MOSI-OA-TUNYA – the Smoke that Thunders … The Victoria Falls in the Zambezi River …
There is no word that can describe the anticipation and preparation before you go on a new expedition where you haven’t been before. ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or “the Smoke that Thunders” sounds so beautifully mysterious that it actually started to become my mantra for our trip to the falls.
VICTORIA FALLS … Described by the Kololo tribe living in the area in the 1800’s as “the Smoke that Thunders” and in more modern terms as “the greatest known curtain of falling water”, the Victoria Falls are a spectacular sight of awe-inspiring beauty and grandeur and should be a “must see” and visit on everybody’s bucket list.
To go to Vic Falls has always been one of the things on our To-Do list. In July I told him about a new airline that was going to start flying between O R Tambo and Victoria Falls International Airport in Zimbabwe at a ridiculous ticket price of R99 one way. We started to look differently at going there and the next thing there was this fabulous package to go there for 3 nights, and then we were planning our trip. We knew we were going to stay at the Victoria Falls Hotel the minute we planned our trip to Zimbabwe. It is an institution and it certainly lived up to its name. We also decided to first get to our destination and then decide what kind of activities we would like to do, although I wrote all the activities that you can do there and more in my journal.
While searching for information the notice came through on Facebook that FlyAfrica picked up problems with Zimbabwe and their starter flights were postponed to August. A nail-biting time for me, because as per usual, I started to worry that the trip would not take place. Another limitation was that we were only allowed one suitcase of 15kg which immediately made me go into another flutter because where would I put all my shoes!! Fortunately you can cheaply buy place for another suitcase, so that problem was solved quickly and I was packed and ready to go days before the due date, always at the ready as if I had to be ready to go to the maternity ward. So the reading and planning started with that niggling idea in the back of my head, of maybe we will not go …
At last 3 August 2014 arrived and we got to O R Tambo quite early because we were going to fly off to Zimbabwe at 7 o’ clock. A bit of a flutter happened because we were not sure where to book in and nobody knew what we were asking about when we referred to this new airline. Eventually, we found them and what a relief it was when we saw them at the desk waiting for their first official passengers to fly with them to Vic Falls. It as a breeze from there on, everything went smooth. I actually also realized why their tickets were so cheap, we walked a third of the way in departures hall, then drove another third of the way in the bus to the plane… we kept on driving which felt to me as if we were already at the border post by the time we reached the plane. In my mind I convinced myself that all will be real once we were in the air, so the trip with the bus took ages! And then we took off at 7:20 on our new impromptu adventure into Africa!
We flew out and one of the first new things I saw was. For some reason I did not know we were going to fly across Botswana, like the crow would fly, I thought we follow and fly along the N1 that also takes you to Zim. I did not understand why we would fly across a pan that I never heard before exists in Zimbabwe, never thinking it might be another country we were passing over. A short while before we landed the pilot told us where to look to have our first glimpse of the falls and we did see a lot of mist rising from the ground into the air and then reality hit me and I realized we are nearly at our destination.
We arrived at the airport in Victoria Falls Airport at about 10:15 in the middle of their rush-hour. Not bigger than the international airport of Zanzibar but much more efficient …we got through customs without any trouble and quite quickly, were met by our driver and everybody who was on the same flight and made used of the same package deal drove together to our different destinations.
I was pleasantly surprised with what I saw around me …. My first impressions of the area and environment were immediately as if we were in Limpopo province in SA but it was much neater and no rubble or rubbish or old used plastic bags were lying about in the veld. The town reminded me of the Naboomspruit of my youth, lots of activity and signs of tourism and people walking around and yet the streets were exceptionally tidy and the people very friendly.
When arriving at the hotel, I could easily have gone into a trance with the charm of that “olde worlde” lady. Such a beautiful old hotel, buzzing with tourist arrivals and departures, taxis and buses dropping and picking people up for their day’s events but the guy who see to it that all vehicles park properly did it with such ease.
We were met at the hotel by a concierge properly dressed according to the late 1800’s style, well decorated with lots of medals and a pith helmet…. We received freshly squashed fruit juice and a warm face cloth to wipe the dust of our travels from our faces. The friendly receptionist explained that the room would only be ready by 2 o clock and that we were welcome to go and enjoy something to drink at the Stanley’s Terrace Restaurant …. At the terrace that looked out on the gardens, the most beautiful big old tree and, of course, the bridge and the falls. It was arranged that an events planner will come and see us to book the things we would like to do and a porter saw to our luggage.
We walked through and suddenly our breath was taken away by the sights we saw, Wow! What a fantastic view. You cannot explain to anybody and do the view justice at all when you first lay eyes on the mist, huge rainbows and the bridge that arched across the from Zim to Zambia, it is not just a WOW moment, you cannot utter a word, it is so fantastic! We stood there without words, too lame initially to take any photos and just stared. Once the view in front of us settled in, we franticly started to take photos and also realized that there is a constant noise in the air of the water tumbling down the cliffs … it sounded as if we were standing there listening to waves breaking on the beach, a sound that is nonstop at the falls. We were listening for the first time to “Mosi-oa-Tunya”.
We went back to the Stanley Terrance Restaurant from where you can sit and watch the Zambezi River gorge and the mist from Victoria Falls. Stunning views of the bridge, which spans the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the mist rising from the Falls. We ordered a light lunch, or what we thought was light. It arrived as enormous sandwiches with chunks of cheese and chips.
The events manager arrived, what a friendly girl Clarissa was, and so efficient. Quickly everything was sorted, and paid for and by then we also could go to the room. We would start off with a Falls tour in the afternoon and end our first day at the Boma Restaurant in the evening, a buffet restaurant where we would be entertained by African dances, music and more.
Our room was on the first floor and while I ascended the flight of stairs the first time to get to the room, I thought to myself that this is yet another of those hurdles that I have to face because I am not really so fit to do it at a fast pace, it might become an enemy as we start our planned activities. The room was a nice surprise… roomy and big with a proper bath and shower with lots of space. We each received a wi-fi code that we could use nonstop and while we waited for our first trip to the falls, we settled in and relaxed after being up and about long before sunrise. As per usual, I did not sleep the previous night because I feared that we might not hear the alarm going off, oversleep and more …. My usual fears before we go away on a new travel adventure.
There is so much to tell about our stay, that I will rather do it up in different sections, from telling you about the hotel itself, the falls, our dinners and more … much more to come!