Published: January 22nd 2011January 22nd 2011
The Pot of Silver at the end of the Lunar Rainbow
The next day, we took a taxi to the ‘Big Tree’, which is a bit far from the rainforest but which is worth a visit. I believe it is a baobab tree but I am not sure. Anyway, it is HUGE.
The taxi dropped us at the entrance to the rainforest. We were fully equipped with umbrellas and raincoats and a camera and traversed the whole length of it from the Devil’s cataract to the ‘Danger Point’, opposite to the ‘Knife’s Edge’ on the Zambian side. Fortunately, the day was clear and the ‘spray’ from the falls was not too thick to obscure the views, and so we had wonderful rainbows (solar) over the majestic falls.
There is a nice big statue of Dr. Livingstone near the Devil’s Cataract. I took off my hat, (Well, not a hat but a cap.) both literally and figuratively speaking, to this great man, and repeated sotto voce Stanley’s famous line, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”
As I stood there gazing at the statue, the childhood joy of reading the wonderful, true-life adventure of Stanley, “How
I found Livingstone” flooded my being. That was one quest which was absolutely worthwhile.
(And, there are some quests, which are absolutely worthless, at least to the general public. I remember one, which was given a lot of mileage by The National Geographic, where some aged photographer had undertaken it upon himself to track down some Afghan girl whom he had photographed some 15-20 years back. At the end of it, even he was not sure that he had found the right girl, but he made such a to-do about it. The whole thing was an exercise in futility, in my honest opinion, but the photographer got a lot of publicity out of it. My respect for National Geographic Magazine came down a notch, I tell you, after reading that stupid article.)
The same evening, we did the ‘sunset cruise’. Eight kms upstream from the falls, the lovely Zambesi River is quite placid, though not safe for swimming, teeming as it is with crocodiles and hippos. The surrounding forest supports wildlife as we could vouch for by the appearance of a huge elephant on the banks.
During the sunset cruise, we had met a honeymooning couple. The
man was a Physicist and when we told him about our intended Lunar Rainbow tour, he was immediately hooked. Anything to do with Light – be it reflection, refraction, diffraction, interference, Raman effect, etc. or Lunar Rainbow – would interest a physicist. However, his wife was too tired and he could not very well displease her on their honeymoon, so he dropped the idea of joining us for the Lunar Rainbow tour.
We came back from the sunset cruise a bit late, (They waited till the sun went down to justify the name ‘sunset cruise’, I suppose.) and I started pestering the hotel staff about the ‘lunar rainbow’ tour. No tour company was collecting the tourists from the hotel and I was on tenterhooks because I had set my heart on seeing the “lunar rainbow.”
“Ma’am, it is now 7:15 and the Lunar Rainbow tour starts at quarter to seven. It must have already left.” The girls at the Reception told me.
“No matter, just phone them and ask them whether the tour is on today.” I insisted.
The girls at the ‘reception’ were quite nice and kept on trying to phone the Rainforest officials but
the telephone was not working. Meanwhile, I was losing my patience and pacing the lobby agitatedly.
Seeing my agitation, Avi decided that we should just go to the rainforest and find out whether the tour was ‘on’, so he instructed the receptionists to call a taxi.
The girl called for the taxi in her own African language. (Like India, every African nation has many languages.) Meanwhile the other girl managed to get a connection to the rainforest office and confirmed that the ‘lunar rainbow’ tour was ‘on’ and the group of tourists had proceeded on the tour precisely at 6:45.
“Well, ask them if we can come now and join the group”. I politely instructed her. (In Avi’s opinion, I snapped at the girl. I do not agree. I NEVER lose my temper.)
She asked the rainforest official and they said we can come and they will guide us to the group.
Joy of joy! Wonder of wonder! We were going to see the Lunar Rainbow after all.
Now, we were eagerly awaiting the taxi that we had called for.
I started pacing outside the lobby in front of the hotel.
taxi came and a couple waiting in the lobby got in and asked the driver to go to a fancy restaurant.
Yes, that sort of people exist, who go out to eat instead of going to see the lunar rainbow!
After what seemed like eons, we saw a taxi coming and when the receptionist confirmed that it had come for us, we got in and asked the driver to rush to the rainforest.
The driver revved up and we were on our way to the rainforest.
However, he asked us “What is the hurry?” and we told him that we had to catch the Lunar Rainbow.
“I was four miles away when the hotel people urged me to hurry” he said. “I asked the hotel, Why? Is there a lady in labor?” But they just told me to rush and I came with a record speed.” He explained.
I am sure this was not all of their conversation. I can very well imagine the receptionist telling the driver “No lady is in labor, but there is a lady here who is doing a war-dance and you better hurry.”
We reached the rainforest in
no time at all (It is only 10 minutes walk from the hotel.) and they gave us a guide to take us to the ‘danger point’ from where the lunar rainbow is best seen. The whole group was there waiting for the lunar rainbow to appear. They were students from advanced courses at UCLA. Only such people (and Physicists) would be interested in a Lunar rainbow.
Bright moonlight filled the landscape. The light was so strong that we did not find it difficult to walk in the rainforest. It was lovely in the rainforest, not eerie at all.
As the moon rose higher behind the falls, we could see a faint white rainbow formed over the opposite side of the falls, i.e. on our side.
It was a wonderful sight. The rainbow appeared and disappeared as the ‘mist’ i.e. the spray, thinned and thickened again.
It was magical.
I had found my pot of silver at the end of the Lunar Rainbow chase.
We walked right up to the Devil’s Cataract again but did not see more Lunar rainbows.
However, the sight of the falls in the moonlight was so ethereal, so mystical
that it is forever etched in my memory.
We had asked our taxi driver to wait for us and he had done so faithfully. He did not even charge us a hefty amount, so we gave him more than he had asked.
We must have become famous in the hotel as the couple who wanted to see the Lunar rainbow, because the next day at breakfast, fellow hotel guests – total strangers – were asking us, “Did you manage to see the Lunar rainbow last night?”
To which we proudly and happily replied ‘yes.’
The Physicist was still regretful about not joining us.
The next day, Avi went for a morning walk and met a South African, who had taken a Johannesburg-Livingstone (in Zambia) flight and then crossed over to Victoria Fall. When Avi asked why he did not take the Johannesburg-Victoria Fall flight, he replied that he did not know such a flight existed. He also did not know that only from Victoria Falls hotel you get a view of the Victoria Bridge, so he had checked into another hotel. He was quite rueful about it when he came to our hotel with Avi
and saw the “victorious” Victoria Bridge over the gorgeous gorge.
Later we came across many people who did not know about the Johannesburg-Victoria Falls flight.
It was a mystery to me. Like Agatha Christie’s – who, BTW had stayed at our hotel and written a superb mystery novel with it as background – heroine, I could not rest till I solved it.
The mystery was partly solved when I saw the route-network of the South African Airlines in the in-flight magazine, during the flight from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg.
There was only Johannesburg-Livingstone flight. There was NO Johannesburg-Victoria Falls flight in that route-network, though it exists.
However, the Internet does throw up this flight.
I am amazed at the Airline’s oversight.
There are more photos below