- Dates: 8th – 11th? January 2008
- Distance: 443 km (275 mi)
- Cumulative Distance: 2,327 km (1,446.4 mi)
- Accommodation: Family friends’ spare room
You can find all the posts to date here.
The drive up to Vic Falls was uneventful. We’d be warned not to stop along the way as it is a bit of a quiet road and there had been some incidents before. Fortunately, we had no need to stop and we made it without any problems. I had wanted to stop at the place where I lived until I was 5. A tiny little rail siding called Matetsi. My Dad was the resident ecologist there for 10 years, I lived there for the last 5 of those. It was an amazing place to grow up and I am sure that the exposure to the bush at such a young age is what instilled the deep love I have for it.
We arrived in the Falls in the afternoon and made contact with some other old family friends and then ran around getting prices for some of the activities we’d planned and booking our spots.
In Vic Falls we stayed with the same people who own Musango, the camp we stayed at over New Year a few days previously. They live in Vic Falls and both kids attend school there. I’m not jealous at all. Ok I am. A lot. They suggested that we head to the Vic Falls Safari Lodge for sundowners. It turned out to be an amazing idea! The view from their deck is fantastic; we watched about 300 buffalo come down for a drink before heading off into the bush. The also had these at the bar:
This is the only beer I will actually willingly drink. Bohlingers. A taste of home for me. Naturally, I made J have one as well! We sat and watch the day come to an end. Note I didn’t say ‘sunset’ because, as usual, it was raining. Yay us.
The next day we attacked out plan of action. Apart from a few specific birds we wanted to spot in Vic Falls (Northern Grey-Headed Sparrow, Livingstone’s Turaco and the Collared Palm Thrush [bird #4 in that link] – all have a limited distribution) we had planned to do a few more, shall we say, adventurous things. So at a little after 8:30am, we headed through Zimbabwe customs and out on to the Vic Falls Bridge. Have you worked out what we were planning on doing yet?
The deal was that I had to do it if J did. Of course, he didn’t tell me just HOW keen he was to tie some giant rubber bands around his ankles and then jump off a perfectly good bridge. Seriously, the guy doing the count-down didn’t even get to 1…Bungee and J had already launched himself off the bridge. I swear, if his ankles hadn’t been tied together he would have RUN off the bridge.
Me on the other hand…I was not so keen… see photo, top left: Sheer terror.
The photo I left out, because it wouldn’t fit the collage nicely, was of the two nice gentlemen in blue literally peeling my fingers off the railing and then tipping me so far forward that I literally had NO choice NOT to jump. I screamed all the way down (see bottom left pic above…yes, I am at the end of that rope. 111m down.). And AND up! AND DOWN…AGAIN! HA! they don’t tell you about that bit nooooo. They don’t tell you that once you’ve had your 120kph; 4 seconds of free-fall (trust me, it feels like a LOT longer) your recoil bounces you almost all the way back UP to the level of the bridge. And so you fall, all over again. And again and again. Until you’re bouncing gently and the guy on the winch seat asks if you’ve had enough. You can barely see through your swollen face and you practically kiss him when he makes the bouncing stop. And then you stagger off the bridge, pick up your piece of paper, decline to pay US$25 for the official photo and go home. And only then does it sink in. I jumped off a bridge. Attached to a rubber band around my ankles. WHAT was I thinking?!?
(More info on the bungee jumping here…if you are mad enough)
We were the first two clients of the day, in fact, a perfectly random stranger had to take all the photos of me because J was busy making his way back to the top of the bridge. By 10am we were back at the house wondering when we’d come down off the adrenalin high!
We decided to go walk around the rainforest that lines the lip of the Falls. I remember going there when I was tiny. My late Uncle taught me the ditty ”catch a falling star” there while walking around in the semi-permanent mists. It was more or less just as I remembered it. Twisty paths, green vegetation and above it all, the roar from the Falls. It’s not called ‘The Smoke That Thunders” for nothing.
We had a wonderful time. Took a ton of photos, spotted lots of lovely birds, walked bloody miles. Victoria Falls are the probably the widest falls in the world spanning 1.7km with a high of a little over 100m. That makes them the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Utterly breathtaking.
We even tried a cheesy self portrait….it didn’t come out so well…
That afternoon I think we had lunch and a nap and called our parents to tell them all about the bungee jumping (Hint: not impressed!). We’d book a 3-in-1 package and we’d planned to take out second activity that evening. As Sunset cruise on the River above the Falls. If the adrenalin stuff is not for you, then you have to go and do this. It’s so gorgeous! And even though it’s above the Falls, there is zero risk of you getting swept away! There’s nothing better in the world than sipping on a Gin & Tonic and watching the world go by.
We had an early night that night because we had a date with the bottom of the gorge the next morning. Yes, we were going white-water rafting. Unfortunately there are no photos of this particular activity because we didn’t want to cough up a few grand for a water-proof camera case. We were collected early in the morning and corralled into a large truck. We headed to the start point of the whole day’s rafting trip. Thanks to all the rain, getting down into the actual gorge was tricky! The ‘path’ we followed had been turned into the ephemeral stream it actually was. It was so stunning. Pools of water in between the rocks, mini-waterfalls, thick green vegetation-so beautiful. When we got to the bottom we were given a quick briefing (“yes, there are crocs in the river-they’re small and probably won’t bite you”…”if you fall out the boat, try hang onto your paddle; they’re expensive”…”Try not to get sucked into a whirlpool…don’t worry, there aren’t very many”) while the crew pumped up the boats-by hand. No electric powered pumps at the bottom of the Zambezi Gorge! Once the boats were pumped, we were split into groups. The less adventurous people on certain boats, the more adventurous (i.e. us) on others. There were 10 people to a boat, with 1 river-guide working the rudder and shouting instructions. We had a crash course in how to steer in a section of backwater. “RIGHT!” Means everyone on the right paddles forward, everyone on the back, paddles backwards and you turn genteelly in a circle. Ditto for “LEFT!”. “BAIL” did not mean throw water out the boat (they are ‘wet’ boats) it meant you could jump out the boat if you wanted to. Got all that? Good because now we’re paddling out into the current and there’s the first rapid about 50m away and it’s suddenly looking a lot bigger than it did a scant 5 minutes ago!
Long story short, the rafting was amazing. Seriously, of all the things we did I think that was the most fun and the thing I most want to do again. The was a long flat-ish section where we all jumped out the boat and drifted along next to it-so awesome! Yes we saw one or two baby crocs but eh, you can’t let the small things get to you! We stopped for lunch about halfway along our route. There was a beautiful sandy beach, full on lunch (cold meats salads, sandwiches and all sorts). The perfect spot of liberal re-application of suncream! We did a few more rapids afterwards; our guide declined to make the boat flip, no matter how much we begged him-although we did get bumped sideways by a stray wave and half the people bounced into the boat, and half out the boat…me included. It was fun!
However, be warned, the trek out of the gorge again is definitely NOT for the unfit. You climb more than 150m more or less straight up vertically, yet move horizontally forwards less than 200m. Yeah it’s tough. Thank heavens there was beer at the top!
We got home that afternoon, totally exhausted and relaxed with the family friends. One more quick trip to the Safari Lodge for sundowners and I’m glad we went! Because on the way back, we saw this little guy. Just chilling, in the road:
J didn’t get as close as this photo suggests! And he wasn’t all that big, maybe 1.5m? Sweet!
The next morning we packed up our kit and prepared drive on to the next stop on our route. Nata in Botswana….