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A Story That Confirms Our Lunacy – A Traveller’s Tale by David Waters

When we booked our adventure to Namibia we decided to do an add-on to visit Victoria Falls. Although we detest Mugabe we ignored Foreign Office advice because we felt we had to support the people of Zimbabwe and so we booked to stay at the world famous Victoria Falls Hotel.

This short visit commenced with the usual early start to Windhoek International Airport. The flight was interesting! The aircraft belonging to Air Namibia was a Beechcraft 1900, twin propeller, 8 seats down each side, the aisle between, with 3 at the back. There was no cabin crew but because this was well over 2 hour flight we were given our breakfast tray as we got on board. There was no door to the flight deck so we could see what the pilots were doing and once at cruising height one of them shouted back “is the temperature OK”!! What more can you say. We can say we have visited Botswana as there was a refuelling and some passengers left the flight. It felt strange when the plane pulled up at the BP petrol station to refuel.

Victoria Falls is named by the indigenous peoples as “The Smoke That Thunders” and we got a good view of “the smoke” as we were landing. Later we found out what the thunder was!

First stop on landing is of course immigration. We bought our visas before we left England to potentially avoid problems but when we got there the lady asked why we had done this? She then answered her own question by saying “because Blair told you to”. Well, OK that is FO advice but she then just laughed and said we could have got them 20% cheaper on arrival.

On to the hotel which is still very grand and Edwardian in character, built around 1910; you could imagine a Poirot adventure taking place here. This included the rooms where I would swear the furniture was original and the bed had a mossie net over in a style of the era. Excellent!! Its position alone makes the hotel value for money, overlooking the Zambezi Gorge with a bridge crossing to Zambia and the Smoke from the falls in the distance.

Outside the area is just so poor with people in shanties and around the tourist areas loads of trinkets to buy. We had no problem with this and actually bought some quite good things. You know about the inflation, we changed £20 and needed a carrier bag to take it away!! We got quite friendly with a security guard, he only got to see his wife and family every 6 months. You know all those shampoos, soaps etc that you collect from hotel rooms, well this young man got all of ours plus a few extras that we were happy to pass over. For no cost we made one young man very happy.

So to the Falls! It was the end of the rainy season so the Zambezi was in full flow and even from the hotel you could hear “the thunder”. When you got close the noise, the spray, the just being there was awesome. But we had come for the whole package so after breakfast we headed to the helipad for the ride over the falls. I got a front seat with pilot and you could look straight down through the glass of the helicopter. So 15 minutes of WOW time!!!!

After recovery we were driven along the edge of the gorge and then did a hike down the 200 metre deep gorge. You will have seen the next type of transport on TV at least, a jet boat. There was about 20 people on board as the driver first performed a few tricks then headed over 3 sets of rapids and then stopped underneath the bridge which is the border between Zimbabwe & Zambia. Ah, now I remember why we stopped here, it is where stupid people do the bungee jump from. The bridge is 111 metres above the river, for normal peeps about 360 feet. One man was taking his time so you can imagine us in the boat shouting “jump” although he could not hear. He did eventually jump, what a crazy man.

We then set off for the last few yards and into the first part of the falls, they are about 1.5 miles wide, dropping into a gorge maybe 100 yards across. If you have ever had a power shower multiply the force by a lot. After a good soaking it was back to dock and we went back to hotel to get dry and have lunch.

So now comes the reason we have come to Victoria Falls, those that know us do know what happens next!! We trundled down to that bridge and through immigration. As I said it is the border and the bridge itself is no man’s land. It is used by limited rail and road traffic but today it was us on foot. On the Zambia side we pay our money and get weighed. Your weight and number in the queue for jumping is written on your forearm, ladies there is no opt out! Then it is back to the jump point in the middle of the bridge to wait your turn while watching those in front jumping off with an elastic band around their ankles.

Then it is my turn!!! You are strapped into a harness and hooked to the bridge for safety. Then you step on to the jump platform which is a steel grid through which you can see all the way down. The ropes are then attached, one around your ankles and the other to the harness. The company pride themselves on their safety record, at that time, of 60,000 jumps with no incident. All the time the crew are talking to you telling you what is happening asking who and where you are from just to keep you cool. Then it is time to fly!! You have to hop to the edge obviously because you are all strapped up. I must be honest I did ask “what am I doing here?” but the crew are there all the time prompting but not pushing, it is your choice. What the heck……………………………………… I even had a look down and felt no second thoughts, so it was 5,4,3,2,1, BUNGEE and with the obligatory scream off I went. I honestly can not describe the feeling so just use any adjectives you can think of. Then there is a tug as you reach the end of the elastic and you are whizzing back up very rapidly towards the bridge, this is scarier than jumping seeing that steel work from Dorman Long in Middlesbrough, coming back at you.

After several springs back and forth a man is lowered down from the bridge, he pulls you upright, attaches a rope and you are pulled back onto the bridge, below the jumping platform. When I stopped shaking I am guided under the bridge, along the steel work along the outer edge and back on to the road above. In between, Christine has followed me down and up and we met up again on the bridge. I think we agreed that the experience was incredible, not to be missed but once is enough. In fact Christine describes the trek back through the structure of the bridge as scarier than the jump. For anyone who does not believe we did the jump or wants to see the fear on our faces we did on this occasion invest in the video. You only do this sort of idiocy once.

The rest of the day is a blur but next morning we had breakfast late and wandered through the Falls National park. I said earlier the falls are about 1.5 miles wide and the river actually drops into a gorge so the noise and the water flow is, well, awesome!!

That evening we did “The Sunset Cruise”. A young man collected us from the hotel and took us to a staging point up river from The Falls. Because of the problems in Zimbabwe, tourism is worse than in TRNC, yes really, so there was only the two of us. We set off and we were offered drinks from the bar and a very nice spread of nibbles, so we were well fed and watered by the time we returned. En route we spotted crocodiles, several birds of various hues and a couple of hippos. A wonderful end to our visit to Victoria Falls and entry to the Club of Fools!!!!

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