So, we’re flying with Ethiopian Airways. And it has to be said, the journey to Zimbabwe turns out to be a whole lot smoother and less stressful than the hundred or so miles between St Neots and Heathrow.
First leg, to Addis Ababa. Smooth flight, chicken curry for dinner, a couple of glasses of wine, didn’t sleep much though. We arrive at about 6:30am, it’s 11 degrees, cloudy and raining.
Hmmmm, not the Africa I was expecting…
It’s an quick and easy link to transition to the connecting flight to Victoria Falls. However, there’s Nowhere to buy coffee, so we wait and people watch to pass the time, trying to guess who would be on our flight and if any of them would be on our trip.
On the plane, we watched our bags arrive outside on a trailer. Good! Then we watched them being loaded onto a separate trailer and wheeled away instead of being loaded onto the plane. What the…!!!???
The flight to Victoria Falls took about 4 hours or so. Time for more food! Curiously, we were served Puglian snacks (the guys in front are drinking red wine and it’s only 9:30!), and then more food, chicken and rice (without the curry…). It’s breakfast time in the UK, but I think this might be lunch. We eat it anyway.
We’re lucky. We sitting on the right side of the plane and as we approach Victoria Falls Airport we pass the falls themselves off to the right. Our first glimpse. Even from a distance they are impressive, a huge gash in the earth into which the Zambezi River plunges. The spray is visible rising above the gorge. The Zambezi, upstream, is vast. I had no idea that it would be so wide and the gorge downstream zig zags through the plain.
Hoorah! The bags have turned up…
First in the queue for visas ($70 each), were out of the airport in double quick time. I had expected immigration to be a lot more stressful, but it was straightforward, and the officials were even friendly.
Our driver is there waiting for us, and we walk out of arrivals past a group of tribal African dancers to the taxi, clearly put on for tourists, but it makes for a nice welcome as we head outside into the sun. Much more like the Africa I was expecting.
Welcome to Victoria Falls. I think we might even be starting to relax…
As it turns out, our driver has lived in Southend for 12 years and his family are still there. Didn’t expect that. For the first, but not the last time, we are offered helicopter flights, whitewater rafting, sunset cruises and the chance to walk with lions (amongst other things). Up selling (or just selling) is big business.
Victoria Falls is not a big town. About 30,000 residents according to the taxi driver, although it seems smaller. It’s very dusty. We pass the ‘centre’, but it doesn’t look very sophisticated. Apparently there is some kind of shopping centre although it’s not too obvious.
We arrive at the hotel…
Mid afternoon, after we’ve caught up on a bit of sleep, we decide to go and explore a little.
Africa is already throwing up the unexpected. The first thing we see as we walk out onto the main road is this. Just to be clear, it’s just crossing the main road.
It’s a steam train, on which you can reserve a table for dinner. It takes you onto the Victoria Falls bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia to watch the sunset. All the staff look pristine in green uniforms and crisp white shirts.
We take a stroll into a local craft centre. Lots of nice African things, but no room to take anything back. Outside there is a sign to a local craft market. We wander down. It’s all similar stuff, wooden bowls, olive dishes, wooden carvings of the ‘big five’, stone animals, stone carvings of the ‘big five’. We chat to a couple of the guys, very friendly, but they really just want our dollars.
Leaving empty handed, we decide a drink is in order. Our taxi driver recommended the Three Monkeys as a good bar/restaurant, it’s close so we head there for our first African beer, a local brew, draught Zambezi. It hits the spot.
Our first true ‘taste’ of Africa!