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The smoke that thunders

Known as being part of the various wonders of the world, Victoria Falls is a beautiful place one should visit. So guess what today we have a visitor #the_wanderer hosting us as we unleash our three part adventure….

How we made it to Victoria Falls on a tight budget

Disclaimer: The author and his companion were University students at the time of writing and all disposable income used on this excursion was earned through parents’ assistance, earnings from internship and other ventures including but not limited to Photography.

The cascading of water down the Batoka gorge is indescribable. It’s a feast only the eyes can fathom. The showers pouring over the pathways make for a refreshing walk through the rain-forest. To top it off, the diversity of what Vic Falls has to offer really makes it an amazing tourist destination. On any day I’d encourage anyone to take a trip there.
Our trip to Vic Falls was casually planned over 2 years starting in May 2017. Being students in a country ravaged by hardships of all kinds and forms, saving up for the trip had to be meticulously carried out over a lengthy period. Our intention was to embark on the trip after internship. Needless to say, a host of reasons meant it never happened.
2018 came along and passed. Only towards the end of the year did we sit down and decide on the end of the academic year which was June of 2019. It felt right, why not? What better way to bid farewell to our intense studies than a trip to arguably the best tourist destination in Zimbabwe. We were confident we’d chosen the best time and so we set our sights on June 2019.
A few days before our trip, we confided in a friend who’s a local in Vic Falls. He set us up with a lady offering accommodation at an affordable lodge (Lathi Lodge). I was skeptical at first like any person who’d be visiting a new place and is eager to get everything right before setting off on the journey. We also only wanted to spend about US$80 for two nights using separate rooms, so you can understand where I was coming from here. It felt like too much to ask for the price. We got a good deal and accommodation was sorted but we had to fend for ourselves for sustenance.
Upon entering Victoria Falls you’re greeted by a beautiful airport neatly tucked a few km out of town. It really sets the tone for what you’d imagine awaits you from a town hosting one of the seven wonders of the world. Leaving the airport in the distance, we graced Chinotimba, a high density suburb in the area. I was told it is one of the oldest suburbs in the town. It proved unimpressive for all my high expectations and it succeeded in dampening my spirit for a bit. Alex, my companion and friend, assured me we hadn’t seen anything yet and I quickly realised I had to reserve my high hopes for later. We arrived around 3 pm and were exhausted from the journey from Bulawayo in the sweltering heat. The Hwange-Vic Falls area boasts some of the highest temperatures in Zimbabwe and this was despite that it was winter. We did a bit of grocery shopping for our supper and breakfast. I had an altercation with the Pick n Pay manager over a beef stew I ordered. It’s price magically changed at the till and I wasn’t too eager to lose my money on a stew I thought was a bargain. We were very budget conscious and sticking hard to our budget was one of the top priorities. Alex enjoyed all this. For all my calm nature she never thought I had it in me to cause a stare. It turned out a wrongly priced sticker was placed on my food. Anyway, I still paid for it but not after exchanging a few words.
We chose to save our money by taking walks throughout most of our time in Vic Falls and spend more on activities. From Pick n Pay we walked all the way to the lodge which was about 1 km away. This helped us take in more of Vic Falls. The lodge proved homely providing comfortable living quarters, clean toilets, WiFi and a TV (I was fortunate to watch the Uefa Champions League final that night 😁). We worked on our itinerary before going to bed.
The next day felt too distant through the night. I woke up very early (4:30 am), I hardly wake up very early. A few days prior I had woken up around 6 am to tell my dad I’d be going to Vic Falls. The first thing he said to me was, “You’re up so early, is everything okay?”. I was too eager to go out I didn’t want to waste even a single minute of the day. I’d read from online reviews that it’s best to visit the Rain-forest early if you’re a budding photographer 😁📷. Being one I didn’t want to lose that chance. Alex on the other hand was still dosing off while I was busy imagining how the day would turn out. We left at exactly 7 am and walked to the rain-forest. That was our first opportunity to take in the fancier side of Vic Falls and boy we were not disappointed. From the luxury hotels and lodges, to the wonderful exhibitions of crafts and curios and the beautiful sunrise in Victoria Falls. Even the Sun rises differently when you’re in a new place. 😂😂 It was all to die for. We saved this premature sightseeing for later and only took short glimpses.

Before entering the rain-forest we obtained raincoats for a negotiated fee, Alex being the master negotiator handled this well. I on the other hand just watched in support. When it came to negotiating prices, I’d let her do her thing. She handled it like a natural. She was stern and unrelenting about how much she was willing to fork out. It’s either you work with her or you’ll work with her. 😂😂 I must admit, she saved me a fortune and I can’t thank her enough. Given the way ‘rains’ in the rain-forest, if you want to leave without getting totally wet, you need to rent a raincoat. We entered the rain-forest on the local charge and took time to watch warthogs that were feeding inside the sanctuary. We walked through the rain-forest with all eagerness and enthusiasm. I for one was witnessing all this for the first time and was enjoying every moment. Words cannot describe the feeling of watching the waterfalls, the showers that are Mosi-oa-tunya, listening to roar of the water as it falls down and hits the floor of the gorge, taking in the magnificent piece of engineering that is Victoria Falls bridge. I clearly remember the fresh feeling of little water droplets touching my face. It all felt new. I have been rained on many times but this felt different. Looking at the showers alone was amazing. For the first time ever in my life I really felt like a tourist and the feeling was amazing. I hoped it would not end.

Alex posing with the Falls in the background — Photo by author

There’s a lot that goes through your mind as you see all this. All your senses are at their best. Taking in what they can, the sound, the smell in the air, all of it. As you enter into the rain-forest, footpaths meander through the forest leading to various viewpoints on the gorge. We arrived at David Livingstone’s statue. Hordes of other eager tourists, mostly foreigners, filled the forest. Some stood in awe of the falls, others couldn’t stop taking pictures throughout. A young couple asked me to take a photo of them with the waterfall as their backdrop. I was happy to practice my photography skills 😁😁. In the forest baboons swung in the trees. Foreign tourists were mesmerized by them but we simply walked past. My totem is a baboon so it was not a particularly new sight for me. My Africaness wouldn’t let me. 😂😂

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