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Published: July 27th 2010
First night on Larium was like being on the movie set of Nightmare on Elm Street. I just didn’t want to go to sleep and for good reason. A few weeks later I would have ants moving round my head when I slept, I would be jumping off cliffs. Suffering paranoia, touching lions and worst still not being able to get any money out from banks or ATM’s. Could Victoria Falls turn potential nightmares into reality?
Victoria Falls is on the border with Zambia and Zimbabwe and is one of the 7 natural wonders of the world. It is in a high-risk malaria area which could be fatal if the right mosquito gets you. To provide a better protection from this there are various types of pills. This time round I decided to trial the stronger once a week pill Larium. (I heard people have dreamt of eating their own arms off and things like that.)
We arrived on the Zambia side at Livingstone where immediately times were tough with the ATM’s not accepting our Maestro Cards or MasterCard. (My VISA and Plus cards were pick pocketed in Johannesburg.) Luckily we were able to go to Barclay’s bank with
Michaels VISA card and got a cash advance but this was after the 2nd day and all my foreign currency exhausted.
Livingstone is nothing really to right home about but the people are friendly. Actually the last night we went out to a bar and it was the friendliest urinal I have ever been to. I must have said 4-5 “Hello, good, how are you?” calls before I got to the urinal itself than more before washing my hands.
With this awkwardness in getting money we decided to leave after a game of golf on a dry golf course. And cross over to Zimbabwe where hopefully banks were more card friendly. There are two sides to see the falls. Zambia is from the top whilst Zimbabwe gives you the front on and side on view. Both sides charge $20/$30 respectively. We chose the Zimbabwe side.
The border crossing is a long walk but hassle free really. The only noise is the falls thundering down and the occasional mist tapping your body. Crossing into Zimbabwe is from the bridge where bungee jumping takes place. It’s definitely a unique cross over.
Immediately when you hit the streets you
are greeted by locals who try and sell and promote their inflated currency (which is useless now.) US$ is now the favoured currency as inflation skyrocketed with the country forced to introduce 100 trillion dollar notes.
Victoria falls seemed to be a place that is getting back on its feet. There are a few budget places going round and if the tourism industry is ever going to get back on its feet it’s the backpacker who will be the main reason. The best of the bunch is Shoestring Backpackers, which is where other Hostels tell people to go for a drink. Apart from having ants sleeping with me for a few nights it was good. (They sorted out the problem).
The first day we went and saw the falls where we were told that you are going to get wet. There are raincoats for $3 but that’s not getting the whole experience is it! The best way to see it is from the far left just past the Livingstone Statue where you see and here the Zambezi River building up steam to slam through the Devils Cataract.
The mist doesn’t really hit here (depending on the wind)
you get a clear view of the main fall. As you walk through the forest to various viewpoints it gets wetter and wetter but it is not until you hit the Horseshoe, Rainbow and Armchair Falls that the mist turns into a downfall of rain. This is not you standing under the fall. This is you standing opposite and the power of the fall so intense that it’s the rebound of the water hitting the end of its fall. Victoria Falls is the largest curtain of falling water in the world I would say that out of all the falls I have seen thus far it would be the best. Mainly because of its overall viewpoints, the sound and its over and done with within the hour.
Generally most companies provide a package deal where you combined a few activities and get a free booze cruise at sunset. We decided to go with a half-day adrenaline package and a morning Lion walk.
There are two types of adrenaline packages one, which is done at the border bridge and the other further down the river at Gorge 2. This is where we went. A longer free fall for the
gorge swing and better view we were told. I’m not one for too much of this stuff but I thought it was good enough. Flying Fox was first than a fu fu swing (? on spelling) where you sit down in your harness and they release you going up to 100 kph.
But that is all a build up for the main event. A gorge swing of 80m free fall. Basically I would have been shitting bricks if Michael didn’t go first. It’s an alternative to bungee jumping and it was the stepping into the unknown that got me excited and nervous at the same time.
First up we did a step off and it is an immediate freak out. Michael sounded like he was going to hell in a cartoon. You drop the 80m than you swing to the other side of the gorge turning into an image of a spec in the distance.
From there it was time for the ostrich… The guys running it were calling me the local word for that throughout. Apparently after this jump they came to the opinion that I am not suited to flying but better with my feet
on the ground. I was told to just look at the rope (which was around my waist.) don’t look down. The pressure is pretty intense around the waist just waiting to drag you over the edge. I get the countdown “5,4,3,2,1!” And the surprise of the immediate feeling of hopelessness as I drop and produce 2 freak out yells to immediate jubilation all in the space of a few seconds “Yyyeeaaahhh Whhoooaaa!”
You get two gorge swings and the second go we went backwards and I wasn’t helped by the fact the confident one of the duo said. “I was freaking out on that one a bit.” Heart pounding I lent back to the point of no return and felt like a dummy thrown off a building for dramatic effect in a movie. I was done after that one. A great experience and for less than $100 it’s a pretty good deal. It’s definitely encouraged me to experience another adrenaline day… one day.
A few mornings later we were picked up late for the Lion encounter. Here we were able to walk with the baby lions which was okay I suppose I wouldn’t do it again but you
do get the chance to touch the lions and get some pretty up close and personal photos.
Due to Michael’s flight being 2 days too early (or 2 days too late) we weren’t able to branch out anywhere else so we spent some dull days going to the Colonial Victoria Falls Hotel. Went to the casino where Michael won $40 which may well send the casino broke he said close to collecting “I’m starting to feel guilty about taking their money.” There were 4 tables, which never get used and old poker machines where half don’t work and another quarter have buttons missing.
On the last day the companies combined a booze cruise with a sunset cruise. Booze is the selling point for the backpacker whilst the Sunset term is the selling point for the over 40’s. The drink is pretty free flowing and the night kicks on at the hostel where by the end of the night I played 3 drinking games of which the 3rd I remember little of and ended up missing my 3am bus out of there.
If I had my choice of where to stay for Victoria Falls I would chose the
Zimbabwe side. It’s like being on Larium 24 hours a day.
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