One of the only times I enjoy getting up incredibly early is when I’m about to travel to someplace new. The next leg of this African adventure requires a few flights to a place that’s far from city lights, but we’re here for it.
Day 5: Travel to Zimbabwe
Back on a plane, or two, and headed to Victoria Falls. The area looks a lot different from Cape Town. Flying over a salty desert with random spots of green, we know we’re not in the city anymore. Zimbabwe requires a visa, which means a longer line at border control, but leaves us with a pretty passport page.
Once we land and start driving to the hotel, we’re given the run down: don’t try to use ATMs, the banks are short on cash; credit cards are accepted at some places, but you’ll be asked for ID if you’re a local; the American dollar is widely accepted; it’s best not to walk the streets at night, both people and animals are running wild.
Like the city, we see locals walking along the road with a sense of purpose. However, other than the main road, it’s more like dirt paths; and the lack of shops, restaurants, and buildings make guessing their destination a little less clear. There are more farms along our route, and the towns are made up of round huts and wandering cattle with baboons and painted dogs crossing our path.
The area starts to become more suburban as we get closer to the more touristy area. Homes and hotels all have large walls and gates surrounding the property—trying to keep all sorts of wildlife out. The gate to our hotel is opened by guard, and we enter the zen-like courtyard of the Batonka Guest Lodge. With only a few things on the agenda for our two-day stay, this leg of the trip is the vacation within our vacation. Seeing the inviting garden pool on the way to our room confirmed this fact.
Out first Zimbabwean adventure was a pontoon cruise down the Zambezi river. Once the wine and snacks we’re served, the entertainment for the evening appeared. We stopped to see a pack of bathing elephants, soaking hippos, and sunning crocs. We passed many busy birds on the way to view yet another stunning sunset.
Day 6: Tour of the Falls
This morning, the tour of Victoria Falls led us into the rain forest. Even though it was a beautiful day, we were constantly sprayed by the mist from the largest sheet of falling water on earth. It wasn’t nearly as much as if we came during June when the most amount of water flows over the rocks down the 100 meter drop. We were witnessing the lowest point, and it was still spectacular.
There are 15 viewpoints on the Zimbabwean side, some featuring more falling water than others, but we still understood how this wonder is referred to as the “smoke that thunders”. Three other viewpoints are located on the Zambian side of the falls, and even though we didn’t venture over the bridge, we could see the brave few that waded in the Devil’s Pool right on the edge.
After getting our fill of nature for the day, we meander through town to check off some shopping and restaurant recommendations. Usually, tourists are told not to go to certain markets, since they’re known to rip you off, but several people suggested the stalls at the Elephant Walk and bargaining with locals for better “deals”. I’ve done my share of bargaining in the past, but this time felt different. It wasn’t very easy to look around with the constant haggling, and the stories of starving family members was a little overwhelming, but we did end up supporting some of the hard handmade work they do with their family.
Day 7: No Plan, No Problem
No tours planned meant the real vaca in a vaca could begin. Sleeping in, a leisurely breakfast, nap, gift shop shopping (much easier than haggling), dip in the pool, and another nap before dinner was the perfect way to spend the last day before safari.