Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Smoke That Thunders

Victoria Falls

They are called “Mosi oa tunya” or “The Smoke That Thunders” by locals, “Victoria Falls” since explorer David Livingstone named them after his queen. Whatever you call them, they are magnificent! One of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is truly an astonishing place where the mighty Zambezi River plunges down 93 meters across a wide expanse of rock into a winding chasm. The spray that is thrown up towers above the falls like smoke from a huge fire; this year the spray towered up as a huge cloud. Near the Falls, the spray falls back to earth as a torrential rain, soaking people, ground, and plants and running off in continual smaller water falls. It takes three months for water from the head of the Zambezi to make its way to the Falls, so this year’s record-breaking rainfalls will continue to thunder until at least May.

We left Kafakaumba to spend a couple days unwinding at Livingstone before returning to the States. Our friends, Ken and Deb Vance, longtime missionaries in Congo and Zambia, came with us to enjoy their favorite spot and spend a little time together. They were expert guides in the Falls area and took care of so many details like getting our tents (yes, we tented there, but they were on permanent concrete platforms and had regular beds), arranging a sunset cruise on the Zambezi, making an early morning game drive in the Park, and driving the bone-jarring road to Livingstone. Their sharp eyes helped us see giraffes, zebras, wart-hogs, elands, gazelles, birds, baboons, and more on our game drive.

Here we were also able to do that important task for all grandparents: finding little gifts to bring home for the grandchildren. We spent part of a hot afternoon haggling with the many artisans of the ramshackle curio village near the Falls. I was managing to come off as a “local” and getting “local prices’ in my anonymity until shopkeepers began to address me by name, state of origin, and goal of buying gifts for grandchildren. Yes, my cover was blown by my chatty husband who had gone ahead of me and talked to everybody on his way to securing his own souvenir: a beautiful ebony walking stick.

Our couple days at Victoria Falls was a wonderful time to unwind and reflect a bit on our time in Zambia. We met people from around the world there, several young people out traveling for extended periods of months to a year. There is a fellowship among those filled with wanderlust and a realization that we share so much in common. It’s not that the world is so small, but that it is big enough for all of us and that this family we call human is really one after all.
Pictures above from top to bottom: At The Falls, zebra in the wild, the spray from Victoria Falls rises like smoke into the sky.

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