Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vic Falls

Our Lonely Planet guidebook can be a bit over the top with its descriptions: “Victoria Falls is the largest, most beautiful and most majestic waterfall on the planet” and “a Must See Before You Die spot.” It causes one to go in with very high hopes. Also, we’ve seen a lot of waterfalls on this trip. Any faithful blog reader will remember our waterfall tour of South Africa where every single hike led to one. In fact, at this point, we could actually be considered waterfall connoisseurs, meaning we couldn’t miss what was considered to be the best.
Getting from Maun, Botswana to Vic Falls, Zimbabwe was supposed to be very straight forward – just catch two buses and one combi. Of course, it turns out that buses running on the second leg of the journey are always full, so we hitched. This time our ride was in a Botswana Postal truck down a 300 km long road that was still mostly under construction. As we drove along the pothole-filled temporary road the driver tossed copies of the government newspaper out the window for the construction workers. Distributing the rag was part of his job, and he disconcertedly told us that most of the workers just used it for rolling joints. Having read a copy, I would say they were being put to a good use. (This is Anne writing this particular paragraph, and Jeanette takes no responsibility for my comments.) Our last leg, from the border to the town, was with a friendly, talkative taxi driver who took us to meet his children on the way to hostel, just because he was so proud of them.
The next day, we went to see the main event: the largest waterfall on the planet. We had high expectations and were in no way disappointed.  It is difficult to describe how awesome this Natural Wonder of the World is, so instead I will just post a lot of pictures. 
View from the Zimbabwe Side

One of 20 zillion rainbows

See, we were there!

Zambia side

Mist from Boiling Pots

Can you really have enough rainbows?

The ponchos didn't help that much.
There was a lot of water heading down the Zambezi River from flooding in Angola, so the falls had more water going over for this time of year than normal.  So much so that the spray came up from the gorge and down on you as if you were caught in a rainstorm.  Not a mist-storm, but a full on rainstorm.  A woman we met from Zimbabwe said she had been to the falls more than ten times and had never gotten so wet. We didn’t bring rain pants the day we were on the Zimbabwe side, because the Lonely Planet suggested you didn’t need them, and we got utterly drenched. The spray is so powerful that it actually quite limits your views as it is blown sideways by the wind. It felt a bit like being in the Aleutians actually…
Our visit to the falls was definitely enhanced by a fellow traveler and adrenaline junkie from California. After watching him bungee jump off the bridge that connects Zimbabwe and Zambia we wandered through the park that surrounds the Zim side of the falls. His enthusiastic cries of “this is amazing!” were infectious and made the pounding falls even more exciting. The afternoon sun formed rainbows around every corner. No matter where we stood in the mistier sections, it felt like the rainbows ended at our feet. We concluded that we had to visit the Zambia side of the falls together the next day.
On the walk over to Zambia the next morning we took a detour to see the Big Tree, a giant baobab tree with a 20 m circumference.  The kilometer walk back to the town center was like a mini-walking safari of our own – we saw baboons, warthogs, and impala just inches from us. The area was filled with elephant dung as well, though we were lucky enough not to startle any during their breakfasts.
Big Tree
Both sides of the falls were pretty amazing and should not be missed.  The Zimbabwe side offers more panoramic, encompassing views, but the Zambia side gets you right up close to the falls.  It’s tough to decide which is better, but I think for all three of us actually, the Zambia side couldn’t be beat.  We did a hike down the Boiling Point, a giant whirlpool in the gorge, and then over the footbridge to Knife’s Edge where views were stunning when you could see past the spray. This time we were smart enough to rent ponchos, though swimsuits were probably more appropriate. The mist was so thick that the rainbows made actual circles. Standing on Knife’s Edge, bemoaning the fact that we would soon have to leave the park, the three of us made a pact. We’re having a reunion at Vic Falls in 15 years and in the mean time will tour other great falls around the world. (Although, if we don’t get jobs soon, that could mean the Great Falls around our parents basements, if there are any….) Here’s to our new friend Mike and Vic Falls 2026! 

1 comment:

  1. Mike - Adrenaline JunkieJuly 27, 2011 at 10:49 AM

    We'll have to do Niagara Falls and Angel Falls in the meantime. I just got caught up on your travels, as I'm in Arusha and finally have internet. Aside from your travel day from hell, it sounds like you're having an awesome trip! Mine is the same. Likoma Island in Malawi was a highlight - a beautiful room on the beach, getting PADI certified, and lots of relaxing. Then I had a hellish travel day where I had a 12 hour ferry ride from Likoma to Nkhata Bay (I was there this Sunday from around noon to 3:00 PM - I think I just missed you), then a matola ride to Mzuzu, then at midnight a 27 hour bus ride to Dar, followed by a two hour layover, and a 12 hour bus ride to Arusha. I had been planning on stopping in Mbeya, but I just wanted to get it all over in one go and get to Arusha as fast as possible. It turned out to be a nice decision because the hostel here is nice, and I have time to relax and wander around.

    Catch up soon!

    - Mike