Day trips are not a big deal for me since I spent the best part of my early travels doing them. With the ease of being able to fly in and out of a place made it even simpler to explore new places in a short period of time. This time, it was going to be a special day trip. Firstly I wasn’t going to fly. Flying in Zimbabwe is still very expensive and from Bulawayo, there isn't a direct flight to Victoria Falls at the moment. Moreover, I did not want to travel on my own this time, I wanted it to be a family trip. After a lot of thought, I decided that all seven of us would take the overnight train to Victoria Falls from Bulawayo.
The last time I had been on that train was way back in 2000/2001 when I took it with my grandmother, mum and sister. Back then it was a silver service - we stayed in the first class sleeper, had beautiful clean bedding and most importantly the train ran on time. The economy has not been good to Zimbabwe - mainly because of a dictator that we had as a president. But I found myself being so disappointed on how the service had turned out .
The carriages have seen better days, there’s no water on the train so using the bathroom is an interesting adventure. We sanitised like no mans business and the bedding was kind of clean but questionable. That didn’t matter as much because we were all on the train heading to The Smoke that Thunders.
The train pulled out of Bulawayo station to start its 450km trip over to Victoria Falls. Normally this takes about 12 hours due to the number of stops that the train makes on its way there depending on the villagers that need to get on the train. Imagine stopping the train at 2am to get on it! That’s great courage right there.
Unfortunately, our train was running late. I remember on the first trip, the train stopped in Hwange National Park and we were able to see elephants heading over to the watering hole for their morning drink. I kept looking out for that same moment, but we were too late, so the animals had probably left by then.
Eventually we pulled into Victoria Falls Station at 11:40 the following morning to a very hot Victoria Falls, hungry and eager to explore. My mum and granddad went to a restaurant selling traditional food then I took my sister and three cousins over to Chicken Inn where we feasted on the greasiest chicken (think KFC). After which we made walked the 10 min journey over to Victoria Falls.
I discovered something amazing on this walk. My grandfather used to be a train driver and that train journey that we had taken was a usual trip for him. But in all the time that he had been a train driver, he had never gone to Victoria Falls. I felt very honoured to be able to go with him on this adventure.
When we got to the entrance, it was clear that this is now a money-making venture, which I don’t have a problem with because the country needs a lot of funds to get back where it used to be - but it was costly. Zimbabwean residents are able to gain access to the falls at a cost of $3.00 and if you are not a resident - as in my case with my mum and sister - then you’re looking at $30. So make sure you line your pockets with money 🙂
When we got to the Falls - I was impressed with how well maintained the whole area was. The paths around the falls are accessible and there is enough support for some of the areas where you are able to walk down. Remember to be careful because the stones are wet and they will be very slippery. We walked the entire way, taking pictures, posing for pictures - I don’t remember taking as many pictures as a family as we did on a trip. At the end of the trail, you'll be able to see the bridge where people bungee-jump from. If you're that adventurous then it's a great way to finish your Victoria Falls experience.
My favourite moment was when everyone was under a rainbow. There are many spectacular rainbows on the trail due to the sun and the constant spray of water - but this particular one was special.
When I saw my whole family under it. I realised that no matter all the things that we have been through as a family, we are able to carry on because of love. And that's why this beautiful country will get better one day. Because of love. Many people don't have much but they have each other and they have love which is more than enough because it motivates people to go out there and do better.
Thinking about heading to Victoria Falls? The train might be long but you don't know what good surprises await you ... we had baboons