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Wednesday 22 Feb 2012
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

120m Gorge jump, before flying back to Windhoek.. clearly I am mad

I had a few hours to kill before my flight to Windhoek at 1pm, so I opted to buy some souvenirs in town and possibly try one more extreme activity before I headed off... when in Victoria Falls, do as the adrenaline-junkies do.

When shopping for souvenirs in Victoria Falls, you have two options: go to one of the established shops that sit along the main street and expect to pay $50 for a painting or something similar, OR go to the craft market where locals have setup shop directly on the side of the street and you can expect to haggle for everything, but quality may not be up to the standard of the main shops. This is where the touts go to sell if they can't nab you coming out of the Victoria Falls Hotel.

I decided I wanted to go for the local market so I headed into town with a taxi and a helpful tourist police officer offered to guide me to the market, for free... Vic Falls really does have it's act together when it comes to looking after tourists. It wasn't obvious that the place existed as it is hidden down a small road, and clearly the government would prefer you buy at the established shops where they would get a nice commission, so I was rather amazed to find how big the local marketplace was!

I seemed to be the only tourist in the area, so was faced with a rather intimidating situation: 200 traders sitting in the sun all beckoning for me to come and look at their wares. Their enthusiasm seemed to suggest that they hadn't seen a tourist in days (most tourists would come to Victoria Falls, stay in a luxury hotel, then buy souvenirs from the hotel's shops due to a perceived fear of walking around the town on their own). Most of the sellers had roughly the same items for sale - batik cloth and wood carvings - so I could have gone to any one of them. Typically of a very high standard too.

Women's market
Women's Association market

As I didn't have long to shop, I ducked into a warehouse building to escape the touts where I found around 40 women lined up sitting behind a display of their husband's wares.

It just so happened I had entered the "Women's Association" market. It was setup to help empower the local women to manage the household income, rather than giving the cash to their husbands to spend on alcohol or gambling. So, with this in mind, I haggled them down to tears in order to get a ton of wood souvenirs for $20... hmm methinks the husbands won't be too happy...

Gorge Jump ... no going...
Gorge Swing Jump

20 mins later I was flinging myself off the edge of the gorge, secured by a flimsy cord in a bid to experience the most extreme activity available at Vic Falls (after bungee that is). Bungee didn't appeal to me after I was told you could get detached retinas... I was fairly tired when I approached the Gorge Lookout (still exhausted from the rafting!), so that prevented me from feeling too anxious before the jump. When they started the countdown from 5, I started gathering my senses together, and by the time they got down to 2 I looked down into the gorge for the first time... "Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit!". There was no going back at that stage so I told my brain "Just make them legs move and let's get this over with". I launched out and 5 seconds later I was at the bottom, swinging the width of the gorge.

In my mind, that 5 seconds was like 5 minutes! As I was falling all I could think was "Why am I falling head-first? I jumped feet-first!! This isn't going to end well...".

My jump wasn't as graceful as I would have liked and I span around so that I plummeted headfirst. Seems my head was weighing down the rest of my body when I was in freefall! Thankfully when I reached the bottom of the gorge the harness pulled me upright and didn't tangle up in my nether regions as I feared! It was an amazing though short-lived experience.

Ironically, while getting pulled back up I really started freaking out and the old fear of heights crept in. I noticed for the first time the flimsy rope I was suspended from. The fact that a bungee jumper had famously fallen into the river after her cord broke only a few weeks earlier didn't help matters!

Wouldn't do it again I have to say.. still freaks me out thinking about it now! TIP:  the fastest route to reach The Gorge Lookout was through a pathway at the rear of The Kingdom hotel.

Heart still pumping from the morning's activities I ran off to the airport...

The Air Namibia flight was due to arrive from Windhoek to pick us up at Vic Falls. There is only one plane that flies this route every week and as luck would have it there was an engine failure! We had a 6 hour delay in the tiny airport which meant I also missed my Cape Town flight due to leave Windhoek later in the day! Yell

We got free sandwiches/drinks while we waited. They conveniently announced this 5 minutes after I'd bought a slap-up meal. Double doh!

Eventually we got a flight back into Windhoek. It was still raining. As we flew in I noticed how the storms were isolated to small areas of dense cloud, while the surrounding areas were dry (similar to the storms I saw in Hwange).

Air Namibia took full responsibility and put me up in a 5 star hotel in the centre of town, the Kalahari Sands hotel. Only one small problem: there were no taxis or buses at the airport since it was so late (9pm!). This is the main airport for the capital city of Namibia! They expected me to wait until the airport closed and then share a lift with the airport staff (at which point I would miss out on the dinner in the hotel, not good considering I was already going to miss breakfast the next day to catch the 7am flight!)

I was livid.

They expedited my trip from the airport when I told them I was a travel writer and would write a negative review of Air Namibia if they didn't sort out the situation. That was sorta true I guess, but at least it worked Cool

Hugely pissed that I would miss out on 2 nights in Cape Town I made sure to make the most of my time at the Kalahari Sands and stuffed myself at dinner plus got nicely toasted at the bar charging everything to the room. The hotel even gave me one of the largest rooms in the hotel (they obviously knew who was paying the bill!)

So as I was going to only have 1 day in Cape Town, rather than 2, before I headed home, I was going to have to make it count.

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Sithern Efrika

Travel blog by peterforan

Great White Shark cage diving

Great White Shark cage diving


20 days to sample the "other" down-under... a trip covering parts of South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe in February. Cape Town to Vic Falls get the treatment, while I mix in a safari or two... Now where did I put that elephant gun?

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