Tuesday – August 24, 2010 –
This morning we walked down to the buffet for a very quick continental breakfast which was included in our stay. Then we left for the activity center to speak with our Bushtracks travel guide expert, David. We learned that our 7:30 a.m. jet boat pickup was cancelled because we did not have eight people. We therefore decided to kill a little time before leaving at 9 a.m. for a tour of the Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls.
Our driver, Nelson, transported towards Zimbabwe. We saw some huge baboons run across the road on the way to customs. Nelson drove us to Zambian customs where we presented our papers before proceeding across the iconic Victoria Falls Bridge, which also hosts a rail line with links to Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. Constructed from steel, the bridge is 650 feet long with a main arch spanning 513 feet at a height of 420 feet above the Zambezi River below. It crosses the river just below the Victoria Falls and is built over the Second Gorge of the falls.
We learned a few interesting facts about the bridge. It was the brainchild of Cecil Rhodes, father of Rhodesia (today’s Zimbabwe), as part of his unfulfilled Cape Town to Cairo railway. If it looks similar to Sydney Harbour Bridge, it is no accident. The bridge was engineered by Sir Ralph Freeman, the engineer who designed that other iconic bridge. Amazing, the Victoria Falls bridge was constructed in England before being transported by boat ship to the Mozambique port of Beira and hauled on the newly constructed railway to Victoria Falls. The bridge took around four months to construct and was completed in 1905.
As we passed over the bridge, we also saw visitors preparing to bungee. Victoria Falls is considered Africa’s adventure tourism hub. Tourists can bungee jump, leap via flying fox, raft the Zambezi, hang glide and fly on microlites, among other activities.
After slowly crossing the bridge and pedestrian traffic, we saw Nelson’s younger brother in the visa line with another group of tourists. We went inside and paid for our Zimbabwe visas. There we met our new Zimbabwean guide, Paul, who drove us to Victoria Falls National Park. He was a really nice guy and great guide.
At the park, Paul took us on a 1.5-hr walking tour of the falls. I think the Zimbabwean side actually was probably just as dramatic as the Zambian side. The falls were just so loud and massive. The plumes of water tumbled below us with mist rising almost 1,500 feet above us. In fact, we were drenched a few times. We could only imagine the wet season when visitors can barely see the falls for the mist. We also saw a number of baboons. Towards the end of the tour, we saw the bridge with microlites soaring above it. We knew that was something we had to do that afternoon!
After the tour ended, we made some photos by the national park sign. Then we drove back to customs and said goodbye to Paul after being haggled by a guy who called himself KGB. After I didn’t buy anything he offered to trade me his ugly Sixers hat for my Astros cap.
Not long after crossing back through customs, we saw zebras and giraffes crossing the road near the Zambezi Sun. We were thinking we might need to cancel our safari in Tanzania because we had already hit the wildlife goldmine in Zambia! Shortly thereafter we went to the outside cafe to have some fish and chips, where a yellow jacket proceeded to fall into Jeff’s Fanta! Needless to say, I bought him another one! At the same time, some zebras were lounging near the pool.
Then we went back to our room where we got psyched up for our microlight flights. Our Bushtracks guide picked us up around 14:00 p.m., along with an older man from England and two American girls from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. We waited our turns and an hour for the wind to calm down. A Canadian girl there told us a story of how she broke a rib on the Flying Fox a day earlier, so we were glad we didn’t do that. One of the American girls was afraid of heights, and after she left ahead of us, we were surprised to see her returning early after she became terrified in the air.
Then it was my turn. I am not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous. And yes, the takeoff was bumpy. The wind blew us around a little upon takeoff, but it was great once I was a few thousand feet off the ground!
We banked gently over the falls while my German pilot, Heiko, explained a few features as we made a couple of loops over the Zambian and Zimbabwean sides. After leaving, Heiko let me steer the glider, which was surprisingly harder to steer than I imagined. After flying over a herd of elephants and hippos, we proceeded toward a soft landing.
Shortly after me Jeff touched down, and even though he is afraid of heights, he had a huge grin on his face. We both agreed that it was a highlight of the trip so far and well worth the $130 for the 12-minute flight. We had to buy the photos taken by the glider wing cameras!
We took our transfer back to Livingston where we went to the Zambezi riverbank at our resort to watch the sunset, ever mindful of crocs because of the warning signs! We then returned to eat supper at Squires sports grill. We went to bed fairly early because we had to leave the next morning.