Waterfalls, Elephants, School and a Local Lunch

On our final day at Victoria Falls, we had a compilation of activities before a grand dinner in the David Livingstone Room of the hotel.

Our day began with a walk along the top of the gorge on the Zimbabwean side of Victoria Falls which were discovered by David Livingstone. A statue of him stands at the entrance of the National Park at the falls. He named the falls after Queen Victoria of Great Britain. The local people call them Tokaleya Tonga: (The Smoke That Thunders),  They  are formed where the full width of the Zambezi River plummets in a single vertical drop into a transverse chasm carved by its waters along a fracture zone in the basalt plateau. The spray from the falls rises as much as 400 metres.

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While it is neither the highest nor the widest waterfall in the world, Victoria Falls are classified as the largest, based on its combined width of 1.7 kilometres and height of 108 metres. The resultant flow of water is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Victoria Falls is roughly twice the height of North America’s Niagara Falls.

We had a good view of the water falling over the edge of the falls at the Devils Cataract. Beyond that point, there was so much spray that it was impossible to see anything along the length off the gorge. It is only in the dry season that the view is relatively clear.  It was quite awesome to be standing just a few metres away from the enormous torrent of water dropping over the edge. Along the walk, the spray falls like a constant mist and rain. In some places, depending on the wind, you can get some momentary clear views but the best way to see this spectacle is from the air. This photo shows only 100 metres of the falls; there are another 1600 metres like this across their total width.

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At the Zambian end of the falls is the famous Victoria Falls bridge. Its carries both trains and road vehicles. The train route was designed by Cecil Rhodes and was intended to go all the way from the Cape to Cairo. I think, however, it was only built as far as Nairobi in Kenya. Rhode’s vision waa that the train travellers would be able to experience the spray from the falls as they passed over the bridge.

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After our visit to the falls, we drove to the edge of town to visit the Wild Horizon’s Elephant Sanctuary. This sanctuary was founded in 1992, when they were offered an initial herd of 4 elephants in need of a new home after culling operations in one of the national parks. These 4 elephants, together with many other young animals captured during the culling operations, had been sold to a local Zimbabwean farmer and after spending a few years on this farm, they had outgrown the property and a new home was needed for them, which would be more suitable than a commercial farm. Now there are over sixteen elephants at the sanctuary with some being prepared for re-release into the wild. 

Our visit began with a talk about the Sanctuary’s operations  and then we were led outside to meet the elephants. About seven of them came up to the deck on which we were standing and very gracefully allowed us to touch them and talk to them. Most laid out their trunks on the deck so we could touch and feel them.

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From there, the elephants were taken to a feeding area where we were able to give them some pellets made of corn and molasses. Apparently, this is just as much a treat for the elephants as it was for us. These elephants actually understood English! We could give them the command ‘trunk up’ and they would raise their trunk over their head and open  their mouth. Then we could throw a handful of pellets right into their mouth. If we gave them the command ‘trunk down’,  they would hold out their trunks with the nostril twisted upwards and we could place some pellets into their trunk for them to put it into their mouths themselves.  This was a very enjoyable encounter. 

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Once we had run out of food, the elephants sauntered off into the bush to spend the day grazing. They would be brought back to some yards overnight and then allowed to graze again naturally on the next day.

Our third stop was to visit a local primary school. It had 57 teachers and over 1000 students. It runs two sessions of five hours each per day.The school was only partly funded by the government, so parents had to contribute to some of the costs. Every child wore a uniform. If a parent couldn’t afford the fees, they could work them off by doing some work within the school. Some classes were held outdoors as there was a shortage of classrooms. We were very proudly shown the computer room, the home economics room and the woodworking room. Children are obviously taught the ‘three R’s’ but a lot of focus is on ‘life skills’. Both boys and girls, for example, do woodworking and home economics classes.

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We then left to visit a local family for lunch. Our tour company has a program to introduce its customers to local people so that both get an understanding of each other. We went to Edwina’s house for lunch and experienced a typical meal and gained a much greater understanding of the domestic life of local people. We sat in her lounge room as she described her family and the way that they lived.

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Edwina was 45 years old and had four children ranging from 21 years down to 5 years. Her husband was a cook in the army. She was incredibly ‘house proud’ and described how she swept the floors every day and polished them twice a week on her hands and knees. Her electricity was purchased through a pre-paid meter although she still used charcoal for some cooking and ironing as it was less expensive than electric power.

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Our meal was served after Edwina poured water over our hands to wash them – kneeling and washing the men’s hands first, starting with the oldest in our party out of respect for elders. She introduced us to our dishes which consisted of polenta made from corn as a staple, various vegetables, peanuts and some common forms of protein. {Protein consisted of a small serve of beef curry, chicken and some blackened grilled crispy caterpillars. All of this was eaten with our fingers by rolling the polenta into a ball and then dipping it in the gravy of the curry and adding some vegetables as we went. You would certainly need to add something to polenta as it has no flavour of its own and is very boring. Edwina explained that there was a clear delineation of work around the house. Her husband was not allowed in the kitchen. That was where women’s work was done. Washing, ironing and housework were women’s work. Tending the vegetable patch and repairs around the house was work for her husband.

Fortunately our dinner back at the hotel at night was very much a ‘silver service’ meal with beautiful food and some very nice wine. 

One comment

  1. Trina Bruce · ·

    So now home? I noticed all the plastic water bottles on the table? Maybe an African meal in Ascot Vale when you return? Safe home

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