Botswana 2019 travel blog


Victoria Falls - How to convey my impression of this wondrous place?

First, to say that there is not just one impression but many many of them. You enter straight down a well-kept path and alight on the first view, the most upstream one. It has you admiring not gasping. Proceed upstream to Mugabe's private entrance and an extended family of monkeys. Will they attack or mob? No, they don't care. Seen one human cousin, seen them all.

Head back and follow the rim. What a variety of perspectives! Some show little glimpses of tumbling water between jungly trees, some convey the immense breadth of the Falls, some its massive plunge. At one moment you are calculating to yourself the volumes of this water, next you are wondering how that island of vegetated rock cut off from land like a saber-tooth can withstand its force, and then a miniature rainbow (at other times of day it is reputed to be vast) appears. As you walk the spray steadily increases, until you reach a point where it switches back and forth between totally obscuring and partially revealing the falls and Zambia on the far side. It is a world of never-ending changes of focus. You are laughingly totally soaked, and ten minutes later totally dry again apart from the contents of the knapsack.

Nobody was bungee jumping today, or, so far as we could see, doing any of the other crazy activities the Falls offer. The rim walk concludes overlooking the bridge from Zim to Zam. Today it was drab and uncrowded. A far cry from the host of bungee jumpers I recall from my visit to the Zambian side 12 years ago. Were they really the young Aussies and South Africans I recall, trying, mostly in vain, to get a few of their reluctant females to jump? Did I record my sensations at the time? I think I was as terrified of of the wrench to my back as of jumping into the abyss.

All quiet today. I did, I think, locate the place on the Zambian side from which I took the photo (since lost) which became my computer screen saver.

Was it really 12 years ago, my last time in Africa? Certainly all the countryside sensations of Zambia have come flooding back. I note that the few birds I have seen thus far are the ones I had in Livingstone back then. No surprise there, but a sort of vindication of the records I enjoy to keep.

What about Zimbabwe the country, given that we are leaving tomorrow? The impression is of trickle down economics at work. Everybody knows that there are very few Zimbabweans gainfully employed. Those few who are fortunate to have jobs catering to us tourists are extraordinarily compliant to our wishes. The trickling faucet can very quickly run dry. It is a boon for us, the tourists, but, if we have any social imagination, we surely feel guilty about it.

In the past day I have had 3 or 4 superficial conversations with Zimbabweans. None are shy to criticize Mugabe and the subsequent regime; none are optimistic that things will ever change. The country exemplifies the difficulties in putting things back right when they have gone horribly wrong. By right I mean functioning broadly for the good of the people. Let any nation which allows its leader(s) to undermine its institutions and checks beware!

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