Those who know me will tell you I hate endings – happy or sad, whether it is the end of a good book, or a good holiday, or my tub of Haagen Dazs Cookies’n’Cream, I absolutely detest endings. So as my Zim travel diaries come towards their natural end (it is Day 10 of 12 after all), it seems as if I am saying farewell to Zimbabwe once more. As my tan fades away, I hope memories will last a little longer to bring a little Zimbabwe sunshine into gloomy winter days ahead. Without further ado, I bring you Day 10 – our second and last day in glorious Victoria Falls.
On the morning of Day 10, we wake up to overcast skies, and alas, all hopes of experiencing the glory of the gorges at dawn evaporate into the gloomy gray above us. Meters underneath, River Zambezi is oblivious, going on at its usual pace, gentle and shimmering green.
But hey, the day is still young and full of promise as we breakfast like royalty – full English once again the order of the day – and energise for a packed day ahead.
By 9am – a whole hour later than planned which seems to have become a pattern with us by now – we leave for the Adventure Park only a short distance away for our encounter with the elephants. I won’t lie, it feels good to get there armed with elephant trivia, all thanks to Rob, our host at Ivory Lodge in Hwange.
After a 20-minute elephant ride as pairs and a show our pachyderm pals put on for us in return for food (They’re gluttons, I tell ya!) we are then treated to a viewing of the DVD of our elephant ride. As fab as the encounter is, I am a little surprised to find out the experience would have cost us $120 per person if we were your average tourist – a little on the steep side, if you ask me, especially when we find out how much more affordable similar experiences are in other parts of Zimbabwe. But then again, you’re in Vic Falls, you’re doing the touristy things, you’ve got to pay the price, right?
Our next stop is the high wire activities at Wild Horizons – anything from the milder fox flying to the wilder gorge swing which take place over the Zambezi river in between the Zimbabwean and Zambia sides of the jagged gorge. While some of us watch from afar, opting not to leave their comfort zones, their feet firmly planted on solid ground, most choose to take a walk on the wild side – from the nursery slopes of fox gliding to the mad freefall into gorge that is the gorge swing (Guess, FAB readers, which one yours truly opted for? All three of course!)
While fox flying and zip wire leave a little something to be desired for the adrenaline junkies, if you are a thrill seeker after your next high, gorge swing which involves freefalling 70 meters down, hurtling towards rugged rocks you for a second doubt you might end up getting pureed against before the rope feels a little tighter and you start swinging back out, away from the rocks towards the river.
As scary as it sounds, gorge swing is like taking any risk in life – say a little prayer, take a leap of faith and let go. While for the first ten seconds, freefalling at high speed, eyes tightly shut, you will try and catch your breath and wonder what made you jump in the first place, but once make it to the bottom, hair blowing in the gentle Zambezi breeze, and heart rate slowing down, you will open your eyes and take in the beauty of the rugged landscape surrounding you on either side and the emerald waters down below, at perfect peace with nature, with nothing but the sound of flowing water in your ears, you will know it was well worth taking that leap of faith into a freefall.
Sufficiently high on life and adrenaline, we’re once again ready to roll. Yet, I have an unpleasant surprise waiting for me: Despite having been told the day before I would have plenty of time for my cross-border bunjee jump over Zambezi (I am the only one up for doing this; homeboy, beat that!) and having packed my passport, I find out that due to the high wire activities taking too long, there is now no time to take me across the border to Zambia and wait for me. Heartbroken, close to tears and trying not to sulk, I finally agree to shelf the dream till 2013 (or perhaps before then, if you will have me back sooner, Zim!). Next stop, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge where we have 30 minutes to check in and head back out for the sunset boat ride on Zambezi. 30 minutes may be a short time for most things, but certainly long enough to let off some steam and relax and have a quick shower.
Freshly showered and a tad bit more relaxed, I join the rest of the crew on the bus as we make our way to our river ride, Wanuka Queen. As Zambezi flows before us in a silver stream between Zimbabwe and neighbouring Zambia, the co-hosts of the 2013 United Nations World Tourism Organisation general assembly, for a few minutes we are all quiet. Either we are all exhausted from the last 8 days on the road, or we are finally coming to terms with the fact that a fabulous journey around a world of wonders is coming to an end in two days or we are all in awe of the subdued twilight of a dappled sky. Yet soon enough, doubtless with the help of our larger than life Japanese friends at the next table, the free flowing wine and Zambezi beer and platters of finger food passed around, we are back to our loud and brash selves. There goes David showing off his images before saying, “This is not even the best one,” Henry musing over animals’ genitalia and even Ieva managing to crack a smile here and there.
Soon enough we are debating as to whether it is the Zambian side of the river that delivers the sights or the Zimbabwean, and while we have to admit, much to Felicia’s displeasure that, Zambia has more animals come out to play at sunset, Zimbabwe delivers the trump card in the form of a deep crimson sunset which miraculously breaks through the gray skies. Zambia – 1, Zimbabwe -1. But then again, our host country has proven herself a world of wonders over the last 10 days, delivering the awe-inspiring sights, sounds and sensations she promised. So perhaps it is, Zambia – 1, Zimbabwe -2 after all!
As the night falls fast over the Zambezi skyline, we pack our cameras away and step ashore – treading carefully after a few drinks and looking out for our Japanese friend, hoping he will not fall down to a toothy grave in the jaws of a crocodile. Although the plan is to head to The Boma Place of Eating nestled in the Gusu Forest a short shuttle ride away which promises to deliver a feast of the tastes, sights, sounds & smells of Africa – with some interesting menu options such as Mopani worms, some of us are so tired after our action-packed day we opt to stay and sample the food at the world-class Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. Considering the 72-room Africa Aldiba Tourism flagship property with its very own waterhole on site has been named “Zimbabwe’s Best Safari Lodge” by the Association of Zimbabwe Travel Agents (AZTA) for 15 consecutive years, the service and food can’t be all that bad. As it turns out, the service is top-notch as I prepare for dinner, I get three separate people attending to my room – one sprays mosquito repellant while another puts down the netting over my bed while a third is making sure I am stocked on bottled water and ice. At Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, it is easy to feel like a princess.
After watching the lightning and enjoying a glass of wine at the Buffalo Bar with Doug, Richard and Marc, we make our way to the award-winning MaKuwa-Kuwa restaurant which has on offer a wide variety of internationally-styled cuisine – with a hint of Africa! We dine on warthog, crocodile and impala dishes washed down with bottles of red wine and treat ourselves to a relaxed dinner at the end of an action-packed day. The plan for after dinner is to take a refreshing dip in the pristine pool two floors down; however one toe dip is enough to know the water is cold beyond refreshing. Plus, by now it is almost midnight, and it is a little over four hours to our wake up call.
What follows in one of the most luxurious accommodations we have had the opportunity to sample is a sleepless yet dreamy night. Still awake at 4am without the need for an alarm clock blaring, I wish to stay and savour the pleasures of this room but alas, there is no time left. Once again, it’s time to hit the road. Our next destination and final stop on the way back to capital Harare, Gweru.by