"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

8.08.2007

victoria falls

Victoria Falls is beautiful beyond anything you can believe. If you ever have the chance, you must come here. It's just indescribably lovely. I went to the park on the Zambian side yesterday to have a look. There's fall after fall after fall, and you're seeing less than half of it from this bank. It makes Niagara Falls look like something small and insignificant.

You get soaked by the spray from the little bridge across from the Falls. I went up by the edge of the falls as well, which was really cool. Unfortunately the connections here are really bad; I'll post pictures when I get to Lusaka or Nairobi. Or home.

Tuesday afternoon I went on a ridiculously quaint trip to Livingstone Island. Quite honestly, this was an afterthought, an impulse purchase at the booking office, if you will. But, wow, was it worth every penny. The tour left from upper Zambezi at the Royal Livingstone hotel (which is the fanciest ($550/night) joint in town and is a place for those who like their colonialism up-to-the-minute) in a flat-bottom boat that raced through the rapids and came alarmingly close to the edge of the Falls.


When they said, "It's the island closest to the top of the Falls," I didn't realize they meant, "Livingstone Island is actually in the middle of the Falls." As in, on the edge. In the middle. It was one of the coolest things I've ever done, even with the creepily friendly guides who insisted on taking way more pictures of us than we wanted taken. They're required to hold your hand while you're scrambling down the wet rocks to the edge (losing a customer would be bad for business), but my guy wanted to hold my hand for just a bit too long. After admiring the various views, we sat down under a tent for a ridiculous high tea, complete with Pims punch and all the finger sandwiches you could want.


As previously mentioned, Vic Falls is also the adventure capital of southern Africa. This is great as I'm getting a vacation that's both relaxing and active. I've been in the Victoria Falls area for about 48 hours now. So far I have done two stupid things that could get me killed.



First, I bungi jumped off the 102-year-old Victoria Falls bridge, which at 111 meters was until recently the world's highest commercial jump (that's longer than a football field, people). I really thought it would be like skydiving where I'd want to go, but they'd have to push me because my body would refuse to go, but they counted down from 5 and when they yelled, "Bungi!" I just jumped. The freefall was exhilirating and terrifying, the bouncing was a strange sensation, and hanging upside down over the roaring Zambezi rapids is not for the faint of heart. What a rush! I was still shaking when they pulled me back up to Cecil Rhodes' bridge. and I will never do it again, but I would not have missed the experience for the world.


Today, I went abseiling, "flying," and gorge swinging in the 5th Batoka Gorge. So the deal with Victoria Falls is that the Zambezi has been carving out gorges for millions of years. There are 8 gorges, each of which once was a powerful waterfall like the one we see now, and the river is in the process of carving out another one. The gorges run roughly perpindicular to the river's course, and in the 5th gorge, a company has set up some super cool ways to jump off of the edge.


I decided that half a day would be enough and found myself in a group with four British kids and their father, who was only there to take pictures. (They were nice as could be and all terrified of each activity until they tried it, after which time they couldn't stop talking about how much they loved it. The only bad thing was when Lucy's hair got caught in the ropes on abseiling. Which had to have been quite unpleasant.) Anyway, first we did the Flying Fox, which is like being on a zip line, only you're attacked to the wire on your back, so you're "flying."


It was so cool. You get a running start and launch out into the gorge, where it's unbelievably peaceful and quiet. You can see the river rushing in the distance, and it's just amazing. The kids weren't sure they wanted to try it, but when the younger brother, James, came back announcing that "The only thing you have to fear is the wedgie," they all decided to brave their fears. (James, by the way, was right.)


After that, we abseiled. Abseiling is basically the opposite of rock climbing. You're belayed and all that, but instead of working your way up the sheer rock face, you go down, lowering yourself backwards . As James put it (he came second, after the kids decided I should go first), once you figure out that you have to let go of the rope, it's easy. And fun. You just kindof bounce off the rocks with your legs, working your way down the face until you get to the end. As Lucy learned, it's not so pleasant when your hair gets stuck, but she was okay. We tackled the brutal hike out of the gorge together after that, before getting ready for the gorge swing.


The gorge swing is like nothing else. It's a bit like bungi jumping, in that you basically step off a cliff into a free fall, but you're not upside down, so it's slightly less terrifying. Or at least, it was for me. All four kids refused flat out to try it, until their father talked them into giving it a try. I went last; it was really cool. They'd warned me to keep the rope close to my chest, as losing it could cause whiplash. I stepped off the cliff and somewhere during the free fall, the rope jerked away. It didn't matter; I easily regained control and swung through the gorge in silence and wonder.


Tomorrow is the big day: rafting! I've been looking forward to rafting the Zambezi for a long time. I cannot wait!

2 Comments:

Anonymous the librarian said...

You're a nut! It sounds both amazing and frightening at the same time. I appreciate your "carpe diem" spirit and that I can live vicariously through you.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007 4:43:00 PM

 
Blogger texasinafrica said...

Please! I'm not the one who voluntarily got into a minivan with two-year-old twins! :) Hope the trip is going well!

Thursday, August 09, 2007 12:28:00 PM

 

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