17 July 2009

Victoria Falls

The main reason why most people come to Livingstone is to visit Victoria Falls. The falls were "discovered" and named after Queen Elizabeth I by David Livingstone in 1855. However, locally, they are still referred to by the original Kololo language name of Mosi-oa-Tunya, the smoke that thunders. The falls are about 10km from Livingstone, right on the boarder where the Zambezi River divides Zambia from Zimbabwe.

There are a number of walking trails around the falls, the most dramatic (and wettest) being the Knife Edge trail. The walk takes you along the top of the gorge edge opposite the main falls and over an incredibly wet foot bridge.

Even with our, very un-flattering, rented rain coats we still had a fair old soaking as the up-draft from the falls causes it to rain upwards onto the trail.

We also made the hike down into the bottom of the gorge to see the boiling pot whirlpool.

The walk down through Palm Grove Gorge was very Jurrasic Park and featured some rather large spiders.

Whilst we were there we also had a bit of a close encounter with a troupe of baboons who looked like they were in the middle of a turf war. As we made our way down the trail about 50 baboons came hurtling down the valley side at us howling and bearing fangs.

It was a little nervey for a while but eventually they moved past us and back onto the cliffs.

Getting some good photos of the falls proved to be quite challenging for a number of reasons. The first problem is their size. The falls are 1.7km across and 108 meters high but squeezed into a gorge only about 100 meters wide. This means that you can't get much of it in your viewfinder at one time.

The other big problem is the spray. The average flow of water over the falls is one million liters per second, although we are here at the back end of the rainy season and it is considerably higher at the moment. This creates a hell of a lot of mist and spray which comes at you from all directions. Trying to keep your camera dry and lens clear is quite a challenge in the swirling wind.

The mist and spray also make it difficult to see. If the wind is blowing in the right direction you may be able to see a couple of hundred meters down the gorge.

However it can suddenly switch and reduce visibility to a few yards. When you also add in the problem of the sun glaring in the mist it gets even more difficult.

It's not all about the natural wonders of the falls though. The area around the falls is also a haven for adrenalin junkies. Quite a few of our fellow truckies indulged in some of the more extreme activities. We would have loved to have had a go but our budget was a little tight . . . or were we too chicken?

At 111 meters, the bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge is the third highest in the world giving you about 4 seconds of free-fall.

The bungee also included a go on the rather terrifying looking bridge swing and the flying fox, a sort of death slide across the gorge.

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