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Feb 15 2014

Victoria Falls : Where The Smoke Thunders

By Dora

It would be a severe miss out if you are in Africa and you don’t make a plan to visit the famous Victoria Falls. Not only for its fame as the largest waterfall in the world (second only to Argentina’s and Brazil’s Iguazu falls) but also for the untamed beauty of the scenery.
 


The Waterfalls were originally named Mosi- oa- Tunya from the  local Tonga People, which means the smoke that thunders.
This name gives total credit to the description of the sound that the broad Zambezi River makes as it falls free from 108 meters in the narrow gorge before the water leads down into a smaller stream. The force of the water is so strong that often hippos and crocodiles get carried away through its stream as the locals say. We could hear the sound of the roaring water even from our camping site which was 3 km away from the entrance of the park! The name changed when Scottish explorer David Livingstone first arrived in the area in 1866 and renamed the Waterfall in honour of Queen Victoria. He even had one of the small islands in the river named after him.

Situated at the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia you can access the park from both sides. From which side is the best view though depends on opinions and on  the month that you will be visiting. The rainy season (late November-April) makes the view from Zambia side more exciting. We were there at late September and we found the view better from Zimbabwe side even though we can definitely say it is worth paying entrance to visit also from Zambia side (In Zambia you can also swim at the Devil’s Pool ;).
 
We arrived in Victoria Falls after hitchhiking from Kasane, Botswana which was relatively close. The village of Victoria Falls is a very small but picturesque, created just to cater for the touristic needs of the area. Even though touristic it was very safe , you could see policemen everywhere. We decided to stay at the camping site by the main road which was not very impressive but still very close to everything. Taking a small walk in the village you can see all sorts of tourist shops but especially those offering adventure packages like bungee jumping from the bridge, canoe-kayak, even helicopter rides over the falls. We decided to skip because they were way over our budget.

The same day we ate at Mama Africa, a restaurant decorated with African culture items and vivid colours. We chose the local curry stew with pap (maize meal) served in metal pots which was satisfying for our hungry stomachs.


After this we still had time to visit the Big Baobap Tree just outside of town .Just a short walk through the savannah even though we were a little bit scared to go close to sunset because is the time wild animals are making their way to the watering holes nearby and could be dangerous. However as usual nothing confirmed our fears and we managed to take our pictures. The Baobaps are perennial trees that are mostly famous for the diameter of their trunk (7 to 11m). They are quite impressive also to see in typical African images. That one was close to 1500 years old as the sign next to it confirmed. We were lucky to find a couple from Trinidad there that they offered to give us a ride back to the village.
Next day we finally hit the dusty road to the Park Entrance. Apparently there were a lot of information about the site at the entrance that marked its importance as one of the seven wonders of the world. As you walk inside and along the paths you can see the stunning views to the falls from many angles as you pass through jungle like vegetation. The sound from the water was deafening and the spray of the water created several rainbows and felt like raining, a sensation that was welcoming in the midday heat.

In our plan was also to visit the falls from Zambia side which we did next day with the intention to jump in the famous Devil’s Pool!
At the border the infamous baboons were everywhere climbing up and down on trucks and people were literally shooting them with slingshots just to stop them from bugging them. We hurried fast to go past them in case they decided to jump on us too.
The procedure was not at all long so we were soon ready to get past the bungee bridge and enter the park. There we joined the group of the 3 American girls and our guide that would lead us to the edge and to the Devil’s Pool. The walk included walking a bit through land and water so that we could get to the specific spot that would allow us to be at the edge. As we were there, our guide showed the exact point in the water that we had to jump so that the current could lead us in the deep spot and not the ..oups.. I don’t want to even think what would have happened if we didn’t jump in the correct spot! I saw Elpis jumping first and I thought I would not do it but the adrenaline at such times is so high that you give in the rush! So bloom! We jumped and the current stopped us waist-high at the edge where we sat safely. After that we wanted to do it again and again but time was limited for other groups who had to come after us. Our guide was so confident that he was walking up and down the slippery rocks on the edge as if he was in the safest place!

Returning from the path we took several breathtaking pictures at the edge where we had to bend low just to see what was at the bottom. 

Going back to the entrance at the café we noticed the beautiful fabrics that were part of the decoration, after talking to the manager there, a helpful white local lady, we decided that we would go to the local market to get them too.
The local market was not far from the centre of the city but we were the only tourists there .We  have been to several markets in India too and this one reminded these to us. People were selling everything you could imagine especially clothes. Second hand and worn clothes were put on the floor for people to choose, even underwear. I don’t know whether these once belonged to wealthy westerners but it is sad to just see how people we take some stuff for granted what for other are luxury. Sadly we did not take our camera with us (also as a precaution) but we managed to buy a lot of fabric at the price of 2 $ per 2 meters and we left happy.

On our way back to the campsite around sunset, boys caught up with us as usual trying to sell local artifacts for “Sunset Price” .We laughed so we tried to see what they boy was selling this time. There were some necklaces with a weird snake looking animal. The boy explained the legend of the animal- the Nyami Nayami, the snake of the river. It was supposed to be bringing luck so we bought a dozen for souvenirs.( Indeed they brought us luck after in several occasions hehe).
Another spot worth to be visited( if you do not have the budget to actually stay there) is the Luxurious Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, which qualifies for the best Lodge we have ever seen. Its many terraces are overlooking to a watering hole where the best view is during sunset when all the animals come to drink water. We cannot even describe how beautiful the feeling was as we sat there watching and sipping our cold beers, so we let the pictures speak for themselves.

We finally stayed 4 days in the wonderful falls that we left full of awe for what the nature can create. Carrying on with our journey, we decided to take the cute train (1st class!) to our next stop  Bulawayo.
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