Category Archives: Personal stuff

Victoria Falls, Part 1

IMG_3544_DxOToday we finally saw Victoria Falls, close up & personal. This is the “dry” season, so instead of being this bigger-than-you-can-handle mile-wide maelstrom of water, you get a much more manageable waterfall broken up into several different pieces, each in its own right pretty darned impressive.

Karen at the head of the falls. That canyon behind her just goes on and on and on... as do the falls.
Karen at the head of the falls. That canyon behind her just goes on and on and on… as do the falls.
While the waterfall was impressive, the heat was oppressive; today it was 102 degrees which isn’t so bad for me (no hotter than Kevin and I dealt with in France) but Karen (my wife) kinda melts. She was struggling toward the end of the rather longish hike; I should have put it on Strava to find out just how long. Maybe a bit over a mile? But worth it. Is it worth traveling 20,000 miles (round trip) to see? No. Nothing that isn’t bike-related could possibly be worth that! But it’s just one piece of a 12 day cruise through southern Africa. So far, that’s included a morning game drive (no lions, but several rare black rhinos), an amazing village tour (described yesterday), a dinner cruise with all-you-can-drink alcoholic beverages (I doubled my years’ intake by having a tiny amount of white wine along with a vodka & orange juice which I thought was called a screwdriver but the guy mixing the drinks didn’t know it by that name), this morning’s trip to the Falls, and an afternoon trip into the town itself.

It's worth clicking on this photo to see what crazy people do (they're on the far right, at the top of the falls). Tomorrow I'm one of those crazy people.
It’s worth clicking on this photo to see what crazy people do. Tomorrow I’m one of those crazy people.
Tomorrow’s our last full day in Victoria Falls, which will start out with a trip to the Devil’s Pool. This is one of the crazier things I’ve done; it involves a trip out to one of the islands in the middle of the falls, where you jump into this small pool that is literally right against the edge of the waterfall. As in, you can look over the edge straight down to the bottom. What keeps you in place is a natural rock wall that has been resisting the current for thousands of years, and hopefully will continue to do so tomorrow. Hadn’t thought about it that way until just now. Kinda wish I hadn’t! You can click on the photo to the right and see people doing this. I’m thinking the main thing that will convince me to jump into the water will be the fact that it will again be 102 tomorrow.

After that little stunt we’ll be re-gathering what’s left of our wits and start looking over a ton of photos before our final outing in this part of Africa in the evening, a “BOMA” dinner, which is tourist-authentic (meaning nothing you bite bites back at you?) food & African cultural event. I may even get to eat some sort of worm. Hey, at least if I get sick after this trip, I’ll know what might have caused it!

Print Friendly

A different tourist experience

IMG_3505home_africaA full day in Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe), beginning with an early-morning game drive (5:30am????), followed by a visit to an off-the-grid village, and finished with a dinner boat cruise on the river.

It was the village visit that stood out from everything else. We’d been to Tanzania previously, and seen all the Masai villages close to the highway, each one looking just like the last except for perhaps a different ratio of tour busses to vans parked in front. We hadn’t stopped at one in Tanzania, because they all looked just a little bit staged. I assumed the same would be true today; I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our tour guide drove down a lengthy deserted dust track into this “village” which is really a collection of homesteads, each one belonging to a particular family. No running water, no electricity, and even money is something of an inconvenience for them since they have no means to accumulate it (they don’t use banks but rather barter/trade for just about everything, and money requires that you go into town).

IMG_3490african_guestsThis was to be interactive, and out tour guide was rather stern with us ahead of time on this point… we were to ask any and all questions that came to mind, regardless of political correctness or how dumb they sounded. That included an interesting discussion on politics, NGOs (non-government organizations) and more. Our host spoke reasonably-good English and understood it even better. I asked him about the changes he’s seen in the last 20 years (he’s 48), and he replied that there was nothing positive he could come up with. Most of the negatives dealt with the massive departure of the NGOs when the government changed the terms of the deal they had with the predominantly-white land owners, confiscating property instead of buying it from them. The changed view of “outsiders” scared off the NGOs and investment (but was seen as a necessary act after 10 years of government inaction on plans to turn the land back over to its original owners, native Zimbabwians).

So seriously not what you’d expect on an African tour! My biggest takeaway was the importance of NGOs, something I’ve always had a somewhat cynical eye towards in the past. And bicycles… darned few of them because they’re just too expensive, so people walk everywhere. Having a bicycle is seen as something of a status symbol.

A bit more on this village. Until recently, water was brought in from a well 5 kilometers away. An NGO built a new well much closer, and while you’d think a village might normally finance and build its own well, that’s not how things work when you have no means or culture to accumulate anything beyond what you need for the next season. NGOs also provided concrete and plans for outhouses, which most now have. No plans for electricity or running water. Cell phones? Yes, the younger members have them, and they’re charged off solar panels.

IMG_3485supermarket_africaAll in all a very fascinating three hours. Ah, one last thing. The guide suggested that instead of offering them money, we go to a local grocery store and buy them sugar, rice, oil and soap. Things that, to this village, have more value than money. Interesting thing, that. We value money higher because it gives us the flexibility to buy what we want, when we want. They’d rather have what they need, and to them, there’s a disconnect between money and having things.

Getting late; another big day tomorrow.

Print Friendly