The Smoke That Thunders

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the world’s most beautiful natural sites. Mount Fuji, the Great Barrier Reef, that Dutch chick I banged in Santorini last year. Nothing has come close the awe-inspiring power and majesty of Victoria Falls, a 108m-high, 1708m-wide wonder that straddles the Zimbabwean/Zambian border. This epic work of art is twice the height and nearly double the width of Niagara Falls and needs to be seen to be believed, and as I write this I’m still buzzing from how awesome it is.

I wasn’t enraptured by the town of Victoria Falls when I first got here, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s crawling with hawkers and beggars, selling everything from carved elephants to hard drugs, and asking for everything from a dollar to my shoes. I don’t know if they expect me to strut out of here barefooted, but I’ve been surprised by how many dudes have tried to buy the clothes I’m wearing. Shit, after five weeks of travelling I’m surprised my clobber hasn’t swaggered off by itself.

A typical wander to the corner shop to buy a beer sounds something like this;
“Hi, I’m Cowboy! Want a wooden giraffe?”
“Hello, my name is Delicious! How about buy a billion dollar note off me?”
“Good day my friend, I am Christopher Columbus! Would you like some black tar heroin?”
“How’s it going, I’m Peanut! How about a hat?”
“Yo, brother, they call me King Reginald! I will sing you a song!”
“Spectemur Agendo, I’m Percy Pringle. You want sex?”

The other thing that surprised me is that the Falls themselves, while extremely close to the town, are nowhere to be seen. They’re big enough that I expected to be able to see them while walking down the street, but the only viewing points are locked away in surprisingly expensive national parks. I can say without a shadow of doubt, however, that it’s absolutely worth handing over $US30 to bask in the glory of that torrent of water. It’s a place that can never be forgotten.

I visited the Zambian side of the Falls first (that’s country 48, for those counting at home), and the compact national park that straddles the legendary Zambezi River offers a number of walking trails and some epic views of what the locals know as Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders. I first plunged down the cliff towards a spot known as The Boiling Pot, which is at the bottom of the waterfall and looks out over an angry whirlpool of foaming water. I climbed through beautiful rainforest before emerging into a frighteningly loud couldron where water sprays in every direction and nature takes a backseat to no one.

Baboons run rampant in the park, fighting with each other, fucking, wanking, screaming, falling over, and occasionally attacking tourists who have a spare jam sandwich in their backpack. I watched those hairy little bastards mucking around for ages, and laughed my dick off every time one of them did something stupid. Come for the Falls, stay for the monkeys as far as I’m concerned.

The most impressive walk in the park crosses right in front of the Falls, taking in a suspension bridge that leads out to an island that seems suspended in the sky. It’s a wet walk, with the spray from the Falls soaking everyone who dares to wander out there. Trundling out there is like venturing into a storm cloud, with fierce winds and unexpected downpours smashing through. The view makes braving the atrocious conditions more than worth it, though.

The final track skirts along the top of the Falls, and offers a more tranquil view of the big girl. It’s incredibly pretty up there, and the constant sound of the water churning matched with my hangover meant that I soon fell asleep by the riverbank. When I woke up the sun was hovering above the gurgling waters, and I was treated to a brilliant sunset above one of the most amazing places on the planet. Sure, Victoria Falls might be touristic and awash with the disappointments that come with that, but the Falls themselves are absolutely astonishing. Two thumbs up from me!

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