After our two Namibian camping trips, it was time to shift locations – halfway across the continent to Victoria Falls.
From Windhoek we took an overnight bus to Livingstone in Zambia, along the Caprivi Strip, a narrow corridor of Namibian territory to the east of the rest of the country. The scheduled journey time was 21 hours, but in fact it took more than 22 hours to reach our destination, including 1½ hours at the border crossing from Namibia to Zambia.
The Zambian side
Victoria Falls is on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Our first two nights in the area were spent in the town of Livingstone, a few miles from the falls. We stayed in a simple and basic guesthouse, with very friendly and helpful staff, close to the town centre.
We had a full day to visit the Mosi-oa-Tunya (Smoke that Thunders) National Park. Victoria Falls comprises several different waterfalls, and the guidebooks recommend visiting at the end of the dry season (August-October); in the wet season there is so much water and steam that you cannot distinguish the individual falls, or even get close enough to take photos without being drenched.
We were nevertheless rather disappointed to find that some falls visible from the Zambia side had relatively little water. But we could look along towards the Main Falls opposite Zimbabwe and get some spectacular views of the gorge which winds below. We walked down to the riverside at the so-called Boiling Pot, where the Zambezi flows through the narrowest part of the gorge. From here you get great views of the Victoria Falls Bridge, and can watch the bungee jumpers flinging themselves into space. On the way back up we encountered several baboons, including mothers with small babies.
The Zimbabwean side
We were transferred across the impressive Victoria Falls Bridge to the Zimbabwean side, and checked in to the Victoria Falls Hotel, a grandiose and over-priced relic of the empire. We decided to splurge because we understood it to be the only hotel within walking distance of the falls, but discovered this was not the case. We found another, nicer and cheaper, nearby hotel to have drinks and an evening meal.
We also booked an evening ‘sundowner’ cruise on the Zambezi river, with snacks and unlimited drinks included. Our boat had 13 passengers, including an American couple and several Australians. It transpired that the Americans and one Aussie couple were on honeymoon, so there were more drinks to celebrate. We then started talking about how long the rest of us had been married. And as the sun set and the alcohol kicked in each couple began to tell stories of their weddings, including the more disastrous elements.
The next day, we went to see the falls from the Zimbabwean side; the sights (of several waterfalls, from 16 different viewpoints) were much more impressive than those we’d seen in Zambia. The water going over the falls turns some of the vegetation by the gorge into a virtual ‘rain forest’. We could watch thrill-seekers on the other side leaping and swimming into pools right on the brink of the cataract. Late in the afternoon, from the west end of the gorge, we could see a rainbow in the spray which arched over the falls, making an excellent photographic subject.
In the evening we went to a buffet dinner which included an African dance show, with some men dressed in amazing costumes. The next day we were off again, heading for Botswana.