Thursday, May 5, 2011

“The Smoke that Thunders”

Daryll writes:

Another one of Dan’s suggestions was to cross from Kasane, Botswana to Zimbabwe instead of going into Zambia as the Falls are better viewed from the Zimbabwe side.  Our timing wasn’t great when we got to the Zimbabwe border and got stuck behind 2 tour groups so waited about an hour before we were allowed to enter.  Entering Namibia and Botswana was plain sailing compared to this one and I expect border crossings to be similar to the ones in Central America from now on.  Canada must charge a hefty fee for Zimbabweans to enter Canada if they were ever granted a visa as we had to pay a hefty US$75 each for a visa to enter.  Once the formalities of paying for our visa and paying for insurance, carbon tax and road tax were completed, we were allowed to ride into Zimbabwe.

Judging by the roads, you automatically knew that you were in a new country.  The roads here were much narrower, no shoulders were present and the tall grass along the roadside ran directly up to where the pavement started.  Some stretches had really good pavement and there was only a small stretch with potholes but the signs warned us of the potholes coming up by signs that indicated “Deadly Hazard Ahead”.  Zimbabwe drivers are definitely on the same level as the drivers in Peru who I still consider to be the worst.  Here the drivers come speeding up behind us, tailgate for an extended period of time, not sure why and when they do eventually pass, don’t realize how wide our bikes are and come extremely close when they want to get back into their lane.  The good thing about Zimbabwe though is the number of speed traps and police that are present.  In a stretch of about 100km, from the border to Victoria Falls, we went through 3 police checkpoints.  We were only stopped once and the officer asked us where we were from and where we were headed and then ushered us through.  They do use their radar gun in and out of little villages when the speed limit drops to 60km/hr.  We haven’t been fined yet, not that we speed though.

After arriving in the little town of Victoria Falls which was primarily developed because for the tourism that the might Zambezi River attracted, we wandered over to a Pizza place.  Even though the camp ground we were at was a few hundred meters away from the Pizza place, we were accompanied by two vendors that first trip to sell us some souvenirs and once they realized that we weren’t going to buy anything, turned their attention to trying to trade for our t-shirts and hiking shoes.  Even though they were a bother, they were pleasant and respectful and friendly all at the same time, so we enjoying talking with them.

The next morning, we took a walk to view the Falls.  We were warned to take our rain jackets with us, but nothing could protect us from the rainstorm that we were to endure.  The morning started off well.  We wandered into the town and met a wonderful Tourist Police Officer who showed us the way to the lookout with a spectacular view of the gorge and the Zambezi that ran between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  As we wandered back to view the main falls, we spotted some elephant tracks and several warthogs.  No elephants in sight though, but lots of poo on the road.

Victoria Falls Gorge
Entry to the Victoria Falls NP was a bit steep at US$30 per person and noticed that it was cheaper for South Africans, which I told the lady I was together with Angela.  She asked to see some ID and I politely said that I didn’t have any on me at the moment and she charged us the lower local rate.  I also used the South African card at Soussesvlei which worked there as well.  As we entered, I could see that the people walking out were drenched.  With all the rain, the Zambezi was at its high and water gushed off the edge of the falls creating a rainstorm that engulfed us as we walked through the park.  It was awesome seeing the power of mother nature at its best and the shear velocity of the water coming off the falls.

Victoria Falls or Mosi-Oa-Tunya which is taken from the Lozi language and means “The Smoke that Thunders” is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World which also include the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis); the Grand Canyon; the Paricutin Volcano; the Harbour of Rio de Janeiro; Mount Everest and the Great Barrier Reef.  All worthy tourist destinations in it’s own right.  Victoria Falls, Niagara Falls and Iguazu Falls in Brazil/Argentina are the 3 of the world’s largest waterfalls in terms of height (Iguazu Falls); width (Victoria Falls) and volume (Niagara Falls).

Photo taken by Dom Giles
Standing in front of one of the might waterfalls in the world gave me goose pimples or it could have been because we were dripping wet by the time we had left the park.  The area is a natural rain forest and during the dry season, one can see the rock formations both on the edge and at the bottom of the canyon.  We got to see a glimpse of the falls and the rest was covered in a cloud of mist.

New photos added to the Zimbabwe photo album.
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  1. Your pictures of Vic falls are amazing! I didn't realize it was one of the 7 wonders. I actually have just this week booked tickets and will be there over Christmas so it was awesome to read about it! Have fun, and be safe - and good luck with Ethiopia.

  2. Hi Colleen, So good to hear from you and glad that you are still following along. Vic Falls will be amazing in Dec as it is the dry season. Where else are you going? We didn't contact your sisters family as we had just joined up with the others that we are with and didn't want to inconvenience them.

  3. Oh, too bad you didn't contact them, I'm sure they still would have been happy to have you!

    The plan was to go in May of 2012, but apparently it would be too wet, so dry season it is! The plan is to fly into Joberg, then off to Victoria falls, followed by a two week safari which covers Zimbabwe, Botswana and some of Namibia. Then back to Vic falls. From there we'll head to Walvis Bay as well as Sossusvlei. It's going to be amazing!

  4. Well, I have seen two of the eight (the Northern Lights [Aurora Borealis]; the Grand Canyon).
    Africa is sounding fab. From the books I have read, it appeared to be more of a nightmare - But I think mainly in western Africa.

    Keep riding and looking forward to more.

  5. Hey Andii,
    It's definitely easier than the way other riders portray it out to be.