In Awe of the Smoke That Thunders – Victoria Falls

victoria falls

The first thing you see are tall spiral shaped clouds, wafting high into the air and seen from miles away. On closer approach, you hear the perpetual roar of water slamming against rock. Next, you feel the fine spray of moisture, lightly misting your skin. That is how you know you are at Victoria Falls, even before gazing upon the curtain of water that stretches a little over a mile wide between Zimbabwe and Zambia. This natural wonder, appropriately known as “Smoke with Thunder” in the local dialect, is the largest waterfall (in volume) in the world and a place I have always wanted to see.

Upstream, the Zambezi River gives no clue that it is about to tumble off a massive cliff, into a series of steep gorges. Here, it is shallow, wide, calm and serene. Crocodiles bask lazily along the banks and hippos are fully submerged and relaxed. We even found a baby python asleep in a tree. As one heads downstream, the Zambezi’s mission becomes more evident.

We crossed the “Zim-Zam” border to gain access to Livingston Island (technically in Zambia) where David Livingstone was taken for his first view of the Falls in a dug-out canoe (yikes!) in 1855. Standing at the tip of Livingston Island (which is perched on the edge of the falls somewhere in the middle of the Zambezi) and looking down over the edge of the falls didn’t seem so bad at the time. Looking at the place where you stood at the tip of Livingstone Island from the viewing deck across the gorge was more heart stopping than actually being on the island.

Many of you know that we were supposed to swim a short distance (in what is normally very shallow water) from Livingstone Island to a natural pool, where we could look even further over the falls. But as fortune would have it, the river was rising and we were told that only “very strong swimmers” should swim to the infamous pool. We immediately proceeded to tell our guides that we were not a “very strong swimmers”, nor were we “strong swimmers”, and in fact, by the time we were done, I think we had convinced them that none of us had ever swam a stroke in our lives. Standing on the tip of Livingstone Island on slippery rocks was just fine for me. We enjoyed our time in Zimbabwe and felt safe and secure in Victoria Falls.

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