Victoria Falls and the Smoke That Thunders.

As much as I had enjoyed the small town charm of Bulawayo, and the pleasantness of Burke’s Paradise, I decided to head north to Victoria Falls, to spend a good few days exploring the falls, and the town of Livingstone.

I found that the road was pretty good, and there was more beautiful Zimbabwean scenery to match. I was having a good morning’s drive until I came across my first police checkpoint. In Zimbabwe there are many police road blocks. But unlike in South Africa they don’t have patrol cars or any fancy kit. Each stop is just a few people, most often in the middle of nowhere. The officers are nice enough, however, they are so numerous that at points I was driving through three checkpoints in 10 minutes. And it get’s rather tiring explaining to every police officer that no, I don’t want to sell my car, but thanks.

Along side the mighty Zambezi.

Along side the mighty Zambezi.

At Vic Falls Zimbabwe. Not suffering at all.

At Vic Falls Zimbabwe. Not suffering at all.

I arrived in Victoria falls after 500km and about six hours. I had only planned to stay on the Zimbabwean side for one night, and here has been my biggest mistake so far, but I’ll get to that a little later.

I had been told that the Zambian side and the town of Livingstone was far more established and much better with dealing with tourists. It boasted more restaurants and more options for accommodation. And since I had made a rule, after the disaster in Gaborone, that I would only cross borders in the morning, I decided to spend the night in Victoria Falls.

A Vic Falls local on the roof.

A Vic Falls local on the roof.

My backpackers, Victoria Falls Backpackers, was full of Finns and Germans, which is always lovely. I went out for a pizza and found that the restaurant and the staff, like everyone else in Zimbabwe, were very charming. I stayed up talking to the europeans at the backpackers, around the fire, and I believe I was happy there. I felt a little sad to leave Zimbabwe, but better things lay across the bridge, in Livingstone. Or so I believed.

In the mooring I said my goodbyes and headed off a cross the famous bridge. The view across the falls and the river was incredible. The spray from the falls really did reach passersby on the bridge. Just as Rhodes had ordered.

Crossing the bridge.

Crossing the bridge.

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The view from the driver’s seat.

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Goodbye lovely Zimbabwe.

At the Zambian border I was soon surrounded by fixers and clearing agents once again, offering their help. I man offered to wash my car. “Do not wash my car.” I said.

I stood in line for immigration all the while being told, once again that I could cut the queue if I wanted. No thanks. At customs the official explained that I need my car to be registered on a database, and that there were agents around who could do that for me. At this point they pounced. They pulled me from the line and ushered me towards the door. “You see we put it in the database, and then you pay $300 dollars, and our fee, then you can go into Zambia. Or else you just wait”
“What’s your fee?” I asked. “No we talk about that later” they replied. “No, we talk about it now” I felt myself getting angry. I pulled the AA Carnet from my bag, and they said that doesn’t work here. I marched back to the customs officer and put it down in front of him. “Oh, if you have a carnet then it’s fine”. He stamped it and sent me on my way.

I went back to my car to find it had been washed, and the man responsible wanted $10. The fixers again wanted money for their help. “Please, just $100”. I left, feeling irritated.

From the border it’s a quick drive (and a $20 fee) to the falls. I parked my car at the market and headed down a path to the “boiling pot”. The climb was a severe one through a tropical rain forest. Baboons hung about the path, not bothering to move away from the humans. Occasionally I could catch a glimpse of the famous bridge through the jungle canopy. At the boiling pot I had a clear vista or the falls and the bridge. The noise was awesome. A few children swam in the rock pools around the edge, and I chatted with some other tourists who had made the climb down.

Climbing down to Boiling Pot.

Climbing down to Boiling Pot.

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Spotting the bridge through the jungle canopy.

Looking towards the falls from the boiling pot.

Looking towards the falls from the boiling pot.

Looking into the Smoke.

Looking into the Smoke.

The Smoke that Thunders

The Smoke that Thunders

The bridge over the Zambezi.

The bridge over the Zambezi.

The bridge from the path.

The bridge from the path.

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Looking down into the boiling pot from the top.

I started for the top of the valley and found the humidity in the tropical jungle immense. By the time I reached the top I was bathed in sweat. So I set out for the Knife Edge Bridge, I thin bridge suspended in the spray if the falls. The noise was deafening. It was perfect. The cool water was just what I needed after my walk. Other tourists walked about in plastic bags and rain coats to keep themselves dry. “Why would you?” I thought. I truly believe it’s a privilege to stand in awe of the falls, to be soaked to the skin, and soul in the spray. Why would you protect yourself from it?

The mighty falls from the Zambian side.

The mighty falls from the Zambian side.

The Knife Edge Bridge.

The Knife Edge Bridge.

Walking towards the Knife Edge Bridge.

Walking towards the Knife Edge Bridge.

Looking over the edge of the bridge.

Looking over the edge of the bridge.

OMG a double rainbow dude.. wow.

OMG a double rainbow dude.. wow.

Knife Edge Bridge.

Knife Edge Bridge.

Everything gets drenched around the falls.

Everything gets drenched around the falls.

Looking towards the Zimbabwean side of the falls.

Looking towards the Zimbabwean side of the falls.

Tourists in the mist.

Tourists in the mist.

My car in the tourist trap at the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

My clean car in the tourist trap at the Zambian side of Victoria Falls.

The view from the bridge when on foot.

The view from the bridge when on foot.

I sat in the sun afterwards, drying off. A passerby took my photograph, amused by how drenched I was. I emerged from the park to find my car surrounded once again. I was shown endless Afro-kitsch by the men at the market. “Sit down. we talk about price” every store seemed to sell identical things, wooden hippos and elephants and copper bracelets. I was then informed that my car had been guarded very well, for a fee. It seems the magnificent falls are surrounded by what is perhaps a tourist trap posing as a city. I immediately missed Zimbabwe, but headed, still foolishly believing that Livingstone would be even better…

8 Comments

  1. Helen Boosen says:

    Isn`t that Falls Double Rainbow awesome ? We are a part of a magnificent creation . .

  2. AlfaGrog says:

    Seems you could use one of those hairy Vic Falls locals as a co-pilot to assist in keeping away undesirable tourist trappers and de trop car washers. It worked for Philo Beddoe (Clint Eastwood) back in the 70’s. His right turn signal “Clyde” knocked out a bunch of malapropos characters. If it works in the movies surely it works in real life…

  3. Lovely account Jethro – especially enjoy that you truly immersed yourself in ‘the smoke’ – I agree, what is the point of keeping dry? Thanks for the Zambezi photo! Will use that soon. love Nikki

  4. Shiraz says:

    Fantastic progress, Jethro. Typical being hounded for bribes. You’re a brave soul.

  5. Carl says:

    Wow – now I am even more inspired to finish my own GTV restoration! Seeing photos of Vic Falls, a place I was fortunate to visit a few years ago, taken from the very same places I have stood, and dreaming of having had an Alfa in the car park at the time is amazing👍🏻
    I will be following your journey with interest from Australia.
    Are you planning to visit Italy on your way North? I am sure you are aware that the Alfa Romeo museum has reopened in Arese – how I would love to see you there when we visit sometime in November!
    Cheers and safe travels from Oz

    • I will definitely go to see the Museum. I’ve been following the news about it for years now. I will be there a bit earlier, most likely in early October, but If things change, maybe we could meet up?

      • Carl says:

        Well I will be following your progress keenly so I’ll know roughly when you will be there I guess. Will have to see how the timing works out.

  6. equanimus says:

    Terrific photos.

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