The Smoke that Thunders
There is one place in Africa I would visit again and again. The Victoria Falls. More than once I have been there and on each visit I experience the scenery and adventure of the environment anew.
greets me first, providing a prelude to the raw power of this sheet of water. The sound can be heard several kilometers away. Rainbows, bright
and complete, arch their wings overhead. British explorer David Livingstone
first introduced the falls to the Western world in 1855: “Scenes so lovely must
be gazed upon by angels in their flight.”
As I stand on the precipice the waters roar over the edge to far below and swirl up again in a white mist. Here, close to the edge the water spray leaves me soaking wet while I revere the view. The local Sotho nation calls it Mosi-oa-Tunya which means “The Smoke that Thunders”. The cascade leaves a cloud of mist visible from 50 km (30 miles) away.
The Victoria Falls do not tumble down from mountains or cliffs, but from the edge of a deep chasm in the ground. The Zambesi River flows and then plummets into a deep gorge from where the waters continue to mould the earth in six more gorges far below. Its power and majestic beauty make it one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
As the water tumbles over the wide lip of the chasm in the ground it transforms a placid upstream flow to a ferocious torrent cutting through dramatic gorges. The Victoria Falls is the world’s largest waterfall based on its combined width of 1708 meters (5604ft) and height of 108 meters (354ft).
Devil's Pool is right near the edge of the falls. A rock barrier forms an eddy with minimal current, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around few feet from the point where the water torrents over the lip. A leap into the pool and you get pushed to the edge by the force of the river. The rock lip brings you to a halt as the rushing waters of the Zambezi river crash over the cliffs a few feet away. Peer over the drop and the stomach lurches at the might and height.
Close by the falls is a small landing strip where a few light aircraft stand. The microlights lure me closer. I relish heights and views and take a trip as a passenger. In the air, the wind gusts pluck the dingy aircraft from side to side. I see the falls beneath my feet and stretching to all sides. I feel the cool spray of the mist. Fear and exhilaration are close friends alternating with each sway, swirl and shift in the seat. Later, the rickety aircraft lands. My mind is still in the air.
Below the falls as the river winds through the gorges I climb in a boat with seven others. We heave into the waters and the rubber duck lurches in the enormous waves, slow treacherous vortexes and heavy boiling turbulence. Two go overboard and when they surface they refuse to ride on. I plunge into the water twice and experience extreme fear and disorientation in the dark churning waters. Submerged I cannot sense at all which way is up. I can only wait until buoyancy pushes me back to the surface. A heady elixir of terror in water and rushes of acceleration in the boat.
There are gentler pursuits, although it can also be said to be on the wild side. As I play the golf course in front of the iconic Elephant Hills hotel, antelope, giraffe and elephant cross the fairways. The walk around the course is a stroll through a wildlife park. A slow round, made surreal by the wild on the greens and fairways.
There is the local craft market with stone artifacts, wooden carvings and woven handbags. The market and the surrounding tourist industry provide a livelihood for many families in the area. Here I walk and look at the artistic talent tucked away. I stop and buy a few souvenirs to take home, handed to me with the generous smiles of Africa.
Time to go
Here is still much to experience and see. All pervasively is the cloud of mist, the roar of water and the hypnotic grandeur of the Victoria Falls. As the airplane ascends I look out the window and see clearly the smoke that thunders.
Until next time.
(Photos: Random Sources. Experiences: Real and my own).