South Africa - Spring 2006 travel blog

local guy

posh digs

spray of the falls from our pool

rainbows at Vic Falls

foot bridge

one of the 7 wonders of the world

Zambia - Zimbabwe bridge

from the air

rent a poncho

As we walked out of our hotel room in Johannesburg, I noticed that my steps were squishing and my feet were getting wet from the carpet. Ken hit the tiles and flew up in the air, because the standing water had made them so slippery. By the time we got down to the reception desk, water was pouring out of the ceiling light fixture and the pails on the floor were overflowing. The story we got was that a cooling tower on the roof was under repair and the water was working its way through all the floors from there. The staff worked hard to feed us breakfast in this rain forest atmosphere. Then we were off to the airport to fly to Livingstone, Zambia.

Victoria Falls, carved by the Zambezi River, is the widest waterfall in the world. The river forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Until fairly recently, many visitors stayed in Zimbabwe when viewing this natural wonder. The current leadership of this beleaguered country, threw the white residents out of the country with only 24 hours notice and has launched an effort to return land and other monetary holdings to the original residents of this country, before it was known as Rhodesia. This was a very human reaction by the black residents who had suffered greatly under the Ian Smith regime. What happened here makes us appreciate the orderly transfer of power spearheaded by Nelson Mandela in South Africa all over again. This turmoil has caused tour operators to feel uneasy, so the Livingstone airport in Zambia received a major upgrade and a massive hotel complex was built within the national park that borders the falls. Although we were originally booked into the cheaper of the two hotels,we were bumped up to the five star property which lists at $680/night. Every four rooms share a butler and I have been racking my brain trying to think of something I would want a butler to do. Our room is spectacular - right out of a decorating magazine - with so many pillows on the bed we could hardly find it. However, that problem was remedied when we were visited for turn down service. Our robes were artfully splayed across the bed and candlelight flickered in the bathroom. Zebra and giraffe stroll the grounds and we are always on the alert for monkeys who are ready to steal anything that isn't nailed down. After spending a month camping and washing our clothes out in the sink, or not at all, we feel a bit out of place in such a fancy location. The restaurant requires us to wear smart casual to dinner. We've got lots of casual, but it certainly isn't smart.

But lets get to the reason we are here - Victoria Falls. The first European to see them was David Livingston, who is prominent in my mind for his search for the origin of the Nile River. They had been named "the smoke that thunders" in the language of the locals, but Livingstone named them after Queen Victoria, as loyal British subjects were wont to do. The town we flew into is obviously named after him as is David Livingston high school, David Livingston hospital, David Livingston library, David Livingstone Presbyterian church etc. etc. We can hear the falls quite well from our hotel. They sound like a freight train passing by that has no end. We were told that you can see the spray from the falls thirty miles away. When we walked to see them, we were given ponchos to wear, but the spray they generated was so intense, I felt as if I were in a hurricane. When I took my poncho off again, I had a two inch dry patch around my waist, but was totally soaked everywhere else. It was a challenge to photograph the falls with all the moisture flying around. We are here at the end of an especially rainy, rainy season and it is hard to believe that in October and November, the flow of water turns into a trickle. We had been looking forward to rafting on the Zambezi, but the water level has shut down all the boat tours. I'm sure we'll find something interesting to do instead.

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