Victoria Falls

We are staying at Senyati Safari Camp for 3 nights. The reason being that we wanted to go today to Victoria Falls. Last night during the boat cruise, Janet (a Scot by descendant and ever looking to save a dollar), asked Charles whether his company could transfer us to Vic Falls and he agreed to do it for almost half the price of what the lodge wanted to charge us. So we booked it through him instead. We had to meet him at the jetty in Kasane at 7:30am. You don’t want to take your own car into Zimbabwe and so the transfer is much easier. Charles had arranged for us to drive to the border post (only 10 kms away from Kasane), leave our cars at the border and walk across the border post and then have a Toyota Quantum pick us up on the Zimbabwe side and drive us to Vic Falls.

It was remarkably quick to get through the border as there was no one there at all and so we simply got our passports stamped to exit Botswana and then walked into Zimbabwe, filled in the paperwork and got them stamped in Zimbabwe. Our driver for the day (Alexander) was waiting for us and we all loaded into the Quantum only to discover it only had 13 seats and we were 14 people. Charles just said ‘squash up’ and Michael offered to sit on the floor and the problem was solved. Alex told us it was 75 kms into Victoria Falls and about 45 minutes (though the speed limit was 80 km/h!).

About a minute of driving and there was a police roadblock and I was immediately thinking here comes our first problem with Michael sitting on the floor. A long conversation ensued in Shonga and so we didn’t understand what was said but then we were off again. I asked Alex what the story was and he said that he knew the policeman and he wanted to try to sell us something and he was telling him to get lost!

Just under an hour later we were in Vic Falls and Alex dropped us off at the National Park entrance. It is a $20 entrance fee for SA citizens. We spent about an hour and half in the park looking at the Vic Falls. This is the 3rd time I have seen them and they are impressive. The sound of the water is what strikes me each time I have seen (or should I say ‘heard’) them. You can walk along the edge and get different views of the falls and get wet to varying degrees as well. We had come prepared with ponchos to protect the photographic equipment and it was definitely needed. At stages the mist is so hard it is like hard rain. Even with the poncho my shorts was drenched and my cap was totally wet.

After finishing the viewing of the Falls I was keen for another visit to the iconic Victoria Falls Hotel. Everyone was hungry and so I managed to persuade everyone that we should go to the hotel for at least a drink and those that wanted to eat could. It turned into lunch and I think that while it was very pricey (everything is now US-based in Zim), it was worth the price. It is one of the last bastions of Colonialism. It is a beautiful hotel with a spectacular view of the railway bridge to Zambia and you can see the mist rising from the Falls. It is also very well maintained and the service was still excellent. Many people felt the need to have one of the cocktails (even though it was midday only). Michael had a ‘I presume’, Lara a ‘David Livingstone’ and Stephen a ‘Old Fashioned’. Some of us (like me) just stuck to the ‘cheap’ option of Zambezi beer (which is really nice). Most of us had a toasted sandwich or bruschetta for lunch (and at $15 for a toasted sandwich it was relatively pricey). But I would say the cost is really worth it to enjoy the view sitting on the patio with an amazing view, great service and lovely company. Chloe so enjoyed it she asked whether she could celebrate her 18th birthday at the Victoria Falls Hotel (and I could be persuaded to say yes to that!).

After lunch we went briefly to the local market. Everything is ‘bargainable’ but it is very similar stuff to what you can buy in Cape Town so we didn’t see much point. The one family with us (let’s call them the Bluers) bought to little wooden bowls for $2 each. Most the rest of the vehicle were irritated with the bargaining and the traders trying to solicit your business. Alex asked what else we wanted to do and we said ‘take us to the bottle store’. Not that some of us needed more alcohol after the cocktails (I won’t say who except they were the ones drinking the ‘I presume’ and ‘David Livingstone’ on empty stomachs) but some of us did really enjoy the Zambezi beers and wanted to get some to drink later in the trip. That also gave an opportunity to buy Mazoe Orange (not sure if I spelt that correctly) for one of the many Zimbo’s now living in CT. While we were doing that some of the group walked onto the railway bridge to view the falls and see some crazy people bungee jumping off the bridge.

Alex also did some trading while we in the bottle store.  He traded $ for Pula. I asked him what he was doing and he said the guy wanted to go to Botswana and buy fuel as fuel is almost 50% cheaper in Botswana than it is in Zim.  I couldn’t understand why you would want to a 150 km round trip to save 60c (US $ cents) for  tank of fuel. Alex explained that they bought fuel in bulk (1000 liters). He said the guy he was trading with was a local policeman and did this fuel trading as a ‘side line’. He says they buy the fuel and re-sell it in Zim at about 10c per litre cheaper. They make around 50c per litre and so that is roughly $500 in profit. I said surely you can’t import 1000 litres of fuel without paying frees and he said strictly that is true but no one enforces it and in fact, the guy he was dealing with was a local policeman. He then said “Zim is run by corruption”. A final stop at the large tree (Baobab Tree) and then we were back to the border again (the hours drive back in a hot Quantum with poor airflow).

We were pleased to arrive back the border and after a relatively quick time we were through both Zim and Botswana border posts and back into our cars and back to the lodge. We had a few hours to relax and then organised a communal braai for the whole group for dinner.

Until tomorrow …. P, H, C, S & M

 

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