I was first awoke at 1 am with a sudden stop and lurch by the train and find myself in the unusual position of sleeping on my stomach, while I find both of my hands are gripping the top corners of the mattress. I turn over in order to fall back asleep and am awakened again later in the morning, but am able to fall back asleep without a problem.
I had thought about where I would fly if there was a sudden stop, but with the compartment configured the way it was the benches were on the front side of the train, so each stop just pushed me into the wall, thankfully, instead of throwing me off. The rattling over the tracks wasn’t felt as much up that high in the compartment, but the speed of the train definitely was.
I wake up for good this time around 0900 after Alisa has been awake for a good hour taking pictures out our window. I see no reason to rise early as our arrival is scheduled for 1000, but I know we won’t be there on time. I get up and walk the train, and see what Alisa was talking about when she mentioned that the toilet at the front of the car was simply a hole in the train. However, it was a proper steel toilet, it just didn’t have a need to be flushed as the hole just opened up to the bottom of the ground.
The other people in the train were up and about and the Americans in the compartment next to us were out looking through the windows like us. We realized that the occasional stopping and starting of the train did have a purpose (I had thought that throughout the night it was for rail track management, waiting for other trains to pass, or have the track switched for us, etc). But this morning we see that people are getting off and on the train at these stops. And not to stretch their legs. The train was operating like a mini-bus taxi! Dropping people off in the bush, where there was no station, but obviously they had their destination somewhere in the vicinity. We saw the peculiar sight of a man walking past with a ax slung over his shoulder seemingly on his way to work/home.
We finally arrive at the station at 11, and there seem to few remaining passengers on board, and as we packed up we walked past the economy class (a sitter car) that seemed to have housed most of the nights’ passengers. We walk down the platform and pass a massive white hotel on the other side of the security fence and come to a map showing us the train station in relation to town, and Alisa breaks out the Lonely Planet in order to navigate us to Victoria Falls Backpackers. We set off to look for food with Alisa mentioning that the backpackers is out of town, and I double check with her that she can do 2ks with her backpack and she assures me that she can.
Out in the sun, it is a delight to be WARM for the first time in a long time, and as we walk through town and then out of it (‘downtown’ was about 500m), I am building up sweat for first time on my return to Southern Africa, nearly 6 weeks after my arrival. Our tempers are warming up as well as Alisa cannot figure out the streets and where we are headed, and it is only when we wander closer to our intended destination that we see signs for the Backpackers. They could really do with signage directing people from the main road, rather than only when you get close.
We walk in to find a garden decorated with Africa wooden statues and a lounge place that functions as reception. We were greeted immediately (quite a change) by a young white, South African-looking man and he shows us to the Attic, where the dorms are. I figured it was named this because of the height in the building, but I come to realize that the ledge that separates the lower lever and the dorm, is actually the divider to their personal residence. We would hear many a EA Sports Rugby game coming from the Playstation below during our couple of days there. But it was a very quite and peaceful set up, and for the time it looked as if we had no company. We could hear the falls still, now nearly 3km from the water and it created a constant thundering sound that become the theme music of our visit. It also came in handy when navigating around as it served as the stars do, as you could know which way you’re going by which direction the sound of the falls were emanating from. We return downstairs and set up a sundowner cruise for that evening and are told to be back by 1500 to be picked up.
As we head out, I realize in our departure from the train I have left both my SF Giants hat and UCSD beanie on the hanger of the train. I realized that because I had to squeeze myself through the compartment door to get our, I hadn’t been able to give my customary sweep of the room upon departure. We rushed back to the train, but it had already been cleaned, and a man told me to come back and check with security when they return from lunch, which I did, but still no sign. My first casualty of traveling so far on this trip. The hat had been all across Southern Africa in 2007, and had started to show signs of wear nearly seven years after I had got it on a visit to San Francisco.
We walk back to town, with Alisa accidentally withdrawing 500 USD from the ATM. The ATM only gave the options of 500 and 1100, and thinking that it just hadn’t been reprogramed since the Zim Dollar days, Alisa pressed 500 and then saw the “Other Amount” option. Well, with everything being in USD anyways, we figured we would find a way to spend it over the course of our stay.
We stop in a cafe located in the small line of shops that make up ‘downtown’ Victoria Falls. Nothing special at the cafe, and the prices are the same one would pay in the US for sandwiches, etc, and the food definitely is not anything special. I stop in another telecom office and inquire about SIM cards; no 3G, but they do have regular ones. I pass as at this point there isn’t much need to place a phone call. We then grab ice cream at the regional chain ‘Creamy Inn’, which is part of the Pizza Inn and Chicken Inn. Their ice cream is decent enough though and helps fill the whole that the cafe left.
As we’re walking back, the same guy who checked us in at the Backpackers offers us a lift back, saving us a 15 minute walk, and then we sit at the backpackers and wait for the pick up to arrive to take us to the cruise. We eventually are and head out to the docks, and board our cruise. We enjoy the Zambezi river with the little wildlife that seems to be along the banks and the islands of the river. It was nice to get some shots of the sunset, but overall it didn’t live up to the photos of my mother’s visit in 2007, so it felt a bit disappointing.
We return to Victoria Falls Backpackers for the night and cook pasta and use up our all of our Woolworths’ food so we can lighten our load. We play some snooker, and watch an Al Pacino movie I had never seen with the other Australians that had pitched up and we got to get early to be ready for a full day around the Falls.