27th Apr 2013 - 29th Apr 2013 - Namibia & Botswana
Kasane and Victoria Falls
We were fast approaching the end of our trip and this was to be our last full day in Botswana. In fact at one point during the morning’s drive we went past a signpost stating Namibia to the left, Zambia straight on and Zimbabwe to the right. Yes, the North West part of Botswana has multiple border crossings with many different countries! Our last night in the country was to be spent in Kasane, gateway to the Chobe river where we were to do a sunset cruise. The river is home to lots of animals, including a large number of hippos in the water, many families of elephants both in the water and on the banks as well as crocodiles, buffalo, snakes and impala. Out on the water for 3 hours gave us an opportunity to get up close to many of these creatures and add to the ever growing number of videos I possess of elephants doing nothing. Seriously, they do nothing!
The next morning, as it was our final morning camping, Melissa and I decided, for a laugh, to get up earlier than usual in order to be sat waiting for breakfast by the time everyone else got up. That didn’t work so well as we were still beaten by 3 tents – seriously what is wrong with these people that they get up SO early?! We were leaving Botswana and heading into country number 4 which, despite being the penultimate day, was not our final country! Unfortunately, visas are required for Zimbabwe and so we spent a good hour hanging round at immigration whilst they processed them all. The nearby border town is Victoria Falls, named after the waterfalls of the same name, which we visited that afternoon. The local name of the Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya which translates to “The smoke that thunders” which, as we were there just after rainy season, was quite apt. The spray rising from the Falls could be seen very clearly from quite a distance away and the noise of more than 1,100 cubic metres of water plunging over the 107m drop every second was deafening. The Falls stretch for 1,737m down the Zambezi river, which itself represents the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, through the Zambezi gorge. When compared to the other great waterfalls of the world, Niagara and Iguassu, they are the highest, second longest but with the smallest average volume. However, they are the only ones to be named as one of the new seven Natural Wonders of the World. David Livingstone was the first European to set eyes on the Falls and he named them after then Queen, Victoria. So revered is Livingstone in these parts that the border town on the Zambian side is named after him.
Our first sight of the Falls was from the viewpoints at the Western end of the gorge, just beyond a statue of Dr Livingstone. Even from the first fall, Devil’s Cataract, we could see the power with which the water was gushing downwards. As we walked along the footpath towards the Victoria Falls Bridge, we got gradually wetter and wetter as the spray from the Falls got heavier. By halfway down the path, we were totally drenched. Imagine a torrential rain storm in November when you get soaked through to your underwear and you’re halfway to imagining the state we were in! Luckily the very makeshift waterproofing we’d done on the rucksack held pretty well and cameras were kept in raincoat pockets for as long as possible. At the end of the footpath we reached the Victoria Falls Bridge which is both no man’s land between the Zimbabwean and Zambian border posts and also the spot from which to take part in one of many adrenaline sports on offer. Anyone for a bungee jump under African health and safety rules? Thought not!
When we’d finished at the Falls, we decided to take a visit to the rather famous Victoria Falls Hotel. This is the oldest hotel in the whole of Zimbabwe and has accommodated members of the Royal family including King George VI in April 1947. It was also a stop off point for the BOAC service between Southampton and Johannesburg back in the days when that trip required 5 stops! The Hotel still gives an air of sophistication and elegance and the view from the lawns stretches down to the gorge complete with views of the Bridge. Occasionally, there is even a wayward animal such as a warthog strolling through the grounds. Luckily, because it was so hot we had dried out sufficiently that when we arrived at the Hotel they didn’t throw us out for being the underclass. Instead, they welcomed us onto their back patio, gave us a table and proceeded to serve us afternoon tea. In true English style, we had sandwiches scones with jam and cream and mini cakes. There were even strawberries dipped in chocolate decorated as tuxedos! Between 5 of us, we managed to get through 3 trays and it was all rather civilised and a lovely way to spend not only a Sunday but also our last day on tour and Melissa and my last full day of holiday.
As it was our last day on tour, the whole group went out for dinner to a restaurant that was complete with Zulu dancing entertainment. Despite afternoon tea, we still found room for dinner and tucked into a dish of warthog which was delicious. The next morning, after a full English breakfast, Melissa and I went for a short walk around town before an emotional goodbye to all the new friends we’d made and headed for the border. We crossed the Bridge and entered our 5th and final country of the holiday – Zambia. Although it was a very fleeting visit as we were heading straight to Livingstone airport in order to fly home. With Melissa going to Cape Town and me to London we had to say goodbye to each other in the airport with a celebratory beer – well we had to try out the local brew in the few hours we had in the country! Flying out of Livingstone, the plane went over the Falls and the view from above was quite amazing. The river just appeared to disappear down a big crack in the earth. I had a 5 hour layover in Jo’Burg before flying back to London and straight to work from Heathrow!