It's a very often repeated adage that the Smoke That Thunders, Victoria Falls, is prettier from the Zimbabwean side. However, I've not yet known someone who was able to confirm this first hand. Until today. I took the free shuttle from JollyBoys to the falls, where a 10$ entry ticket, only 20 times more expensive than the local price, got me into the park with excellent views of the falls.
Comparing today's experience with five year old memories from seeing the falls from the other side, it seems that, no, the spectacle isn't too much prettier from the other side, if at all, but there is a bit more variety on the Zimbabwean side.
Just beyond the entrance of the park, a vendor is renting out raincoats. I wanted to experience the elements and continued unprotected, being soaked within minutes after leaving the raincoat rental behind.
Walking alongside the falls, along a path and bridge called the Knife Edge bridge, you come to a point directly on the corner of the falls and the gorge below, with a similar viewpoint clearly in sight on the other, Zimbabwean, side. I hung around for a few minutes, indulging in the free shower I received, while counting the number of tourists on the economically stricken side. I counted three and waved, but with little response.
It's possible I actually waved to Christo and two Dutchees, who I was going to meet the next day in Kasane, Botswana, who, unbeknownst to me, had decided to visit the Zimbabwean side of the falls and were there around the same time I was.
Inside the park, I, three times, bumped into Noosha, an Iranian Java and Flash programmer, based on LA, and also staying at JollyBoys. Set to do some volunteer work in Cape Town for four weeks, she had attached a few weeks of trekking in southern Africa to get a feel for the continent.
Later, back at the hostel, the day turned out to have been very lucrative for some. An Australian backpacker, Andrew, had his wallet stolen at a nearby pub after having gone on a booze cruise. Though he retrieved the wallet from under a tree outside the pub, 230 dollars were missing. Kate, Noosha's traveling companion, had her iPod shuffle stolen from the hostel. A German visitor, also staying at the hostel, claimed to have 1.8 million Kwatcha (around 350 dollars) stolen from his locker.
I was waiting around the reception area when the German, with restrained anger, tried to communicate his grief to the receptionist, who wouldn't hear of it and deemed it impossible, not accepting any responsibility and claiming that this had never happened in all the years they were operating the hostel.
Somehow, with two other thefts occurring on the same day, this struck me as extremely unlikely.
Later, I spoke to an overlander in Kasane who, on the same day in Livingstone, had been mugged while walking around with two friends, having gotten a knife pushed against her throat.
Comparing Zimbabwe and Zambia
With few people actually seeing the falls from both sides, it's a nice exercise to compare the two views from the two countries.