Victoria Falls

When most people think about awe-inspiring natural beauty, visions of the Grand Canyon might shoot to the front of somebody’s mind. Perhaps a beautiful mountain range such as the Alps, Himalaya, Rockies or Andes with their breathtaking landscapes and dizzying heights might evoke a sense of majesty. Our friends in Australia might boast the Great Barrier Reef which is unparalleled in its natural aquatic beauty or Ayers Rock in all its mystery can engage a person for days with its changing colors and Aboriginal history. I, however, have my own ideas.

During a trip to southern Africa I was fortunate enough to go to “no man’s land” between Zimbabwe and Zambia for one of the most unforgettable sights I have ever seen. A vision of dynamic splendor, Victoria Falls is a mesmerizing reminder of the sheer power of nature. Victoria Falls captures the essence of what we strive to be in our mythical super-human imaginations. It has staying power. It remained undiscovered for thousands of years. It has an aura of mystery that can’t be matched by anything south of the Pyramids and it has a location that suggests that one would have to travel for years to discover but never actually penetrate this magical place.

Victoria Falls stretches across a gigantic gorge for about a mile, with falls that seem to go on forever and a circumference of rainbows that form from the tremendous mist the falls give off (bring your raincoat). It is amazing to walk along the Zimbabwe side of the border wherein you can walk right on the edge of the gorge (there are no fences) and see the width and depth of the falls up close. The picturesque beauty cannot possibly be captured on film. That speaks tremendously for the actual “amazement value” of a site. There are many “sites” that are supposed to be incredible that look no different on television or in print than they do in person. Victoria Falls doesn’t have that problem. They are truly in a league by themselves in the middle of nowhere in the Dark Continent.

The most amazing thing about “Vic Falls” is its location and the way it is still so raw even though it has become the adrenaline capital of Africa. Victoria Falls establishes the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia with its “little sister,” the treacherous Zambezi River which zigzags through the caverns between the two great nations forming an unforgettable sight to be seen. The best place to view this is from atop the Zambezi River Bridge, which connects Zimbabwe to Zambia. From the center of this rickety bridge they offer a bungy jump overlooking the falls themselves in which I plunged 116 meters down into African ecstasy.

There are higher and more professional jumps in the world: Nevis (134m) in Queenstown, New Zealand and the Bloukrans River Bridge (216m-the world’s highest) in South Africa but they don’t have the backdrop of Victoria Falls. The mist from the falls literally cools you off from the incredible searing heat of the African sun. The workers at the jump site apparently know what they are doing and they claim to have a 100 percent safety record, but the tethered bungy chords and the lack of preparation they give lead you to be a little nervous because of the jagged rocks of the Zambezi below. Like that was going to stop me anyway, I soared off the bridge like a bird that had a heart attack in mid flight. I lived to tell about it and would definitely go back for seconds.

Like all ancient people, the African people had to learn to conquer their land and their mighty source of power and transportation, the Zambezi River. Today, it is a little more advanced with regards to transportation (but not much). Only today they also offer white water rafting on the Zambezi. However, it is really just swimming in the river because you will never last very long in the raft because the Zambezi is just that wild with Class V rapids and hundreds of pesky whirlpools. My group spent half the time in or under the water and I personally swallowed enough to make giardia a real worry. But at the end of the day it is an adrenaline junkie’s dream spread out over an entire day. It buries other places I have been rafting such as Costa Rica and the Western United States and I would definitely recommend it to anyone. Just remember to tighten your life jacket!

Victoria Falls is a beacon of light in a part of the world known for civil and political unrest, poverty and AIDS. It gives you reason to believe. It gives you reason to forget your problems, your worries and your world. The moment you set eyes upon the “Smoke that Thunders” you will be hypnotized by the never-ending supply of water and the decibel level at which it falls. Victoria Falls was here thousands of years before us and it will be here thousands of years after us but for now, we can just enjoy one of Nature’s most impressive creations.

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