“Thriving” at Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe & Zambia
Reading time: 10 min
I’m on a plane to London. My laptop died so I’m writing this post from my phone.
With this blog, I’ve grown to like the informal speech and stories that come about here. This is a space for me to ramble and share parts about my life at more length than Instagram allows me to. Sometimes uplifting, sometimes not.
Today, I’m in the clouds and feels.
Let me give you the setting of where my mind is.
During my road trip through Africa with Fiona, we had plans to visit Victoria Falls (the largest waterfalls on the planet, all factors considered). This Natural Wonder is so massive that you can actually view and explore the walk from two bordering countries: Zimbabwe and Zambia. To get there, coming from Chobe National Park, we first have to drive across the Kazungula border between Botswana and Zimbabwe. Our plan was to apply for the double visa that would allow us to go between both Zimbabwe and Zambia (to see Victoria Falls on both sides). The cost of this “Kasa UniVisa” is $50 which is fine. Besides the route planning & campsite booking, we hadn’t done much prior research on this segment of the trip so we were pretty surprised about the additional $100 road tax fee to bring our rental vehicle into Zimbabwe. Considering this was a 1 day, 1 night trip…I wasn’t stoked about the cost. Not to mention, Victoria Falls National Park (double entrance ticket) is another $50. So on top of my repeating daily expenses (truck rental, food, campsite, gas, etc), I’m looking at an extra $200+ for a day trip to some waterfalls.
I say “some waterfalls” because I didn’t want to go. I hadn’t expressed this to Fiona yet but I was more just tagging along for the ride. I’m still making peace with some life events and right now, I don’t have a great association with waterfalls. While I work on this, I’ve been choosing to avoid hikes that go to them.
I’ll elaborate on why.
I’ve mentioned on my Instagram before that a friend of mine named Hannah Bozzy passed away. It’s been 9 months now. I’m just beginning to speak on her more and try to heal some. Hannah and I had been friends for 22 years. My longest length of time to know anyone besides my family members. When I think of my childhood, she’s intertwined in every single memory. We were next door neighbors starting when I was 4 years old. No matter the time passed or eventual distance (states / countries / continents) between us, we always felt like sisters. I can still hear her voice screaming at me “Caroline! Heels down, roll your shoulders back, LOOK UP” … “Heels!” as she taught me to ride horses in middle school. I went to the barn with her and her mom, Jill, almost everyday. It was a blessing to learn from them both. I have a wonderful family (I love you!) but when I was growing up, we were super normal. The Bozzy family added the spice. They traveled all over (her dad is a pilot) and also had a zoo of rescued animals at their house at all times even a blind dog named Stevie Wonder. Hannah later moved to Colorado for high school, studied abroad in Germany and had been most recently living in Chile. She has always been a big inspiration for me, especially in my travels. We had future plans to follow in Jane Goodall’s footsteps and see the chimpanzees in Tanzania. I pictured us meeting up in new countries well into our 60s n 70s.
On October 13th, Hannah went hiking in Chile to some local waterfalls at the Malacura Estuary with two other friends. The waters there are known for being rough and Hannah, as smart and well traveled as she was, wouldn’t have swam on purpose. I really don’t think so at least. However, her and her friends went missing. Their bodies later found on different tiers of the waterfall. It’s possible one of them fell in and the others were trying to help save them or that the water levels rose unexpectedly and swept them off the rocks. I’m really not sure. The mystery of what led up to her drowning leaves me very confused and I’ll probably always wonder what happened out there. I miss her greatly.
Continuing my road-trip story,
I find myself in Zimbabwe. I’m in a shit mood and eventually explain to Fiona that my missing of Hannah is why I’m acting like an asshole and not excited to be here. We’ve traveled across Southern Africa and entered a country I may never visit again; I need to pull it together and go see these waterfalls. For clarification, these are not the waterfalls Hannah visited, but metaphorically it almost feels like they are. Especially for reasons I’ll share later.
Shortly after entering the park, we have a double rainbow view. The sound of colossal amounts of water crashing down is what shakes me. You really feel the planet having full control here. Beautiful, unsettling control.
We explore for a while, walking along the cliff’s cobblestone border. Water misting us the whole time. After all, this side of Victoria Falls National Park is a luscious rainforest.
Then it’s time to make our way to Zambia and view the falls from the other side. Mind you, I’m also low-key stressing because my passport is running out of pages. I’m down to my last blank one and I have more countries to go to after this road trip. In my head, I’m hoping the immigration officers are cool (they were!) and they’ll let me request the exact location of the stamps (they did!) because the Kasa UniVisa earlier filled an entire page. For those reading that aren’t familiar, each time you enter a new country, you receive an exit stamp from the country you just left and an entry stamp from the country you’re entering. To do this Victoria Falls gig round 2, I’m entering Zambia and then returning to Zimbabwe so that’s 4 stamps off rip.
I’m not really a smooth story teller. I skip to the parts of this day that I most want to write about. There’s a lot more walking and exploring going on than I’m mentioning in this piece. And far more viewpoints than the ones I’m sharing pictures of. Maybe that’s to be assumed already, maybe I’m stalling, who knows.
We are in Zambia! Passports stamped, looking at a billboard that asks us “Do you have a fever?” and further warns, “It could be Malaria.”
The craziest part of the day comes next. You can rent a poncho or just go for it. I had a windbreaker but it did nothing for me.
We are about to walk across this bridge out to an island left isolated in the abyss.
Fiona and I decide to treat this part like a spiritual cleanse. With the water cascading down and the sunlight beaming through the mist from the other side…this scene feels like a massive baptism. We both individually choose a word or phrase to focus on while we walk across Knife’s Edge Bridge. I don’t remember my word exactly. I think I fought the experience at first. I do remember “thriving” temporarily coming to mind because throughout Africa, we’ve been sarcastically repeating this when things go wrong. I just went for it though, hoping the few minutes of soaked chaos would help me let go of my sadness. Leave it on this bridge.
The island we reached was beautiful. More rainbows, more Hannah thoughts (positive ones). Like she was saying hi to me out there.
There’s a Celebration of Life fb page about Hannah that we all use to share photos and words in. Many friends of hers mention rainbows to be a sign of her. And the color orange. I didn’t consciously choose my dress this day. It happened to be at the top of my bag and looked clean. But alas, I’m wearing her color and I’m surrounded by rainbows.
On this island, sometime during the photo (above), I lost my favorite ring. A ring I bought in Luang Prabang, Laos back in 2016 and have worn everyday since. For 3 years, I traveled almost 30 countries with it snug around my finger.
Somehow, I didn’t notice it’s absence until a few hours later. We had continued exploring Zambia’s side, made our way back to Zimbabwe and found a fancy hotel to eat dinner at like we belonged there. I was looking at the menu, massaging my own hands when my heart sunk. As if this day could not be any worse on my psych.
I try not to have attachments. Especially with material things, but my ring in some way signified the start of this minimalistic journey. You may see my importing and online market now, but back when I bought this ring, I wasn’t buying anything abroad. Probably spent the better part of my first 2 traveling years doing quite the opposite, either trading or giving away things from my backpack.
That night, I came up with a few futile ideas about how to get the ring back. I even drew a map for a girl at my hostel so she could retrieve it for me in Zambia (she was going the next day), pin-pointing the exact spot I remember taking my hair down for a photo. I also contemplated crossing the border again and going on a quest to find it myself, but my passport didn’t have room for the stamps.
Honestly, I probably wasn’t meant to have the ring anymore. Maybe I needed a lesson on letting go. My ring found a new home on an island surrounded by waterfalls and is now, in spirit, with Hannah.
Throughout my travels in Africa, I’ve been reminded time and time again how necessary this trip was for my healing. Until going out there and addressing these emotions, I didn’t know how much sadness I was glossing over when asked if I was okay.
My sisterhood with Hannah gives me “roots”. Knowing someone since childhood, through all of my life stages thus far; that history with a friend is unmatched. I miss her. I know she’s still her light and happy self wherever she is now.
I’m forever thankful for my travels, crying in pretty places around the world, the symbolism in these stories, gaining perspective from loss, love and support from people that understand, and most of all, Hannah’s and my friendship.
Enjoy the ring, HB. I love you.