Across desolate desert we drove, down Skeleton Coast we cruised, over dusty dunes we danced. All a bit… dry. It was time for something very wet. And it can’t get much wetter than the Victoria Falls in Southern Africa, so that’s just where we were headed next – on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Victoria Falls aren’t the largest or tallest waterfalls in the world. Nor are they the most powerful in terms of flow rate. However, they do come out the clear winner in another category – the area of the falling water: around 1.8km at ~100+ meters. Which adds up to a most grandiose body of falling water – especially when the level of the Zambezi River is high during rain season. Meanwhile the mid-level water looks like this:
A powerful spectacle. Especially with a rainbow:
Imagine standing up on the edge:
…Or rafting down it! No; maybe not ).
Best to simply meditate upon megatons of constantly falling water!…
Remember: the Falls are nearly two kilometers wide, with a height of up to 120 meters. That works out at around a thousand cubic meters per second!
An amazing sight! This is from the Zambian side. The Falls themselves sit right on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. And here it’s clear to see how the water falls down that there ‘tranche’, or gorge:
You can even go up to the edge at the top – you can see the fence here:
And this is from the Zimbabwe side. You can go up to the edge, but there’s no fence here!
The views from Zimbabwe win:
And with a rainbow; yes we were lucky with the weather…
This view is from the furthest edge:
If you look straight at it, it doesn’t fit into a photo!
View from the bridge:
The view of the bridge:
And we made a video:
Zimbabwe is well-known for its currency; rather – its lack of a stable one. Can you guess how much money is here in this pile?
That was just the traditional starter course. Next – the main course.
Since last being here in the year 2008, they’ve built a new airport. This is great news. Last time, passport control took place in some kind of… shed, and half of the passengers didn’t fit in it so had to fry themselves to a crisp under the merciless sun outside. In a word: grrr. Wait – there’s more: the officials back then didn’t even have computers, so they noted down the details of all visitors on paper! Thankfully, all that is a quaint memory from the past. Today there’s no reason to fear flying here. The only thing you need, really, is cash: if needed, you can buy a visa with it upon arrival. No credit cards!
It’s not far from the airport to the town of Victoria Falls, where we were staying at the Victoria Falls Hotel, one of the first to be built in the town – in 1904. It sits atop a hill, with a view of the Second Gorge and also the Victoria Falls Bridge.
From the hotel to the waterfall it’s less than a kilometer, and there’s a good path. But recently, apparently, an ill-starred tourist decided it would be a good idea to have a nibble of the ‘hospitable’ fauna here. After that, to prevent further silliness, they put in a fence.
Anyway, though not far at all, we nevertheless went by car – it gets soooo hot here on African walkabouts.
Now for a little more detail about what we had planned…
There are two sides to every coin; and there are two sides from which the Victoria Falls can be viewed – the Zimbabwean side and the Zambian side. We had a full day to spend at the falls, so we decided to do both. First up – Zambian side…
From the hotel to the border it’s a little over a kilometer. There there’s passport control – not too quick, but not snail-slow either. A stamp in the passport (mine suffered a full four stamps in this one day – two going in, and two coming back out), and we enter neutral territory.
The walk over to the Zambian border is around a kilometer-and-a-half. But such a short distance seems a long way on a hot day here. You could take a taxi – see the ‘Border Taxis Association’ cars there. Otherwise you walk along the road over to the border ->
Here we are, treading the sidewalk ->
Going one way on the trucks – copper. Coming the other way – not sure what, but also seemingly to be just one item, and lots of it.
Strictly one vehicle at a time. No limit on pedestrians…
The bridge also takes trains. Turns out the railroad that crosses it is part of the ambitious though unfinished Cape to Cairo Railway. Yes, very ambitious. A bit like the Trans-Siberian Railway, but instead of permafrost and tick-borne encephalitis, perma-heat, malaria, yellow fever and tsetse flies. Ouch!
The border runs right down the middle of the river; thus:
Down there – the Zambezi:
The locals take photos too; not just us…
Bungee-ing and similar pursuits…
The view of the falls is pretty good from the bridge too ->
A brilliant bridge!
We arrive in Zambia. Encouragingly, the first thing we see is a large blood-colored sign warning about malaria symptoms. Yikes. Alas, there’s no vaccination against the disease, but at least they now know how to treat it.
The entrance to the falls is right after border control. Btw, it’s not called ‘Victoria’. It’s called Mosi-oa-Tunya, which means ‘The Smoke that Thunders’ in lozi!
Zambia differs from Zimbabwe in that it has too many pushy souvenir sellers hawking trinkets and memorabilia. As for me, no more ‘souvenirs’ – ever – after my purchase of the green elephant.
Here’s a good representation of how the waterfall is constructed: how the water falls, then follows the stream with nearly 180-degree turns:
Next – monkeys! Many monkeys! Hold onto your belongings tightly; zip everything up – especially if you have anything edible in your bags!
The monkeys are rather bothersome to the locals, it seems. They (the locals; at least, I think only the locals!) even arm themselves with weapons such as these! ->
There are monkeys everywhere – especially near the cafes.
The monkeys are more stringent with their cargo checks than the customs officials!…
Time to check out the falls finally. On the map there are four directions. We opt for the second – down ‘Boiling Pot’. Right down to the bottom and into a tropical jungle. Humid; wet underfoot. But saved by a good paved path with occasional bridges.
Suddenly – surprise! At the furthest point the warden at his desk keeping things in order!
We get to the bottom…
Then back up we go. And there they are – the waterfalls! Huge streams of gushing water, with tons of water in spray up above that falls back down as ‘rain’. In short, it’s very wet here. Waterproofs advised – if only to protect your photography kit… The nearer to the edge – the heavier the ‘rain’.
We’re headed that way – to ‘Danger Point’ ->
Danger Point turned out to be not dangerous at all. Maybe it was once; but not anymore with the sturdy fence installed. The further along the path you walk, the more and more marvelous become the panoramic views…
Let’s zoom in a bit. Yes – there are folks over there. Probably on an excursion. By boat to the island, then walkies. Onward we stroll…
Looks nice. Just a shame the spray means we can’t see the full 1800 meters. You can walk up right to the edge. But trip and you’d be a gonna…
Locals simply sit warming their feet in the water:
One last viewing point remained…
And that was that. Time to head back to the Zimbabwean side. Passport stamped twice again and back across the bridge. The sun so merciless. Really fancied something cold to drink…
Next up for us: Victoria Falls – ver. Zimbabwe: the main course. ‘Main course’ as it’s apparently a longer stretch of the falls (three quarters of the full length). All righty. Off we pop… Here’s the map of the suggested waterfall walking route. 16 points marked out. We decided to start with number 16 and work our way back.
How the falls were formed. All very interesting:
Point 15 – Danger Point. This time actually dangerous: no fencing. Sensational views. Especially with the rainbow!
There’s a boat down there. If only we’d have known! Our guides didn’t tell us about boats. Grrr.
Woah. You could sit here for days meditating…
Point 14 – Rainbow Falls.
Point 13 – Horse Shoe Falls.
From here – fencing. Safety first!
We approach the wettest stretch. Careful with your photo kit!
Point 12 – Livingstone Island.
We approach Point 1…
Point 1. With a statue of Livingstone. The inscriptions are showing their age. A few non-PC moments…
Magical ball – see the view is upside-down through it?
And that was that. Zimbabwe side – done. But we weren’t quite done with the Falls yet. There was still an aerial view of them to be taken. More on that in the next post…
All the pics form Victoria Falls are here.