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Trip 5 - Southern Africa

Message 3: Arusha to Victoria Falls

From: seth@sethweinstein.com (Seth Weinstein) 
Date: 24 Nov 2001 13:43:32 -0000 
Subject: Africa update #3: Arusha to Victoria Falls 

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, is conveniently reached from Arusha, Tanzania, in six stages.

(1) Bus from Arusha to Mbeya, Tanzania. Normally a straightforward 18-hour ride, this became a 23-hour test of patience as our bus broke down somewhere in the vicinity of Chalinze. It turned out to be a good thing: Instead of arriving at midnight, we arrived at 4:00 in the morning and could sleep on the bus until sunrise, thereby saving a night's accommodation.

(2) Bus from Mbeya to Tunduma, Tanzania. Normally a straightforward two-hour ride, my trip took only 83 minutes as my bus driver raced against two others to see who could collect the most fares. (We won by a landslide and perhaps caused one.)

(3) Bus from Tunduma, Tanzania, to Lusaka, Zambia. We left 74 minutes late - fortunately, as only because of that did we arrive in Lusaka after sunrise.

(4) Train from Lusaka to Livingstone, Zambia. What do people do in Lusaka? They wait to buy train tickets. This simple task took the better part of the morning as the booking office opened more than one hour later than expected, and only then did they begin issuing tickets, at a suitably tropical pace. That still left me with the better part of a day to explore Lusaka, which has several colorful markets and an excellent national museum. The train itself was quite grubby, with a not an unshattered window to be found and with much of Zambia's diverse wildlife flying around my compartment.

(5) Minibus from Livingstone to Victoria Falls (Zambia side). Zambia has the smaller portion (but still an impressive one) of the massive Victoria Falls, which stretch for almost two kilometers at the Zambezi River.

(6) Walk from Victoria Falls (Zambia side) to Victoria Falls town, Zimbabwe. Between the two border posts is a bridge containing the world's highest commercial bungee jump. I consider myself fortunate that I was able to walk across the bridge itself.

The Zimbabwe side of Victoria Falls, which I visited yesterday, is quite stunning (and drenching): There are a dozen or so lookout points where you can see the water cascading more than 100 meters - and then rising again into mist.

Rampant inflation in Zimbabwe means that many things are quite cheap for the traveler. The official rate of exchange (and the one posted everywhere) is Z$55 to US$1, but the actual rate that you get in the currency-exchange offices is about Z$250 to US$1. Many businesses up their prices accordingly, so that items are fairly cheap - but some prices are fixed, so they become absurdly cheap. To enter Victoria Falls, for instance, you have the option of paying US$20 or only Z$1140 (duh).

There haven't been that many culinary adventures of note this trip, but last night's dinner, at the Boma restaurant in Victoria Falls, was so terrific that I'm going back again tonight. For Z$2500, you get a small starter (I chose the bream-crocodile-Kapenta plate), followed by all sorts of cooked wildlife such as warthog, eland, kudu, and ostrich. Among my favorites were the Mopani worms: crunchy on the outside, moist and almost as crunchy on the inside.

To accompany the meal one could choose from an assortment of Zimbabwe's finest wines. Don't laugh: The muscat (I know...muscat isn't the traditional accompaniment to warthog) was quite tasty and refreshing, especially at US$2...per bottle.

Toward the end of the meal I noticed my tablecloth crawling with ants. Were they meant to be eaten as well?


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