Surrender | Victoria Falls

Vic Falls
Zags in front of the misty falls

Victoria Falls is a waterfall on the Zambezi River and it is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is one of the world’s largest waterfalls, with a width of 1708 meters. As a Washingtonian myself, there is pretty much only one other waterfall I could think to compare it to, which is Snoqualmie Falls. I cannot begin to describe my astonishment when we first walked up to the viewpoint to see the most grand, extraordinary sight I have ever laid eyes on. If I were to estimate, I would say that these falls could equate to about 50+ Snoqualmie Falls’ – and for my Washingtonian readers, you understand how massive that is!

Yesterday was quite a spectacular day! After a morning breakfast of eggs, sausage, and toast prepared by the lovely people at Fawlty Towers, our group headed off to see the famous Victoria Falls. This attraction has been something that we have all anxiously anticipated from the first walk to our hostel in which we could see mist in the distance and wondered: are those clouds low in the horizon? Or could that possibly be one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World?

From every single viewpoint, you can see a rainbow reflecting off the side of the falls, presenting a unique array of colors to the already magnificent view. The powerful “whoosh” of the water roared in our ears from any distance. We walked along a bridge crossing the canyon and felt the mist against our skin. To the right were dense clouds of mist that were thick enough to mask the enormous falls, and to our left was a wide canyon with a splendor of green plants and trees amidst the rock walls. Prior to walking to the closest viewpoint of the falls, Jeff had warned us that we would likely get a little wet from the mist, but our clothes would dry off in the sun. However, nothing could prepare us for the sheer power of these falls, showering us with every step. Upon reaching the viewpoint, everyone in the group couldn’t hide their faces of joy and amazement. We all just stopped and lifted our arms out into the falls, surrendering to its beauty and letting the rains completely take over us. We lifted our feet and jumped in the puddles just like little kids. Some of us embraced each other with hugs, while others stood in awe. This was a moment that I will remember for the rest of my life.

From this joyous experience, most of the group headed to a bridge in the canyon that serves as a border from Zambia to Zimbabwe. This bridge also serves as an attraction for bungee-jumping, zip-lining, and swinging, which is what we were seeking to do. Around 1pm, after about a mile walk to the bridge we were met with some disappointing news: the staff had decided to take a break until 2pm and would continue their adventure operations after. Additionally, they were no longer serving any food. So, without any desire to walk all the way back to the market to get a lunch, we waited patiently and loaded up on granola bars and Coca Cola to fuel our tired and nervous selves.

And then it was time. Mackenzie, Emily, Ava, Tyler, Audrey and I all walked to the middle of the bridge for our terrifying free-fall. From our view, we could watch Eva, Jazmine, Joci, Sarah, Dugan, Andie, and Kalie zipline across the canyon from Zambia to Zimbabwe (quite literally!).

Bridge over the Zambezi River canyon

I was the very first one to jump off the bridge on a giant swing. With very little time to even process what was going on, the people working with this adventure company quickly strapped me in and dragged me out to the edge of the bridge. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want to go. “Move your feet to the end!” They demanded, as I gripped their arms in terror. Just past the platform was a 413 foot descent into the canyon of the Zambezi River. One. Two. Three—Surrender.

I jumped, then fell. And fell some more. It felt like I was falling for eternity. Finally, when I was met with the cushion of the rope, I realized I wasn’t dying, but in fact flying in the most picturesque place I had ever seen. I spread my arms and legs out and screamed and laughed in delight. I couldn’t help but keep laughing. Looking up 413 feet above, I could see all my friends cheering me on. What a life this is!!

Tomorrow morning we embark on the real journey of this trip, as we will see what life outside of this tourist city looks like. None of us really know what to expect or how to prepare for this next step. But if there is one thing that we have learned thus far, it is that we just need to surrender and trust in the process. There are many things that are out of our control, but I believe each of us are here for a reason and our unique qualities are going to blend together beautifully in partnership with the community we meet in Zambezi. Thank you to everyone reading and keeping up with our journey, we can feel your support from many miles away. This is just the beginning of it all, and we could not be more excited.

–Katy Rettenmier, Gonzaga ‘24

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13 Responses to Surrender | Victoria Falls

  1. Once again you take us along on your extraordinary journey! I can feel the strong mist of the waterfalls, reminding me of the Mist Trail in Yosemite National park, with its steep inclines, wet rocks and uniquely beautiful terrain. And talk about developing trust and surrendering to the process!! I admire each and every one of you for embarking on this amazing journey and embracing each experience and acquaintance you make along the way. Can’t wait to read the next chapter. Go Zags in Zambezi!

  2. Bryce Kreiser says:

    Epic!!! Godspeed on your journey!

  3. Jennifer Akins says:

    Katy, thank you for sharing your joyful encounter with the Falls with all of us, and wow, your joy-filled jump! This seems like a perfect prelude to the next step. I’m looking forward to reading more!

  4. Katie Buller says:

    I hope it’s not “against the rules” to simply respond “Wow” everyday. That is what I feel each time I read. Wow! to your writing! Wow! to your experiences. Wow! to your reflections! Wow! Simply that we can communicate halfway around the world.
    Much gratitude to all for sharing. We love you

  5. Rachel Haas says:

    Katy & all who have shared so far– thank you!

    I’ve yet to read a blog post and not feel an overwhelming sense of happiness. I am so glad each of you have found yourself in Zambezi right now. I hope you all can spend this time authentically leaning into your unique Zam experience. Enjoy this time, enjoy the group, and make some new Zambian friends!

    Such of a fan of each and every one of you! I can’t wait to read along.

    Rachel Haas
    ZamFam 2019

  6. Katie Polacheck says:


    Your post brought me to tears. Okay, every post on this blog brings me to tears. But your description of the falls brought me right back into the mist and the rocks slick with algae and the joy of seeing and feeling one of the most beautiful places on earth–the smoke that thunders. Thank you for that.

    Zags, I hope you are soaking up every second of your time so far. Livingstone might not be what you pictured when you thought about Gonzaga-in-Zambezi, but it’s a distinctly Zambian place full of kind people who can teach you a lot if you learn to listen and watch. It’s great practice for your coming weeks in Zambezi.

    You are all in my thoughts and prayers every day. Jeff and Abbey, I hope you are staying sane so far. Please have a mosi for me and a long conversation around that freezing pool while the bats swoop down over the surface of the water.

    Kisu mwane,

    Katie Polacheck
    Zambezi 2015 & 2016

  7. Molly Watts says:

    What incredible adventures you’ve already had! It’s been hard to be patient and wait for updates but each one has been so exciting to read. Very grateful for all the learning and thoughtfulness that each post shares. Even as you’ve been enjoying the tourist part of your experience in Africa, you are all still reflecting and that is just such a life-long gift!

  8. Newson Family says:

    Whow! What an amazing experience. I’ve loved reading all the post but I could feel the adrenaline from everyone on this one. Thank you for such an amazing description of you jumping! The joy from the entire group from visiting Victoria Falls was beautifully captured in your writing.

    Praying everyone continues to stay safe!

    Also, please let Dr. Seiner know we’ve enjoyed her updates & videos on TikTok!

  9. Suzanne Rettenmier says:

    What incredible posts from everyone! You are all really good writers, I feel that I am on this adventure with you. And what compelling questions you are asking, your introspections will be your treasure on this trip. I have shared the Blog with many family and friends. They have loved the beautiful descriptions, thoughtful insights and varied perspectives. Most importantly, it has been such a time of time of sadness here in the US since you left, but your Blog fills us with happiness and gives us hope! WOW indeed. Continually praying for you all and looking forward to the next Blog. XOXO Momma Rett

  10. John Rettenmier says:

    I am so thankful we can join with you in your experiences through this blog! Wow Katy the bungie jump must have been terrifying at first and so satisfying afterward. On my bucket list you beat me to it. Your trip is amazing and I can’t wait to hear more. Stay safe and healthy you all. XOXO Papa Rett

  11. Ann Brunett says:

    Thank you for your amazing account of one of the many miracles you’ll witness in Zambezi. Soak it all in – it’s life changing.
    Be well – and go Zags!
    Ann Brunett
    Zambezi 2017

  12. Kelly Miller says:

    K-tee! Julie and I had dinner with your mom and dad last night and they shared your trip with us. What an adventure God has you on! Wow! Soak in every minute of your time there. Let the people, places, and experiences get imprinted on your soul… it sounds like they are from your writing. Your time there will be so foundational for you. Many blessings to you!

  13. Katie Frontz says:

    Katy Rett!! My entire body is currently filled with goosebumps!!! This sounds incredible. Thank you for such a raw & joyful reflection. Prays from Spokane ❤️

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