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Published: October 31st 2018
Victoria Falls a Natural Wonder
Victoria Falls “…scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” – David Livingstone
As a child, on Sunday morning Merry Jo would eagerly hop up each morning to watch a Shirley Temple movie followed by a Tarzan movie. She was enthralled by people swinging through the jungle and the falls featured prominently in these movies. Her quest to see the falls in person has been many years coming. Dave however found the Tarzan movies too fake, phony or campy and rarely watched one. He humored her once again in her need to see something that made an impression during her childhood.
Just a side note: MJ has had wanderlust since she was a small child when she would sit on the floor of the den in her home and leaf through the photos of National Geographic. There were years and years of these magazines to entertain her and contaminate her mind. She has always felt certain that she would travel to all these lands and see all of these things. Dave on the other hand thought he would do some traveling but imagined England and the Caribbean until he met MJ. Often times as
we are riding in a long boat in Malaysia, standing in front of the Taj Mahal or feeling the spray at Victoria falls when he looks at MJ and says…. Huh, never thought I’d see this. …. And so it goes…..
Our arrival was preceded by some serious heat…not only on the ground, but in the air as well. Our flight from the Shinde camp was an endurance of furnace like conditions in the small plane as the air conditioning did not work. You know it is warm in the plane when you land and the 95 plus degree breeze feels cool as you step off the craft. We had one very short and two 30-minute flights to arrive in Kasane, Botswana. We collected our luggage and climbed into our van, extremely happy to be in air conditioning again. Border Crossing
The drive from there to the Zimbabwe border was short, but we spent quite a bit of time at the border as the usual bureaucratic functions of the immigration officials was slow. Each border crossing is unique and different. We were first in line at the window to answer a quick question on both sides of
the border. Our driver however had to take some additional paperwork for signature and this took 35 minutes. He was behind a woman who didn't have her paperwork prepared and he had to wait the entire time. Ah.... so goes the border crossings. If we ever get together with you for a drink we will discuss our border crossing into Kyrgystan with Dancing Dave who always, always adds to the entertainment of travel! We had reservations for a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River and were beginning to believe that we would not make it in time. Travel tip: request a “kasa” visa when crossing the border into Zimbabwe. It cost $50, but allows you to travel back and forth between Zimbabwe and Zambia for up to one month.
Approaching the border, we noticed an incredibly long line of semi-trucks parked on the side of the road in a queue that clearly was not moving. Our driver told us that they were awaiting inspection of their cargo before proceeding and given the fact it was Saturday, they were going nowhere until Monday at the earliest. The line stretched well over two miles in our estimation….incredible. Fortunately, we did not
have to be in that line…..
After crossing the border into Zimbabwe, we drove through a national park for about 45 minutes until we arrived in the town of Victoria Falls. We checked into our hotel, threw our bags in the room and got back to the lobby as quickly as possible to be picked up for the cruise. We made it just in time and the next thing we knew, we were boarding a large double-deck pontoon boat and cruising on the Zambezi, cold beverage in hand. The cruise was pleasant as we sort of meandered around on the river, taking in the sights, which included an elephant deciding that he had enough of the days heat and slipped into the river to cool off. We had a very pleasant chat with a German gentleman at our table and enjoyed the scenery, which included a very nice sunset. The Falls
The next morning saw us up and ready as this was the big day where we were to see the falls. The falls are actually in two separate countries, with Zimbabwe on one side and Zambia on the other. Our plan included seeing both sides
Big Black Rhino
on this day because if you have come this far, you should see as much as possible of one of the natural wonders of the world. We had arrived in the dry season, which meant that there would not be as much water toppling down over 300 feet from the shear cliffs. In the States, we have the famed Niagra Falls, which is fairly impressive, but Victoria Falls is twice the size…that is saying something. So….off we went…and we were not disappointed in the least as there were many different vistas (16 view points) to choose from on the trail, each unique and due to the fact that it was the dry season, it looked as though there were many different and separate falls spread out. We started at the farthest one away and worked ourselves toward the grandeur of this amazing falling waters. We’re told that at the end of the rainy season the falls are a curtain of water and “moonbows” form as the spray is so intense. Maybe another time we’ll get to see this.
These falls are amazing because they are 5600 feet wide. Until you stand near the edge and take in the entire
area you cannot fathom the immenseness. 300 feet down, 5600 feet wide, the river and canyons meander around it-- the shear drop. While we were in Botswana we met two different people who had already been to the falls. One who had only been on the Zambia side had been disappointed. The others did question how amazing it would be at peak season. We were not disappointed with either side. Insanity at its best
One of the unique features we observed from Zimbabwe was a place on the Zambian side of the falls known as “the Devil’s Pool.” You can carefully make your way out there and sit in a pool of water that is right next to where the falls are….it appears that one false move and you’re plunging to a certain death. There were people sitting in the Devil’s Pool and we both thought to ourselves that even in our youth we would not have thought to do something that appears quite foolish and of course, deadly. We were told that a guide had lost his life a few years back….really? Only one person and it was a guide? It was explained to us that a
guide hangs on to your ankles while you’re in the pool to keep you safe from the pounding waters……uh…..no thanks.
After enjoying the Zimbabwe side, it was off to the Zambia side. This proved somewhat easier than entering Zimbabwe from Botswana as we had our visas in order. We observed a lot of people just hanging around the border and wondered what their stories were. Later we discovered they were heading to bungy jump the bridge. Just across the border, we hopped out and began to take in the falls from a different perspective. It is rather hard to actually describe how all this water flow comes together to form the falls, but sufficed to say, there are gorges, pools, meandering parts of the river that all make up this incredible landscape of water.
The Zambian side was just as nice and different in some ways as the falls had their own uniqueness to them. We do feel fortunate to have visited on the day we did as the Zambian side is damn controlled. On the day we visited the waters were flowing freely. We had been told this was not the case in recent days. It is
a lot to take in all at once, but the beauty of it all is quite stunning.
After a good look, we headed back across the border. This time our guide took our passports said we could stay in the van and he would come get us if needed. As we said, each border crossing is unique. He was back in a few minutes and we were on our way. We don’t believe that this has ever happened to us before….crossing an international border and not even having to present ourselves to the border agent. Just sit back in the comfort of the air-conditioned van….. Black rhinos!
Our second full day in Victoria Falls had us out on a safari. Another one? Sure…..why not. We were picked up bright and early and headed out of town where we were to ride around the Stanley & Livingstone Game preserve, where the animals were protected. It was a collective project and quite well done. After having been “out in the bush” for more than a few days, expectations were pretty low. What could we possibly see that we had not already seen at this point? Much to our delight
and amazement….the elusive and endangered black rhino! At our other bush camps, we had seen many white rhinos, but were told that you almost never see a black rhino as they are quite skiddish and very hard to spot. More than one guide said that even if you spot one, they just as quickly move away. Well we got to see more than a few and it made the drive well worth the effort. We also saw zebras, elephants, impalas and many other animals. A nice morning’s drive with a most pleasant surprise!
The Black Rhino is not black. He looks very much like the white rhino except the shape of his mouth differs. The Falls from Above. A.K.A. The Flight of Angels ... or mini anxiety attack at 1500 feet? A note from MJ:
I have an adventurous and curious soul.... not risky, or daredevil type things but eager for an experience all one can within the bounds of sanity from my perspective. With that said, as I've aged I have gotten an increased fear ( false evidence appearing real) for the fear of falling-- not heights but the fear of falling. I've happily
parasailed, I've been in hot air balloons, I've flown in helicopters and small planes and rode or driven on paths that were called roads in far away lands with step drop offs. These days those drives give me anxiety as seen by all on a couple of the narrow paths in Tajikistan. But-- I refuse to allow fear to overtake me and continue to push the edge when I can. I was excited when I got into the helicopter at Victoria Falls, eager to see the pounding waters and amazing canyons surrounding the falls. Mother natures design at her best. The first two minutes were fabulous!
That afternoon, we’d arranged a helicopter ride over the falls. When you have come this far….. you might as well get a view of this wonder of nature from as many places as possible. Being in a helicopter is definitely quite an experience when you’ve only done it a few times. They are so nimble and literally just float off the ground and then move away quickly into the air. Two minutes into the flight fear set in when I realized two important things. First the side door of the helicopter was all
clear plastic, a big bubble allowing maximum viewing of the falls without obstruction. I was attempting to get used to this feeling when the helicopter tilted my way to provide a better looking. I slid in my seat toward the clear door and it freaked me out.... remember that fear of falling. Scooting in the seat at that angle created a moment of panic and I grabbed the ceiling of the helicopter to steady myself and feel more secure. It helped. I attempted to slow my breath. I was sweating profusely. Dave gave me that all knowing look and I knew he felt bad because there was nothing he could do to help at that point. I looked at him and told him not to worry and continue to take photos. I did the self talk about how I wasn't going to die or fall that this was fear raising its ugly head again and to ignore it. I continue to support myself with two hands on the ceiling so I felt like I would not fall. I'd calm a bit and take a photo and then the heart rate would sky rocket again. I kept mentally telling myself this
was not the day the door would fly open and I would plunge to my death. I was certain of it but the heart still pounded away. Somewhere during these few minutes I was trying to figure out why this was happening to me as I been in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon and on the Glacier in Alaska. I realized they had cut out the shoulder harnesses that you usually wear in a helicopter and only had the lap belt. I didn't feel secure enough and felt that falling feeling. Lessons learned. Yes, I will go in a helicopter in the future but will confirm they have the shoulder harness before entering. As Dave says this particular ride was not my favorite. I held it together as best I could and got off some nice pictures despite being nervous during the flight.... see how nicely I down played that little bit of terror. The views were stunning in the afternoon sun and provided a better glimpse of just how huge the falls and the surrounding gorges and river were.
This is the point where mere words really cannot describe this natural wonder……you simply just look at it
and enjoy its majesty….. Johannesburg, South Africa
We spent two nights in Johannesburg to celebrate Dave's birthday. He wanted to relax a bit. And relax we did....in some luxury. Our hotel was quite posh and a great way to spend a birthday. We did go on a city tour with a very knowledgeable guide. While the city itself is not incredibly fascinating, the stories certainly are, particularly regarding Soweto. The best part of the tour was the Apartheid Museum, which was fascinating and illuminating. The history of this nation and its racial strife were well presented and the various exhibits were quite powerful in their message. We both left feeling a bit in awe of its history, but also wonder what the course of the nation will be over the next 25 to 50 years......
Places we stayed:
Ilala Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
The Residence, Johannesburg, South Africa
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