Sunday, April 16, 2017

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe: Awesome!

A Visit to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls:

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, Africa
Having enjoyed two beautiful safari camps in Botswana, it was time to board that little plane again and fly to the border of Botswana near Zimbabwe. Fortunately, we were met at each point by a tour guide to assist us through the border crossing process. We had to drive a distance from the airport in Kanse to the border patrol area. One guide took us to the drop off point and another one met us on the other side once we had cleared Immigration and, of course, paid our fees.

Our first floor living room
Zimbabwe is situated in south central Africa and is also landlocked with Mozambique to the east, South Africa to the south, Botswana to the west and Zambia to the north. It is about the size of California and shares Victoria Falls with Zambia. Their government is somewhat unsettled and has a history of guerrilla warfare. The country was formerly known as Southern Rhodesia when it was a self-governing colony of England. After much racial violence and warfare, it became the independent nation of Zimbabwe in 1980.

They have abandoned their own currency for the US dollar. Zimbabwe has an extensive mining and agriculture industry with tobacco being a main crop for export. Two thirds of the world’s chrome reserves are found within Zimbabwe. They also mine coal, asbestos, copper, nickel gold and iron ore. There is a good economy, but those in power are self-serving.

The second floor bedroom overlooking the watering hole.
We were then driven in an open-air vehicle to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge for a two-night stay. This lodge was different from the camp lodges and looked more like a ski lodge. It was even built into the side of a mountain. Our “room” was more like an apartment! One the main floor was a living room and balcony. Our bedroom was upstairs overlooking the watering hole below. And my favorite: a large tub in our bathroom! This is a real luxury after only having showers on the boat.

Feeding the vultures below our lunch seats!
Most of our meals were in the Makuwa-Kuwa Restaurant, also overlooking the watering hole. This was where we could observe the daily vulture feeding exhibit, called The Vulture Culture Lunch. Hundreds of vultures show up for lunch each day. It is quite a site. The view from our room and the restaurant took in miles of the bushveld and central watering hole where we observed many birds and buffalo.

Never a dull moment on this adventure: shortly after lunch and a rest, we were off to a boat trip on the Zambezi River. Our reservations were on the Signature Deck of the Zambezi Explorer which gave us a great view and lots of drinks and snacks.

We cruised the river until sunset and saw the hippos and other wildlife along the banks. Then we crossed the border to Zambia to see the falls from both sides. Obviously, we didn’t see the water falling as we were above them, but we saw the heavy mist created by the falling water. I guess we can say we were in Zambia, too.

David Livingston

Victoria Falls are the largest and often called the most beautiful falls in the world. During flood time in the rainy season, the falls are one continuous wall of water. The rest of the time, it
separates into a number of narrower falls along the Zimbabwe and Zambia border. At the area of the falls, the Zambezi River is over a mile wide and plunges into a vertical chasm across its entire width.

The drop ranges from 165’ to 325’ with the force of the falling water sending spray clouds high into the air. Thus, the African name for falls: “Mosi ao Tunya”, meaning the smoke that thunders. When explorer David Livingston saw the falls in 1855, he named them for Queen Victoria.

Early the next morning we were picked up by our guide for a tour of the Victoria Falls, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. While you can view the falls from both Zimbabwe and Zambia, the better vantage point is on the Zimbabwe side.

The falls are like Niagara Falls, but extend over a much larger range. There were many vantage points for photos as we walked the whole distance of the viewing range. We also encounter a lot of mist, rainbows and even a tropical rain shower as we passed through the site. I was a drowned rat by the end of the walk and then the sun came out and things started steaming up!

 After we finished our tour, we had the driver drop us off in the craft  market area to see the local artisans' wares. It turned out to be a lot of people selling the same things that they obviously did not make themselves. There is a crafts cooperative in the area where many items are made, so it was a matter of bargaining with different resellers. Actually, there was little that I wanted. Since we had gotten rid of so much "stuff" when we sold the house, I have been very good at not collecting things from every stop! Just jewelry!

The return to the lodge for a change of clothes and lunch was a welcome event! Then it was naptime – again! We are beginning to appreciate the midday cool-down naps in these warm countries. It could become a habit – even when we return to the north!

Late in the day, we were picked up by a driver and taken to the Gusu forest for an evening dinner event. The setting was lovely and we experienced a wonderful meal of traditional cuisine and entertainment under the open African sky. It is called “The Boma – Place of Eating.”

It was a magical night with foods gathered from African soils and prepared in traditional ways. The selection of meats, poultry and game were excellent and beautifully prepared. You could select anything and as much as you wanted. There was a huge selection of vegetables, salads and desserts, too.

For the brave-hearted in our group (that would be the other three, but not me!), you received a certificate if you ate one of the lightly grilled Mopani worms! A real African delicacy. Humph! Okay, call me a chicken, but I am very selective about eating critters I don’t like in real life!

The evening began with a traditional pre-dinner hand washing, followed by the dining experience, only to be capped off with a fabulous show of dancing, singing and drumming. Most of us were given drums to play along with the entertainers. They taught us a little about drumming and had several fun contests. It was an interactive and high energy show. We were in the VIP area with our table on the edge of the stage. Great view!

Shangaan and Ndebele dancers and singers inspired everyone with their energy. Before the evening was over, they had everyone up dancing as well. It was a special family evening and fun to watch the children enjoy it all.

A witchdoctor came around predicting your future and there was a sangoma, a traditional story teller who shared African folklore, culture and heritage. It was a most enjoyable experience. We always appreciate the local customs, costumes, foods and entertainment.

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