The Mist that Thunders

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Zimbabwe  ,
Friday, April 27, 2012

Next stop is the place we have most wanted to visit, arguably one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the world, the Victoria Falls. The basis of this trip to Zimbabwe and Botswana was around us wanting to go to Victoria Falls and the rest is a big bonus. You don't hear many positive things about traveling in Zimbabwe these days except for the Vic Falls so it was a must for us although we're glad we've been able to see other parts of Zimbabwe which show just what an amazing Country it is!

We were booked into Lokuthula lodges, located just outside the Victoria falls town on the Zimbabwean side which is a beautiful location overlooking miles of African game lands. They have a game viewing platform at the bar where we could watch kudu, warthogs and even buffalo drinking from the waterhole whilst we had a (rather expensive) gin and tonic as the sun set. It was pretty idyllic
Our cottage was close to the game too, when we arrived there were loads of warthogs munching on grass and a snake laying on the path by the door to greet us on arrival. We were less fond of this part of the welcome party than the warthogs with their babies! 

 The Victoria Falls neighbour Hwange National Park along with a number of private parks and so the game in the area is very rich. Apparently often elephants end up wandering through the town and you can't walk around at night as it has been known for there to be lions prowling the area. While we were having our dinner outside the cottage, the conversation was disrupted by an elephant trumpeting in the darkness not too far from us which was a bit unnerving although nothing compared to the night time noises of Mana Pools.

So we had 2 days here at the Victoria Falls and we planned to catch the shuttle early on the first day to have breakfast at the Victoria Falls Hotel which has views over the Falls from a kilometre or so away. We got there and took some photos as the hotel is beautiful and the view even better. From the tables you can see the spray from the falls creating clouds up above and it's beautiful. The only problem is that the hotel refused to serve us breakfast. all sorts of excuses came out ......

"We no longer sell to non-residents"

"Well we would serve you but we have no power so there's no hot food"

"I'm afraid we're just not allowed.... etc"

So eventually we gave up and instead went next door to the Kingdom hotel which had an even more expensive breakfast and unfortunately no view. But regardless, now we were full and it was time to go to the see Victoria Falls.

We wandered over trying to get past all the guys selling trillions of redundant Zimbabwe dollars and donned our raincoats ready to get drenched as April is one of the heaviest times of the year for the Victoria Falls. Over this year we have seen dozens of waterfalls, we have hiked to see waterfalls in every country we've visited but this took waterfalls to an entirely new level and all I can say is that they really didn't disappoint

 The gallons and gallons of water thunders down the river before falling around 100 metres to the ground and the mist rises up from below. The falls are about a mile wide so we walked across the whole of the Zimbabwean side, to see the falls from all of the accessible view-points. The further across we went, the heavier the water fell and they just seem never-ending which is an absolutely awe-inspiring sight.

 For some sections the water was so hard that it created torrential rain and so much mist that all you could see was a wall of white. But when it clears slightly you are rewarded with spectacular views of water as far as you can see and the colours are beautiful. It's very hard to describe but without a shadow of a doubt it is one of the most amazing things either of us has ever seen and would be worth the trip to Zimbabwe all on it's own.

When it was time to leave we were completely drenched from head to toe but it was hard to pull away from the view as it is somewhere we have been so excited to go and we weren't let down at all. 

 The falls are so vast that it's impossible to get a real idea of the scale of it from the walking viewpoints but fortunately one of Katy's birthday presents was to see the Falls by Helicopter, so the next day at 9am we were picked up and taken to a purpose built helipad.

They have designed it a bit like an airport, so you go and check-in, get your boarding pass and then go for your safety briefing before boarding. Our briefing was done by a guy called Lovemore and he explained that we shouldn't wear any loose clothing like hats, we should duck our heads or it could be deadly for us and we shouldn't disrupt the pilot. For some reason all of that completely went out the window immediately as the helicopter arrived. Lovemore didn't duck his head, wore a hat and the pilot told us to tap him on the shoulder if he wasn't responding to his questions so I felt the safety briefing was a bit pointless.

Anyway, we took off and headed across the gorge towards the falls and we could see the spray in the distance, looking like smoke from 8km's away. Then as we got to the falls we flew around a few times, over the river and viewing the falls from each angle. It was a phenomenal view and the spray didn't hamper our view from up above so we could really see the full scale of the falls.

The view was beautiful and every couple of minutes a bright rainbow would form right across the falls moving towards the water and then would disappear. Amazing!

The pilot explained that the current Victoria Falls are the 8th, they believe that the falls were in 7 different locations prior to where they are currently based on the shape of the gorge down the Zambezi. We flew over Zimbabwe and Zambia and could see the bridge which links the two, which was built by the same Company that built the Sydney Harbour bridge. I think it's also the same bridge as the one which was in the news not too long ago when an Australian girl was bungee jumping there and her rope snapped plunging her into the crocodile and hippo infested Zambezi river rapids.

So the helicopter trip was very special and totally worth-while, another big highlight of the year! 

 That nicely rounds off our time in Zimbabwe which has completely surprised us. The Northern area in particular is a far cry from the run down, poverty stricken, dank and dusty Country we think of from news reports in recent years. The countryside is stunning, it's extremely rich in wildlife and the people couldn't be more friendly and accommodating. It's so sad that such a beautiful Country has been plunged into the situation it has over the last 20 years

 I spoke to a couple of the locals and they say things are much better now but there were times when it wasn't worth working because by the time you'd earned your salary it was worth nothing and the Country seems to have come close to completely imploding. Dollarising seems to have settled things down a bit for the moment and I really hope things improve because what an amazing place to visit!

Now we head for neighouring Botswana. Whilst Zimbabwe until recently was the fastest declining economy in the world, Botswana is the fastest growing... shows the importance of choices!
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