Published: September 8th 2011September 8th 2011
Hi and howzit (as they say in South Africa),
We are back in Jo'burg now after a mind blowing experience in Zambia and Zimbabwe. I'll start with Zimbabwe - the first place from which we saw the falls...
Victoria falls is more spectacular than we ever could have imagined from up above in the helicopter. The only word I can think of that even comes close to describing it is "majestic". There are so many things that contribute to it's splendor. First of all, they have left it completely natural - so there is absolutely no development around the falls. Zambia and Zimbabwe share the falls and have an agreement that no country can develop the area without consulting the other first. The result is that from both sides - it is truly a natural wonder.
Crossing the border from Zambia to Zimbabwe was in and of itself an adventure - a bit intense to say the least. But well worth it and our guides took very good care of us. Esau handed us off to Brian - who was our guide while we were in Zimbabwe. And yes - we told him about his namesake Brian Kellner
in the US :)
Zimbabwe is a very poor country - even more so than Zambia -since their country has been through so much turmoil in the last several years. It was evident in the desperation of the people trying to sell stuff to us. The intensity with which they try and sell you stuff on the streets in these two countries is like nothing we have ever seen and we were not prepared for it to say the least. That in and of itself was quite an experience - very heartbreaking... The thing is we wanted to buy from them because we knew that was their only way to make money and feed themselves and their families - but there were so many of them that it was impossible to help them all. And once we would buy from one person the rest would see that you had money and would be literally grabbing at you and putting things on you - all the while begging that they need it for their families. And of course to them we are rich (and in comparison that is true I suppose) and so to explain that we really need to
conserve our money for the rest of our trip was futile... SO that was as I said, an experience all its own and a life-changing one at that...
Before the falls Brian took us to see the big tree (or baobab). This was awesome as there is a lot of spirituality and culture tied into this tree and the stories he told us about it. It is a type of tree that appears commonly there - but this is the largest I guess. Brian told us that in Africa - or Zimbabwe at least - they use everything and was explaining how they use bark, leaves, etc to do everything from helping pregnant women in labor to easing a headache. This tree in particular they use a lot for all it's parts - leaves, bark, flowers, and so on. There are no leaves or flowers on in now but in the summer everything turns lush and green apparently - I'm sure that is magnificent!
Back to the falls now... To see the falls you first enter the park and there are various hiking trails that take you to many different vantage points - each offering it's own uniquely
breathtaking view. No one is allowed to sell in the park and the entrance is guarded so it gave us a reprieve from the sellers mentioned above and made for a very peaceful and serene atmosphere. Before we even saw the falls we came across a group of vervet monkeys and were stopped in fascination. They were everywhere and so cute! They are to Zimbabwe like squirrels are to us I suppose. At one point Brian was telling us about the Livingstone statue in the park and two monkeys behind us got into a spat and made this loud shrieking sound - which caused Jeff and I literally to jump - scared out of our skins - which made for a great laugh for Brian who of course is more accustomed to those sounds. It was awesome!
While in the park looking at the falls we also came across a warthog who was covered in mud and digging for food - they are everywhere too - they run around the streets rampant - again similar to the way squirrels do at home.
The falls from the Zimbabwe side were breathtaking. This side has more water as it
is more downhill than the Zambian side - thus the volume of water is greater, the sound is a bit more intense, and the views simply stunning. There is one part called the rainforest where the spray from the falls is so heavy that it literally feels like it is raining. Not only does this feel amazing but it looks beautiful too - like white smoke rising from the gorges. The sheer magnitude of the falls is part of what makes them so amazing - not only are they so long (over a mile) but they are enormously tall and deep. And the jungle across from them - through which we hiked was beautiful as well - so wild and natural.
It was well worth going to Zimbabwa to see them from that vantage point. We got the added bonus of getting to know our guide (Brian) and learning a lot about the culture of the various tribes in Zimbabwe - which are very different from those of Zambia. It was fascinating...
There are more photos below