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Monday 20 Feb 2012
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Touring the falls + eating game

Shoestrings hostel was booked up so I had to find another place a bit further out of town. Eventually found a lovely quiet place, but it was annoyingly distant from the centre of town so I had to taxi it everywhere.

Today I planned to finally see the town's namesake, the Victoria Falls. I was advised that the shortest route to the falls was to go via Victoria Falls Hotel and take the small path that leads off from the rear gardens. I later discovered it wasn't all that necessary, since the main road in town leads directly to the falls. Instead, the small path was riddled with yet more touts preying on tourists trying to sell you wood carvings that, despite being well made, were huge and the last thing you wanted to carry while exploring the falls! Two men approached me, Handsome and George (African names are great). When asked if I would buy from them later when I left the falls I said "Yeah yeah whatever". Big mistake!

One of the few advantages of going down the small laneway was that it did take you directly to The Gorge Lookout where various extreme activities take place such as the Flying Fox and Gorge Swing. Victoria Falls tries to brand itself as the adrenaline capital of Africa! Indeed one look at the huge gorge that lay beneath me got my heart racing... not to mention seeing a few hapless individuals bungee jumping off the bridge that connects Zimbabwe to Zambia. Before coming here, I had said I was going to partake of a few "extreme" activities... but that was put on the backburner today.

On the way into the Victoria Falls National Park, several men were selling waterproof at the entrance gate. I declined as I had packed a waterproof bag cover, but I honestly didn't think it was going to be that wet. The fact that the spray from the falls could be felt as far away as the town center probably should have given me an indication of just how wet it was going to be!

Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls

I had arrived just after the height of the wet season. Luckily it didn't rain much while I was in Zimbabwe, but the effects of the earlier storms resulted in the water being at a very high level, and the falls themselves were at their most powerful. I couldn't wait to see them like this as I would much rather sit through spray to experience the raw power of the falls, rather than see them a quieter time.

Like in Iguazu, Argentina, you could hear the falls long before you saw them. They sounded huge! It was only a matter of time before I got my first glimpse of the falls. Torrents of water were pounding off the Zambezi river 120 metres into the huge gorge and spray filled the air.
At first there was little spray, just enough to annoy you while photographing, but as you progressed further along the pathway, you were more exposed and I had to start using the backpack cover. Just my luck to find it had holes in it! By the end of the day everything in my backpack was saturated, including my passport!! Thankfully the interior pages of the passport survived due to the leather cover.. but the cover itself was a gonner.

Precarious position over...
Precarious position over
Danger Point

While photographing the falls, my camera got wet too, but somehow survived and I tried to time the direction of the wind so that I could take shots without getting spray on the lens. Tricky, but I got some stunning shots, particularly later in the day when rainbows were appearing in the afternoon sun. My favourite place was Danger Point which was a huge unsecured ledge overlooking a deep section of the gorge. It must have sunk about 200m there and, despite being extremely wet, I sat for several minutes contemplating the scene. Beautiful!

It was great fun getting sprayed by the falls, and to be honest I would recommend everyone sees them when they are this powerful as you literally get to experience them first hand!

I was surprised by how many geriatric yanks were walking around in groups of 50 or so, even some getting saturated in wheelchairs. I would have thought elderly Americans would avoid a country like Zimbabwe, but I guess they wouldn't have come here had they not been part of a tour group. I spent a lot of my time trying to avoid these geri's.

The Big Tree
The Big Tree

While at Danger Point I got chatting to an English girl called Amy. After exploring the falls we both decided to explore some surrounding areas including a famous baobab tree called, funnily enough, "The Big Tree". This huge ancient tree was the place where Zambians crossing the Zambezi met locals to trade. It also attracted the attention of Victorian explorers and tourists and featured early Victorian grafitti like "Ivor was here chaps! 1881"

My friend Handsome somehow got wind of our departure from Victoria Falls and made sure to follow up with me about the "promise" I had made earlier to buy something from him. I was able to resist him for a while, but he kept going on about needing money for food (probably true) I had to eventually give in and bought a stone hippo from him for ony $3. My first souvenir of the trip!

Enjoying the subtle...
Enjoying Mopani worms!

That night I went out to The Boma Restaurant to try some "game", as I'd been advised to by the British couple at The Hide. The restaurant was based inside an expensive looking government-run resort, which had unusually large groups of Russians and Asians (two groups I hadn't yet encountered in Zimbabwe). It was an extremely touristy Africa-kitsch sort of affair with people dancing around dressed in tribal leopard skins, audience participation and even face painting! Nevertheless it was great fun, if not very expensive. TIP: Bring your own wine! I came here to sample game, and game I ate: Kudu, Warthog, plus some other unusual things like Mopani worms - for which I received a certificate! Unfortunately didn't get to try Zebra or the infamous Oryx (which only seemed to be available in Namibia), but Warthog converted me instantly. A lovely succulent meat, that tasted an awful lot like teriyaki beef! Mopani worms tasted like shrimp..

After the meal, I waited for my taxi driver, Peter, to pick me up. I went up to watch some TV with the staff on attendance and Mugabe was on national TV being interviewed about his upcoming birthday. He had recently undergone surgery to remove some cancerous growths and the staff in the hotel appeared to love him, "Look! He is as strong as ever!". Being a governmet hotel, the staff would largely come from the same tribe as Mugabe. Zimbabwe is still run on tribal grounds, and people from Mugabe's tribe would always be the ones working in the government hotels, or receiving free petrol if they owned a taxi.

Peter, the taxi driver, didn't belong to this tribe and didn't wish him quite so well...

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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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  • Airport

    Victoria Falls


  • Fifty Billion...

    Victoria Falls


    Fifty Billion Dollar notes
  • Elephant Turd...

    Victoria Falls


    Elephant Turd plat du jour
  • Gorge as...

    Victoria Falls


    Gorge as viewed from "The Lookout"