Adventures in Africa

Chapter 12 - Heavenly Zimbabwe I - Victoria Falls

Today we leave Zambia in favor of Zimbabwe. While crossing the bridge over the Zambezi river, a small boy approaches us, pointing to a flavored ice block and tells us without blinking his eyes "only 500 kwacha" (Kwacha is the Zambian currency. 1US$=2000 kwacha). We start to argue about the price, and he gives a second price - 2 ice blocks for 500 kwacha. We tell him that we know that the price is 100 kwacha. He says, again without blinking his eyes, but obviously disappointed, "bring bring!", and the deal is done.

In the Zimbabwean border post they refuse to let Tali in. They claim that Tali, who wants to enter with her (only) Israeli passport, should apply for a visa at least a week prior to entrance. Luckily we find the clerk of yesterday, who admits that he gave us different information, and like that we manage to pass through!!!

Arriving to Victoria Falls town, on the Zimbabwean side of the falls we rent a private cottage consisting of two 3 beds bedrooms after being told that we will be the only ones in it. We then go to stroll in town. We try to withdraw money from the automatic teller machine but fail. We will have to change US$ travelers cheques or cash. Somebody in the street offers us a good rate of 30,000Z$ for 100US$. As the official rate is around 21Z$ for 1US$ we accept his offer. Since we are afraid of a fraud, we insist of doing the transaction in the middle of the street (and not in a deserted place where we can be robbed without being able to call for help). We also insist that first we will be given the Zimbabwean dollars and only after counting it, we will give the US$. The money is given and I count 30 bills of 1,000. A second before I give the 100US$ bill, I catch in the corner of my eyes that the bills are not of Zim$ but of Zambian kwachas (which worth all together 1.5US$!). We cancel the deal and the cheater vanishes in the speed of light from our sight. We change some 50$ in the official rate meanwhile. We get other offers as well, not for money change but for "Hot stuff - Hashish".

We get inside a supermarket called "Spar". Wow! ItĂs even better than "Shoprite"!!! We immediately start to buy food like starving people. We buy all kinds of steaks, juices, diary products, and a bottle of "Mukuyu Select" Cabernet-Merlot red dry wine, made by a local winery. Later on, we start to ask about rafting in the Zambezi. Lukas is not sure if he wants to do it at all. After all, rafting in the fast grade V rapids of the Zambezi is against the conservative character of the Swiss people. The prices are quite coordinated amongst the few companies that run the rafting trips. ItĂs around 70US$, and is not flexible. We decide to come back tomorrow morning in order to find a "last moment" deal, and go back to our cottage to cook a nice dinner. The local wine is discovered to be excellent, as well as the steaks. In the middle of the meal somebody nocks on the door. It is a couple, and they want to sleep in the second room... Somebody forgot that the cottage was promised to be all ours... We manage somehow to keep the cottage for ourselves and go to sleep with our bellies full of good food.

"The local wine is discovered to be excellent, as well as the steaks."

Next morning I pass by the foreign currency rates board and discover that the rate was changed from 21 to 23. Almost a 10% devaluation in a day. I'm happy that I changed only 50$ yesterday and decide to pay attention to the exchange rates here. The two rafting companies "A drift" and "Shearwater" are located one in front of the other on the main street of Vic Falls town. We ask for available places in the rafts for reduced prices and after several iterations between the two (saying something like "the other company agrees to 68$, what is your price?) lower the price down to 60US$.

The white girls who go to raft are all in bathing suits, a thing that makes Lukas' hormones go crazy. Lukas' rhythm in rowing the raft is not coordinated to ours, but as he says, "to his heartbeats". Every time our raft passes by another raft with good looking girls, Lukas starts to loose his concentration... The rafting itself is very difficult and vibrant. We fall of the raft several times and once I got stuck under the raft. The problem is that you and the raft move in the same speed. Thus you continue to be under the raft for a long time. What one has to do is to swim vertically to the direction of the flow. As one who was stuck underwater for a long minute I comment about the former sentence - Easier said than done...

The rafting itself is very difficult and vibrant. Top left is Lukas, Bottom left is me, a second before I fell out of the raft.

After finishing the exciting rafting we have to climb from the riverbank to the road, a long 100 meters of vertical difference under the strong African sun. At least on the middle of our way up, somebody left a container of cold refreshing water. Up on the road a BBQ buffet was served. We talk with a Dutch couple and hear from them that Hwange National Park is a worthwhile experience. We tell them about the disappointment we had in Ngorongoro but they think that Hwange is good even for somebody who has been to the Masai Mara.

We still hesitate whether to go to Hwange, so next day we go to Victoria Falls park instead. Even though we have already visited the Zambian park, we understand that the Zimbabwean side still deserves a tour. In our guidebook they write: "Victoria Falls town was built on tourism and has now developed into an archetypal tourist trap. Although it's still a long way from the Ripley's-Believe-it-or-Not and wax museum scene of CanadaĂs Niagara Falls, the kitsch curio shops, traditional dance shows, reptile parks, adrenaline sports, muzak marimba revues, buzzing and low-flying aircraft and zebra-striped tour buses all nurture the carnivalesque tourist jungle that has sprouted and taken root here. Fortunately, the star attraction - Victoria Falls itself - is safely cordoned off by a real jungle of its own creation. To walk along the paths through the spray-generated rainforests that flank the gorge, youĂd never suspect the existence of anything other than the monumental waterfall that's giving you a good soaking." They add: "Whilst walking through the rainforests, note the profusion of unusual species growing in this unique little enclave - ebony, ferns, fig trees and a variety of lianas and flowering plants. Also, watch for the bush-bucks which may be seen browsing right up the lip of the gorge".

A bushbuck.

A mongoose.

In the park gates we discover that the entrance fees have been tripled in the last year, and they are now 10US$. Lukas and I hesitate whether it is worth it, and Tali wants to get inside, so we send her in order to decide. Ten minutes later Tali returns all excited - she has seen many mongooses and several bush bucks, and says that only for what she has seen, it is worth it. So we all enter the park. Today we all thank Tali for her recommendation...

A family photo in Victoria Falls.

Inside the park we meet some Israelis. We ask them about Hwange, and they tell us to go for it. And so we do. We go to shop around the renting companies (Hertz, Avis and Budget) and discover that Budget is much cheaper. The reason is that once in a year they convert the renting price from US$ to Zim$. Last time they did it the ratio was 17. Today itĂs 25 (10% more than yesterday and 20% more than the day before yesterday!), which means 30% less in US$. In this way renting a car for a 3 days Safari is cheaper for us than going for a one day organized tour in the park (the price of the organized tour is quoted in US$ and hence did not devaluate as the renting fees did).

We agree to leave tomorrow morning and go out to eat Pizzas. The Pizza place doesn't serve beers, so I go out to buy some outside and bring it in. Although the place which sells the beer is located only 100 meters away, I am hassled several times by drug dealers who are more than certain (because of my hair?) that I would like to buy some grass.

Tomorrow we will go to Hwange for a 3 days safari.

Till then, good night!

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Last modified: Sat Jun 19th 19:05:00 IST 1999