As we crossed over into Zimbabwe from Zambia, I was not too sure what to expect as most of what I had heard was negative. However, I chose to sidestep the stereotype and the negative narrative and decided to “explore” and define my own narrative. One of my main driving forces was that I wanted to see the majestic Victoria Falls locally known as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” that means the “The Smoke that Thunders” from the Zimbabwe side. While viewing them from the Zambia side, all the “smoke”, seemed to be in Zimbabwe and thus I opted to venture into Victoria Falls town that is home to the falls and is the border town. Sure enough, in December 2016, Victoria Falls was showing off more on the Zimbabwe side than the Zambia side and I am happy I opted to venture there. Zimbabwe thereafter chose to unravel more of its beauty to me and I am happy I never listened to the “naysayers”. Below are snippets of what I experienced in Victoria Falls Town.
1.Entry into Zimbabwe
The border town of Zambia and Zimbabwe is known as Victoria Falls town. We opted to walk all the way from the Zambian border post into Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe. The walk took us about 40 minutes and it allowed us to enjoy the sights and scenery enroute. At the bridge that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe, adrenaline junkies get to appease themselves with various activities like bungee jumping and rafting while others like myself held our breaths and enjoyed the view.
As we watched people get their harnesses ready for the bungee jump, saw them psychologically prep themselves, saw them walk to the edge ready for the jump and heard the instructors share final words of wisdom, I held my breath and said a prayer for them. As they stood on the edge of the gate, as they stretched out their hands and finally jumped off, my heart would skip a beat. Watching people jump live is nothing like watching it on tv, all the hairs on my body stood at alert. Watching the bungee rope start to straighten after the jump, watching the jumper seem like he would bash his head, watching the rope go taunt as the jumper is left suspended and then having them flung back into midair at high speed will leave you speechless. Thereafter, they would yow yow for a bit, swing from side to side and eventually remain still and suspended upside down, it is a spectacle I tell you.
Watching a lone rafter below was also both scary and exciting. Watching him navigate the waters, trying to avoid the sneaky rocks and thereafter actually flip over had me on the edge. For a few seconds we held our breath, unsure of his status. After a few seconds however, we saw some movement, he managed to flip the raft and steadily continued his journey. At this point we were cheering him on, to which he acknowledged with a wave. That indeed was fascinating to watch.
2. Victoria Falls
Fact, the main if not only reason we ventured into Zimbabwe was to see the majestic Victoria Falls, locally referred to in the Kololo language as “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, which means the “Smoke that thunders.” The falls are reputed as the World’s largest waterfall due to having a combined width of 1708 m and the longest sheet of falling water due to its height of 108m. We had sampled the Zambian version of the falls and had been disappointed as it had very low water levels and thus no ” water falls” or “thunder”. Here, we accessed it through the Mosi-os-Tunya National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We were however pleasantly surprised and mystified to find the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, offering us the “Smoke that thunders.”
Before us, were several “falls” all gushing over into the Batoko Gorge. As we watched, the water on the Zambezi river above slowly flowed towards the edge. The water was not rushing, the water was not gushing but instead gracefully flowing towards the edge.
Once at the edge, everything changed. The water seemed to fall victim to the high gravitational pull created by the 108 meter dive. The water would gush out fast, the water now seeming as if at war with itself and struck the Batoko Gorge below with a mighty force. Some water would then splash back upwards, splashing everything and everyone around it. As this happened, I came to understand why it is referred to as the “Smoke that thunders”. The noise around us felt like thunder, the sheets of water before us thick and the mist that splashed back seeming like thick white smoke
The falls do not happen at just one location, but stretch for a combined width of 1708m. On this day, it was showing off and as the sun shone on it, beautiful rings of rainbow encircled it, like a halo. I assure you, this sight is magical, a true wonder and indeed A Must see for everyone. We visited in December and discovered this is when the waters are low due to short rains or drought and thus we didnt see them in all their glory. To see them at their peak, consult the best recommended months to visit.
3. Interaction with the locals:
This a small town that seems more like a boutique town. It is well organized with some buildings actually having a similar colour scheme.They are indeed a tourist town evidenced by the numerous restaurants, hotels, backpackers and tourist attractions. We had the chance to watch traditional entertainment, interact with locals, see great art and learn some Ndebele at one of their hotspots called shoe strings. While here, lots of people spoke to us about a town called Bulawayo and we thus decided to expand our Zimbabwe visit into Bulawayo
4. Train ride to Bulawayo:
We opted to use a train from Victoria Falls Town to Bulawayo as it was not only time efficient as we would ride through the night, but it seemed an interesting option. The train itself looked like a well maintained relic. It was well painted and looked to be in great condition. On the inside, it was very clean, our first class compartment was spacious, the beds in great condition, the beddings offered clean and I liked the sink in it. Truly, this was a well refurbished old train that we later came to learn had been in use for over 60years. Traversing through the various towns, seeing the varying landscapes as well as making friends on the train makes this ride highly recommended.
It would be a sham if I did not mention the current financial situation noting how the news focuses on this. First up, the official currencies used are the USD and the Zimbabwe Bond Notes. The Zimbabwe bond note is only acceptable in Zimbabwe and is pegged at 1:1 to the USD. I was surprised that I could actually withdraw US dollars from most of their ATMs with ease. I did not see people fighting or squabbling for money on the roads or at the ATMs as I had previously been made to anticipate.
Zimbabwe is truly a case of don’t judge a book by its cover. I advise you all to actually open the book and read it, slowly turn the pages and you will wonder why it is not a best seller. Ignore the title it has been given, ignore the preface, ignore the background review notes and make your own factual review after reading/experiencing it. I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by how I could hardly put down the book, I didn’t want my visit to end, I didn’t want my experience to end, I wanted more of Zimbabwe. Thank you Zimbabwe for showing me that we should never follow the trends, we shouldn’t always listen to the common narrative. Exploring you was such an honour from the Victoria Falls, to the train ride to the amazing experience in the other towns as shared below.
For more on the Zimbabwe exploration, move over to:
Fascinating Bulawayo: http://wangechigitahitravels.com/bulawayo/
Historical Great Zimbabwe: http://wangechigitahitravels.com/historical-great-zimbabwe/
Zimbabawe 101: http://wangechigitahitravels.com/zimbabwe-101/