November 30, 1999
Victoria Falls is Zimbabwes tourist town full of backpackers and sightseers. This is the off-season so it isnt too congested, and in fact, all the backpackers in the bars and the campsites kind of set me off on a nostalgia trip. (The backpackers seem awfully young these days, though ) Vic Falls is lower in altitude than most of the rest of the country (about 800 meters, 2900 feet). It seem like the rainy season hasnt really started yet here. At any rate, it is righteous hot in the sun! I acquire quite a burn on my right arm while driving, since that arm isnt accustomed to hanging out the window and isnt nearly as accustomed to sun as my left one.
It would be more impressive at the end of the rainy season because there would be much more water falling, but people tell us that then there is so much spray and mist that you have to wear raincoats and you cant see nearly as well. The walkway winds alongside the falls and through a rainforest with frequent viewpoints so that one can see the falls from many angles. Little rainbows arch into the mist and the pathway is often dotted by small, three inch, fiery red balls of flowers about ten inches high which look ever so much like natures version of the patio lanterns we decorate our yards with at home. The small rainforest is draped with vines and I would not be surprised if Tarzan materialized in front of my eyes.
During the dry season, most of the water is
pouring over at the far left end of the gorge
The Devil's Cataract, near the left
end of the gorge
|During the rainy season, the
water would be pouring over the entire length
of the gorge. It would be spectacular!
The river runs out at the far right end of the gorge.
Just below the falls we see people starting out on white-water rafting trips down the gorge and tiny figures can be seen in kayaks and on boogie boards in the water. We watch several people bungee-jumping off the bridge that crosses over to Zambia! Just watching sets your pulse to pounding god knows what it would be like to do it. Apparently, the guy who pushes you off the edge says: If the bungee breaks, dont worry. You will fall into the river and you just swim to shore. But remember to swim to the right bank. If you swim to the left bank, you will need a visa! There are apparently very few rules on the Zambian side of the river. People are swimming in a pool right at the edge of the falls.
|Victoria Falls bridge over the Zambezi Gorge||The iconic Victoria Falls station|
Because of serious inflation in the Zimbabwean economy, the exchange rate for us is excellent as far as currency goes and the holiday is really cheap in terms of food and accommodation! We brought US$ Travelers Cheques and have averaged between 36 and 39 Zim dollars for each US dollar. Unfortunately, the highest denomination is a Z$100 bill so every time we cash a cheque we need a wheelbarrow to carry the bills!
They paperclip them together in bundles of ten, which we refer to as wads, as in: The hotel room cost two wads! Our cousins think we are being unnecessarily irreverent by referring to their currency this way. They are being good sports about it, though.
We also walk through the craft village, but there is so much stuff you cant take it all in, nor can you begin to choose. Various people approach us on the street, wanting to exchange our money, as foreign currency is very scarce. The general consensus is that the Zim dollar will be devalued again in the near future.
In the evening we enjoy a very popular Zimbabwean tradition: a sundowner cruise on the Zambezi River, above the falls. Free drinks and snacks, hippos, free drinks, crocodiles, more free drinks and more hippos. We meet some people visiting from Botswana and England who really are rich; not just pretending, like us. We get back just as the sun is setting. Another boring day in Africa!!!
When we get home to Harare, everyone wants to hear about our adventures and to ask which part of the country we liked the best. Now there is a challenging question to answer!
DECEMBER 4, 1999
December? It cant be December! The windows are all open, the sun is shining and it is 32C outside.
On the way, we see more of the amazing countryside: lots of tobacco and maize crops, all intensively irrigated, can be found in this area.
Roadside vendors are selling the usual stone and wood carvings and lots of watermelon and mealies. Many are offering bait for fishing because Lake Kariba is a popular sport fishing spot. A roadside sign reads: WEMS FO SEL . We stop for lunch near Chinhoyi and tour the limestone caves. The roof of one of the caves has fallen in creating a huge opening at the top.
The water in the cave is the most incredible sapphire blue!
Once we are beyond the farm country, we see people gathering thatch for roofs. It is stacked in big neat piles for sale along the roadside. It must be brutal work.
|Beautiful Lake Kariba||Kariba Dam|
|Sunset cruise boat||Tamarind Lodge|
|Kapenta fishing boat||Sundowner Cruise boat|
|Hippo on shore in the evening||Dead trees|
There are some rather odd sights, like the tops of old hydro poles, far out in the lake with the lines still hanging from them!
If one were willing to brave the crocodiles, tigerfish and hippos, one would find the remnants of abandoned villages and homes beneath the waters of Kariba.
While the creation of the dam has been enormously beneficial to both Zimbabwe and Zambia economically, we cannot help but wonder about the fate of the wildlife. The numbers listed as being rescued by Operation Noah seem to be pathetically small. The original Valley Batonka tribe didnt fare so well either. They were forcibly resettled from their fertile lands along both sides of the river, to dry sandy areas above the escarpment. Still, the dam and the lake are an amazing accomplishment and certainly, it is one of the beautiful places on earth. We watch the African sun drop into the water just as our cruise ends. We think our sailboat might like it here.
On the other hand, sailing in the same waters as hippos and crocodiles has a somewhat limited appeal.
|The Kariba Dam||Operation Noah|