Tuesday, March 9, 2010

One for the Record Books

(The Zambia-Zimbabwe bridge over the Lower Zambezi river)


(Tower of mist from Victoria Falls, "The Smoke that Thunders")


Saturday was definitely a day like no other. I had been complaining about things being too slow and uneventful for the last week or so, but when it rains it pours. Highlights of my day include:

1: Spending the day hiking and chilling around at Victoria falls, which does justice to the title of one of the 7 Wonders of the World*
2: A standoff with a troop of baboons whereby an unwitting AZN tourist nearly had her purse snatched.
3: A sunset booze cruise on the Mighty Zambezi where we saw hippos and crocodiles, in between drinking our faces off of course.
4: Getting a phone call from my family- post booze cruise, and wishing my Dad a happy Father's Day (It was his birthday, so an honest though not particularly impressive mistake)
5-6: More or less unknown
7: Waking up in a hammock at the wrong gueshouse, conversations with an unknown +44 phone number (England) in my SMS history
8: Later finding out I met some Norwegians with a Land Rover with whom I made an elaborate plan to roadtrip to Mozambique leaving tomorrow.

Well done Luke. Without further ado, some explanations:

1.
(Eastern Cataract of Victoria Falls)

Victoria Falls was amazing, awe inspiring really. I waited and waited for a sunny day not sure if I'd ever get one. Finally Friday rolled around perfect and beautiful, but unfortunately I as a little under the weather from too many gentleman's sodas the night before. Bogus. Saturday, was just as perfect. So together with my new friends Tommy, Olivia and Isabella, all from Exeter, England we set off for the falls. Being the wet season, we spent most of the day soaked from the 100 foot tower of mist rising from the waterfall. There was just such a massive amount of water, really unbelievable and indescribable. My pictures don't really do it justice, so I'll also include one from a helicopter I found on the internets to show the full scale. Looking for pictures I just learned that the falls are over a mile wide and the mist rises 1000 feet into the air and can be seen from 30 miles away. Big.

(Victoria Falls, Zambia/ Zimbabwe border)

We spent the day chilling around, dipping our feet into the river like 20 feet from the lip of the falls. During dry season you can actually swim right here in the Devil's pool, right on the edge of the falls. It's not possible at this time of year though, as you'd get carried like a twig to certain doom.

(The Devil's Pool- indent between the two bits of brush on the left)

2.
Towards the end of the day the girls got tired and went to the Bar that Thunders for some sodas. Tommy and I took this opportunity to take the 580 step walk (they were labeled) down to the Boiling Pot. It was a really nice swimming spot right beneath the bridge where you really got a feelnig for the scale and volume of water. It was a good little hike with some nice rocks to chill on, nothing life changing. We set off for the walk back up the path and about halfway up, we rounded a bend and found ourselves face to face with a full grown male baboon. "Uhh, what do we do? Do we scare him off, wait for him to leave?" As we were pondering it, Tommy went for his camera. Instantly the baboon was on him, all up in his face. I guess he thought that it was food. After we finished defecating ourselves in terror, we decided it was probably better to just wait it out. So we waited: 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 25 minutes. He wasn't going anywhere. The stone steps are a good place to crack tasty nuts by the look of things. We started to think that this must not be the way to go, so started to skirt around him on the path. We took a couple steps into the bushes and found it impassable. Just then, two more baboons showed up right behind us, a female and a baby. We were surrounded. Over the next few minutes like 10 more baboons and an Asian showed up, just kind of hanging around. The Asian woman pulled a Tommy and went for her camera but she wasn't so slick as him. The baboon went for her purse and got a handful, she ended up playing tug-of-war with a baboon over her purse. We eventually had to just walk past the baboons, like passing street toughs in a bus station hallway, certainly close enough to touch if one (or they) were so inclined. I don't know if we were actually in any danger, maybe they're as harmless as park squirrels. But I'm telling you, it was scary. If it's any consolation, the Zambians who showed up were as scared and clueless as we were, so I feel slightly less emasculated.

(Murderous Apes)

We were talking to one of the soldiers afterward and telling him our harrowing tale. He was nonplussed. "You should have been here yesterday," he said. "There was a baby with some biscuits and the baboon, he snatched the baby and ran off into the bush." I imagine there was a slight miscommunication, or maybe that's no big deal? We said he should be down there with his gun. He laughed and pulled out a slingshot. "This is a national park, we can't shoot the animals. We use catapult instead."

3.

We made a quick stopover at our backpackers guesthouse to change and eat a quick bite, where I had to switch hotels because I didn't book ahead of time and they gave my bed away. Then it was off to sail the mighty rio; Heart of Darkness with an open bar. Much beer was drunk, many chickens were eaten, a few hippos were laughed at. In all a great time was had by all. It's a good thing we made the most of it, because we probably aren't exactly welcome back on the SMS Matooke any time soon- there was a slight issue with a missing bottle of rum. From there things get a little hazy. From what I gathered ex post facto, I apparently convinced myself I was about to travel to Madagascar and was telling everyone all about it. I don't really know where I came up with that or how I got so gung ho, but it's not exactly the itinerary at this point. So, sorry if I made travel plans with anyone to go there. Probably it's not happening.

Which brings me to now. I did in fact make travel plans that night with Alf and Anders, two Norwegians with a Land Rover. I learned the next morning that we had mapped out a whole plans for Northern Mozambique. I met these guys Three Sheets, and yet they still wanted to spend the next few weeks travelling with me. Either I was quite charming and witty (doubtful), or it's going to be an interesting few weeks. We are on the road now, we stopped for the night in Lusaka, couching it at Tommy and the girls' place. By nightfall I should be either in Mozambique or Zimbabwe, we have quite ascertained which road we will take. From there it's maybe another day or two then I'll be back on the beach. Try as I might I can't escape the pull of laying on the beach eating $5 plates of fresh from the sea prawns. Not a bad way to live really.

Like always, things just keep coming up roses. Not two weeks ago I had marked off North Mozambique as impossible because I was told it's all but impassable in anything short of a Land Rover. Here I am today, in a Land Rover with mostly broken A/C and a slightly broken ipod dock- that is to say amazing luxury. Ready to make Mozambique cry. I would mark off Zimbabwe as not going to happen since it will be a lot of extra expense to go through there rather than go straight from Mozambique, but I think I've learned my lesson. Every time I mark something off as not going to happen, I do it anyway. So we'll see, maybe in a couple weeks or a month. Maybe I will make it to Namibia after all. Also, the diving with whale sharks I decided wasn't going to happen; I will be in the right place at the right time, so I think it's back on the menu. Life is good, the sun is back out. To top it off, these Norwegians are serious kite surfers. I told them I had windsurfed a little bit and they are stoked to teach me how to do it properly. I told them I was a snowboarder from Oregon and I think they assume it must be in my blood- the Columbia Gorge in Portland is like a Mecca for windsports. It looks like I might stay in Africa till May afterall.

(Sunset over the Zambezi)


N.B: The 7 Wonders of the Natural World, according to CNN (via Wikipedia of course):
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona, USA
  • Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Harbor of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • Mount Everest, Nepal
  • Aurora Borealis and Auroa Australis
  • ParĂ­cutin volcano, Michocán, Mexico
  • Victoria Falls, Zambezi River, Africa

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