Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls

Monday 8 to Wednesday 10 November

As a loud-mouthed American told everyone who was within hearing distance, Victoria Falls is a bucket list destination. For us it will be memorable because while we were here Donald Trump won the presidential election in the United States.

To be honest, we were aghast – how can a misogynist, self-indulgent billionaire who wants to rid the USA of Muslims and Hispanics and has no political expertise and a fluffy agenda lead the world’s super power? I have good authority from my USA friend Chris that Trump is a far better option the Hillary Clinton. But I wonder why two unpopular candidates were ever nominated?

Add this to the recent Brexit poll and it is clear that the focus is on ME rather than the world I live in.

Victoria Falls was hot. This really is the wrong time of the year to visit as there is little water in the Zambezi River and some parts of the waterfall just trickle over the rocks. But that is travel, you have to weigh up advantages and disadvantages of when and where to travel.

We arrived in the middle of the day and took the 2.5km walk into town. This is a small town that caters to the local community as well as tourists. There was a combination of supermarkets and coffee shops. We found the Shearwater Cafe and the local Zimbabwean coffee was good.

Our plan was to visit the falls in the tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, we decided to explore the old Victoria Falls Hotel, one of the first built in the area, catering to the intrepid tourists of the early 20th century. They serve high tea, so we thought that would be a treat for tomorrow afternoon.

There were a lot of vendors around the falls area, selling ebony carved Big Five and bowls. They were nearly outnumbered by the Tourist Police with their yellow hi-vis jackets.

Our hotel was small, catering for only 20 guests. They offered a snack dinner and suggestions for other places. This was a treat for us, as our journey through Namibia had included full board on site, as we were typically some distance from the nearest town.

We went to the Victoria Falls Safari Park for an á la carte dinner. To have a choice of dishes was also a treat.

Zimbabwe doesn’t have a currency. The economy collapsed a few years ago and inflation reached a crazy 230 million per cent. The currency was suspended and the USD is now the major currency although other currencies such as the South African Rand, the Australian Dollar and the Botswanan Pula are accepted. Prices are shown in USD whole dollars. There are no cents.

Nonetheless the falls were a spectacle. The amount of water moving down 108m was amazing and the rainforest was cooling.

As far as statistics go for the big three waterfalls, Victoria is higher, Iguazu is wider and Niagara has the highest mean annual flow rate. So they all have something to brag about.

Size and flow rate of Victoria Falls with Niagara and Iguazu for comparison
Parameters Victoria Falls Niagara Falls Iguazu Falls
Height in meters and feet: 108 m 360 ft 51 m 167 ft 64–82 m 210–269 ft
Width in meters and feet: 1,708 m 5,604 ft 1,203 m 3,947 ft 2,700 m 8,858 ft
Flow rate units (vol/s): m3/s cu ft/s m3/s cu ft/s m3/s cu ft/s
Mean annual flow rate:[3] 1,088 38,430 2,407 85,000 1,746 61,600
Highest recorded flow:[3] 12,800 452,000 6,800 240,000 45,700 1,614,000

There was an interesting memorial to David Livingston which reads

On the occasion of the centenary of David Livingstone’s discovery of the Victoria Falls men and women of all races in, and from all parts of, the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland assembled solemnly to dedicate themselves and their country to carry on the high Christian aims and ideals which inspired David Livingstone in his mission here.

Unveiled by his excellency the right honourable the Lord Llewellin, G.B.E., M.S.,T.D., D.L., Governor-General of the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, and dedicated by his grace the Lord Archbishop of Central Africa, Edward Francis Paget on 16 November 1955.

Our African guides have continually reminded us during this journey that no Europeans ‘discovered’ the wonders of the African continent – they simply found what was well known and honoured by the people that they invaded and dislodged.

After the obligatory walk along the gorge, which actually does not offer a spectacular view, we rested in the cafe, sipping sparkling mineral water. Bruce was forced to admit “you know it tastes almost as good as beer” and it does when you need to re-hydrate your body.

We considered crossing into Zambia to see the falls from the other side, but the weather was hot and the water rate over the falls was low and our high tea was beckoning.

We spent the afternoon back at the Victoria Falls Hotel, trying to devour a massive high tea – sandwiches, scones, cakes and a very rich macaroon. We are not tea drinkers but enjoyed a gin and tonic and a wine.

Not feeling like a big dinner we continued on to our new favourite cafe Shearwater to enjoy a light snack and live music.

When we finally got back to our hotel we got chatting to a group of ladies from California. Apart from the doom and gloom they were feeling following the election, they also told us that they had been sponsoring a small village nearby for the past ten years. Every few years they visit the village to check progress. They happily took our turquoise case and black sheet that had successfully hidden our treasured backpacks in the boot of our car for the last 30 days road trip.

It was a very ‘self serve’ style hotel. We helped ourselves to the bar and left the appropriate USD in the tin.

Tomorrow is South Africa.