Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Victoria Falls: One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World

We've been fortunate to have many moments on our travels that make us feel like we are seeing a little slice of the world unknown to many.  As we headed further towards the African interior, Victoria Falls, became one of those very special places.  Vic Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Statistically speaking, it is the largest waterfall in the world. This recognition comes from combining the height and width together to create the largest single sheet of flowing water.
Victoria Falls is located on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and travelers can access the falls through either Livingstone, Zambia or Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. The Zambezi River, which originates in northern Zambia, serves as the fall's water source.
The name Victoria Falls was given to the falls by the Scottish explorer Dr. David Livingstone. He named the falls after the reining queen at the time. The locals called the falls Mosi-oa-Tunya meaning “smoke that thunders.”  
Everything about Victoria Falls looks like it is leaping from the pages of romantic African novel, from the gentle babble of the Zambezi river (during low season) punctuated by the occasional grunts of the prolific hippo pods, to the mosquito nets billowing in the breeze while your treated to a massive blood red sunset, it has all the elements of an quaint and exotic back water, enhanced with the Victorian touches of a bygone colonial era.
Life in Zambia is hard however, it has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV in the world, and most live in poverty.  Our tourist guide told us that he had recently recovered from malaria, which he had contracted now for the fiftieth time.  Our river guide, nicknamed Potato, slipped into a coma after nearly drowning after being tossed into a whirlpool on one of his daily trips down the rapids a few years ago.  When I asked him if he was terrified to return back to the river he simply said "how else would my family eat?"  There is a underlying sense that survival teeters on a knife's edge in Zambia and yet it's clear that major investments in infrastructure and education are taking place.  The Zambian's are a high spirited and hopeful people, and we can't say enough about how meaningful our visit was with them.  We carry them in our heart and our minds until the day we get to say 'hello' again.  

A room with a view - the open air cottage enjoys an amazing view of the Zambezi
A beautiful sunset washed the shores in pink light
These traditional boats are carved from a single tree
In the two dozen times I've been escorted back to my room on safari, we've never encountered anything - this time there was a hippo in our path!  A face to face with Africa's most dangerous animal definitely gets the heart rate going.  (When this happens you back away, slowly, without turning your back on the animal)  
Following in the foot steps of David Livingstone
Some of the fuzzy local foliage
To the falls!  The rainbows form off the cliffs due to the amount of mist in the air.
This is the dry season, so you can see much more rock than normal
No optical illusion here!  Matt takes the plunge into the Devil's Pool!
Living life on the edge?
Matt decided that hanging off the edge of the falls wasn't enough, so we signed up for white water rafting.  What follows is without a doubt one of the scariest experiences of my life.  Take me back to the edge of the falls any day!

Of the 10 rapids we ran on the half-day trip, SEVEN were CLASS 5 - I think my heart is still pumping.  You know you are in trouble when your river safety guide begins with "so guys, when the boat flips over here is what you do".  

I forgot to bring my scuba gear.

Ok, Mother Nature, you win!  (I'm in the blue, Matt is right in front of me, engulfed by the wave that is about to pummel me).
After that day, observing the river from dry land was a welcome change.  This is the front of our cottage on Sindabezi Island looking at the Zimbabwe National Park.
The shower facilities were au naturale.  They even ran me a bubble bath one night!
The humidity lead to a stunning heat lighting display every night.  It looked like a rock concert was taking place.

At the Royal Livingstone hotel, they employ only the finest lawn mowers.
To the victor of the Zambezi goes the spoils!  We treated our bruised bodies to high tea - a perfect send off from beautiful Victoria Falls and our African adventure.  Thanks, for coming along!

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