Caprivi Strip, 2014 Part 27

by david on May 18, 2015

Mosi-oa-Tunya

 

                We were up for an early breakfast and on the road for Victoria Falls by 7:00 AM. Ahead of us lay three borders to cross and four border offices to navigate. The exit from Namibia was simple and quick. The entrance into Botswana was a little slower due to some folks thinking they were better than everyone else and deserved to cut in line. Exiting Botswana was as smooth as silk. Entering into Zimbabwe brought the whole thing to a screeching halt. Greeting us at the Zim border was about a mile of tractor-trailers waiting to get in. We were able to move past most of them, but when we got to the visa office, the line was out the door and into the parking lot. Johann, Vera, and Zoe breezed right through, but it took Janice and me the better part of an hour to get ours. The problem was the tour bus operators. Even though there were signs prohibiting the practice, the tour operators were handing the whole bus’s worth of passports at the same time and really gumming up the works. When we finally got to the head of the line, Janice zoomed right on through. However, as I was getting ready to hand my passport over, a Zimbabwean official jumped in front of me and pushed three other people in front of me, thoroughly ticking me off. Somehow I was able to hold my tongue and not say anything. Perhaps it was the thought of an extended stay in Zim in a location not of my choosing that held me back. Another twenty minutes later, we were back in the car and drove 30 feet for one more passport check and finally we were on our way. Had we been able to drive straight through, it would have taken slightly under two hours. It ended up taking a little over four.

We more or less stumbled onto the Spray View Hotel when we headed into the town of Victoria Falls, which was fortunate as none of us was sure where it was. The hotel was nice. It reminded me of one of the 1960’s motels with a central building complex, with the dining room and pool and little clusters of rooms separated by a twisting road and parking. By the time we dropped our luggage in the room and freshened up, everyone was ready for lunch. We had a leisurely meal and discussed what we wanted to do in Vic Falls. In the end, we went to the activity planning office to see exactly what was available. Johann was able to work his magic as a tour operator and finagle us some pretty serious discounts. Since we had the whole afternoon ahead of us, we would spend it at the falls itself. Tomorrow, we would start the day with an early morning elephant back safari, a midday helicopter tour of the falls, and finish up the evening with sundowners on a river cruise. In between the helicopter ride and the river cruise, Janice and I elected to do some shopping, while Vera and Zoe elected for activities that would be a little more exhilarating. Their first choice was called a “Flying Squirrel”, basically a zip line across the gorge. The kicker on this was your harness held you horizontally to the ground, allowing you to stick your arms out and literally fly across the gorge. Lastly, they wanted to jump off the side of the gorge attached to a rope that would swing them across like a pendulum. No way, no how for me. With the itinerary settled, we headed for the falls.

The entrance to Mosi-oa-Tunya was small and unassuming compared to the grandeur on the other side of the gate. Mosi-oa-Tunya in the local Tokaleya / Tonga dialect translates to “smoke that thunders”. As we were soon to discover, that was a very eloquent way of describing Victoria Falls. It is less than a hundred yards from the park entrance to your first glimpse of the falls. The roar from the 38,430 cu ft. /s of water going over the edge was deafening. The mist can completely envelope you when the breeze is blowing the right way. It only took about two seconds before “smoke that thunders” made complete sense.

The mist also has two other side effects. The first being a natural air conditioner. The evaporation of the mist tends to lower the air temperature about 15 degrees from the rest of the area. The temperature at the shaded falls edge felt like the lower 70’s to me, while the interior of the park felt closer to 90 degrees where the humidity was almost oppressive. The second side effect is the lush plant life. The constant moisture has created a lush tropical forest the Amazon would be proud to claim. Move a mile from the mist zone and the climate is dry and arid with only sparse vegetation. It is a tropical microcosm in the middle of the standard old African bushveld.

A map of the Victoria Falls and it's trail system.  A map of the Victoria Falls and it’s trail system.

 

Victoria Falls and the first of its gorges. Victoria Falls and the first of its gorges.

 

Wednesday: The WOW Description 

 

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