We packed up our tents for the last time and celebrated our goodbyes to the flat mattresses as our excitement grew for what was in store for us that night.
On our way to the border we had our second foot and mouth disease checkpoint within Botswana. Worried about the disease spreading they have various checkpoints to control it. At the two we’ve been stopped at we had to get out of the truck so they could search it for fruit and meat (unless they were feeling particularly lazy, then they would skip it) while we would get off and walk up to a wet mat, step on it and press our other shoes into it, and then walk on through. Somehow, the germs for foot and mouth disease disappear in this process and this is what controls the disease. Africa keeps finding ways to surprise – and entertain – me.
The border process at Zimbabwe took an hour and a half as we waited in line for all those doing weekend trips to the Falls. We found various ways to entertain ourselves and attempted to keep cool from the sun, happy that we were there in the morning and not in the heat of the middle of the day.
Driving on the other side we spotted more roadside elephants confirming what we’d heard about the popular wildlife around Victoria Falls. We arrived at the Rainbow Falls Hotel and – considering the tents and camp sites we’d left behind – thought we’d arrived in heaven. The lobby was beautiful and down a few stairs sat the restaurant where we could see the big breakfast buffet which would present itself to us the next morning. Stepping out from there was the big, beautiful pool complete with a bar and underwater stools allowing one to drink without even leaving the water. A small group of us left briefly for lunch, walking into town to find a restaurant and eat at tables like normal people rather than on our laps sitting on our small camping chairs. We went straight back to the hotel, vowing to spend the afternoon there despite the magnificent Victoria Falls sitting just down the road from us. We sat poolside and enjoyed the wifi and the water before going to our rooms to enjoy a proper shower and to scrub ourselves clean from the 3-week layer of dirt which had caked on to our bodies.
Dressing up in our remaining clean clothes we all walked to a restaurant just down the road to have a final family dinner together. In classic African fashion we waited about an hour for our food with some of us about ready to eat anything if it meant we could decrease our hunger. The ordering process was interesting as we found they were missing a lot of ingredients. Two attempted cocktails later I ended up with a rum and 7up after finding there was no coke or sprite left either. I can’t explain how helpful it has been to be a patient person while I’ve been here. If you’re someone who has no patience and you’re wanting to go to Africa, either change your plans or change your attitude, because otherwise you’ll struggle.
Dinner was lovely and we said a few goodbyes to those we wouldn’t see at breakfast the next day before heading out for a few drinks and then crashing in one of the comfiest beds I’ve ever experienced.
We woke up on Sunday after a somewhat short but perfect night’s sleep. The buffet breakfast was just what I’d hoped for and helped to motivate me to pack my bag again having spread out in the room a little too much. Packed and ready to go, we stored our bags and went for a walk with a few others to the Falls, unsure what to expect. The entry fee was USD30 but worth every cent when we walked through and found ourselves looking at one of the most magnificent views we’d ever seen. The sheer amount of water coming off the top was just incredible, and being there in high season meant the mist had a large presence, in some spots unable to see through it to the other side and in others, absolutely soaking us as though it was actually raining. The whole experience was amazing and at each of the 18 lookout points there was something new to marvel at, just being at a different angle or seeing a new part, or even seeing a rainbow. Like most things on this trip my camera couldn’t do the view justice but I knew that this wasn’t something I would forget any time soon.
Having seen the Falls from the ground I thought I would treat myself and do the Flight of Angels, a 12 minute helicopter flight over the top. It was a heavy investment but something I knew I would never have the opportunity to do again, and my god was it worth it. From the minute we left the ground and headed towards the falls you could see the mist above and as we drew closer you could see the shape of the Zambezi river itself and the expanse of the Falls where the water suddenly disappeared into nothingness. A rainbow formed in the water and as we passed overhead it followed on, probably the coolest thing I’ll ever see. I took a few photos but sat there and relished in the experience, just being in the helicopter alone an amazing thing to live through. The smile couldn’t be wiped off my face afterwards and the feeling continued for most of the day, still in awe of what I’d just seen.