Friday, April 9, 2010

Mosi-oa-Tunya


   The game parks of Botswana were a thing to behold. We were no more than a breath away from animals that could make a snack out of us in a heartbeat at any given moment. Over the fire, we discussed the origin of species and argued religion in good-natured tones. It seemed appropriate, as we were so far from any reminders of the civilized world and all that we associated with. Always we were mindful of our surroundings and the stark beauty they possessed. We knew we were very privileged to place our footprints there and tried to respect the world around us as best we could.
   The tail end of our trip was an adventure of another sort though. We would again be faced with nature in all her wrath, but this time with a twist. We would not be idly sitting back and watching the world go by. Our last stop before looping back to South Africa was Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Mosi-oa-Tunya or “the smoke that thunders”, as the locals call it, was magnificent to behold. While it may not be the highest waterfall in the world, the curtain of water that falls over its edge gives it the distinction of being considered the largest due to the sheer volume that flows over its side. The landscape  immediately surrounding the falls has become a lush rain forest due to the constant mist that shrouds the area. Graceful ferns and other flora thrive where a few miles yonder the earth is scrubby and dry. The vegetation was not what brought us to Victoria Falls though. While our little troupe did wander through the Park admiring its beauty, the next day we were headed downstream.
   After watching a video that scared the bejesus out of me, I was pale and unconvinced. Barb and Sue laughed and Karel refused to accept my shaking head and pleads of “no!”. Everyone was doing it. Finally, it was my turn to step up to the counter. With huge misgivings and a last look back at the pictures on the wall, I agreed. I was coerced into signing up for a white water rafting adventure. With names like “Overland Truck Eater”, “Oblivion” and “Devil’s Toilet Bowl” and the claims that over half of the rapids were class 5 (class 6 is considered un-runnable), it was no wonder my knees were wobbly. No amount of drinks the night before could muster up the courage I sought, but rising before daylight to descend into the gorge I found myself pushed along by my new best friends. My dry mouth and shaking hands were laughed off by tour guides and we descended the 400 feet down to our entry point. There was no turning back now. Life jackets were donned. We were handed a paddle with which we would maneuver the raft. We entered the water and were given instructions on how to paddle the raft that would be our mode of transport for the day. Jugs of orange liquid equipped all the rafts for our refreshment, if desired. The water  in the river was perfectly safe to ingest though. Something told me that I would find that out for myself sooner than I wanted. 

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