As my time travelling to random places on a regular basis is over (new job), I thought I’d try and put together some more random thoughts on places I’ve been to over the past couple of years.
One such place was Zimbabwe. Not exactly the number one tourist destination in the world, granted, but altogether a much nicer place than the press make out. I stayed a few days in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe and aside from the fact the churches seemed to be the most modern buildings I can’t really find anything negative to say about the place. The people were all friendly, the hotel I stayed in, the Crowne Plaza Monomatapa was fine. As a caveat I did ask quite a few of the people I met about their views on President Mugabe. I was told by many they respected him and loved him for bringing independence to the nation, though on my final trip to the airport I was told by a taxi driver that people who criticise Mugabe are routinely arrested so they would say that!
As an aside to the story (which I’m getting to) I did stay a day extra in Harare then intended. Somewhat inebriated, I glanced at my ticket for the flight from Harare to Victoria falls, only 2.5 hours away and saw ‘1205’. Thinking I could have a bit of a lie in I set my alarm for 8:30, only to find out after breakfast that the flight’s arrival time was 1205, departure was 0935! A short trip to the Air Zimbabwe office later and I was booked on the next available flight, the next morning. This faux pas would mean I only had one night near the falls, but I figured I’d have enough time to see the place.
Arriving in Victoria Falls the next day, I was picked up from the airport by a shuttle bus and taken to my hotel, the Kingdom Hotel. The taxi driver attempted to sell some of the tours for the evening, however all I wanted to do was have a shower so I grabbed a leaflet and went into the hotel.
What can I say about the Kingdom Hotel – great place, decent room, very tranquil considering it was one of the nearest hotels to the falls (only a 5 min walk down the path at the back). There was a nice pool, with a lake and streams, a great reasonably priced bar and very good food. But the sign below kinda put me off hanging around outside too much!
So to the falls itself. It’s big, wet and noisy. As most big waterfalls are. I guess. I haven’t been to that many though I have been to Niagara falls. Niagara Falls is an immense spectacle as you stand from the cliffs* and look on at the water cascading down before you. The major difference with Victoria Falls is that you are much nearer the action! The falls seem very close as you stand on the other side, getting drenched by the spray and condensation around you. It’s pretty loud too, you could hear it
As I said above, it is pretty large. To save you thinking too much about how big it is, Wikipedia says “While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, it is claimed to be the largest. This claim is based on a width of 1,708 metres (5,604 ft) and height of 108 metres (354 ft), forming the largest sheet of falling water in the world. The falls’ maximum flow rate compares well with that of other major waterfalls”.
As you can see from the every trustworthy Wikipedia the falls are over a mile across. You can walk along the opposite side of the gorge looking down 100 or so metres at the falls doing it’s stuff. One of the best bits about this was that my trip, in November was at a time when there weren’t many tourists around. I was able to go up at one end of the falls and sit down reading my book, enjoying the atmosphere for a couple of hours with hardly anyone going past. An enjoyable afternoon that I can’t recommend to you because of what I nearly stepped on – a bloody cobra! It was quite big. Stunned, I stared at it, not wanting to move. I then slowly edged away from it. Two guys were coming up the path towards where the snake was. I called out a warning, saying there’s a snake. They got out their cameras and walked right up to it! Seeing this I went behind them and took a picture myself, then hurried away!
Victoria Falls is spectacular, but I also enjoyed the cruise along the Zambezi river I took in the evening, encountering hippos, crocodiles, African men beating drums (in a cheesy, pretending to be tribesmen to get money off tourists way) and various birds (of the avian variety). Quality stuff.
*not sure this is the right term, I’m no good at geography.