Posted by: Anna | January 13, 2011

The Smoke that Thunders

Is what the Zambian phrase for Victoria Falls translates to. We came to Zambia primarily to see Victoria Falls, and then we waited until our last day there to go. We took the shuttle from our hostel to the entrance to the National Park that houses the Falls on the Zambian side. Zimbabwe and Zambia share the Falls between their border, but we stayed on the Zambian side to see them. From Zambia, you can actually only see about 25%, which is mind-blowing. They are enormous!

We first hiked up the “Best Photographing” trail, to get a zoomed out view of the Falls away from the spray. The foliage gave me the feeling I was truly in the jungle, green and overgrown all around as we walked. As you walk, you hear the Falls thunder away, you hear helicopters circle overhead (it’s very popular to take a heli ride to see the Falls), and the occasional baboon. We took a few pictures, and headed back to go on another trail.

The second trail we walked was the Boiling Pot trail. It descends into the gorge and allows you to get close to the water. About 15% down, I stopped and wondered if it was worth it because the day was hot and it was going to be quite a strenuous climb back up the steep stairs. Tommy convinced me to keep going. When we reached the bottom, we both agreed that, no, it had not been worth it. You cannot see the Falls from the bottom of the trail, only the water swirling about around the corner from the Falls.

We hiked back up, hot and sweaty, and headed for the final trail – the Knife Edge Bridge. This one goes closest to the Falls, meaning that you get very, very wet. It is quite difficult to take pictures without a waterproof camera. However, it’s awesome. The Falls are right in front of you, covering you with cold spray that feels amazing because it is so hot. It seemed so odd, as if it was raining, because the spray falls on you from above like rain. The water flows down from the Falls, hits the bottom so hard, flies back up, then rains down again, which is the part that makes you wet. I had assumed it was just splashing you from the bottom, but no. So strange.

There are about 20 different lookout points along the trail to stop and admire the Falls, the “smoke”, and the myriad perfect rainbows in the spray. We also stopped along this trail to watch someone bungee jump off the bridge near the Falls. Although I have been skydiving and now gorge-swinging, I do not think bungee jumping is in my future. That’s just crazy!

Drenched but cool, we headed up one more trail – to walk to the section of the park that has the Zambezi River before the Falls. We had heard you can get in at the top of the Falls, but that maybe it was closed because the water flow was too high. When we reached the river right before the gorge stops and the river drops into the Falls, we see signs that say, “Warning: Walking across the lip of the falls is done at your own risk. Beware of surging water.” Really? We evaluated the river flow, and decided we did not need to look down on the Falls by walking out in the river at the lip of the Falls. I guess we used up our courage jumping off the gorge swing. Tommy did get in to take a few pictures standing in the water, but we didn’t try to walk even two feet away from the edge.

We had arrived at the Falls around 11 and walked around for about 3 hours. We were hot and hungry. There is no food at the Falls, but I had read in the guidebook that the Royal Livingstone Hotel is close enough to walk and has a wonderful view. We asked directions and headed out the 1 kilometer to get there. As we approached the hotel, I was so excited. I love hostels and backpackers, but this is the other end of the spectrum, and I also love fancy hotels. It was a beautiful version of Africa, luxurious and scenic. We sat down at the restaurant to have lunch, and the waitress brought a stool for my handbag, a first for this trip, and probably more than my dirty little travel purse deserves. We reviewed the menu, and I decided on the Caesar salad while Tommy picked out the grilled prawns on saffron risotto. It was our first “nice” meal in a long time. The food was delicious, and after a small mishap with our bill, we were paid up and ready to move on.

Looking out over the wide expanse of green, manicured lawn, we contemplated using the pool, napping in the hammock, sitting on the porch swing, or just lounging in the deck chairs. We decided that after lunch we would have our sundowners (happy hour cocktails) at the bar overlooking the Zambezi River, watching the sun set into the spray of Victoria Falls. A waiter in a suit (mind you, it is at least 95 degrees here) came over as soon as we took our seats to bring us a cocktail menu. We played cards, drank our drinks, and just relaxed into the experience. Around 5:30 PM, the waiter brought over some bruschetta as a snack, which went nicely with my “Under African Skies” cocktail – a mixture of Amarula (delicious Baileys/Kahlua stuff made from Amarula fruit in South Africa) and citrus vodka. I was just in heaven.

After the sunset, we were back to our lives as backpackers – heading to the grocery store to get some supplies to make dinner, then back to our safari tent at Jollyboys backpackers. It was a wonderful day. Victoria Falls is truly one of the world’s natural wonders; the pictures do not do it justice.

You’ll notice I didn’t include any pictures. Our internet is slow here and not able to upload pictures. As soon as we can, we’ll do a picture post of Victoria Falls.



  1. I love the whole experience of Victoria Falls, the hiking, the water to cool you off, the noise, the rainbows. I want tto go. And then the luxury hotel as a contrast — I love fancy hotel bars. What a lovely day!

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