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Published: October 10th 2008
The decision to go to Africa was one which came to me all of a sudden. In the early stages of our relationship, Aleks and I had agreed to a cruise in the Caribbean. As our relationship grew deeper and more meaningful we decided that marriage should follow and that this cruise would act as a sort of honeymoon for us. The cruise however was not the logistical simplicity that I had foreseen. While it would cost Aleks about fifteen hundred dollars to fly to the start point, it would cost me approximately the same as well, though I was about a third of the distance away. Also this inexpensive cruise which looked at first to be a great bargain would carry with it some unforeseen costs. Lodging on the cruise would be cheap but before and after the cruise we would be subjected to the steep Caribbean prices.
So I checked numerous other places to go based on our finances. Two years previously when journeying though Thuringia in Germany I became enthralled by the guidebook for Southern Africa, and I figured I owed it to myself to at least check the price for this seemingly unreachable destination. As it turned out for Aleks it would be cheaper, for me it would be about the same price once I had the price of the cruise refunded, and so our plans for Africa were set, we would land in Johannesburg, by way of Dubai and then fly on to Livingstone, the Zambian town at the edge of Victoria Falls, one of the world’s natural wonders. From the plane, flying over the savannah it we had our first indication of the falling waters. Protruding from the earth’s flat surface was a great cloud created by the churning water below, and less than three hours later we stood at the entrance to the park ready to witness one of the world’s greatest displays of water in action.
First of all to the visitor something is immediately out of place. Whereas the surrounding landscape is savannah, sometimes lush and sometimes arid, the area surrounding the falls is more like thick tropical rainforest. And so as one approaches the falls they are still somewhat hidden from view, heard and not seen, until the trees open into a window looking out to the far right hand side of the falls. So with our first glance at the fabled waterfalls finished, our preparations for the onslaught of water began. Out of my pocket came two disposable rain ponchos designed for emergency in case of unforeseen downpour. I had thought these would suffice for the airborne water we faced ahead. And so Aleks and I set off down the pathway with our see-through blue ponchos with pointy hoods, looking like followers of some bizarre sect and went to have a better look.
At Victoria Falls the water doesn’t fall uniformly, rather it comes down sort of at points where it makes sense for it to fall. Where this drops is not obvious to the observer as the water is being thrown by forces which originated at the drop from the river, pass through the basin below and fall after congregating in the air. It is in this manner that torrential showers can be 5 feet away from brilliant African sunshine. One thing is for certain though. There is only one approach to the Knife’s Edge, a rocky outcropping where the views are the most fantastic, and this is across a manmade bridge. Where it is positioned is directly underneath one of these streams from the sky. The visitor who had thought to stay dry is immediately under assault from above and suddenly the other visitors who didn’t invest in umbrellas, ponchos or other devices to deter the falling rains do not seem as foolhardy.
The Zambezi River which provides the fuel for this torrent is also the natural divider between Zimbabwe and Zambia. It is said correctly that the Zimbabwean side is the best to observe the falls (we went the next day), but that the Zambian side is the best to experience them. And so on the Knife’s Edge we had a small routine where we would get close to the edge for a look, then water would start to fall our way, and we would make a determined but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to escape and then inch our way back to the edge. It is sort of like a child at a beach trying to run away from an advancing wave at shore’s edge, except in our case, we were never really certain when the wave was going to hit. And so in no time at all, Aleks and I were pretty much soaked. We saw numerous rainbows, watched trees and other plants clinging to small islands in the middle of the falling water, listened to the roar of the falling water, and dodged as much liquid as we could.
As we left we saw the same uninitiated visitors that we had been a short time before. While a part of us felt like giving up our ponchos to those on their way in. We decided to hold on to them. It wouldn’t be fair anyway. In the wet season nobody stays dry at Victoria Falls.
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