3 flights (18 hours in air) and 30 hours of travel later, we arrived in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Not much sleep was to be had on either of our two red-eyes. In addition neither of us had a good chance to decompress after working down to the minute before we left for the airport. The chaos of the visitors visa situation at the airport was overwhelming to say the least. After much confusion, we walked away with a multiple entry visa – for $50 USD per person, which was $25 USD less than Mom, Kirsten and Sietse paid for the same visa.
We checked in to the very comfortable Rainbow Victoria Falls Hotel and sorted out a sunset cruise on the Zambezi to keep us awake until dark. Many species of birds (including the beautiful bee-eater), a baby crocodile and several hippos made an appearance and we enjoyed the beautiful setting sun while watching baby hippos play in the water.
After a solid night’s sleep we were ready to seize our vacation. We met up with our tour group to review the basics for departure the next day and decided to spend our free day self guided and walked to Victoria Falls National Park. After some sticker shock on entrance fees ($30 USD/person), we entered the park, walked a few hundred metres and were astounded by Devils Cataract, the beginning of the falls walkway. The park is beautiful and every couple hundred metres there is a new lookout with a completely different perspective of the falls. We chose not to wear our rain jackets because it was warm but we were grateful for our quick dry clothes – half way through the park, one is as drenched as though caught in a rainstorm for half an hour.
Meat and maize are major staples here (maize is known as sadza in Zimbabwe, pap in South Africa, ugali in Botswana, grits in the US and polenta in Italy). Gluten free is actually a known term and I have therefore enjoyed much of the local fare.
I haven’t felt as..uncomfortable with my privilege since my first visit to Cambodia ten years ago. Zimbabwe is a country currently making news headlines with its protests and raging inflation. We saw no prices set in local currency – it is all in USD. Restaurant prices are high and it wasn’t until we walked into a local grocery store to buy coffee for our Aeropress that we had a true understanding. Basic coffee is $29 USD/lb, we’ve been told there is a shortage of bread and maize. Prices of items on shelves shocked – often 3-4 times what we pay at home. Walking down the street invites entrepreneurial folk to walk along side attempting to sell whatever piece of art is on offer. As you continue to politely decline, their desperation grows and the barter goes from the $5-10 USD originally asked to wanting to exchange for whatever you may have. Kirsten was asked to exchange her beat up water bottle, Tony his shoes. Next the ask is for whatever food you may have. Tony’s visible tattoos also invited the shadier ones to drop their voices to attempt to sell drugs, voicing surprise upon refusal. Zimbabwe is not known for its environment and wildlife stewardship so I was unwilling to purchase anything of unknown origins. Not to mention we pack too lightly to fit any extra goods.
Tuesday morning, with an early start, we left with our tour on “Bowie” the safari vehicle. All tour vehicles in Nomad Africa Adventure tours are named for deceased singers. Shadwell (Shady) and Tembi (Mama) our guides and cook looking after us. Our family of 5 makes up a large portion of the group of 14 and the only Canadians (plus one Dutchman) on the truck. We are joined by a young couple from Sweden, a couple from Brazil, an older couple from Denmark, two young South Korean women and a young British fellow travelling on his own.