8. To Bulawayo and Vic Falls

September 11, 2009 - Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe


We woke on Monday the 7th at 3am and were ready to leave the house by 4:55am after being assured by Tore that no busses leave Chiredzi on time (duh). We left the house by 4am only to discover that the bus to Bulawayo had already left. We made a half-hearted attempt at a chase and headed back to bed. We woke again a 5:30am and Tore took us through to Triangle at a crossroads where we could hitch.

What an amazingly lavish and blessed time we had in Chiredzi. We were enveloped into the Ballance home as if we were family. Thank you so much, Tore, Smithey and friends for such warm and generous hospitality. We will be back!

We waited for about an hour with no truck, bus or donkey cart in sight. When a rather laden bakkie came pulled up, we jumped at the chance. As the passenger load increased with about as many km’s, we realized that we had happened upon a rather rough taxi service. The wind was biting and our eyes streamed. $4 and 80km later we were dropped at Ngundu (a bit of a nowhere town) and there was no turning back to the comfort of Balance. We managed to hitch a ride in a truck with Charles to Gweru. On the way we took a detour through Masvingo where we had to disembark and wait for Charles to make a delivery. We stopped and started grabbing our huge backpacks when Charles said: “I knew you would not trust me”. We had split seconds to make a decision. Blake chuckled nervously and said: “No, no, we don’t want your boss to see our bags and know you had lifted us”. I thought that was a winner response but Charles said: “He never comes into the cab”. Gulp! So, Blake and I got off the truck sans packs.

It was a hair raising half hour. We discussed all the other options and how if he did not come back everyone would say we were so stupid. When his truck finally came into view we both had to hide our utter relief and gratefulness and nonchalantly reboard his truck. Talk about a grammy award. Thank you God!!!

In Gweru we quite quickly managed to hitch a ride with Benson who was heading to Bulawayo. By this time it was already 3pm so we knew we would miss our meeting time with the McMinns. Africa time strikes again. (I am beginning to understand why Africa time is like it is, though) The trip with Benson and 3 other hitch hikers (making it 7 of us in the cab) was a thoroughly entertaining few hours. We recorded some of the music and chatter from that trip for you, dad. What a blast. We even had aircon. We arrived in Bulawayo at about 5:15pm and, with the help of our lonely planet guide, found our way to the John McMinn optometrist in Fife Street. Aletta Mc Minn is Bart Love’s mother. Bart is a really good friend of ours and is incidentally married to Leasha Ballance  (connections made yet??). Matthew Love (Bart’s brother – distinctly recognizable) very kindly picked us up and took us to the McMinns. We had a refreshing shower, supper and a bit of the French Open Tennis (took me back, Mom).

We hit Bulawayo the next day, first booking our train ticket to the falls. We then visited the train museum. It was fascinating to see all the technology that was around all those years ago. People were inventive then, hey? Such fine crockery, detail and design. It looks like the Rodesia Railway was a cushy way to travel. Lin, we think you would have enjoyed it!

We then pottered around the town. We looked at a 1965 landcruiser that was for sale. The inside was upholstered with real Zebra skin. Tempting purchase!

We met Matthew and his sister-in-law for lunch at the Bulawayo club. I definitely did not pack clothing for dining like that. Oh well, it was a real look into the world of the elite. So colonial! Until about a month ago it was a strictly male members only place with snooker, smoking, bar and gaming rooms. What opulence. Really quite an eye-opener. We then visited the gallery and some craft shops. Bulawayo seems relatively untouched by all the political upheaval, quite contrary to Chiredzi which seems such a husk of what it was. Contrasts!

We were dropped at the train station at 6:20pm. We had some sadza (like pap) and beef stew at the little café linked to the station. We then boarded an hour later and left as planned by 8pm. We had to book a whole cabin (3 beds) as they split the make and female passengers otherwise. The way the cabin was made was so ingenious and robust. Even after all the years of heavy use all the hinges and contraptions still work. (no water or lights though) We had an enjoyable trip, leisurely and spacious compared to what has been before. We slept really well and woke to a gorgeous sunrise.

We arrived in Victoria Falls by 12pm (3 hours later than booked) and things had definitely heated up. Declining the barrage of offers for escort we found our way to the Shoestring backpackers. They have a POOL!! I have arrived in heaven! We set up camp, secured our valuables and set out to explore. The town is set up for tourism and boys wanting to sell everything trail you continuously. I don’t usually say this of humans but they are really pesty – like flies. We took refuge in a few souvenir shops…they have aircon too. We also booked a river rafting trip for the next day. We swam and had a salad for supper.

We were picked up at 7:45am the next morning and taken to a shelter overlooking the gorge. We had coffee and marie biscuits and were briefed on the adventure ahead. We then went to gear up with helmet, rash vest, life jacket and paddle and started the steep decline to the Zambezi River (wisely below the falls). Blake and I were the only 2 of a team of 8 who had booked for a whole day. We hoped that was not a bad call on our behalf. Ugh.

We climbed into the MK10 raft and began the paddle practicing and further briefing. It all seemed rather tame. We then started the steady drift to the first rapid of our 21. The boiling pot. The whole raft flipped and we were all under the froth for longer than we thought healthy. We came to the top spluttering and wide eyed. This was no tame river….this is the ZAMBEZI! Our ears were now utterly tuned to the command of our guide. Blake’s eyes shone with delight and adventure. I started to catch the bug too. This was frightfully fun. 2 of our teammates were terrified and, given the option, would have opted out then, but 2½ flips and a total of 10 rapids later we broke for lunch exhilarated. Food tastes so good after near-death experiences!

Blake and I then joined our guide and his scholar for the second half of the rafting. We passed the ‘3 ugly sisters’ and got to ‘the mother’ when we flipped again. I managed to get hold of the rope but was forced onto rocks. The raft then came careering into me and I was squished by the force of the water on the raft and me and the rock. I was between a rock and a hard place, you could say. I screamed, as only a chic can, and was released from this ‘deadlock’ not seconds later. Thankfully, I think, Blake was still flurrying underwater and did not hear my screech or I think he might have panicked. Respect for power contained in the water was more than earned. We carried on a bit more humbly.

At a long stretch between rapids we were told we could jump out and swim with the current. It was serene and pleasant and the contrasts spoke volumes. About 4 meters away we saw a crocodile sunning on the rocks. Blake was enthralled and I was decidedly uncomfortable. When it slid into the water I made steady tracks back to the raft. Shiver!

We got out and had to make the steep and sweat-producing (on Blake of course) trek out of the gorge. I think it was about 90° straight up. At the top we were rewarded with the faithful frosty coca cola. Is there anything better?

Once home (which is now classified as wherever our toothbrush is, Lieke) we had a dip in the pool and dressed for supper. We then took a shuttle to the very upperclass Victoria Falls Safari Lodge where we sat on their deck overlooking a watering hole. We finally got to count our buffalo! It was peaceful and lush. We had drinks and a nibble platter and then headed home on the shuttle again.

We woke up this morning at 5:15am and walked to the Victoria Falls National Park(not even the street sellers are up at this time). We watched the sun rise over the falls. Mamsie, it was utterly worth it! Thank you for the recommendation. What a sight. What a creator we are being wowed by! He is magnificent! We spent 4 hours gaping, moving from one viewing point to the next with gentle showers of the spray wetting us. Aaah, I could thrive there. We then headed back to email and update. We leave for Zambia in an hour or so.

Hope to catch up again soon

Thank you for all your messages and updates

Happy, happy wedding to Roger Galloway for the 12th. We drank water from the Zambezi to your health, marriage and long life!




Easy Tiger
Dont Pee Now
Circus Elephant


September 11, 2009
Wow indeed! What amazing things you see! I love the circus elephant! And the rainbow one is beautiful!

I remember being at the falls with the family when I was thirteen - we have a fabulous picture of the four of us holding up our passports which are completely soaked, just like our clothes, from the spray from looking at the falls from across the valley... such an experience!

I was really laughing at your 'between a rock and a hard place' :-) Glad you're ok though!

All well here, just finished three very very intense working weeks with two 3-day workshops in a row, ready to unwind for a bit and pick up the normal routine again on monday....

If you pass by my birthplace in Zambia do say hello for me! It is in Lubwe (North from Samfya), on the westcoast of Lake Bangweulu.

Big hugs!! Lieke
Ryan TerMorshuizen:
September 14, 2009
Hey Guys, WOW, so stoked for you guys this really is living your dreams stuff, hey!!!
We love all the photos and adventure that we get to somehow live out through your experiences...
Have some fun for us too! Happy Birthday Rachel for tomorrow, I think it is.
Much Love
Sam and Grant Base:
September 15, 2009
Happy birthday Rach!!!! Hope you have a wonderful day!
Lots of love, Sam and Grant
Pam Berry:
September 15, 2009
Wow wow and wow again! Thanks so much for writing so much detail...take it Rachie is in charge of updating the blog! Love having sneak bits into your adventure! Glad too that you are feeling WOWED by the Creator!
Happy happy happy Rachie...hope you have a truly amazing day!! We love you and are so proud of you guys for perservering, waiting, planning and now living it out!
Dave, Pam, Daniel & Joel
September 15, 2009
Happy Birthday!!! Wondering what kind of birthday cake, decorations and presents you'll be having this year.... I'm sure we'll read all soon!
Love, lieke
Debz & Oli:
September 15, 2009
Happy Birthday Rach!
We hope you've had a really amazing truly African birthday!
Loving this blog. Its so nice to be able to see and read what you guys are up to. What an incredible adventure!!! So stoked that you guys are doing it.
Lots love x
September 16, 2009
hi rach - was thinking about you yesterday and wondering where in africa you were celebrating your bday.... well whatever you did hope it was memorable and special. looks like you guys are have a ball - keep the updates coming! lots of love, kathryn
Kath Carr:
September 16, 2009
Happy Birthday Rachie for yesterday! I thought about you so much and sent you much love and best wishes across the continent, but didn't get to send you a message. I'm sure it was a birthday with a difference, what with all the adventuring you're doing:) So much love, Kath
September 17, 2009
Hi Rach

Happy belated birthday!!! This is the first time I've had a chance to sit down in front of a computer in ages, so sorry it's late. I'm thinking of you up in Africa, hope your day was magical!! All my love special friend, Kim xx
September 18, 2009
Finally got a chance to read through your last 4 entries. Rach, you write so well! It was special to be able to talk to you on the phone the other day. Missing you here. I'm also so jealous of you being back at K-Lodge! I don't think I'll ever forget that place....
Love you both so much
Paul Frier:
September 19, 2009
Blake - It seems like you guys are having a stonking time. I read your blog and it reminded me of Cape Town station! I'm glad all is well and that you are living the dream. Mention my name to the colonialists! Paul
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