My experiences of travelling in Zimbabwe 1996


In no way is this information an accurate and up to date guide. Always buy an up to date travel book for the countries you are visiting.

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Victoria Falls

I travelled to Victoria Falls on the train from Bulawayo which left Bulawayo at 7pm daily, when I was there, the journey takes 12 hours and the train used is old Rhodesian Railways rolling stock which has the full blooded feel of English Colonialism. You'll enjoy the brass fittings and wood panelling which add to the charm of the journey. When I travelled on this train, 4 February 1996, it cost me Z$84 which equated to approximately GBP6 or US$9. Check The Universal Currency Converter™ for more up to date conversions.

My original plan was to travel on the train to Vic. Falls with a girl I had met in Bulawayo, Debra, but this plan vapourised when her boyfriend put his foot down and told her that he would drive her to the Falls (work out the situation yourselves! :-). This meant I had a spare ticket for the train, I didn't manage to sell it until I was in the taxi going to the station. Myself and Debs (she came to the station to see me off) shared the taxi with an English guy called, guess what, Ian, he didn't have a ticket so I sold him my spare.

We had some time to kill when we got to the station so the three of us decidied to have something to eat. We all had a plate of meat with sadza, sadza is common in Southern and Eastern Africa and it is a type of porridge made from maize or millet, it is most commonly eaten with the fingers. After food we found a Porter to wheel our bags to the correct platform, actually he found us, he insisted on taking our bags to the train for us. We found our couchette (2 person sleeping compartment) and settled in. The train left BYO promptly at 7pm to begin our slow journey to the Falls.

We were going to go to the bar later on in the evening but I fell asleep at around 8 o'clock not waking until 6 o'clock the next morning. The train arrived in Vic. Falls on time at 7 o'clock. I took these next photographs just after we got off the train while Ian was sorting out his train ticket to Hwange (Wankie) Game Reserve for later the same day.

Ian had visited Vic. Falls before on his travels so he didn't fancy spending long there. His guidebook recommended that visitors should go to the Victoria Falls Hotel for breakfast, as you can normally get a lavish buffet breakfast for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, the hotel was shut for refurbishment so we had to go just down the road to the Makasa Sun Hotel. Afterwards Ian pointed me towards the Town Council Rest Camp where I was meeting Debs later in the morning, then we said goodbye. I didn't know it at the time but I was to run into Ian about 10 days later in Masvingo....

I planned to get a chalet at the Town Council Rest Camp for myself and Debs. I followed Ian's directions and found the camp easily, I put my backpack in the luggage store then set off to find three Australian guys I had met in Bulawayo. It must have now been about 8:30, on the 5th February. I found the office of the lady in charge of the chalets and told her I was trying to find three Australians who were staying in one of the chalets. She proceeded to hand me a big fat wadge of registration cards, I took this as a subtle hint to look through them myself! Eventually I found which chalet they were staying in, gave the cards back and went to see the guys. So, after we had chatted a bit they packed up all their stuff and the four of us walked up to the reception building ready to be first in the queue for vacant chalets.

The way the Town Council Rest Camp works is that every morning at 10:30 you have to book that night's accomodation, i.e. you can't book more than one night at a time. This was the case when I visited in early February anyway. It might just have been the fact the Camp was pretty busy at the time...

A common sight in the camp, Overland Trucks

10:30 came and I went to book two beds in a chalet, "Sorry, all booked up". Now what did I do? After I told the guys what had happened I went back to the reception and tried again (about 20 minutes later), there had just been two cancellations! I had two beds in a chalet sharing with four other people. It was about this time that Debs arrived from Bulawayo with her boyfriend, he just dropped her off then went. We went to see the three Ozzies in their chalet to say hello. I wanted a shower as I hadn't been able to wash since the previous morning in BYO. The others decided to go to see the Falls. I went to find our chalet...

The chalet had two bedrooms and one kitchen. Both bedrooms slept three, our beds were in the end of the building nearest to you in the above picture. I got settled in and cleaned up then wandered into town. As you walk through town towards them you can see the cloud of water vapour thrown up by the Falls, it seems to be constantly suspended over the Northern end of the town. Also, there is the constant rumble that can be heard as the water falls to it's destination. On my way to the big attraction I stopped at the main Post Office to make a couple of phone calls, this is where I met another Australian named Brett who I was to see again somewhere else in Zimbabwe...

Just inside the main extrance of the Victoria Falls Park & Rainforest Reserve there is a Museum detailing the history of the area and the of the Falls themselves. The hand drawn map below shows the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia disecting the Main Falls and then carrying on down the center of the Zambezi river. Also shown are the main footpaths represented by dotted lines and the road/railway line between the two countries, both cross the Zambezi over the Zambezi Bridge (see photo below).

The Victoris Falls Park and Rainforest Reserve

Zimbabwe ......|............. Zambia

Zimbabwe ........../......... Zambia

The Zambezi Bridge

Not visible when the left hand picture is at the above size is a bungee jumper (US$90 a jump) but when blown up to the eqivalent of 'Poster Size' the jumper is clearly visible (when viewed on a colour monitor not my PowerBook's internal monitor! :-)

At present this bungee jump is the highest in the world. The other attraction for adrenalin junkies is the white water rafting trips which are run by a number of operators in Vic. Falls. When I was there, the water levels were so high only half of the rapids were in use yet the rafting trips cost the same amount as they did when all the rapids were in use - US$90. I would have liked to have done both the jump and the rafting but the prices were prohibitive. By the way if you plan to do the rafting organise your trip with a firm which operates on the Zambian side of the falls, then, when the conditions are good you get to raft over more rapids than you do on the Zim. side, for the same price.

Some shots from around the Zimbabwean side of the Falls

A stretch of the footpath beside the Falls
The rainforest area is on the left

The Main Falls

The 'Boiling Pot'

If you get a chance, view the Falls from the Zambian side as I was told by countless people how much better the experience is. I only viewed them from the Zim. side by which time I was very tired so I didn't go the Zambian side, if you do, don't forget your passport. I spent about two hours in the V.F. & R.R., I then went back to the chalet.

As I had already decided I couldn't afford either the bungee or the rafting there wasn't much to keep me in Victoria Falls. The town is, understandably, very tourist orientated - too much for my liking. Later on in the day I met up with the other four again, we cooked ourselves some food and then went out together. We drank in the Camp Site bar until it closed then we went to a popular but bloody expensive bar called Explorers after that we went to one of the hotels in town which had a late night bar. I was pretty bored of Victoria Falls by this time so I went back to the chalet. I had decided to head out of town first thing in the morning, I planned to hitch around Zimbabwe until I got back to Bulawayo. I packed my bag before I went to bed, ready to hich out at first light.

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Last Updated on 13th July 1997 at 14:16:53

All images ©1996 Ian Simmins
© 1997 Ian Simmins