Hi all


We have just spent the most superb week at Victoria Falls.  I am happy to report that this week's telegraph is a lot less despondent than the last. The falls themselves are absolutely spectacular and its virtually impossible to describe just how magnificent they are.  When the Lonely Planet describes the falls as "one of the most memorable sights in the world" they are not far wrong.  The Zambezi River widens to 1.7 kilometers and then plunges 107 meters into the Zambezi Gorge.  The force of the falling water is estimated at around 545 million liters per minute and sends up clouds of spray up to 500 meters into the air. These statistics are a rather inept attempt on my part to capture and explain the magnitude of the falls but I am afraid it is completely inadequate in describing the beauty of the area.  Exploring the many footpaths around the falls, one passes through a dense rain forest and is virtually drenched in spray coming off the falls. Superb!  The Zambezi is so full at the moment and it is estimated to be rising almost three inches per day as all its tributaries empty their contents into it.  Our river guide mentioned that he had, in all his years of guiding on the river, never seen it this high so early in the year.



The whole Vic Falls area is a Mecca for adrenaline junkies offering everything from bungi jumping to river boarding.  We had hoped to be able to do a day of white water rafting but because the river was so full and there had been a couple of drownings, all white water rafting had been closed until further notice.  We had to settle for canoeing down the Zambezi - an adventure of the more soft-core variety.  We hit the river in inflatable canoes and canoed about 40 kilometers downstream to a spot just above the falls where we were pulled out.  The canoeing was pretty strenuous and we even had to contend with a few rapids (albeit minute!).  On top of this we had to be vigilant not to offend the resident hippo and crocodile population.  Nev and I seemed to have been issued the only canoe in the group that had a puncture.  The canoe kept taking on water and we had to keep on stopping to bale it out.  We also kept having to have our canoe pumped up mid river by the guide.  The whole trip was tons of fun and we returned to our campsite sunburned and exhausted.  It was only when we had completed the trip that we were told that someone had been attacked by a hippo while meandering down the Zambezi in an inflatable canoe.  He did not have a lucky escape and lost a leg poor bugger.  Had I known that before setting out on the trip I might have had some serious second thoughts - I certainly would have paid more attention to hippo spotting!



Nev was determined to do the Vic Falls bungi jump having done both Gouritz and Bloukrans before.  I, on the other hand, was not that brave (or stupid) and was content with the adrenaline rush of walking out onto the Vic Falls bridge between the Zim and Zambian borders and hanging over the edge trying to photograph Nev doing his jumps.  When we arrived at the jump site we discovered that they were running a special of two jumps for the price of one (which in itself made me nervous) so Nev was able to do two bungi jumps, one forwards and one backwards (show off!).  Check out the bungi pics at the end of the mail.


After a hard day of bungi jumping Nev treated me to tea at the oh so colonial Victoria Falls hotel.  The hotel is pure British colonialism and I would imagine has not changed much in 100 years.  It is absolutely stunning and high tea is served on the Stanley terrace between three and five thirty in the afternoon.  Tea is served by the most polite of waiters, kitted out in starched white waistcoats and comes complete with cucumber sandwiches (with the crusts cut off), scones and sticky buns.  As we sipped on our Earl Grey we surveyed the Zambezi Gorge, the Victoria Falls and watched the remainder of the afternoon's bungi jumpers launching themselves from the bridge we decided that life could definitely be worse.  I self indulgently inquired from the hotel reception as to the cost of a room hoping that perhaps we could skip camping for a night.  It was not to be however and the receptionist looked down her nose at me and muttered "Its 375 dollars madam...............US".  We had to settle for tea and return to our campsite that cost us the equivalent of 7 US dollars per night!



On our way back to our campsite we were pulled off the road by the Zimbabwe traffic police.  While we were trying to figure out what was going on police cars and motorbikes came screeching by, sirens blaring, followed by a motorcade of black Mercedes Benzes, the biggest of which had the ostentatious number plate "Zim 1".  As it flashed by be caught a glimpse of El Presidente - the one and only Mr Mugabe.  The motorcade was followed by jeeps filled with military and riot police.  We had not read any newspapers and so were quite unaware of the SADC summit that is taking place in Vic Falls this weekend.  Being obsessively curious I made Nev take me up to the Elephant Hills hotel, in the direction of which the posse was headed, so that I could see whether (in true tabloid style) I could catch a glimpse of any other dignitaries.  When we arrived at the hotel the place was swarming with journalists, army generals and politicians – none of whom I recognized - and I did not catch sight of the president again.  Pity - I would have liked to have asked him whether it was safe to travel through his country.  We had a highly expensive gin and tonic while I tried to suss out information from our rather dozy waiter.  All I got was that Mr Mugabe was looking tired - I'll bet - being public enemy number one must really take it out of one!  The highlight of the visit was witnessing one of Mugabe's bodyguards switching the number plates on "Zim 1" and replacing them with ordinary Zimbabwean number plates.


We have been amazed that every single person that we have spoken to in Zimbabwe, whether white or black, and from all walks of life seem to be anti Mugabe and ZANU-PF.  There seems to be enormous support for the MDC and almost complete unanimity that Mugabe will lose the upcoming elections.  Everyone is tired of the corruption and poor state of the Zimbabwean economy and even the most reactionary seem to feel that Mugabe has outlived his usefulness.  With the overwhelming swell of public opinion against Mugabe and the fact that he had shown up in Vic Falls we decided it was probably time for us to high tail it out of there.  So we are back on the road again and on our way back to Pretoria. The trial run is over - and we have survived - just!  We are reluctant to go back to Pretoria as we have traveled almost 2000 kilometers north and Cairo is only another 5000 away.  It seems like back tracking. When we look at our logbook we see that we have traveled almost 10 000 kilometers in total zigzagging across the three countries that we have visited.  However, that said, our Land Rover does need work and we do need to dump some of the kit that we have been schlepping around with us and haven't used.  I too need some work - a haircut, some highlights and perhaps a leg wax. We will just have to be careful that we don't lose impetus for the rest of the trip.


Hope you are all well.


Lots of love