26 October 2018
I woke up before 06:00 and lay there for ages, before deciding to just get up and potter. I tried again (unsuccessfully) to upload photos to the blog, and did a bit of research into how we might obtain some $US to take with us into Zimbabwe. (Since their hyper inflation and economic woes, there is basically no Zimbabwean currency anymore and their official currency is the $US.)
Once we were all up, showered and dressed, Cornelia wanted to wake up Lion, so I had to summon up my best roar and the theme stayed all during breakfast. Luckily Lion was allowed to eat his usual fruit and yoghurt! Cornelia had a massive appetite and ate a plate of watermelon and grapes, followed by a bowl of cornflakes, a piece of toast with jam and finally a mini croissant with Nutella.
I dashed off to Barclays down the road to see if I could withdraw some $US, and managed to do so, without too much trouble. First, I had to withdraw some Pula (2000 was the maximum allowed) and then I went inside to wait at the exchange desk. When I sat down, I noticed two girls next to me holding a fistful of dollars. I asked them if they were exchanging to or from $US. As luck would have it, they were after Pula, so I exchanged directly with them: 2000Pula for $192 which felt like a good rate. If nothing else, I saved quite a bit of time!
On the way back, I was very excited to see a warthog with its tiny baby running alongside it! And then, as I entered the B&B site, there was another one with a baby. So cute!
Topping up our credit card so I could pay our bill to check out, I passed Ian who was ferrying the bags we were leaving in the van at The Old House overnight. Cornelia was playing on her “slip slide” that she had created using all the pillows, cushions and the bed, and I was told I needed to have a go before anything else happened! And so I did!
I paid our bill, which seemed very low, given that we had expected our laundry to cost twice the total of the bill anyway, so I questioned it, and she then remembered that it needed to be paid too. As our guide had already arrived to take us over the border to Zimbabwe, we said that we would pay it tomorrow when we returned to collect our van, and we also left our keys with her, in case the alarm went off or anything like that.
Fungih, our guide, was very friendly and whisked us off to the Botswana / Zimbabwe border and we were very lucky to arrive literally a minute before two coach loads arrived. So, we were straight in and through with no queue, and by the time we came out, the line was out of the door and down the length of the building.
Exiting Botswana was straightforward. You simply hand over your passport and they check and stamp it. Then we moved on to Zimbabwe, where we handed over our completed immigration forms and passports, and were asked what kind of visa we wanted. We had already discussed this, and as it’s $5 cheaper to get a Univisa, meaning you can go to both Zambia and Zimbabwe, that was what we chose. However, he reminded us that we had to go to Zambia, otherwise we would be in trouble for deceiving the system. We are able to walk over the bridge into Zambia, so were quite willing and able to do so! It will add another country to the ever-growing list!
The trip from the border to Lokuthula B&B took about an hour, and I sat in the back with Cornelia who was pretending to fly a helicopter using her passport as the steering wheel…
Our driver took us all the way to our lodge, having helped check us in at reception. Wow. It is a three storey lodge house, complete with kitchen, through which we could a steenbok (or other such small antelope) and a warthog grazing! There is a warning notice on the door, telling guests to be aware of lions etc that may roam freely around the grounds, so Cornelia is not allowed out by herself.
We dropped off our bags and headed straight back to reception to catch the shuttle bus into Victoria Falls, which is about 3kms away. There were several drop off points, but we went to the end drop zone, right at the entrance to the Falls. It was $60 for the three of us (Cornelia is free) and we walked in and around the corner to read the information boards. We decided that we would start at Point 1 and follow the path all the way to Point 16, at The Bridge, which crosses the border from Zimbabwe to Zambia. As mentioned, we had decided to cross into Zambia, and intended to walk across the bridge between the two countries.
The temperature was alternating between being very hot and muggy, to a bit chilly when you got wet from the spray of the Falls, which covers you in a light mist. But the views were as spectacular as you’d imagine, despite the water being at its lowest for the year. I apologise for all the photos, but I took a few at each viewpoint, and there were sixteen of them!! Cornelia was hoping for an ice cream (her treat for good walking in the heat) and Ian went back to the entrance to buy one from the ice cream cart we had spotted on the way in. No such luck… it was empty! The seller told Ian that there were a couple more carts outside the entrance and he was allowed out to buy one, and then found us further along the route. He had managed to get a small tub of ice cream with raspberry and chocolate sauce, and once we’d scraped the nuts off, Cornelia gobbled it all up.
Much to our dismay, when we reached the final viewpoint (The Bridge), we couldn’t actually access it from where we were – we could just look at it! To get there, we had to return to the entrance and head out onto the main road. Before we left the Falls, we stopped for a drink and a snack for Cornelia as she hadn’t had any lunch. Much to Cornelia’s great disappointment, she could have neither the bowl of chips nor the hot chocolate she’d ordered, as their electricity had stopped working. She burst into tears, but despite us obviously not wanting her to be sad, it was a great way for her to see in practice, the realities of life in Africa.
From the cafe, we walked the mile or so along a road plagued by baboons and vervet monkeys. We did our best to avoid eye contact with them! We were also approached by many people selling curios and asking for money, but we politely declined all requests and offers. We never want to appear rude, and I found that the best way is to simply apologise and say that we don’t carry any cash with us. We reached the bridge and walked across, stopping for a few more photos of the Falls. The bridge is spectacular- built in 1905 from iron, it stretches right across between the Falls with over a 100 metre drop below. Only one vehicle at a time is allowed to cross! There was something quite exciting amount walking into another country with just our passports in a small bag!
Cornelia impressed the Zimbabwean immigration officer by greeting him in Dmbele, and we were through very quickly. Then it was a fifteen minute walk to the Zambia immigration office, where we were questioned briefly about our visit. “Oh, we’re just off to see the Falls from this side!” was my cheery explanation. We left the office, turned the corner and joined the queue on the other side to exit Zambia and re-enter Zimbabwe. In fairness, Cornelia was very hot and sweaty, and we were aiming for the 17:00 bus back from the Victoria Falls car park, although I did have another excuse prepared just in case they queried us!
Ian put Cornelia on his shoulders and we strode back as quickly as possible, past all the crazy monkeys and baboons, past all the curios sellers and back to the car park, with eight minutes to spare. This time was spent bartering over fridge magnets. We came away with four for $10, each one a hand painted flag of the Southern African countries we have visited (excluding Namibia).
On the dot of 17:00, we were collected and driven back to our lodge. Cornelia was really tired and I tried to get to have a nap, but she couldn’t settle, and as I showered, I could hear her up and playing again. Her and Ian showered, and I dressed her and plaited her hair. She told Daddy that he looked very snazzy and smart, and she loved that I had sparkly eyeshadow on. And she was so excited about our Boma dinner and drum show!
The restaurant was right opposite our lodge, so we were there very quickly, and were shown to our table, and greeted by Shingarai, our waiter for the evening. I noticed that everyone was wearing traditional sarongs, apart from us, so three were brought over and Shingarai tied them on to us. Cornelia looked so gorgeous.
Canapés were delivered first: corn fritters (yum), slices of impala and crocodile, vegetable samosas and some butternut purée. Cornelia tried most of this, but only liked the corn fritters and samosas. Once the buffet had been explained to us and we’d ordered our beers, we wasted no time in getting to the salad bar, and grill. Cornelia tried the chicken, a pork sausage, a beef sausage and an eland meatball, but only ate the chicken, claiming that everything else was “too spicy”. (It wasn’t spicy in the slightest.) Anyway, it was a special event and it was very late for her, and I really wanted her to enjoy herself, rather than worry about what she could eat, so she ended up eating a lot of different breads with butter, followed by a mint chocolate mousse!
Then the drum show started. It was SO much fun!! The band performed traditional dances, playing the drums and other percussion instruments, then every audience member was given a drum, and we were taught how to play them, with an interactive performance from all of us. Cornelia had the time of her life. She could make as much noise as she liked and danced her socks off, delighting our neighbouring tables. She was the only child in the whole place, and she didn’t mind one bit.
While we were watching the show, a face painter came around – this was something Bugsy had been looking forward to all day. He painted a monkey on her cheek – not quite what she’d been hoping for, I suspect, but she very happily thanked him, and watched as he painted a sunset on my face, and a lion footprint on Ian’s.
Once the drum show had finished, we were all asked to the dance floor where one audience participant was chosen to start the dancing, then he had to select another person to replace him and so on. Ian was chosen twice, and was hilarious! Bugsy was invited up, and astonishingly, got a touch of sudden stage fright, so I went with her to dance, and in the end, everyone was up dancing together. It was so, so brilliantly done.
Completely exhausted, we said our goodbyes to our super waiting staff, who had looked after us (especially Cornelia) so well, and headed off to bed. I told Cornelia that she could keep her monkey face paint on overnight, and keep her plaits in. One very happy little girl went straight to sleep.