May 11th: Baptized by Victoria

Hello! So the strangest thing happened again last night. Braydan and I came back from our day’s adventures fully ready to sit down and write up about what we did, but upon returning to the Backpackers for the evening, I had the strongest urge to just lay down for a minute. Just to rest my eyes, you know? Braydan decided to join me, like a good husband does, and two and a half hours later I bolt awake because it’s 10pm and we might as well just go to bed because clearly we’re exhausted. And that’s pretty much exactly what we did!

However, we definitely had a full day of activities that exhausted us, so it was a well earned exhaustion. We started our day by waking up bright and early at 6:30 am ON A SATURDAY! Who does that? People who go to bed at 10 pm apparently. Anyway, so we woke up, Braydan did some laundry and I FaceTimed with my parents back in the States. Then our real day began.

I had purchased a gluten free bread mix that I found at the Shoprite here and wanted to give it a try because, I’m sorry, but I can only eat so many rice cake sandwiches, ok? Upon gathering ingredients though, I realized that the kitchen in our compound has everything but a mixer and bread tin. Mixing can obviously be done by hand with a little elbow grease, so I wasn’t too worried about that. A bread tin though? That’s kind of necessary to make, well, bread. A quiz trip to Shoprite later though and we were in business! Apparently, making bread is some mysterious, unknown thing here because everyone who saw me stopped and asked what I was doing, and when I responded that I was making bread (from a mix, mind you) they were in awe. I’m not new to the bread game since it’s really not super difficult, so the shock and awe had me chuckling most of the morning.

After pulling my bread out at 10 am sharp I ran upstairs to get dressed for our outing to Victoria Falls! There was one bus leaving our compound at 10:30am, so I was practically flying back and forth from our room to the kitchen and back to our room again trying to slice the still hot bread, make a sandwich, grab enough ziplock bags that my phone was sure to be protected from the water with, and snag the poncho I packed just in case I decided I didn’t want to get wet.

A snuggly taxi ride later, we arrived at Victoria Falls. Upon entering, we were immediately “greeted” by a baboon. Just chillin there doing its own thing. But still. A baboon. As we started walking, it became very apparent that baboons were going to be our not so friendly friends on the hikes through the park to the falls. After walking down the “Photogenic Trail” which was in fact very photogenic, we came to a dead end with a lovely picnic table set up at the end of the trail. Three of us that brought food pulled out our snacks because we hadn’t seen any baboons for a while, and for some reason we thought that meant we were safe to pull out food. Mistakes. Approximately 30 seconds after digging in to my sandwich, I looked to the left back up the trail and see this baboon just charging in our direction. I quickly yelled “BABOON!” and I swear it was like we had seen a dinosaur in Jurassic Park. Everyone scrambled to should their food into whatever bags or pockets were available while the others leapt up from admiring the falls to do I’m not sure what, defend themselves maybe? Either way, it was wild.

After our charging baboon encounter, we decided to head over to the falls. Guys, they were GORGEOUS! I can definitely understand why they’re on the 7 Natural Wonders of the World list. Between the width, height, and absolute roar of the waterfalls, it’s not wonder that the Nyangan term for them translates to “the smoke that thunders.” Furthermore, the force from the water as it drops over the falls and hits the water below is so hard that droplets of water are shot up into the sky and rain down on the admirers like a cold shower. I mean literally we were showered. I could’ve brought soap and just been done with my shower for the day because by the time we left we were absolutely soaked! I didn’t expect anything less after seeing about five different stands along the trail to the initial bridge to Victoria Falls that were renting out heavy duty ponchos to visitors, along with the number of people returning to the falls shoving their used ponchos at us with the admonition that “we’d be doing ourselves a favor” and essentially that we would regret it if we didn’t.

Yes, I had a poncho of my own, but did I use it? Nope! I wanted to fully experience these amazing waterfalls and all of their soaking splendor. It was actually kind of magical being rained on by a waterfall that you aren’t standing right beneath. For anyone interested in pictures or videos, contact Braydan because he got some great ones with his GoPro.

After getting baptized by Victoria Falls, we hiked down to the boiling pot, a section of the river below the falls where water accumulates because of the force of the water and swirls around before heading downstream again. On our way down we saw some absolutely adorable baby baboons, and in the process of pulling out a rag to clean his camera lens, Braydan inadvertently signaled a rather large male baboon that we *might* have food. Needless to say, seeing a 250 pound monkey charging down the mountain side at you makes your life flash before your eyes, And if you’re like me (aka 22) that’s a pretty short flash indeed. Luckily, we were able to scoot around said monkey when he realized that we didn’t actually have food, but our lesson was learned: no crinkling of plastic if you want to live.

After hiking down and back up from the Boiling Pot, we headed back to the compound to prep ourselves for a sunset river cruise on the Zambezi. On the drive back, we looked over to the bush off of the side of the road and saw elephants just chilling by the stream! Actual elephants in their natural habitat, and we were probably about half a football field’s length from them! Wild!

The cruise itself was pretty fun because we saw about ten hippos, lots of birds, theoretically a crocodile, and at the end in the very distance we saw another elephant crossing the river. We came back to the compound pretty early in the evening, but like I said at the top, we got back and just crashed. Fun fact: walking/hiking around in the sun all day actually makes you very tired! Luckily, one of our guest coordinators, Barbara, came and knocked on our door about an hour into our nap to tell us that a bus would be here to pick us up at 8:15am the next morning to go to a local church or we probably would’ve slept through church, too. Anyway, that was our day! Long and awe-inspiring 🙂 Until tomorrow, ¡adios!

-Gabrielle Bezzant

Author: Gabrielle Bezzant

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