Exploring Zimbabwe

This past week, I finally went to see some of Zimbabwe’s more touristy areas. Despite some of the more rundown areas I have seen, Zimbabwe is a beautiful country. I am glad that before going home in a little over a week, I had the opportunity to explore it a bit more outside of Harare.

GREAT ZIMBABWE

Last Wednesday, I spent the day at Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo. I took three others along, two of whom had never been before. (At first I thought this was strange, until I realized I had never been to the top of the Empire State Building, which is a closer distance to my home). Great Zimbabwe holds the largest collection of ruins in southern Africa. It was built sometime between 1000 and 1400 CE, and discovered by the Europeans in the 1900s. Great Zimbabwe was most likely built by the Lemba who arrived here around the beginning of the second millennia, but this is not spoken about on the tour, because this theory is a bit controversial.

We hiked up a mountain to see where the King’s palace was, and down below where he built smaller homes for his many wives. There are many superstitions surrounding these ruins, including the existence of lingering spirits. When we finished making our way around the top of the mountain, we asked if we would be heading down. The guide responded, “If you’re allowed by the spirits”. The view itself was really beautiful. We walked around a mock-village where some locals performed traditional dances.

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Pinky and me in the King’s palace

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View from the top of the ruins

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View of the mock village down below

After we descended (by permission of the spirits, of course), we went to see the famous monument, which has become a national symbol of Zimbabwe. We walked around a mock-village where some locals performed traditional dances. We also visited the museum, which is filled with many artifacts found in the area. All in all, it was a wonderful and interesting day, and I was pleased I could share it with others who were also seeing it for the first time.

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Locals giving us a little show

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All of us at the Great Zimbabwe Monument

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VICTORIA FALLS

On Friday, I left for a solo weekend getaway to Victoria Falls, on the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia. As one of the (original) Natural Seven Wonders, it was definitely on my bucket list, and I knew I could not come all the way to Zimbabwe without making the trip.

Before leaving, I found a blog claiming that Victoria Falls was “just another waterfall” and a bit disappointing, so I was nervous I would find this to be the case. When you get into the Victoria Falls Park, you walk around, peeking through to the falls from different vantage points. At the first two viewpoints, I began to fear this blog would be true. Don’t get me wrong, the waterfalls were nice, but nothing bigger than Niagara, or even the falls at Ein Gedi. Nonetheless, it was still a gorgeous day and the park was pretty incredible as well, so I continued on.

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One of the first views of the falls

What I soon discovered was that this blog writer could not have been more wrong. Each vantage point gave increasingly more open views of the falls. Each time I peeked through, the falls began to grow and the beauty became more and more overwhelming. At about the ninth or tenth point, I arrived at a place called “Rainbow Falls” where, true to its name, I looked over the edge and saw spectacular rainbows at the foot of the falls. I could have stayed there for hours, but I continued on to see views that were even more stunning. Finally, after walking through this magical-feeling rainforest, filled with flowers, families of warthogs, and huge butterflies, I arrived at a point that could be the home of mermaids. I’ve never seen anything quite like it. The walk around Victoria Falls Park itself would have been lovely, but the falls made it an unbelievable experience.

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Note: When you are confronted by a warthog who seems to feel threatened by you, the correct thing to do is not, in fact, to sing Hakuna Matata to it.

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I also walked across the bridge to Zambia and got to be in two countries at once!

Over the next few days, I explored the town, which is clearly geared towards tourists, with a souvenir shop on every corner and people outside harassing you to buy their tiny figurines of the Big Five that are obviously unique from the figurines someone tried to sell me thirty seconds before. I also zip-lined over the gorge at the falls (meaning I got to cross zip-lining off of my bucket list as well!), which not only gave me yet another spectacular view of the falls, but also the type of rush I love to experience when I travel to a new place. The people I met on my zip-lining tour were great company and the time we spent up in this canopy of trees was a very fun time.

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View from the zip-line

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With Innocent, one of our guides

While I was there, I also took a day-trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana. We spent the morning on a boat that went around the Chobe River. Our captain’s name, funnily enough, was Captain. He showed us countless species of birds, crocodiles, buffalo, water bucks, hippos, and many elephants. The view was stunning. After having lunch at a local lodge, we set out to the safari portion of the day. We drove through the park in a jeep, seeing baboons, hornbills (or Zazoos, as we were calling them), giraffes, and antelopes, along with more of the animals we had seen earlier. Unfortunately, we did not get to see any lions, due to bad luck, and no rhinos, due to poachers leading them into extinction. It was still a fantastic and exciting day.

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During my time in Victoria Falls, I met up with a friend of a friend, named Etty. She is an Israeli who met her husband on a trip to the falls and decided to move there. They have two adorable children and four very sweet dogs. Tom, Etty’s husband is an amazing professional photographer. On my last morning in Victoria Falls, Tom took me to watch the sunrise from Devil’s Cataract, right at the edge of the falls. We only spent a little bit of time there, and I did not get a chance to take pictures, but I won’t forget this extraordinary view. What a special way to spend my last day there and my last two weeks of being in Zimbabwe! I am so thankful I could see a bit more of the country before I head back to the States.

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It took me quite a while to find my gate in this huge airport…

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