Day 300: On The Border

Sun. 9th June 2013

Like the days, the water rushes by - at the top of Victoria FallsIt’s not just the days that tick by relentlessly – 300 days seemed to be an awfully long time when we were setting off. Like trying to think about Christmas at the end of February, we just couldn’t do it. But here we are, it’s Day 300 and we are half way through our time in Africa, the last phase of our trip. We have also had the stamps for 24 countries in our passports, today we are going to collect the 25th (Zambia) and after that there are only two countries to go.

Welcome to the 25th country on our tripThis is the only African border crossing that we are going to do independently – one of the attractions of signing up for the Nomad and (soon) the Acacia tours is that there is someone with local knowledge and experience present if we get stuck in bureaucratic mud at an immigration counter. We are prepared as well as we can be – the only virtue of The Kingdom Hotel in Vic Falls is that is the closest hotel to the border post and our hotel for tonight is similarly the closest to the border on the Zambian side.

The tram on the bridge - that would have saved some walking!We did our reconnaissance of the bridge and the Zimbabwe border post yesterday and it looked pretty straightforward. Google Maps says that the distance between the two hotels is 3.8km and whilst this is probably the furthest that we will have walked with backpacks on (even further than Merida – back on Day 30, there’s symmetry!) we are confident that we can manage it. If we can’t there are taxis that run between the two border posts as well as taxis on the Zambian side.

Olly in danger!The walk itself went well, though we were very glad that we had taken all of our “on the bridge” photos yesterday. It is such an impressive sight. I don’t know when you would get tired of looking at it but certainly not in the few days that we have. The biggest hassle was when I foolishly took sympathy on a bici-taxi driver who offered to take us to the Zambian border post. It didn’t save any time, there wasn’t space for me as well as Janet and the two back packs and the driver/rider wasn’t hugely grateful.

A great place to watch the river flow by with the falls in the distanceThe immigration process was easy enough. We know what to put on the forms now and other than costing $50 each and having to wait for 10 minutes while the visas were filled out there was no problem. We had now done the bulk of the walking and the entrance to the complex containing our hotel (Zambezi Sun) and the posher Royal Livingstone was only half a kilometre down the road. Actually, complex is the right word to describe the process of getting from the entrance to the hotel’s reception counter!

I suppose it saves on lawnmowers!It is only a short walk from Zimbabwe but already it feels like we have entered another century as well as another country. There are tourists here for one thing! Even arriving in the late morning there was so much more activity and bustle than we have seen anywhere in Zimbabwe. There are animals here too! We had a bit of a shock when we got into our room and saw zebras grazing on the lawn outside, around the pool and restaurant areas. Later on we saw impalas and a giraffe elsewhere in the grounds (and, of course, the baboons were everywhere).

Getting in to the swing of the Royal Livingstone!Given that the Royal Livingstone is in the same complex and that there is a nature walk in the grounds and along the banks of the Zambezi we had to go out for a stroll to see what we could see – and how the other half lived! The nature walk wasn’t anything special but looking out over the fast flowing river at the clumps of islands and the far bank was impressive. The Royal Livingstone had set up bench seat swings as well as loungers and a river bank terrace bar that all provided some great views.

Looking out at the falls and across the riverView of the falls from the riverbank by the Royal LivingstoneBesides the proximity to the border, our other reason for choosing the Zambezi Sun was that guests have free access into the Mosi-oa-Tunya (smoke that thunders) National Park and hence to the Zambian side of the Falls. Even better, we have the time to visit both this afternoon and tomorrow morning and so we thought that we would wait till late on and see if we could get some photos of the falls at sunset.

Looking back and up at the fallsUnlike on the Zimbabwe side, you can actually get upstream of the falls and then walk along the bank to where the water tumbles over the gorge – with a bit of a scramble (what health and safety?) you can even get right down to the river edge just above the drop. Falling in wouldn’t be a good idea but the view looking out across the lip of the gorge was stunning. Its a very different experience to that which we had in Vic Falls town and we are even more pleased that we’ve had the chance to see the Falls from both sides.

Over the Knife Bridge and into the sprayWe can then walk downstream in a C shape around the rim of the gorge out onto a rocky promontory and the across the ‘Knife Bridge’ out to what is essentially an island on top of the gorge. On one side, we are now facing the Falls looking slightly up at the water rushing over the edge towards us (but a long way from the bottom which is invisible in all of the spray). There are viewpoints set out at intervals along the path that tend to give better views than their counterparts on the Zimbabwe side – certainly they are less obstructed with foliage though the blanket of spray means that we only get glimpses along the length of the Falls. The spray also means that our ponchos are needed at times to avoid another soaking.

Its that bridge again!On the other side of the promontory we can see down the next gorge, watching the Zambezi flow underneath the bridge (which itself seems to be glowing in the light of the setting sun) – and there, in the distance, directly in front of us, is the Victoria Falls Hotel. What a fantastic location they chose for both the bridge and the hotel. We learnt at the museum yesterday that the railway wasn’t originally going to come through here but that following the discovery of copper in Zambia it was diverted east of the original route. Once this route was decided upon, it was Rhodes who finalised the location and insisted that the carriages should feel the spray from the falls as they passed through.

The falls at sunsetBy now, it has gone 5:30. The sun is nearly at the horizon and the park shuts at 6pm and so it is time for us to return back above the falls to try to get some sunset photos. We can’t quite get the setting sun lining up along the falls – neither the sun nor the vantage points oblige – but the glow of the sun turns the spray an orange-pink colour. Having seen the Falls in a different light (quite literally) we head back happy that although another day has gone by we have yet more great memories.


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