On Saturday morning I got picked up at 8:30 for a day trip to Vic Falls. A 15 passenger van came and I think everyone who was staying at the lodge the previous night climbed aboard for the trip over the border. At the border crossing I talked to two American women who are medical residents and were working in Gaborone, Botswana for a month. They didn’t know what they were going to do for the day except walk through the national park and go souvenir shopping so they didn’t seem like likely companions for the day.
I really wanted to take a helicopter ride over the falls so I could compare it to the last time I was there in December 2011. December is the end of the dry season and large portions of the falls were not even flowing then, whereas we are now in the middle of the wet season so I was expecting a completely different experience.
Our driver dropped me and a British family off in town where we could book our activities then took the others to the National Park. The family had two small boys who wanted to go zip-lining from the bridge but the tour operator said they were too young (10 and 11) and were not allowed. After much back and forth between the parents and grandfather, they decided to join me on the helicopter ride so the 6 of us were shortly picked up and transferred to helipad.
After a short briefing and being weighed, our pilot landed and we were taken to our aircraft. I learned my lesson from last time and made sure I was the first person heading toward the helicopter, because that person gets to sit in the front, next to the pilot. We were strapped in and a few minutes later we were airborne!
I cannot possibly describe the wonder and majesty that is Victory Falls. Words simply fail me, so I’ll let you try to imagine it by looking at these pictures: Victoria Falls
We made several passes over the falls and then went 4 km upstream to see all of the water that flows into it. The 13 minute ride was over in a heartbeat but the memories will last forever. It was an incredible experience and I’m so glad that I went.
The falls were completely different than the last time I was there: the amount of water flowing was staggering and nearly incomprehensible.
After the ride, we were made to watch a video of ourselves with some stock footage put in. You could buy the video and still photos on DVD for $50 USD. I declined, preferring to savor the memories. Then we were taken back into town where our driver was waiting for us. He transferred us to Victoria Falls National Park and the very nice British family invited me to have lunch with them. I ended up spending the rest of the day with John (the grandfather), Steve (father), Lindsay (mother), Ed (older boy), and Nick (younger boy). They were lovely to talk to. Steve works for BMW and he and his family are currently living in Dubai, after having spent a three years in northern China, then 18 months in the UK. John lives in the UK but has a business in South Africa and thus travels to the area several times a year. They had just arrived for a two week holiday and the boys were very excited.
With a quick lunch to tide us over, we went walking through the national park. Everyone we saw coming out was completely drenched with water and at first it seemed very bizarre because as we went from view point to view point, we got a bit wet with mist but nothing too bad. The power of the falls was even more striking up close. I can’t even imagine the volume of water that was rushing by with each second. See the album above for more pics.
We were walking along in a fine mist when suddenly we made a slight jog over and were in a proper rain shower. Except that this was not water from a cloud above, but river water falling after being sprayed hundreds of feet in the air due to its impact at the bottom of the gorge. In an instant we were completely soaked! I put away my camera then for safe keeping, but you couldn’t see more than 10 feet ahead of you so there was no point in taking pictures anyway. I could feel the sun beating down and it’s probably the only time in my life when I felt like I was going to get sunburned while in a rain shower. It was over 90 degrees F out so being wet actually felt really good. And we dried very quickly.
After the park tour we went to the Stanley Hotel, which is over 100 years old and was built when the British were erecting the bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia. John and I got a drink while Steve found a different tour operator who would allow the kids to go zip-lining. They headed off while and John and I relaxed and enjoyed the view. I toured the stone sculpture garden and got some pictures of the bridge. The rest of our bus showed up shortly and the American girls joined us at our table. We decided to get high tea since it seemed apropos and we enjoyed our tea with scones, jam, cream, and some cakes and finger sandwiches. Very British.
By that time it was after 5 pm and everyone was tired. Plus, we had to get back to Botswana before the border posts closed for the night, so we packed everything up and headed back. It was an amazing day and I have some wonderful memories that will last a life time. My only wish was that Jacob could have been there to share it with.
I was a bit sad to move accommodation that night because it would have been nice to chat with my acquaintances over dinner, but it was dark by the time we got back and I wanted to drive to the Safari Lodge before it was too late. I was even more keenly aware of my loneliness when I checked into my room which was on the second floor, overlooking the river and looked exactly like a honeymoon suite, with a king bed, large tub, and all. Perhaps the next time Jacob will be with me.