Victoria Falls- Zimbabwe Side

If you've read my previous post about Victoria Falls, you'll know that we began our trip on the Zambia side, which tends to have lower water levels during the dry season.  We were interested in seeing how things were in Zimbabwe too, and had booked a self catering suite at Lokuthula Lodges. This is a partner property for our timeshare with RCI so we could stay an entire week for $299. When I made the reservation, I hadn't anticipated 95F. It was simply too hot to be comfortable in the rooms that weren't air conditioned. Only one of the bedrooms had a small air conditioning unit. They also warned about mosquitoes with malaria, so it left me feeling a bit anxious about having the doors and windows open, even though there was a net over the bed. We only stayed here for two nights and had no problem changing our flights to return to Lusaka, Zambia early. That doesn't mean we didn't enjoy our time in Zimbabwe.

The lodges are in nature where bushbucks, mongoose, warthogs, and guinea hens roam freely.  It was mesmerizing to look out the back window of our building as they grazed and paraded by. As long as I was quiet, they were uninterested in me and I could enjoy watching them. The back wall of the living room was like a tent, so it could be unzipped to go on the patio where there was a dining set and a grill. For our short stay, we decided not to cook in the kitchen. Instead we ate dinner at the neighboring hotel's restaurant, Victoria Falls Safari Lodge, which had a nice pool and a bar overlooking the watering hole. The view definitely beat out television. A constant line of animal traffic came to the hole, then left. There were water buffalo, bush bucks, baboons, a couple crocodiles, and many varieties of birds.
Bushbucks in the woods behind our lodge

Those babies were so cute. I could have watched them all day.

These guinea hens looked so colorful and majestic

View through the screen wall to the back patio of our lodge
Watering hole as seen from Victoria Falls Safari Lodge

Breakfast was served near our lodge at the Boma Cafe. It was an excellent start to the day. We sat outdoors near a pool and watched  baby warthogs follow their mothers. On occasion, the monkeys tried to steal sugar from the tables and the waiter shot rocks at them using a slingshot. Finally, the sugar bowls had to be taken to the kitchen to remove temptation.
Omar laughing at the monkeys and their antics

This guy was so disappointed the sugar bowls had been removed

The political structure in Zimbabwe collapsed, creating inflation and the elimination of their own currency.  The country has used US dollars for trade since 2009, though the BBC reported a transition back to the Zimbabwean currency. Every Zimbabwean we met complained about a lack of good jobs and prices higher than salaries. In a few instances, we learned that teachers couldn't afford to get to their jobs, so schools were only sporadically open. There have been massive power outages. Stores are said to have limited offerings. Inflation was about 180% in 2019.

When we went to Victoria Falls, there seemed to be bustling commerce in shops where tourists frequented, but we also met men selling carved bowls and stone statues who were not doing well.  They complained about having lost good paying jobs and now had been forced to sell on the street.  The quality of the goods was high, but people were unwilling to pay as much to street vendors, rather than what they considered reputable businesses.  The craftsmen said they were unable to feed their families and seemed sincere.  Even though we didn't really need souvenirs, I felt compelled to buy something. They didn't even mind if it wasn't cash.  They were willing to take t-shirts, flashlights, shoes...well, it seemed like anything we might like to barter.  One man explained that everything is being imported now.  Farms and factories had shut down and never really got going again after the white Zimbabweans were removed from their properties in 2000 by Mugabe.
The most expensive item I bought- hand stitched story wall hanging for $20

potato printed fabric tablecloth I bought at a gift shop

Some of the hand carved items we purchased for $5 from street vendors

I think as a tourist, it's important to see things through the average local person's eyes. Though we had the means to stay in a luxury resort, and could have avoided interacting with locals at all, I enjoyed the conversations about problems, politics, and culture. We had a nice chat with our taxi driver who brought us from the border to the lodge.  Unfortunately, we learned that even friendly people can take advantage. He charged $20 for a ride we had been told would be $10. Then he left his card with my husband for a return trip. Meanwhile, we checked with the hotels about taxis and found he had overcharged.  Rather than find a different taxi, my husband called him and discussed this.  He ended up giving us a free ride and apologized.

We took the shuttle bus to the city for free. I had learned the best view of the gorge and bridge were from the veranda at the Victoria Falls Hotel, so we enjoyed lunch and a short walk along the garden footpath. The hotel is from a bygone era when colonials would visit the falls and get around with horse and carriage. Photos from the past are posted around the hotel, as well as paintings of guests including one of Queen Mary. The menu includes an afternoon tea, if one really wants to experience how things used to be. It's a five star hotel with posh furnishings. Small monkeys were eating mangoes on the grassy patch before the veranda. The hotel has an entire avenue lined with enormous mango trees, just beginning to ripen.
 Victoria Falls Hotel

View of the bridge from Victoria Falls Hotel. 

Because of the intense heat, we chose not to enter the Victoria Falls National Park. Entrance is $30 per person, per visit, plus the cost for a guide. We spoke with several other people who had done the 16 viewpoint walk along the falls, and though they enjoyed learning about the area from their guides, they thought it was a long walk in hot sun. Had it been May with the falls running strong, we would likely have done it. We had already seen it from the microlight flight the previous day, so I didn't feel we'd missed out.

I'm glad we stayed in Zimbabwe as well as Zambia because the experiences were quite different. We enjoyed the food, adventure, and especially seeing the world's largest waterfall. 

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