I am not even in eyesight and the ground is trembling, the air filled with roar. This is why the Kololo tribe living here called this cataract ‘Mosi-oa-Tunya’ or “The Smoke That Thunders”. Now I have seen great waterfalls in my time, perhaps Niagara being the most impressive. But this big boy is a monster. Victoria Falls, which meets at the border of Zimbabwe and Zambia, is the world’s largest sheet of falling water. It is roughly twice the height of Niagara and well over twice the width of the Canadian part called Horseshoe Falls.
We hike for nearly two hours on a path that faces the waterfall and this is what makes Victoria so great. Just one hundred yards away, I can follow the cataract along its entire precipice. Rarely can one get so close to a place like this, and perhaps that is why it has been declared one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World. But wait. It doesn’t come that easy. Since I stand so close to this massive gravity act, the mist generated by the mega-gallons from the Zambezi River literally clouds my view. Often, all I see is a white mass of water particles. But here is the magic trick. A puff of wind blows up from the deep gorge making a gap in the mist. Victoria is revealed again in all her naked glory. Just as quickly the falls disappears from sight as the next wave of white rolls in. This peak-a-boo aquatic strip tease that keeps me entertained for an hour. Forget that in spite of my rain gear I feel soaked to the bone. It is a good thing that my Nikon Coolpix is waterproof.
At one point the mist parts and I spot “The Armchair” also called “The Devil’s Pool”. It is near Livingstone Island on the Zambian side. During low water levels a rock barrier forms an eddy with minimal current at this spot, allowing adventurous swimmers to splash around in relative safety a few feet from the edge where the water crashes down 355 feet. Devil’s Pool is not happening today. This current is swift and constant keeping the daredevils at bay.
The mist flows back in and I am once again in a world of white. My mind wanders to thoughts of Henry Morton Stanley who back in 1871 greeted the lost missionary, David Livingstone at this spot with the now famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” After all, the town of Livingstone is just two kilometers away from here. That must prove it. But no, that famous quote may have happened but not anywhere near the Victoria Falls. It was actually at Ujiji near Lake Tanganyika where Stanley first encountered Livingtone. No matter. For me, Stanley remains one of the original Worldkids.
Born John Rowlands on 28 January 28,1841 in Wales, the young man left for New Orleans in 1859. There he was befriended by a merchant named Henry Stanley, whose name he took. Stanley then went on to serve on both sides in the American Civil War and later worked as a sailor and journalist. He then became a special correspondent for the New York Herald and was commissioned to go to Africa and search for Scottish missionary and explorer David Livingstone who had mysteriously disappeared in 1866 while he was on an expedition to find the source of the Nile River. The press had a field day speculating on his demise. The Herald wanted to settle the matter and, of course, sell a lot of newspapers. Why not send Stanley? After all, he was a worldkid.
The mist parts once more and I return to the 21st century world. I have walked the length of the cataract and now admire a rainbow gracing Victoria Bridge, which links Zimbabwe with Zambia. But this worldkid is turning around here. A truck named Pavarotti awaits. I am heading the southbound, destination Kruger National Park in South Africa. It is time for another adventure.