Another day, another country! This time we are in for a day trip to Zimbabwe and the Victoria Falls. The land of Robert Mugabe welcomes visitors, but imposes some hefty sums of money on travellers to enter the country and to visit the Victoria Falls National Park.
We booked a day trip to VF from the lodge, which is just transportation to and from the falls. We get picked up from the Lodge, be driven 15 minutes to the border where we get help with the Botswana Immigration Office to get out of the country. We then get back on our transport and drive through no mans land to the Zimbabwean border, where we get help with the Zimbabwe formalities of buying a visa ($30 per person, payable in cash and cash only) and getting our passports stamped. We then proceed into another vehicle to drive us through the gate and an hour further to the town of Victoria Falls.
Where Botswana and Namibia are considered to be fairly wealthy, Zimbabwe is actually really poor. This is almost completely hidden from view though, as the majority of people we encounter today are either government employees from the border, or from the National Park. The real poor people are trying to sell us a plethora of stuff, like old Zimbabwean currency (a 10 billion dollar bill!) or figurines of the animals comprising the big 5. Everything is done in US dollars, and nobody has change. These guys are pretty obnoxious and very persistent, constantly vying for your attention by making noise and shouting. This is the part of the trip we certainly do not like. If it weren’t for the pestering of these guys, it would also be for the very present and huge gap in net worth that sets the tourists apart from the locals. They usually earn very little, and that is pretty confronting. We have seen similar sights on this trip, but over here the situation gets up close and personal really quickly.
With that out of the way, I can tell you the trip is worthwhile. We are just our of the wet season over here, which means that the falls have swollen to huge proportions. And they are really big! Water everywhere, and it is simply not possible to walk in the park without getting wet. Therefore, we rented a couple of ponchos from the locals, but got soaked anyway all the while looking like idiots. Oh, the joy of holidays!
The river flows into a large canyon after dropping down from the falls, and this canyon has a bridge spanning it from Zimbabwe to the Zambian border. The view from the bridge is really good, so we decided to get a Bridge Pass from immigration. That meant we had to get our passports out, ask for a bridge pass at the Zimbabwe border, walk out of the country and into the no mans land between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and get it stamped at the border. The way back is similar: walk across the border, get your bridge pass checked and stamped, get your passports checked for a valid visa and proceed back into Zimbabwe. Oh yes, we entered the country twice today!
After all the border formalities going back to Botswana (stamps, walk, stamps, clean your shoes, proceed through gate into Botswana) we even encountered a large herd of Elephants walking towards the Zambezi river, right in the town of Kasane! This was a truly magnificent sight, elephants everywhere!