Monday, April 27, 2009

Victoria Falls!!

Hello once again. Thanks for stumbling upon my blog. Hopefully it will be worth your time, but if not, I am sorry.

Last Friday I awoke at 5am, got ready, then rolled out of campus to the bus rank.
There the tree of us, Carlos, Alex, and myself, hopped on a bus to Francistown and began our super long day of travel.
The ride to Francistown (previously mentioned in the blog of me) is around 5 hours, but luckily I slept through most of it.
Arriving in Francistown we were to catch the bus to Kasane (also mentioned previously), and we immediately found it. What was not so immediate was its departure time, as we sat on this small van for 2 and a half hours, watching the bustle of the bus station, with people selling food, drink, music, and illegal movies.
Eventually, finally, at last we left on our second leg of the trip. This portion was around 7 hours of driving, which is quite long on a cramped bus.
We did have on rest stop, where I saw the "No Worries" Shipping truck drive by:

The ride to Kasane was mostly pleasant, though the hour of driving over the worst roads in existance was not fun. For most of that part we weren't even driving on the road. The dirt ditches were in better shape than the road.
I did spy around 12 elephants hanging out on the side of the road though, including this one:
Eventually we made it into Kasane, where we quickly learned that the hotel we planned on staying in was quite full. So was the one next to it. In fact, virtually all hotels were full.
Luckily, for the three of us at least, 4 other people in our program happened to drive up to see Vic Falls the same weekend, though they were staying at a friend of a friends house. This person never really showed up, thus they were in the same quandry of having no accomodation. Eventually we did find a place with rooms, and we fit 7 of us in a 4 person room. The floor was quite comfortable.
In the morning we began our quest to figure out how to get to the falls, inquiring at the lodges around town to see how much a day trip would cost. They turned out to be quite expensive, so we ended up getting a cab to the Zimbabwe-Botswana border and finding a cab on the other side.
We ended up getting a ride from a great guy named (I can't remember, but I'll find out).
It cost $30 US dollars to get into Zimbabwe, which is by far the most we have had to pay for a visa.
The other group that drove up had to bribe some officials to get their car into Zim.
So after an hour drive, we arrived in the city of Victoria Falls and our driver took us to the national park were we would view the falls.
For those not up on their world politics, Zimbabwe has been politically unstable for many years now. The president, Robert Mugabe, has been president since 1980, the year of independence. Since then, Zimbabwe has experienced great growth and recession. Blessed with many natural resources, Zimbabwe has the potential to become a leading economy in Southern Africa. However, Mugabe has hindered that growth. With controversial land reform plans, which removed white farmers from their land and giving these farms to black Zimbabweans, food production has been greatly reduced.
With the economy in shambles, hyper inflation kicked in. I have a banknote from Zimbabwe which for $100 trillion Zimbabwe dollars. People couldn't buy a loaf of bread with the money they earned.
Politically, Mugabe has been quite brutal. Elections in 1998 and 2005 were seen as neither free nor fair, with the opposition party, the MDC, claiming election fraud. In the 2008 elections, in which the MDC mounted a very strong campaign lead by Morgan Tsvangirai, state sponsored violence erupted. The MDC claims that over 200 supporers were killed, 2,000 arrested, and over 10,000 forced from their homes. Tsvangirai withdrew from the elections to protect his supporters.
This violence drew great international outcry, forcing Mugabe to agree to a unity government with the MDC. This government came into power in February, and since then there has been some advances in creating some stability and improving the economy.
So getting out of our cab, we were immediately besiged by men selling crafts. Now, this is not too abnormal in Africa, as we encountered the same thing in Mozambique. However, the difference in Zimbabwe is that these people will take ANYTHING for their crafts. This includes any currency, extra clothing you might have, pens, pencils, the dirty socks on your feet. The desperation in Zimbabwe is very real.
After making it past the craft people, we walked over to the national park and paid the $20 US dollar entry fee (once again, quite pricey, though I suppose the government needs the money)
We didn't quite know what to expect from the falls, as I only had a handful of pictures to go off of.
Needless to say, it was astonding.
Here's the nice wooded path to the falls.
A friendly baboon greeted us as we walked along.
Our first glimpse of the falls!!!
So much mist!
A view from behind the falls.
So right now, it is the dry season. This means that the falls should be quite tame. However, there has been great flooding in Angola, which is upstream of the Zambezi River. Thus, the river is very much swollen with flood waters. This had two effects: One, the power generated by these falls blew us away; it was incredible. Two, the power of the falls generated a great deal of mist, seen below. Sadly this obscured much of the falls to us.
In awe.
This is just the beginning of the falls. They span a width of almost 1 mile. 1 mile of waterfalls!!!
More falls!
The main falls.
Looking a little soggy.
Here's the mist I was talking about. It shoots straight up out of the gorge like a cloud. A cloud that soaked us.
yep, it was very wet
This is the boiling pot, where the water from the falls first gathers before heading down river.
The bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was very beautiful. This is also the bungee jumping bridge.
Downed telephone lines. Once again, Zimbabwe has a long way to go.
It was here that I realized that instead of stoplights, they are referred to Robots in Africa. And there wasn't actually a robot/stoplight on this bridge.
The Zambezi heading away from the falls.
More boiling pot and rainbow.
So, on the bridge, there is bungee jumping. It is the 3rd highest in the world at 111meters. It also cost over $100 US, so not only did I have great fear, but no money.
However, my roomates Max and Alex did our apartment well and decided to jump.
Here is one guy. He could taste Skittles on the way down.
After Max and Alex jumped, we went and bought lunch (pizza) then bought some crafts.
After crafting, we decided it was time to return to Botswana, so we piled into the cab and headed out. The entire distance between the falls and Botswana is a national park, though on the way in we saw no animals. Not the case on the way out.
Just after we were being told that there were many water buffalo, a herd decided to cross the road right in front of us.
Soon after we caught giraffe at dusk. It was beautiful.
Eventually we did return to Kasane.
At 5:30am the next day we were on the road again, in a VERY cramped van back to Francistown. Out Sunday of travel was sandwiched by stange music. Getting into the van before the sun rose, we were greated by 98 Degrees, the wonderful (no) 90s boy band. We listened to the same CD 3 times. Terrible. When we finally arrived in Gaborone after 13 hours of travel, our cab driver back to the university was blasting Dolly Parton.
Oh Botswana, how I shall miss you.
I leave in 16 days, so there will only be perhaps 2 more blog entries. Catch them while they last! (In actuallity, this blog will probably be online for a long time, years perhaps)
Welp, I must run to class.
Farewell! Come back soon!!

1 comment:

  1. It certainly sounds as if you're making the most of your time in the Dark Continent. Thank you for sharing - reading your experiences is always a good time. :)

    P.S. You SO owe your readership, at the very least, a closing post...