At the Zimbabwe immigration office we paid $70 each for double entry visas ($55 for single entry) to enable us to do a day trip to Chobe National Park, Botswana. Forms filled and money paid we pulled our cases 50m or so and got a taxi ($6) to Victoria Falls Backpackers ($50 with ensuite). The place felt like a hippy commune, with colourful knickknacks everywhere, but it had a certain charm. Marina checked us into a room called tortoise which was an A-frame construction with a thatched roof. The rear wall was nothing more than a mosquito net and space was at a premium. That said, we slept soundly.
Next morning Mark asked Linda to make two eggs for breakfast and I made my cereal in the communal kitchen. We asked Marina if we could upgrade our room and she put us in a double with ensuite and proper walls called ‘Owl’ which was much better. Unfortunately she could only give it to us for that night, as she was booked up. Therefore, we went to check out another place nearer the centre called Shoestrings Backpackers. It was a larger, more rough and ready version of Marina’s place but a little chap agreed to offer us a twin with ensuite for $45 per night so we took it. I was enchanted by the four puppies there on one of their many outdoor sofas, and that probably helped a little. We carried on walking the fifty metres or so into the centre and stopped in a couple of large tour offices for quotes for our activities. We were interested in doing one or two of the Chobe day trip, the Lion walk, the Elephant ride and the Helicopter. For lunch we went to the OK supermarket deli counter and ordered beef chunks, rice, baked beans and spring greens. The food there was surprisingly good. We returned to Shoestrings to see if it was cheaper to book the trips with them and they gave us a driver who took us to a place where we decided to book the helicopter ($120 per person) and Chobe ($140 per person). We headed back to Victoria Falls Backpackers for the evening and Mark had the dinner which was beef casserole/mild curry around the open camp fire on one of the metal tray tables they provided. We then retired to the spongy double bed in ‘Owl’ for the night.
The next day, in the afternoon, we were picked up by a car with two passengers already inside and whisked away to the Bonisair Helicopter Trip office. We paid the $120 each and were told to wait outside. We had to weigh ourselves to determine who could sit in the front i.e. which of us were less than 70 kg. Within a few minutes the chopper touched down on the helipad just the other side of the fence and we were waved through. We got a few quick pics before climbing in the back and strapping ourselves in. The other two seats were taken by a middle-aged French couple. We lapped the falls clockwise, then again anticlockwise so everyone got a good view. It was really special to see the falls as a whole from above. It was particularly nice to be able to look along the length of them from both ends, and to see the Zambezi valley snaking away into the distance. Just 12 mins later we landed and were ushered inside to see the photos they took of us on the big screen. It was a wonderful experience and once up there we didn’t want to come down again. We were dropped back at our hotel shortly after and spent the remainder of the day resting.
The day after we did a 1-day safari in Chobe Natonal Park in Botswana (see Botswana page). That evening we went to the N1 hotel, just down by the curio market to see how it compared to Shoestrings. It won hands down, as the room felt like a proper, clean hotel room and it was only $59 per night so we arranged to move in the next day.
We spent our final morning in Shoestring packing our cases before calling a taxi for the short trip ($5). We unloaded the bags and checked into our clean but sparse room. We made the most of the free WiFi and asking them to put our provisions in the fridge. The evening saw us going to a famous game restaurant called Mama Africa, as recommended by the couple from the Chobe trip. They had advised us that Warthog is the best meat and luckily for us it was the day’s special, so we both ordered that. It was a kind of meat stew and the Warthog was very tender and beautifully cooked. Yummy!
Next day saw us doing the short walk to the Zimbabwe side of the Victoria falls. We paid the entrance fee and were sold a thin, disposable waterproof jacket by a lady working there for $4 each. It was nothing much compared to the Zambian side, but very beautiful too. We followed the route around the 17 or so viewing stations starting at the gushing, devil’s cataract and ending by the Victoria Falls Bridge. At times the views were breath-taking but at other times the spray was so strong you couldn’t see the falls. Along the way we met a couple from Albany, Western Australia, which was nice. He was a marine scientist who resembled Robin Williams in his fishing hat and she was an English woman from Stoke who moved there with her first husband. Our rain macs didn’t stop us getting soaked, but it was great. We were lucky to be wearing our Havaianas.
We strolled back to the hotel and Mark indulged in the all-you-can-eat pizza restaurant in the casino for dinner, before we retired for the night after having some Amarula. It taste a bit like Baileys but made in Africa with the marula fruit.
On our final day in Victoria Falls we took a taxi to the airport ($15) to catch our Mango Air flight to Johannesburg.