Zambezi – Day 4, Victoria Falls Visit and a Booze Cruise

After three super days of paddling I decided to take a rest day. Muscle pain was increasing but at least my shoulder seemed to be holding out ok. Still, I wanted to take it easy, so while Luke decided to hit the river again, Marten and I visited Victoria Falls while Bart lazed around at Fawlty Towers.


Before it got too hot, Marty, Bart and I walked into town and visited the market towards the end of town, on the left. We spent almost two hours in there, haggling with the merchants, everyone of them promising a better price and something more fantastic than the guy next door who was selling almost the exactly the same stuff. Marty was taking no prisoners and drove some hard bargains with the poor guys but I was feeling more generous. After a slow and painful walk through the entire strip of ‘shops’ I went back to purchase the stuff I really wanted. Being more selective I managed to get some awesome curios and some items not usually made by the majority of carvers. Here’s a tip for anyone going in. Bring old clothes; t-shirts, shorts and socks, even old shoes. You can trade with those guys and get far better deals than any currency can. So many guys wanted to buy my shorts and even my socks. Then my hat, then my shirt and even this green rubber bracelet I was wearing. In the end I parted with a fair amount of money but can’t really complain too much. The prices paid are still extremely cheap given the amount of hard labour that it has taken to produce such goods.


Then one more tip, don’t make jokes about ivory products. They are keen for any kind of business. I told this one guy that I didn’t like his wooden bracelets and wanted an ivory one. In a hushed tone he then said he could get me one and even phoned his brother to come from the village to bring me one. I wasn’t too partial to the idea of spending a night in the Livingstone prison, having been there once already with my dad on another trip for about an hour which was rather unsettling. Long story, we did a u-turn in front of the Chinese prime minister who was visiting, bad idea. So I walked off and told him I’d be back in twenty minutes. With our shopping over and done with we walked back to Fawlty Towers and Marty and I got the guard at the backpackers to organise us a cheap taxi.


Rapid number two (foreground) with rapid number three just downstream of it.


We caught a taxi down to the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park entrance and then we walked to the border post going into Zimbabwe. At a dilapidated old building seething with flies and the stench of people we picked up a scrap of paper which would allow us to pass onto the bridge. We walked past several people coming the other way and I wondered what stories they had to tell, coming from Zimbabwe. After a few hundred metres we found ourselves on the bridge where all the crazies bungy jump from. The view looking downstream is almost directly above rapid number two. Looking further downstream rapid number three can clearly be seen and then the river turns left and disappears before it readies itself to plummet through rapid number four, Morning Glory. After milling around for a few minutes we made our way into the park and had a look at the falls.


A local in the park eating peacefully on some leaves and twigs.


Falling 108 vertical metres Victoria Falls (known by the locals as Mosi-Oa-Tunya – the Smoke that Thunders) is a spectacular drop by anyone’s standards. There are far higher waterfalls and also drops that are much wider but some people claim Victoria Falls to be the ‘biggest’ because it boasts the largest sheet of falling water in the world. During the high season it is about 1.7km broad and with a height of just over one hundred metres, that makes for an impressive scene. That had been my third visit to the falls. The first time we had come in July and the amount of water going over the waterfall is absolutely crazy. If you ever managed to come to the southern part of Africa during our winter then I highly recommend a visit to the falls to see them when they’re cranking. It’s unreal. The highest ever flow recorded over the falls is an estimated 12 600 m³/s. The yearly average is around 1088 and the lowest it ever gets is around 300. So to anybody still thinking this river isn’t that big, think again.


Minus Two at the top of the photo with Minus One shown at the bottom. From this far away, it doesn't look too bad...


The view from the Zambian side is not a good one at all, especially during the low water season. There isn’t too much to see except a fairly good view onto the Minus Rapids and a sideways view to where the majority of the water is falling. The view from Zimbabwe is much better and one can stand directly opposite the curtain at almost the same level and in some spots only sixty metres away. The only advantage from the Zambian side is that it’s possible to walk along the top of the falls and swim in the small pools directly above the falls. There is a spot opposite the Minus Rapids known as the Devil’s Armchair and is one the small pockets of rock which form a convenient pool on the lip of the falls. Highly recommended even for a non-paddler. It was an extremely hot day but luckily we couldn’t walk too far and after a while headed back to the car park where we summoned a taxi back into town for a reasonable fee.


A little bit of Victoria Falls, taken from the Zambian side.


Victoria Falls. The view from the Zimbabwean side is much, much better. Too bad my photos of the falls at a high level are not in a digital format and I'm too lazy to scan some in.


Luke arrived back at Fawlty Towers the same time we got back. Clearly he had quenched his thirst on several Mosi’s already and was eager to book a spot on the booze cruise that same afternoon. Without any further discussion Luke made a mission to organise the cruise while I hit the swimming pool with Marty and Bart. Luke joined us and we enjoyed some beers while lazing in the pool. Life was good indeed. This is what a holiday is really about, doing the stuff you want to do and just clutching out and idling along. Eventually hunger got the better of us and we walked down the road to the Funky Munky Pizza Bistro and lined our stomachs for the evening ahead. I got the feeling it was going to be a rough one.


The Funky Munky - awesome pizzas! Bart (right) and Marty (left) about the enter the realm.


Luke (left), Marty (middle) and Bart (right) inside the Funky Munky.


A brand new mini bus picked us up from Fawlty Towers and took us down to the waterfront. The car was mostly quiet as the other occupants eyed us suspiciously. The booze cruise is quite expensive and cost us one hundred and sixty thousand Kwacha! Once on the boat there is a large plate of finger snacks served for each table and then one can drink as much as one pleases for the duration of the journey. Naturally we were going to want to get maximum value for money… There is another name for this booze cruise, namely, the baboon cruise, and I think it’s pretty obvious as to why it’s called that.


Luke knocking back a Mosi in the way that brings a tear to every proud South African kayaker!


A small cruise boat with an older, better behaved crowd.


Hippo! Check out the little one - cute.


On the upper deck of our boat. I couldn't think of a better place to be, right now...   :-)  The mighty Zambezi River underfoot.


African Princess, probably the biggest and best of the cruise boats on the river. Thats probably why it is so quiet on deck.


The cruise itself is awesome. The double story boat we were perched on took a gentle cruise along the river, hugging an island where we saw several hippos and kept our eyes peeled for the elephants that never appeared. It’s mainly about luck when it comes to seeing animals in Africa and perhaps luck was not on our side that day. We saw a couple of smaller animals and just enjoyed the setting, the tasty snacks and of course the drink.


Marty and Bart took it fairly easy during the cruise and drank only a couple, ok so maybe more than a couple, Mosi’s. Luke and I had two Mosi’s each and then moved on to brandy. First off was a single but that went down to quickly. So from an early stage we hit double brandies for the rest of the journey. Needless to say the conversations got louder and wilder and several promises were made on which the subjects of which seem to evade me at present. The boat drove slowly for ages until as the sun was dropping down it turned around and started off towards the Waterfront again at a blistering pace. This signalled an increase in the alcohol consumption as we tried to match the boats pace. As the sun touched the horizon the boat stopped broadside to the sun and afforded us with a truly magical sunset. It was an unforgettable experience, so to speak and one that I’ll never forget. As the sun disappeared the boat turned once again and steamed off for the camp. Now was the time to make sure we hadn’t been cheated of our hard earned bucks. I gave a solid documentary commentary on some impala on the bank on the way back, all of which was captured neatly on video and all, in Afrikaans, much to the delight of my Dutch friends! And my Afrikaans is not what it used to be…


Bart (left) and Luke (sitting on the right) with a proud display of our drinks for the last little as they did actually clear them from time to time...


Sunset on the mighty Zam.


Back at the waterfront. Yes, it is impressive. Very impressive to hold a camera that still, without a tripod, after the baboon cruise!


Max Bilbow (left) and Adrian Tregoning (right) at Jolly Boys backpackers chilling on the many cushions littered every nook and crannie of the place. Photo by Luke Longridge.


Bart flying high. Photo by Luke Longridge.


When we got back to the waterfront we stayed on the boat for a while longer and were the last to leave, which was not surprising. Somehow we managed to catch the taxi back into town. At the entrance to Fawlty Towers we decided to walk up to Jolly Boys and visit our Austrian friends and generally just make a nuisance of ourselves. Marty decided to jump on my back, followed by Luke. The weight was too much and I hit the tar like a sack of potatoes. A nice roastie appeared on my knee but this was not enough to dampen our party spirits. At Jolly Boys we drank some more beers, chatted to the Mario, Georg, Flo and also to Max Bilbow and just generally had quite a good time. This of course included some extreme body boarding in their swimming pool and eventually we staggered back to Fawlty Towers where sleep came very easily. At that stage, the thought of our multi-day trip beginning hadn’t even crossed our minds.



Photography by: Adrian Tregoning, unless otherwise stated.

Words by: Adrian Tregoning.


Next article: Day five, Minus Rapids, sitting below Victoria Falls, rapids one to ten and the start of our multi-day trip.