FRIDAY, MARCH 27, 2009 – 78/66 -- FLIGHT FROM SINGAPORE TO JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA ON TO VICTORIA FALLS, ZIMBABWE
Well, our marathon is over! Unbelievably, all the flights arrived on time! We get to Victoria Falls at 11:30AM, some 20 hours after we left Bangkok . The only problem is that the extra checked bag does not arrive with us. We fill out the lost luggage paperwork and hope to see it tomorrow when we leave! We get in the line for people needing Zimbabwe visas and wait for about 15 minutes in the middle of a large tour group. When our turn comes, the agent tells us to go to the line for people “ with visas”…the tour operator is pulling her hair out because it is taking so long to do her group ….she had asked us to move over earlier, but hey, the sign told us to stand in this line so… Anyway, we move over and get behind someone else that moved also. OK, we are next, but the couple who are in front of us are trying to pay the $30 apiece visa cost with US Dollars and South African Rand. The agent keeps telling them he cannot take mixed currency for a visa. Finally he asks them to step aside, we pay our $60US for two visas, and out we go.
The driver is waiting for us and we get to the Victoria Falls Hotel in about 20 minutes. The staff falls all over themselves getting us set up in our room. The hotel is a beautiful colonial building with lovely grounds,looking out toward the falls. You cannot actually see the falls but we can really hear it thunder and the mist is very visible.Our room looks out toward the falls The hotel is suffering from the problems in Zimbabwe, but it is clean and the AC works. It is easy to imagine what a glorious place it was before all the problems.
Since our time is short, we will only spend one night, we arrange for a river safari on the Zambezi River with a pick up at 4:00PM, and then head down the path to the falls. The falls are in a National Park, but it is a short walk from the hotel grounds to the Park entrance. Going is fine. It is about a 15-minute walk gate to gate. We pay the $20US per person entry fee and walk another 10 minutes through the park to the head of the falls. The Zambezi is flooding so the volume of water is incredible and so are the rainbows! The upper part or the fall’s system is fairly open so we can see Cataract Island, the Devils Cataract, the Main Falls and Livingston Island. However, as we walk down along the gorge the spray is so heavy we can only see anything when the wind blows the mist away.Of course, the spray is getting us soaked also and we really didn’t come prepared for that.It is getting close to the pickup time so we head back to the hotel. This is where the problem starts. We had encountered only two hawkers coming down and they were pleasant to talk to and took no for an answer. However as soon as we walk out of the park gate they come toward us…not just a couple, more like a dozen. We ignore them and tell them NO firmly too no avail. They close in around us and will not give up. We finally go into the Kingdom Hotel gate just to get away from them. This was a very bad experience for Dick as he hates crowds and we are feeling, for the first time on the trip, threatened. In fact, he is ready to leave and would have if there had been a plane out! I feel for their situation, but if they want tourists to help then, they need to be a less threatening! I am always willing to look and usually will buy something, but there was no way I was going to even slow down for this angry group.
We finally get back to the hotel in one piece. Dick goes to the room and I talk to the man in guest services. I am not going to miss seeing as much of the falls as possible because of some jerks! He is very helpful and arranges for our airport transfer driver to take us back to the falls in the morning before taking us to the airport. This is what we should have done in the first place!
After cleaning up and cooling off, we head out for the boat ride. On the way out to the boat we have our first encounter with African wildlife. An elephant is crossing the road we are on and takes offense at sharing the space with us by trumpping at us. It is nice enough, cocktails and a few snacks. The people are working hard to give the tourist a nice experience but the problems show everywhere. There are three other couples on the boat with us; all from South Africa. Dick and one of the men hit it off and spend the next two hours talking politics while his wife and I visit and take pictures of the Hipposand the sunset.This helped take the sour taste left from the hawkers away.
Back at the hotel, we go down to dinner served on the veranda with the night sounds and the fall’s thunder as back ground music. We are not hungry as we have had two dinners, a breakfast, a lunch and multiple snacks since we left Bangkok last night. We just have a quiche and call it a night.