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Published: June 16th 2019
This turned out to be one of the busiest days of our trip, with so much to do from beginning to end. Zambia - Victoria Falls
Today was the day to cross the border into Zambia and see Victoria Falls from the other side. We took our shuttle bus to Victoria Falls and then started our walk to Livingstone, Zambia via the Victoria Falls Bridge. We quickly got our exit stamp from the Zim side and walked along the bridge, each taking a photo at the border sign in the middle as well as some photos of the falls themselves, though the angle of the sun was not great. At the border office at the Zambia side was a huge line and we had to wait a good half hour to get our passports stamped. Unfortunately, some people did not get the Kaza visa at the airport which allowed you to travel freely between the two countries, so they needed to spend another $50 for a visa. We also had two guys from Sri Lanka who were unable to get a visa; they had previously applied online weeks before but had heard no response, so they thought they would
try, after all, we only intended to be there for a few hours for the falls. Unfortunately, they were rejected and headed back to camp. Bummer.
The rest of us continued on, stopping first at some security point at the park entrance where they wanted to know if we would be spending money on souvenirs (actually, they used the word "magnets" and everyone raised their hands and I was confused, but I guess 'magnets' is code for 'souvenirs'); most of us were like, of course, but we don't want to carry them now! So, we went into the park, tried to use the bathroom, but it was $1 though they let 5 people go with that dollar, though it was not immediately clear. I could hold it. It was funny because we were warned by our guides before we crossed the border that the baboons on this side would be more aggressive, so not to carry anything in our hands, particularly food or water, as they would snatch it. While we were waiting at the border point, one of the girls who had gone through took a banana out and a mama baboon came up and snatched, just as
the guy said. I had just missed it, but everyone was still cracking up when I walked up - they got the after photo.
Finally, about 2 hours after we left camp, we were finally exploring the park. One of our guides led the little tour, stopping at a map of the falls area, which showed the topography as well, and showed us the trails we would take, starting at the end and working our way back, including a hike down into the gorge. He also explained about the bridge, planned by Cecil Rhodes (the namesake of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe); the bridge was made in England and delivered and constructed here in 1905. Pretty interesting; we were amazed at how little traffic there was on the bridge and wondered where the other border crossings would be - I'm used to the chaos that is the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls.
Our first stop was the eastern cataract, along the way with many incredible views of the falls. A double rainbow was obvious and you could see all along the falls and gorge - the mist was generally blow the other way so the view was clear. There are
a few border rocks to keep you on the path and from getting too close to the water. We did see a couple who were walking along the rocks in the middle of the rapids; we thought they were crazy because the rocks were so wet and slick.
At this point, I got annoyed as our group was split on plans for later in the day; some wanted to skip the cruise we previously paid for and instead stay in Zambia for the afternoon and meet us a dinner that night. I can't say that I blame them - we were already in Zambia and I would have liked to see more, but we already had set plans for the evening which we had paid for in advance. I thought instead, why don't they stay for lunch instead of having lunch yet again at camp. And all it would really be was an expensive afternoon at a fancy hotel in town. I mostly stayed out of the conversation - whatever the group decided I was fine with, but I did not want to get into the intense discussion. I wanted to enjoy my time seeing the falls, dadgommit!
Next we went on a trail towards the Knife Edge Bridge, a little more hilly and dense forest, with us having to cross the thin metal bridge in front of the falls. I had brought my rain jacket, but since the mist seemed less intense than our first day, I didn't even bother to fish it out of my pack. Most of the day, the light mist was actually kind of pleasant in the sun. But at the bridge, it felt like a downpour! The rocks and bridge were slick, I was getting soaked, and my sunblock was running into my eyes. At that point, it was too late to put my jacket on; I didn't necessarily not regret not wearing it, but wishing I had worn a different shirt, which I almost did. Oh well, I dried out soon enough. Anyway, the view was fantastic, well when I could see through the burning, stinging sunblock in my eyes. It was really incredible, and many of us enjoyed the Zambian views of the falls as opposed to the other side; our guide said it depends on the time of the year and during dry season, it is definitely better on
the Zim side, which I could see.
Our final goal of the park visit was to take the Boiling Pot trail down 200m into the gorge and hang out at the base near where the rushing waters flow around the curve in the gorge. Initially I was hesitant; I was tired, wet, and my knees were a bit sore, as well as my poor hips from sleeping on the ground. But down I went and so glad I did. It was almost like stepping into a tropical forest - lots of greenery, little monkeys and baboons playing around. There were little streams flowing near and across the trail and the last little bit you had to kind of walk along the rocks in a stream. Once we got to the bottom, we were all hanging out on the rocks enjoying the peace and the view for about half an hour, taking photos of course. We also got to see someone jump from the bridge, and I'm pretty sure they were on an actual 'swing' as opposed to our jump from the other day.
Then it was time to hike out, which was a bit brutal for some of
us, myself included. Then we split up at the 'curios' location, with the bulk of the group heading to the Livingstone hotel for lunch (which they all really enjoyed, btw). I initially was planning to get some souvenirs but the salesmen were rather aggressive and it was kind of annoying, so after a few visits in some of the shops, I was over it. We slowly made our way back, along with the guides, and got through immigration ok - there were only about 8 of us total. I tried to get some souvenirs on the Zim side, asking one lady if she took credit cards, which she said yes. Then when I went to pay, she said no and my group was yelling at me to hurry up, so I gave up. It was frustrating because we were told to bring $200-$300 which I did, but it was so easy to pay with cash here, especially souvenirs, so my cash was super low at this point and I was not going to an atm. I needed to save some money as a tip for the guides, so figured I could wait for souvenirs. Oh well.
We went to
I liked how one of our guys said they looked like they would attack us!
the usual, In da Belly for our lunch again and I got a sandwich; I did not want to eat much because we had the cruise (limitless drinks and munchies) and then the big buffet dinner that night. Instead, we hung out and chatted more with our drinks (gin and ginger). Sunset Cruise
This was something a guy had mentioned on our first night of the trip and when we signed up for our optional activities, we came to a consensus to all do this as well. It was a sunset cruise along the Zambezi River, lots of boats at the dock so the boat we got on was not crowded at all. It was $50, but so so worth it. I was glad the half of the group who had opted to remain in Zambia for lunch made it for the cruise as it was definitely a trip highlight. We picked tables and the girls at my table all decided to drink white wine and our waiter kept them coming. We hung and chatted for about 20 minutes before we saw our first hippo, then soon after another few near a small island, both in and out
of the water, and where we also spotted a croc lounging on shore. We stayed for a few minutes for photos before moving to let the next groups see. Soon after, we saw another large group of hippos in a little cove at a small island (my friend said maybe this was the pod I had spotted from the helicopter). Babies and big ones, and they were active - making trumpeting noises, opening their mouths - it was almost as if they were putting on a show. It was so amazing. Amazing!
Soon the sun was going down and we all just enjoyed our last night together, along with the drinks and soaked in yet another fantastic (amazing
) experience. Of course, there was a tip box and we each contributed a few for our stellar crew (female captain, waiter, and bartender). Note: definitely bring some extra dollars / small bills just for tipping in Zimbabwe. Boma Dinner Show
At the Victoria Falls Safari lodge each night, they put on a drum dinner show, Boma. This was $60 and also something we pre-booked. When we walked in, they draped us in some of their traditional cloths (I
was sad that we had to give them back at the end of the night). After we walked in, there was a group performing on the drums and invited us to join and dance. Then we made our way to our table. A group of us at the end planned to split a few bottles of wine - two out of four of us wound up paying, of course. They delivered us an appetizer tray and then we made our way to the buffet to dig in. There were a lot of options, though I was looking forward to more game choices, though these were limited. They had a huge bbq area near our table which generally had offerings of lamb then another bbq area where you could select your choice of meat - I think I picked impala and pork or something. Honestly I don't remember much of what I ate except more of that delicious spinach with peanuts. Also, boy R let me try one of their traditional Mopane - worms. He got a dish of them as well as a certificate for eating them and gave me one to try. They are cooked, and I took a
bite; at first I was like, hmmm, earthy, but then it quickly became gross - just a very weird aftertaste, but not nearly as bad as I feared. But I'm good with never having another. They also had some vegetarian dishes - lots of salads, and vegetables, so our vegetarian members ate well too.
So the dinner was just mostly a lot of fun. The food was fine, though I was a disappointed to not remember much of it. We had a lot of deep conversations about sensitive topics as you can only do with some help from wine, but they were all civilized discussions. It was fun to get to know everyone. But the drums, the additional activities like hair braiding and fortune telling, the general atmosphere, was a great time and made for a great last night of such an amazing trip!
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