This (Sunday) morning, I ate breakfast at the hotel bar and made reservations for my activities here in Victoria Falls. There were so many choices–everything from helicopter rides over the Falls to cage diving with crocodiles in the Zambezi River. I settled on whitewater rafting, swimming in Devil’s Pool, a sunset cruise, the gorge swing, bungee jumping from the bridge, and a day trip to Chobe game park in Botswana. No diving with crocodiles for me! The only hitch in the process was that the hotel mistakenly charged my credit card twice, thinking it was declined. When I called my credit card company on Skype, they verified that the charge had gone through–twice. I’m still waiting to see if the hotel was able to reverse the second charge.
After breakfast, I finished grading term assignments and then prepared for the day. Camera batteries loaded, GoPro set, sunscreen on, water bottle filled, and money prepared.
One note of interest that most people probably already knew, but that surprised me, is that Zimbabwe uses USD. For most American tourists, this is probably a relief, but for someone who has been living in Tanzania, it is not. In Tanzania, USD is not accepted anywhere, and even money exchange bureaus will only accept $20-$100 bills, from 2007 and newer. As a result, I only have a few $100 bills in my possession, which I save for traveling–as most customs/immigration offices only accept USD, and even Tanzania’s national parks prefer USD (of their specifications of course) when paying park fees. That being said, it felt very odd to withdraw USD from the ATM, and even more strange to see small bills.
I handed my key into the hotel reception and set out down the road. After asking directions twice, I arrived at the edge of the national park and rainforest that runs alongside the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls. Just outside of the park, I rented a raincoat / poncho for $3, and got a $2 bill in change for my $5. Back in the U.S., $2 are collector’s items! I then paid $20 (being a Tanzanian resident saved me $10!) to enter the park, and proceeded down the rough stone path towards the Falls. The path was quite slippery and already, still at a good distance from the falls, I was getting wet from their mist.
It’s no wonder that Victoria Falls is one of the seven wonders of the world–it is absolutely breathtaking! When I arrived at the first look point, Devil’s Cataract, that alone was amazing. I was unable to see further down the gorge due to the mist, but that one part of the falls alone was worth the journey. Incredibly, it just keeps on going–water crashing down hundreds of feet–for nearly a kilometer. Amazing. I took photo after photo, attempting to protect my camera with my borrowed rain jacket and thankful for my phone’s LifeProof case. I’m already thinking that I need to see if they allow admission to the park early in the morning to attempt some sunrise photos over the Falls. [Update: visitors are not allowed in the park before 6 a.m., which is after sunrise, so that idea is out.]
On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at a local shop to buy some earrings to continue my country collection, but was disappointed that most of the earrings closely resembled what I already own from my time in Tanzania. I settled on some dangly white beaded earrings, and then proceeded to the grocery store to gather my foodstuffs for the week. Though last night’s curry was delicious, spending $20 every evening for dinner isn’t in my budget. So for $17.58 I purchased a loaf of wheat bread, peanut butter, an oatmeal muffin, a small carton of chocolate milk, two bananas, three apples, a small package of peanut M&Ms (I just had to–they were less than half the price I can get them for in Dar es Salaam!), a large bottle of water, super glue (to fix my sunglasses and sandals), napkins, and a butter knife. Not bad for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the next five days. I ate my lunch in my room, used the hotel wifi to upload a few pictures to Instagram, and changed into my bathing suit for this afternoon’s excursion.
Right now, I’m staring out at the Zambezi river. Just to my left, mist rises like smoke over the gorge. Across the river, an enormous hippo is wading through the grass and snorting (or whatever noise that is that hippos make). Behind me, tourists sunbathe beside a beautiful resort pool. I’m sipping Sprite from a cold glass and lounge at a luxury resort waiting for my turn to visit Devil’s Pool, a small eddy just at the edge of Victoria Falls. Crazy. This resort is pretty crazy in and of itself. As I drove in, impalas were grazing off to the side and two giraffes were standing on the edge of the pavement munching from the trees, completely undisturbed by the passing vehicles. I don’t even want to know how much it costs to stay here, but it offers a beautiful view of the Zambezi and seems quite elegant. It certainly attracts a different crowd than my $10/night lodging where backpackers and kayakers have their equipment lying out in the grass in front of their rooms to dry.
Continued after the trip to Livingstone Island:
Livingstone Island was beautiful, but I have just one question: how did Livingstone get there? For those who don’t know, Livingstone Island is situated right at the edge of the Falls, between Zambia and Zimbabwe. We took a well-powered boat, but in a dugout canoe, there’s no way I’d be venturing towards a ridiculously long drop to certain death. On the island, we took pictures of both sides, then swam in Devil’s Pool. Devil’s Pool is a small pool formed by an eddy on the edge of part of the falls. You jump into about 2.5 meters of water, swim two meters over to the edge, where a submerged rock ledge less than a foot wide is the only thing between you and that ridiculously long drop to certain death. I had my GoPro, so there will be video proof, eventually. Oh yes, and to get to and from Devil’s Pool, we swam across about 30 feet of the Zambezi River, less than 30 feet above the falls. Very cool. I would have felt like an adventurer except for the guides leading us across, and the other tourists. After swimming, we were treated to snacks and a drink, and I enjoyed meeting my fellow swimmers, travelers from South Africa, New Zealand, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Mexico, and Canada. I also got to sign my name in the guestbook (which was huge and leather and very cool), so I wrote, “Abigail Snyder, U.S.A. via Tanzania, #lifeontheedge.”
On my walk back to Adventure Lodge, I saw baboons eating out of the trash cans at the Zimbabwe Customs office, warthogs on the side of the road, and a family of baboons calmly walking down the railroad tracks. Tomorrow, I’m off to Botswana for a day trip to Chobe game park, where I will have the chance to see animals all along the Zambezi River, and get another stamp in my passport! Have I mentioned I will need to have pages added to my passport after this trip?