Instead of driving back from the north of Botswana to Johannesburg, we change our plans and opted for a visit to Victoria Falls instead. Not the day trip which many do, but a couple of days to enjoy one of the star attractions of Africa at our leisure. I have been to the falls already twice, but I am still looking forward to my third visit with distant memories in my mind. As soon as we arrive in Victoria Falls, the town, I notice big changes. From a sleepy town, it has changed into a commercial hub, spreading out, where everyone seems to hunt down visitors, and earn some money on them. There is the constant roar of helicopters in the sky. But worst of all: you pay a hefty USD 30 to enter the grounds every time you want to see them; even those born here have to pay an entrance fee. Oh, what happened to the time when the environment was pristine, when you could just walk past the spectacle of the waterfalls any time you wanted to...
We first walk to a viewpoint in the Second Gorge. Halfway there, we stop to listen to a continuous thunder in the distance: Victoria Falls. From the viewpoint, we see a cloud above the trees: the eternal spray of the falls. We decide to take a bird's eye view of the falls later that afternoon, and the helicopter flight indeed offers breathtaking views of the Zambezi, the falls, the rainbows, the chasm from which an eternal cloud rises. The gorge into which the Zambezi plummets is so narrow that, just after hitting the bottom of the gorge, the water is forced up again. The sight and continuous thunder of falling water caused the locals to call this Mosi-oa-Tunya, or the Smoke that Thunders: an appropriate name for the natural spectacle. Back in the main street, we see a rainbow above the town: the afternoon sun shines favourably into the permanent cloud. We walk along the banks of the Zambezi, just upstream from Victoria Falls, to several viewpoints where we can look downstream, with islets, trees, the spray, and rainbows. After a short stop at the Big Tree, a more than 1000 year old baobab, we make it back to town before sunset.
We dedicate the entire next day to exploring Victoria Falls. We start by walking towards the Devil's Cataract, find the statue of David Livingstone, the first European to see the falls and name them after his queen of the time, and then stop at all the viewpoints on our way to the very end. The beginning is still almost dry, but soon enough, a delicate spray of water comes down. The forest around us is a rainforest: the Zambezi river water rains constantly most of the year. We wrap ourselves in plastic, and I drag plastic bags to protect my cameras around. I am not careful enough: on our first walk to Danger Point, my lens gets fully covered by water. We find a dry spot next to the early 20th century bridge spanning the gorge, and linking Zimbabwe to Zambia; my second expedition brings fantastic rainbows when I look into the abyss from the slippery rocks. When we make our way back to the western side of the falls, we see rainbows everywhere; often double ones. The sun is always behind us, and the rainbows are bright as they can possibly be. We end our exploration at one of the first viewpoints, where a rainbow spans the gorge like a colourful bridge. The thunder goes on, even as the sun goes down, taking the rainbows away from us. It is time to leave. Given the tourism development, I doubt I will ever come back, which leaves me with a feeling of nostalgia when we walk away.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Victoria Falls (). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Victoria Falls.
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