and even stopped border crossings, the bridge now has people moving freely from one side to the other. After Zimbabwe gained independance in 1980, tourism took off and the bridge is now popularly used for the 111 metre bungee jump as well as gorge swinging. I witnessed both activities and felt my adrenalin levels go up just from watching. The sight of the teeny-tiny person plummeting head first and then being bounced about, spun around, swung, twisted, rotated and dangled made me very certain that this is one activity I'm in no rush to sign up for!
A noise in the bushes distracted me from watching the bungee jump and I turned and saw a baboon moving
in the undergrowth. As we began the long walk back I also saw a pair of warthogs rooting for food.
I bumped into the girl from my hotel, Rone, and we agreed to meet up for the sunset cruise tonight as we're both going. I returned to the coach passing a local group of singers on the way - I was amused to notice they were wearing shorts under their rather skimpy traditional costumes!
We drove back to the hotel and I relxed out on my balcony. I saw three vultures sitting together in a tree and half expected to hear one of them say 'So what do you want to do?'
I met Rone at reception only to learn we'd been booked onto seperate boats. I set off with my group and as we arrived at the river's edge some local musicians performed for us and sang to us from the bank as we set off.
It was incredibly relaxing cruising down the river. The Zambezi River is Africa's fourth largest river after the Nile, the Zaire and the Niger. It runs through six countries on its journey from central Africa to the Inidan Ocean. The river is far
less developed than others in terms of human settlement and many areas along its banks enjoy protected status making it a haven for wildlife.
We were offered free drinks and snacks, although were warned if we saw the rare flying hippopotamus we'd probably had enough to drink! I sat with a South African couple who were curious why I was travelling alone and what I was planning to do in Africa. I told them I'll soon be starting work in the Lion Park and their next question was 'So, Anna, where does your interest in frogs come from?' How they mistook 'lions' for 'frogs' I have no idea!
We soon saw our first wild animal. A crocodile was lazing in the sun and they took the boat very close for us all to get pictures. We saw a giant kingfisher sitting on an overhanging branch and then spotted a large bull elephant behind a tree. The elephant was a magnificant creature and it was amazing to see him so close. He was so big and impressive. We had to give way to another boat but were rewarded with the sight of a couple of hippos in the water as we
I enjoyed the peace of drifting along the river watching birds skim the surface of the water and watching the reflections of the palms ripple with the movement. We all kept our eyes peeled for hippos but they were so hard to get photos of, always disappearing beneath the water as soon as I turned their way. I saw one angry hippo obviously disturned from its peaceful dozing by a boat, lunge up out of the water throwing itself towards the boat very aggressively. We finally stopped close to some hippos and all leaned forward searching out the large dark shapes beneath the trees when a voice yelled across the boat 'uh guys, remember what we're here for? Sun's setting!' We all raced back to the other side of the boat and watched the sun turn red and sink below the horizon.
I arrived back at the hotel and went to ask about the restaurant I was to have my meal at, only to find Rone there ahead of me. We agreed to meet back in half an hour and when we did so found our transport already waiting. We took the short trip to 'the Boma Place
of Eating'. The restaurant is AMAZING! We arrived in the dark, flaming torches lighting the pathway. We were greeted by two people who dressed us in African print material. We walked around the corner where a man gave us traditional 'beauty spots' which are dark lines painted on one cheek.
As we stepped into the restaurant we saw the vibrant wall mural on one side, the reception filled with tribal masks on the other and as we walked in further found ourselves in a mostly open air room, a spit roast turning over an open fire in the centre and food oiled high on all the side boards. We were shown to our table and given a locally brewed beer 'shot' in large pottery mugs. We were next presented with water in a bowl to wash our fingers and then given traditional finger foods which included some kind of roasted nut, a type of mini pancake, and some vegetable bits fried in batter.
We helped ourselevs to the salad buffet and then I located the vegetarian offerings; pasta, bean stew and the most wonderful vegetable parcels which tasted like large spring rolls. We gorged ourselves happily and the chef seemed
very pleased I liked his vegetable parcels. So pleased in fact that when I went back for a second helping he gave me an additional five! We plouged our way through several helpings and chatted about our respective countries, jobs, families and travel plans. We watche das the evening entertainment arrived. A traditional dance troupe who sang, clapped and lept about with great gusto. We eventually wound our way back to the hotel.
There are more photos below