A Wall of White

We’ve now been to the three most famous falls in the world: Niagara, Iguazu and Victoria. And I must say that I think Victoria is the most powerful. Of course, we were there at the end of the wet season, and things can change dramatically from season to season, but lets just say its called the “mist that thunders” with very good reason. We first could see the plume rising from over 20 miles away as we approached through Zimbabwe from the Botswana border. After sorting out a place to stay and some food, we Walked down to the park, and it only looked more daunting. Then we entered the park.

Now, I said they were the most powerful. It’s actually quite difficult to ascribe anything more to it than that. Because, simply, you can’t see anything. The falls are 1.7 kilometers long, but we could only see maybe 300 meters worth of width if we looked from one end. Which was absolutely beautiful when the sun broke through and rainbows traversed the expanse.

But everything else was a wall of white. And I mentioned its called the “mist that thunders.” More like the downpour that thunders. Standing out at the rocks on the point of the Zimbabwe side was a truly soaking experience, made all the more magical by the nun enjoying the “rain” with us by spinning and shouting “It is a deluge of blessings!” Most other people just tried to stay under their umbrellas.

So not satisfied with our whiteout experience, and based on the highest recommendations of our friends Joyce and Jack, who recently completed their own round the world trip complete with a Vic Falls stop, we decided to splurge on a microlight flight over the falls. As we took off we saw an elephant roaming nearby, and hippos wading in the river just above the falls. I’ve never felt as much like I was actually flying. There’s literally nothing separating you from the air except a lapbelt and two handholds. And the pilot who knows what he’s doing of course. I soared above the falls, just above the plume, and got a real feeling for the magnitude of the place. Which certainly is grand. What struck me was the whole distance we walked the previous day, which sure felt like a long way, only went to the midpoint of the falls. And the view down the canyon below the falls as the Zambezi twisted and curved its way on was magnificant. Unfortunately but understandably, cameras were not allowed up in the microlight since they can easily find their way into the engine and that can cause a few issues, but I guess this means you’ll all just have to go up for yourselves to see it.

Let me finish this up by categorizing my impressions of the three falls: Iguazu was the most beautiful, with the lush tropical scenery and the myriad of actual falls, Niagara the most impressive because its powerful but for the most part you can actually see it and Victoria the most powerful because wow, it is.

And as an aside for those who wonder about how Zimbabwe is these days, we found the Vic Falls area to be quite normal, but I suppose as this is their main tourist attraction, this isn’t surprising. Most supplies were as available as they were in neighboring countries and the people were quite warm and hopeful that things were improving. There were two things odd about the whole scene. First, you could pay for anything in almost any currency as long as it wasn’t Zim dollars; the people were experts at currency conversion and I can’t even imagine trying to keep track of all of it in my head. The second was the bartering culture; we consistently were approached and asked for our shoes or jackets or pants in exchange for some wood carving or a few trillion Zim dollars. We wondered if they expected us to drop pants or take off our shoes then and there, but since we never were offered anything we felt was near an even exchange, it never came to that. But I can now say that I am a quarter of the way to a quadrillionaire! Makes you feel rich, even if its only worth a few pennies.

5 Replies to “A Wall of White”

  1. I’m so glad you visited Zimbabwe (one of my favorite places!) and had the Vic Falls experience. It really is magical, isn’t it? We also did the microlight and it was one of my favorite experiences from our entire trip (along with whitewater rafting the Zambezi). If you have the time, I highly recommend Jungle Junction in Zambia (http://www.junglejunction.info/) – we had some of our most interesting interactions with the villagers there. I’m really enjoying keeping up with your travels!

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