Posted: 2002-12-10 01:37:00
My cousin James and I were quite sad to be leaving Zimbabwe's second largest city, Bulawayo, despite the fact that we'd been completely screwed over during our time there. I'd been robbed at knifepoint under the watchful eye of the local cops before getting to meet some not-so-friendly rapists and murderers in the central police station whilst making a statement. James, my pommy cousin and loopy travelling companion, had been ripped-off by some dodgy street vendors in the market, who later tried to sell us guns. Although becoming an arms dealer sounded like fun, we were more interested in buying an old car than armory as our plan was to drive north in the direction of the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. We visited a local car dealership in search of a shitty vehicle but the only thing that the owner wanted to sell us was a helicopter. The thought of seeing Africa from the comfort of our own chopper excited us although neither of us knew how to fly one so we were left with no other option but to hitch-hike towards our next destination. We were still pissed after the previous nights drinking escapades but somehow managed to rise before dawn the following day and secure a lift to the town of Hwange in northern Zimbabwe. The journey took us through some rugged and very picturesque countryside which was dotted by the rounded mud huts of local villagers and the camps of the war vets who, under the guidance of President Robert Mugabe, were doing their best to redistribute white-owned farmland to black subsistence farmers. A few hairy warthogs kneeled by the side of the bitumen to graze on the long grass that grew there, whilst the odd vervet monkey scurried across the road in front of the ute in which we were travelling. After getting dropped off in Hwange, James and I jumped on a local bus full of people carrying chickens and headed to the township of Victoria Falls. There weren't too many tourists about due to the problems being experienced in Southern Africa at the time so we were targetted by every haggler in town. We decided to avoid the hagglers, who were employed by local tour companies, and venture a little further north towards the Zambian border, which was a just a couple of kilometres down the road. Massive piles of elephant shit cluttered the path and made the going tough, however we managed not to step in any as we walked towards the border post. Elephants are quite destructive creatures, pushing over trees, buildings and anything else that happens to get in their way as they wander about the place. A sign in the local campsite warns tourists of the dangers of elephants as they occasionally try to crawl into bed with the odd backpacker, who have reputations of sharing their beds with strangers. The Zambian side of the Zambezi River is the best and cheapest place to see Victoria Falls, with the town Livingstone being an ideal spot to use as a base for doing this. Jollyboys Backpackers in Livingstone arranges a package where you pay them US$10 for a bed in the hostel, an evening meal and a trip to the falls - which is pretty good value for money if you ask me. James and I headed to Vic Falls on our second muggy day in Zambia and found the place to be quieter and far less crowded than the tourist mecca on the Zimbabwean side of the river. We were dropped off at the falls by the Jollyboys jeep before embarking on a long walk through the rainforest to the bottom of the 1.7 kilometre wide, 107 metre deep Zambezi Gorge - to a place known as the Boiling Pot. Despite the fact that it was the dry season when we were there, Victoria Falls were still very impressive. Water plummeted over the edge of the gorge, creating a swirling cloud of mist that saturated each and every snap-happy tourist in the area. After having our lunch stolen by a couple of cheeky monkeys and trading our sweaty socks for some wooden carvings in the local curio stalls, we hiked along the top of the falls to go for a swim. The swimming hole, which is as popular with locals as it is with tourists, is perched on the top of the Victoria Falls so you're able to swim right up to the edge of the gorge and peer down the waterfall to the Zambezi River below. It was quite an awesome experience however not one for the faint hearted. James soon decided to give the tourists on the Zimbabwean side of the river something to take photos of so dropped his dacks and flashed his pink bits to everyone who was standing there. Fortunately, the only people who were able to see James' tiny willy were those with powerful telescopic lenses, however he felt quite liberated after getting naked on top of one of the worlds great tourist attractions. We headed back to Livingstone for another drunken night by the hostel pool before leaving Zambia for Zimbabwe early the next morning. On our first day back in Victoria Falls township, we fell into one of the tourist traps and booked ourselves onto a 'booze cruise' down the Zabezi River. The trip was as cheap as chips though and a very relaxing way to spend the afternoon. Although James and I were the only two people on the boat, the tour company had catered for thirty so there was plenty of food and beer for us to get stuck into. We sailed down the river until sunset, marvelling at the crocodiles and hippos who waited for one of us to get too drunk and fall into the water. Despite being herbivours, hippos are the most dangerous animals in Africa and kill dozens of people each year. Even our hardy guide was too scared to steer the boat close to the massive creatures, who would open their mouths to flash their long, white teeth if we invaded their personal space. The banks of the Zambezi were lined with fences to stop people from wandering onto land that was riddled with landmines and other unexploded ordnance. Even if one of us had fallen overboard and survived attacks from hippos and crocs, we'd have been blown to bits as soon as we stepped foot on the shore. After returning to Victoria Falls and our hostel, Shoestring Backpackers, we set out to explore the nightlife of the town. Most people seem to congregate in a bar called Explorers in Sopers Arcade before heading onto a club that's adjacent to the local casino. I can't remember much of the evening so am presuming that I had a good time, running amok of course. We were back out in a boat the next day to do a spot of fishing on the Zambezi River. I'm quite a keen angler and try to wet a line whenever I can, whether it be chasing whiting in North Queensland or fishing for piranha in the Amazon Basin. Tiger fish, which are said to be one of the best fighting fish on the face of the planet, are abundant in the Zambezi River. Although we didn't manage to land any during our little fishing adventure, we both hooked a couple but sadly had our lines broken by their jagged teeth during the battle that followed. I know that you're all thinking I'm full of shit, but you should have seen the ones that got away! Even the hippos were impressed.
"what a long strange trip it's been...."