Listening to the stories that my home tells me: Victoria Falls

Now in March/April 2020, the virus stopped me from being on the road. I am at home. After all, I am 65+…

My home tells me stories – I just have to listen: In my latest blog I have talked about the the Schefflera plant that reminds me of having climbed the Kilimanjaro with Ernst and the ebony wood bowls that remind me of the safaris in Tanzania.

Let me now talk about the story that this photo gallery in my guest room has to tell: In April/March 2008, Ernst and I visited the Victoria Falls, Botswana and Namibia.

This was a GORGEOUS journey.  I love to look at these photos. Let us start with the prolog and the Victoria Falls.

 

Prolog: Organizing the journey

Mid March 2008, Ernst has reserved flights to Africa: Frankfurt – Windhoek – Victoria Falls, then Maun – Windhoek, and Windhoek – Frankfurt. With a few leaflets from travel offices in his hands, Ernst mumbles: “Now we have the flights, would you be so  kind to fill the gaps?” Oh, yes, I will, wonderful!

I write to three travel offices in Botswana. Immediately, Susan from Phakawe answers. She offers a fly-in safari in Botswana and confirms that the lodges still have rooms available. I book her offer, pay on March 20th, but the money will only appear on her bank account in Botswana shortly before our departure on April 19th. The travel documents make it just in time. Susan cares for us sending various emails: “Take enough warm clothes, the nights are cold.” Or: “Do not take more than 20kgs of luggage, the bush airplanes are small.” Today, I do no longer find this excellent travel agency in the Internet. What a pity! The organization was perfect!

At Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, I book a luxury room (with partial view of the falls) in THE hotel, the Victoria Falls Hotel. We had debated, whether to go to Zimbabwe at all, as elections were going on, but a friend at work told me that usually the touristy area around the Victoria Falls remains quiet. He also recommended the Victoria Falls Hotel (he grew up Rhodesia).

In additon, I reserve a four wheel drive camper from Britz to tour through Namibia. Ernst buys a small Garmin and loads it with Tracks of Africa. He transfers all the tracks to a small laptop that I have acquired to make planning the routes easier and to write my diary. Now we are ready for our adventure.

 

Victoria Falls and the posh Victoria Falls Hotel

After a night flight on 19/20th April to Windhoek, then continuing to Maun and finally to Victoria Falls, we have our late afternoon tea in the posh Victoria Falls Hotel, built in 1904. I believe that I am daydreaming sitting under the colonial arcades, but it is true.

This is the view from the terrace to the falls and the railway bridge. As a matter of fact, there is no view of the falls as such. What we see, is just this spray rising and the railway bridge (built by the English in 1905).

The postcard showing the view of the falls from above makes it clear: The Zambesi – 1.7km large – falls into a ditch – about 100m deep. From the ditch, the river converges into a canyon that is crossed by the railway bridge. The Victoria Falls Hotel near the bridge gives the view of the spray, and this is, what they call “the view of the Victoria Falls”. This is somewhat unexpected for me, but nevertheless spectacular.

We have dinner at the Jungle Junction: The buffet with entries (antipasti, salad, soups, fish), main dishes (fish, meat, vegetables) and desserts is delicious.

The location of our hotel is very convenient: It is only a short foot-walk to the falls. After having paid the entry fee, we walk along the rim into the direction of the railway bridge.

It is all over wet from the spray – we put on our rain jackets… the locals are clever, they sell umbrellas at the entry gate (which we did not need, as we had our jackets).

Across the Devil Fall, 72 steps lead down into the ditch…

… where we can look at the falls from below.

The spray makes rainbows. Ernst and I start our (usual) discussion about what can be found at the point, where the rainbow touches the ground – is it a treasure chest (my idea) or a small bucket of gold (this is what Ernst has learnt from his mother) ;-)? The place seems to be so near… but we cannot check our hypotheses – too dangerous here.

After a siesta and some swimming in the hotel pool, we join the lions’ walk. We meet young lions (still dotted) that are raised to later move to a reservation area. We have mixed feelings about this tourist event.

At full moon, we enjoy the rich evening buffet at the Jungle Junction. We retreat to our luxury room with the “partial view of the falls” (the spray is partially hidden by a tree), enjoy the Belgian chocolate “Bettmümpfeli” (goodnight snack found on the pillow) and sleep well, looking forward to our safaris in Botswana and Namibia.

In the early morning, I take this last photo from the Victoria Falls spray sparkling in the rising sun.

After the rich breakfast buffet at the Jungle Junction, we are picked up by Wild Horizon. Our target today: Cross the border to Botswana and get to the Chobe River Front Lodge.

 

Some geological background information about the Victoria Falls

Brett Hilton-Barber and Lee R. Berger(2010) explain the geology behind the Victoria Falls. In a nutshell, this is, what I understood: There is a volcanic basalt layer here, about 300m thick, that cracked, when ancient Gondwanaland broke up. A series of giant cracks emerged – north-south and east-west. It is a grid of cracks. The cracks were filled with (softer) sediments. Later central Zimbabwe was lifted up and a large lake appeared. At that time, the Zambesi river flew into the Limpopo river system that has its source in nowadays Botswana. More tectonic movements lead the Zambesi river to change its flow to directly reach the Indian Ocean. The Zambesi now crossed the basalt area with the grid of cracks and created the first Victoria Falls at the end. By eroding the sediments, the falls wandered upstream forming five falls over time. The existing fall is the fifth fall, the authors say. After this fifth fall, the Zambesi zigzags through the system of gorges that it has carved into the grid of cracks. Thank you for this explanation.

 

Sources: Paula Hardy et alii, “Botswana & Namibia”, Lonely Planet 2007; Daniela Schetar et alii, “Namibia”, Reise Know-How, Markgröningen 2007; Duncan Butchart, “Wildlife of the Okavango, Struik Nature 2000; my own travel report, “Südwestafrika – Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia”.