Karen's Blog

Let's take a walk through a brand new day.

Part 7: African Adventure 2022

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls, Zambia

Our day began with a leisurely breakfast and a late checkout as we prepared for our flight to Zimbabwe. Our flight left around 4pm and we arrived in Victoria Falls at sunset  Wow! What an introduction to a new country.  A beautiful sunset and a huge airport sign saying “Welcome to Zimbabwe”.  The locals just call it Zim.  The Victoria Airport was quite an introduction to Africa as we passed stuffed lions eating impalas, stuffed leopards and other animals. We were greeted by our driver from Shearwater Village and whisked away from the airport to our first road sign…a red caution sign with a huge elephant in the center. Yes, we were definitely in Africa. LOL!

Our driver shared with us that the elephants are very active at night and that the locals know to drive cautiously so as not to have accidents. It is similar to our signs in the USA showing jumping deer on a caution sign.

We were further instructed that evening as we made our way back from dinner that we should walk back before dark since one never knows if the elephant encounter will be a pleasant one or a struggle for dominance. Goodness, we had a lot of new rules to learn.  We came from Johannesburg and Cape Town where we had to be wary of certain people in certain areas.  Now, we could totally trust the people but had to be wary of elephants!

Our lodging in Victoria Falls was Shearwater Village. Upon getting the welcome talk and a room tour, we headed back to the hotel’s restaurant for a wonderful dinner. We were tired and glad we didn’t have a long walk back after dinner. Our little thatch-roofed room was our first encounter with sleeping under mosquito netting.  This was to be the way of life for the remainder  of our African Adventure.  Spoiler alert: we never encountered a single mosquito in 3 weeks!  We were there in winter so we were blessed. There were other critters in our rooms like spiders, chameleons and snow bunnies but no mosquitoes. Thankfully!  Needless to say, we still slept under our mosquito netting every night of our trip after leaving Cape Town.

The next morning, we arranged a taxi to the Zim side of Victoria Falls National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was everything we dreamed it would be and more. The views just kept on coming as we took picture after picture trying in vain to capture the beauty. Our very first view point after entering the park was a view of the falls with a full rainbow! The park was very well done with signage and brochures establishing what you saw as you viewed each area. The official Zimbabwe name of the park is Mosi-Oa-Tunya, meaning “smoke that thunders”.  David Livingstone discovered Victoria Falls in 1855 and a statue of his likeness is erected in the park in his honor.

After hiking through the park and stopping at every vista point, we hailed a taxi to take us back to Shearwater Village.  The taxis have a blanket price but none of them take the route seriously. Upon entering the taxi, pleasantries are exchanged and then the question is posed: “Do you want to see the largest Baobab Tree in Zimbabwe?  Is it ok if I take you there?”  Of course we said “Yes” as he was so excited to share it with us. The tree was between 1,000 and 1,500 years old with a girth of 18 meters and a height of 23 meters. Next he asked if he could take us on a tour of the little town. We said, “Yes”. So he drove us around pointing out the schools, stores etc. Since he was being so friendly, we asked if he could take us to the famous Victoria Falls Hotel. He said, “Of course”. He even knew someone there who allowed us entry to take pictures and explore the hotel. It was beautiful with extravagant views which led to it being named to the prestigious Leading Hotels of the World. After touring we asked to be taken back to our hotel and he promptly took us back.  We were quite aware that he was looking for a nice tip but we didn’t mind at all because we got a great tour, entry to Victoria Falls Hotel and tour guide commentary all for the inexpensive price of a taxi ride plus a tip. He was the most joyful taxi driver I’ve ever had!

Since we were getting back at sunset this time, we opted to walk out to The River Brewing Company, where we ordered some light sandwiches for dinner. I sampled some local lemonades and David had a flight of the local beers, which he reckoned was somewhat better than the ones he’d tried in South Africa. We had to pay attention on our way back to Shearwater since we finished our dinner after dark. Elephants roam freely here and we had to walk carefully and purposefully as we made our way back to the lodge. Elephants don’t see well so they perceive everything through smell. We wanted to be perceived as friendly so we chatted joyfully all the way back.

After visiting Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side, on the following day, we opted to view them from the Zambia side. It is quite a production to get from one country to the other even though it is only a few feet to get across the border. We could have walked but opted to take a taxi to the Zimbabwe border patrol and  get our passport stamped as we exited. They checked our Kaza Visa which means multiple entries into Zimbabwe as we departed as well. Then we walked to another taxi which took us across the border to the Zambian border patrol. They checked our credentials, stamped our passports and then moved us along.  We exited on the other side of the border patrol and began making our way to the Avani Hotel where we planned to have lunch. We were immediately approached by a friendly older man who insisted on telling us every step of the way that he would take good care of us and get us to the hotel. We obliged him as we knew he was looking for a tip but he was interesting so we let him walk with us even though we knew exactly where we were going. We arrived at the hotel and the guards let us in when we told them we were having lunch there.  I ordered a pizza that was the most awful thing I’ve ever tasted and I promptly gave it away to two teenagers sitting near us just having a beer.  They were happy to have it and I was happy to get rid of it. The good thing about this hotel was the number of zebras just walking around grazing and making the grounds look beautiful. They are not tame but just wander in, graze and wander out.  It was fun to watch and of course I took tons of photos of them.

As we entered the Zambia side of the Victoria Falls, a guide asked if we would like a tour.  We were a little short on time so David answered in the affirmative. The guide could take us to the highlights on the Zambia side and we could get back that evening to meet our tour group for our upcoming safari.  The Zambian side was just as beautiful as the Zimbabwe side and in some places was even more beautiful. We finished our quick tour, tipped our tour guide and was off to find a taxi driver. 

David and I met two ladies the night before who encouraged us to go and visit the Mukuni Village. It is a traditional village where the people still live in thatched roof huts, follow the traditions and customs of their people, yet allow visitors for the price of $5.00 to walk through the village, meet the people, and even enter the Chief’s Palace if permission is granted.  We were granted permission and had a few minutes to sit and take in the idea that this room was where big decisions were made…life and death decisions.  We learned that huts are built round because snakes are abundant in Africa.  The African people know that a snake can curl up in a corner and go unnoticed. But if a snake enters a round building, he is more likely to be noticed with no place to hide. We were allowed to enter a hut and see where the children slept. Yes, their rooms were as messy as many children’s room are with clothes strewn about and beds unmade. We witnessed the people as they went about making dinner and eating, as they practiced for a school play, and as a young girl “coming out” was performing her tribal dance to show that she was a young woman now. 

Nothing about this visit was staged for visitors. There were crying babies, boys playing in the streets, children being disciplined and old men playing a form of mancala under trees using rocks.  It was quite a cultural experience and one I would highly recommend. Their hope is that you will buy goods made by the local people. But, there is zero pressure to buy. 

We made our way back over the border and back to the hotel in Zimbabwe where we would meet our National Geographic Safari group with whom we would spend the next ten days. After our briefing we had the option of going to dinner with the group or attending a “BOMA”.  A BOMA is a large gathering in which wild game and other African foods and drinks are served. It is also a cultural experience where dancers enjoy performing local cultural dances for the audience and teach the audience drumming techniques. The highlight of the evening is two-fold.  The first is encouraging visitors to eat a mopane worm. They are supposed to be an excellent source of sustenance for Zimbabwe people.  If you are brave enough to eat the worm, you are given an official certificate. David ate the worm immediately and received his certificate.  It took me a while longer but I finally decided to try it.  I hated the crunchiness but the taste wasn’t too bad.

After dinner and trying the many different game meats, and other African foods offered, the audience is encouraged to participate in the cultural dances. David was chosen and I must admit that he represented the USA very well as he danced and then encouraged others to join him. If you’d like to see his participation, the video is below.  The evening ended with drumming and a send off. I also took a video of a little girl who found such joy in the drumming lesson. It gave me joy just to watch her. The evening ended and we headed back to the hotel to prepare for our first safari adventure tomorrow and our opportunity to see the Painted Dogs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.