Victoria Falls: A place of endless wonder, grandeur
Somewhere on the bank, a crocodile, that huge monster of a reptile smashes through the thick riverine undergrowth, like a turbo-charged engine towards the water, splashing into the river in sudden sluggishness, before disappearing into the raging waters.
An array of high-powered boats puff, hobble and nod on the instigation of the waves and the high currency, much to the delight of the passengers, while canoes ward off the deadly waters.
The boats range from those carrying eight people to those double deckers carrying up to 120 people. Here tourists have the highest chance of seeing the crocodiles and hippos at close range.
That huge hippo yawn is almost the preserve of the Zambezi River. The sunset cruise, which is a must, gives away the silhouette ghost of sunset, where acres and acres of camera space have been gobbled in pictures to avert ephemeral memories.
Meanwhile, the Zambezi River continues carrying heaven’s vomit to the Indian Ocean, unperturbed by the events. Then there is the dinner cruise, on the water of the mighty Zambezi, Africa’s fourth largest river, after the Congo, Nile and Niger. The Victoria Falls, the inexplicable geomorphological splendour is located almost half the length of the river and here, nature’s exhaustless generosity slashes mother earth into falls were millions of gallons of water plunge about 700 metres into an abyss of a plunge pool aptly named, the boiling pot.
A spitting distance from the falls is the Big Tree, the 1 500-year old baobab tree under-which colonial expansionist and explorer David Livingstone spent his night, a day before he was led by Sussi and Chuma to the falls.
Legend has it that the Big Tree, which was later to hog Zimbabwe’s 10 cent coin, was the epicentre of the BaTonga, BaNambya and BaToka’s rain-making ceremonies and traditional beer-drinking binges. Livingstone slept under the Big Tree specifically to defy the local spirits since he was a missionary but while there he heard a roaring sound, which killed his sleep.
It lulled him to sleep. He asked the two locals and was told that the sound was from Mosi-oa Tunya. When he got there, lo and behold, he named the falls after the Queen of England, Victoria, effectively marketing it to the western community. As the Heaven’s vomit flows in through the Devils Cataract and the Danger Falls, its roaring sound which is accompanied by the melodious sound of birds makes perfect music for the wildlife in the wetland.
The ever cascading rain drops from the Rain Forest are an endorsement of the spirits of the land of BaNambya, BaTonga and BaToka.
Down the falls, there is little food for the fish and no crocodile survives the 700-metre plunge so a lot of activities have been arranged over the years, where one is only afraid of the water and the mythical Nyaminyami, the river god.
Here are the rapids, where helmeted, safety-jacket wearing water devils, do play in the frothing water. You will be able to go to the boiling point and view the falls from underneath, a privilege which many visitors to the falls do not enjoy. You are also able to see those doing gorge swing, bungee jumping and gliding.
Here again, the water moves at its fastest, at times going at 200km per hour, turning and twisting between stones and plunge pools and narrow gorges. In terms of international natural cataracts and these rapids are graded number six. Zambezi, just below the Victoria Falls, is rated up to five. This is called commercial suicide. You do it at the risk of your life.
The Zambezi has 24 cataracts. While down the river surfing or rafting, there is buzz of the helicopters, flying above the falls, aptly named the Flight of the Angels!
There are two helicopter companies each in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The flight above the falls is a must.
Then there is the Lunar Rainbow. For three days in a month, when there is no cloud, tourists are privileged to visit the falls at night. It is a marvel.
Moonlight slants down through the leaves and blossoms of the rain forest, making whimsical coloured patterns that flicker on the falls, giving birth to a rainbow.
Save for the plunge of the water, there is silence in their air, a faint warm breeze stirs the sleepy leaves, bringing with it fragrance of flowering grass and trees, and a breath of something languid, inducing idleness, voluptuousness and strangeness.
This villager has seen the green grass turning gold from the dainty patches of light that flicker and quiver as though they were living. Then there were fire-coloured butterflies, that made the grass under the trees look like it was about to catch fire.
The Victoria Falls is something else. It is a place where everyone, including villagers should enjoy themselves.
Meanwhile, the Zambezi River remains quiet. Silent. Gagged!