Victoria Falls,one of the seven wonders of the world

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Africa » Zimbabwe » Victoria Falls
June 12th 2019
Published: June 15th 2019
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We had deliberately not taken in the falls yesterday afternoon when we arrived. For one thing there is a USD30 each entry fee and it is for one admission only. So we decided to hold off until this morning our visit to tick off another of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Flying in to Living stone yesterday the pilot had announced as we were in our descent that the falls would be visible from the right side of the aircraft. Where were we on the aircraft you may ask? The left side !and belted in for landing !

So today will be our first sighting of one of the greatest sights one can imagine when it comes to looking at geographical views.

We had established from a map that there is a rain forest to walk through with a number of different views of the falls as you make your way across in front of them for the 1.7km of their width.

We had also seen from the rooftop of our hotel the mist that rises permanently from the water crashing over the main part of the falls in particular to a height of at least a couple of hundred metres. The falls themselves at their tallest are 108 metres.

So with a good breakfast inside of us we caught the 9.15am shuttle bus down to the falls entrance a couple of kilometres away.

Pulling into the car park across the road from the entrance we were greeted by a number of stall holders who wanted us to consider a price on everything from wooden, traditionally painted bowls to carved stone African animals from the size of a finger to others more than 2 metres tall !

We managed to avoid the hawkers with a polite ‘no thanks, maybe later’ and walked on past the genuine African singers chanting out in harmony which would have made a great video but we hadn’t sussed out how much to tip this type of activity if you came across it and we didn’t want to embarrass ourselves by not rewarding them enough for their tuneful efforts.

Foolishly,perhaps,I had chosen to wear my black shirt with the NZ silver fern on it and of course we were immediately identified as to where we were from and the first word we heard from each of the hawkers had been ‘All Blacks’.

This continued when we got to the ticket box to pay the admission fee and Gretchen hardly had to confirm to the young woman issuing our tickets where we were from. It might have been interesting to ask them where NZ was on the world map just to make sure that they realise NZ is not just about All Blacks. In fact on several occasions when we have been talking to people we have met as we have travelled on this trip, Africans and tourists from other countries, we have been at pains to describe where Tauranga is and what is produced by the millions from orchards in the region,kiwifruit.There have been odd occasions where we don’t think Kiwifruit has been understood for what it is so perhaps Zespri have still got some marketing to do in the world.

You still have to run the gauntlet even after you have entered the Falls National Park as people want to take your photo against a photographed background of the falls so you can take the photo home for your memories. Don’t they know about people taking selfies and of course that scourge of all photo takers…..the selfie stick !

With warnings to watch our and not to feed any wild animals that may cross your path as you walk through the rain forest to the first vantage point we made our way to view one of the wonders of the world.

A little history first before we get to the first viewing spot.

The falls have been in several different positions over the millions of years since they were formed, all moved by changes in the fault line. The next change is due in about 10,000 years which means no one alive today will see them any different than to today.

The first European to see the falls was the famous explorer David Livingstone and there is a very larger than life statue celebrating the man before you get to the third viewing spot.

By starting on the left hand side of the falls 1.7km width you first come across the Devils Cataract which is certainly a great introduction as the Zambezi River pours through a narrow cutting with a deafening noise and power and then tumbles to the floor of the gorge below. With the sun in the right place for us a lovely rainbow is formed.

You get several spots to view the Devils Cataract including one looking over the falls as the water tumbles away. Above that the Zambezi River flows gently belying what is about to come.

One thing you can’t miss all along the track that takes you from one side of the falls to the other is the lack of permanent protection for visitors. Instead there is a small rather weak looking barrier about ½ metre high made of what appears to be branches of trees. This would never ever make the grade in NZ !There were warning signs as you enter the park not to go over this ‘barrier’ but it is so ineffectual that it hardly seems worthwhile having it there.

Unless you have paid attention to You Tube videos or from wherever you may have viewed the falls from before you come here you may not realise that you are going to be actually viewing the falls from straight in front of them and almost at the height from where the Zambezi River tumbles over the edge and down into the gorge below which you can’t see the bottom of because you would have to step over the rickety barrier to do so and that would be a no no.

So it is considerably different to viewing the Niagara Falls for instance which you cannot place yourself in front of at the same height. Rather there the main viewing is from the bottom but at Victoria there is no viewing from the gorge which is narrow and has turbulent water even in a low flow rate now that it is the dry season in Zimbabwe.

We carried on to the main falls which at times wasn’t fully visible where the Zambezi River tumbles over the edge due to the mist created by the volume of water and the breeze it creates.

We were advised to take a raincoat to keep dry but actually at most of the viewing spots the fine droplets of the mist hardly make any impact when they hit one’s clothes, if you have no raincoat. Gretchen did eventually get out her new pink number but it was her coiffure that got messed up from the fine droplets of mist.

It is actually quite amusing when you see other people who think they are going to get saturated rather than the fine mist that falls and there was one woman whose husband had been taking ‘portraits’ of her(you all know the sort we are sure) from every conceivable angle and holding up other people who wanted the same shot of the falls but without a human being in the frame. Anyway when we reached the wettest viewing spot they had caught up with us and there she was fully cocooned,head,body and legs in a great clear plastic poncho inching her way to take another pose in front of the falls. We don’t think the photo was ever taken although we didn’t stay around to watch, but they were pretty quickly behind us again at the next viewing spot.

The walkway was wide enough to not really notice how many people were walking in either direction and apart from the ‘poser lady’ there was always plenty of room to take your photo and move on before you got too wet from the fine misty spray.

Towards the end of the walk and before you take in the Victoria Falls road/rail bridge there is a viewing spot on a point that juts out a few metres from the path where there is no barrier. The ground is wet from the misty spray but to our disbelief there are goons climbing over rocks to get to the point where we assume the drop was straight down over 100 metres to the gorge !

The last stop is the view of the road/rail bridge upon which there is a bungy jump from the other side from where we were. It must be scary, as all bungy’s are, but we did see one woman take the step into space and made blood curdling noises as she bounced several times before a guy who goes down on a rope grabs hold of her and they get lifted back up together. Why don’t people who do a bungy jump never seem to scream until they have come back up after the bungy reaches its zenith or does it take a while for the scream to travel to your ears? We certainly aren’t going to try and find out !

Victoria Falls is certainly very impressive and you have to get your head around the fact that you view it across from where the water tumbles over the 100 metre fall and therefore viewing it doesn't give the same impression in other waterfalls we have been to where you look up to get your view.So making comparisons is not a good idea.

Whichever way we are very pleased to have included a visit in our African adventure and can now tick it off places to visit.

With the sun being at a certain angle in the morning we thought we would have a coffee and something to eat at the Rainforest Café and then head back towards the falls as it will be around midday and the sun should be overhead creating different light to 2 ½ hours ago.

The midday sun did make a bit of difference but it would probably have taken another couple of hours to see a significant change so rather than sitting around waiting for time to pass and people watch we left the park feeling we had more than our money’s worth and headed back for a sit on our hotel room terrace, read a book and just relax.

This hasn’t been a holiday for us to look around to find something to do next and it has been good to snatch some quiet time when we feel we need it.

By late in the afternoon we were ready to get more exercise and we had one thing to tick off and that was to stand in the middle of the Victoria Falls road/rail bridge in no man’s land between Zimbabwe and Zambia.

Heading out on foot there was the guy who wanted to sell you a One billion Zimbabwe note for USD5 although we have had offers to us as low as USD1.

Zimbabwe had MEGA inflation a few years ago under Robert Mugabe and their currency quickly became absolutely worthless to the extent that for the country to continue they had to adopt the USD for their domestic usage. So now everything is priced in USD and the bank notes are in full circulation. One small advantage the country got was tourists spent in USD giving some hard currency to pay for their imports.

Being late in the day it was interesting to have hawkers lower their prices for their wares very quickly so they can make what they need and head home before dusk arrived and tourists got off the streets. By the way, this was because of the baboons, wart hogs and elephants that roam the streets mainly after dark rather than people trying to rob you of your valuables, as some people think. While this no doubt does happen, in the 3 weeks we have been in Africa we have not felt threatened by a human once.

Anyway we got through the car park opposite the falls entrance including a guy who called himself ‘Honest’ (yes he said that was his real name).We did say we would return and perhaps buy on our way back to the town and our hotel.

Then it was through the Zimbabwe border gate after collecting a stamped piece of paper that allowed us to walk into no man’s land on the bridge. We did have our passports but they didn’t need to be sighted which we thought a bit odd.

Striding on the 400 metres or so to the bridge we thought we were going to get there without anyone interrupting our stride.

Then out of nowhere, or so it seemed, a guy materialised walking next to Gretchen a few paces ahead of me at this time and then poof,there was a guy walking next to me talking about the All Blacks(I knew I should have changed by shirt when we left the hotel).

It was all very friendly and chatty until we came into sight of the bridge and it then became clear these two guys had to do a sale on us before we got onto the bridge in case we were walking all the way across into Zambia where we guessed they couldn’t go.

With heavy trucks and trailers loaded with copper rolling across the bridge on the road we felt a bit claustrophobic on the narrow footpath just barely wide enough for two people walking slowly together and a long drop to the Zambezi River below us.

They were clever hawkers or were we just pleased to get rid of them after we purchased their ‘personally made’ copper bracelets. We took some pictures from the middle of the bridge and turned around to walk back only to find another hawker wanting to sell us more copper bracelets at half the price we had just paid the first lot !

As we neared the Zimbabwe border again we noticed the first hawkers were standing next to taxis and it became clear to us that these guys held down two jobs. Gretchen told them now they had made their money for the day they could go home to their families, they laughed !

With the border building in sight we pretended to take pictures of the long line of trucks waiting for customs clearance before proceeding into Zimbabwe to in fact take a picture of an African woman carrying a heavy looking bundle on her head walking towards us.

We knew in reality this is a no no and we should have asked if we could take her photograph and given her some money for the privilege but there was something in us saying we had already helped out the local hawkers and it was payback time for us.

The woman showed her displeasure as she came up to us and in a half hearted gesture wanted money but we kept walking protesting that we were photographing the line of trucks. No incident occurred we can happily say.

Through the border gate and we returned to the town via the road avoiding ‘Honest’ and having to buy anything from him.

With dusk starting to fall we dined at Three Monkeys where Gretchen had her favourite Italian pizza, a Mahgarita,while I got stuck into the biggest hamburger I have faced for sometime washed down by a 750ml handle of locally brewed lager which wasn’t half bad,particulary since our little excursion to the Victoria Falls Bridge.

Tomorrow we have a mid morning departure to Botswana on the last leg of this African adventure and another chance to hopefully see a lion to complete the Big Five for us.

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