After paying more than anyone else on our truck in order to enter the country of Zimbabwe (seriously – Canadians pay more than Americans and Europeans), we arrived in Victoria Falls and quickly made our way into the national park.
On the Zimbabwe side, there are 16 viewpoints spanning an approximately 1km-long path along the ledge opposite the waterfall. We were visiting during the high-water season, so we got rather soaked. At the central viewpoints, we could not even see the waterfall through the intense mist.
We did not pay for a visa to enter Zambia, but pedestrians are allowed to walk on the bridge connecting the two countries. To be safe, we did not go beyond the half-way point.
The next day we went for a white water rafting tour on the Zambezi river, starting a few kilometres downstream of the falls. An older couple in our boat requested “no flipping”, so the guide steered us away from the largest waves and no one in our raft was ejected. On a calmer section of the river, we were encouraged to hop in and float around to “feel the power of the current”. It turns out bodies float faster than rafts, and after a few minutes we found ourselves frantically fighting the current so the boat could catch up with us.
Given that the town of Victoria Falls lies within a national park, it is likely that while walking around you will run into warthogs, baboons, and maybe even some elephants.
On our last day with a handful of our tour-mates, wanting to see the falls again without paying $30 each, we followed the advice of another traveller and found a path leading down into the gorge, underneath the bridge, and along slippery rocks to a viewpoint just a few metres from the rushing river.
That night we grabbed dinner and beers at The River Brewing Company – yes, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe is touristy enough to have a craft brewpub, complete with tasting paddles, Edison bulbs, and live folk-rock. The black IPA and pale ale were surprisingly good.
Visiting Victoria Falls, we got a small taste of the complex economic situation Zimbabwe is facing. Their own currency collapsed in 2009 and the ATMs are empty, so tourists need to enter the country carrying enough cash (USD, Euro, ZAR) for most small transactions. Credit cards are accepted at most tourist-friendly businesses. At the supermarket and other local stores, prices are marked in “bond”, an interim currency established in 2016. Bond cannot be exchanged with any other country’s currency, and is already being devalued relative to the USD. At the supermarket we bought bread, fruit, juice, and a jar of peanut butter for less than $5. A few doors down we bought a duffel bag for $7. In contrast, at the tourist restaurants, sandwiches cost $12 and beers cost $5.
Overall we had an excellent time on our land tour from Cape Town to Victoria Falls. We never felt unsafe, the food and campgrounds were excellent, and the sights were spectacular. For better or worse, the South African Rand and Namibian Dollar are relatively weak right now, so it’s a very affordable time to visit a special part of the world.