Run the equator: All those place names that start with Z…

Friday, October 5, 2007

All those place names that start with Z…

No worries, I am still alive
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Because of my visa troubles I couldn’t get into Zimbabwe, so Angela and I separated from the tour group at Kasane in Botswana and, having arranged for private transport well in advance, we crossed directly into Zambia. Romania, it appears, is a great friend of Zambia; therefore Romanian citizens get in for free as tourists, while Americans have to pay. Skipping Zimbabwe and going on our own for a few days turned out to be a great idea for a number of reasons: one – there’s only so long that one can sleep in a tent before starting to dream painfully about a real bed. Two – Zimbabwe is not exactly a welcoming place these days; as the other members of our group attested later on, inflation is still rampant, stores are empty (can’t even find purified water) and restaurant menus are sad reminders that the country has seen better days. And three – the 23rd was the day of our wedding anniversary; there had to be a better way to spend it than in a camping park! Our trip within the trip in Zambia gave us exactly what we needed: a real bed (no luxury mind you, just a bungalow at the Jolly Boys backpacker hostel in Livingstone), peace and privacy and more opportunities to spend money (like that was ever lacking!)

Relax, it's just water!

While the rest of the people in our tour group were busy with bungee jumping and whitewater rafting across the border, we, not being the typical adrenaline junkies (or rather from a desire to save money), opted for the tamer alternative of visiting the falls. Victoria Falls is a sight that can only be described with superlatives, but this being the dry season when little water flows down the Zambezi River, the view of the falls from the Zambian visitor park is not too spectacular. Hence, at first sight, my awe-struck adjectives were failing to emerge and I had to focus my camera more often on the craggy river gorge at the bottom of the falls than on the wall of water that I had expected and was nowhere to be seen. The Zimbabwe visitor park is situated further away, right across the most powerful and water-rich side of the falls, and therefore offers a better view. But since most of that water that flows down into the gorge is a “property” of the proud Zambians, the poorer view is compensated by the availability of activities that are only possible on their side of the border. One of those is swimming at the edge of the falls.

And this is exactly what we did for our one year-anniversary. There’s no metaphor in “the edge of the falls”; natural barrier-like rock formations at the brim of the chasm, a weaker current, and low water conditions caused by the dry season create a few easily accessible pools from which water overflows indeed into the falls but gently enough not to take you with it down into the pit. Now, everyone who knows Angela knows she loves swimming. I… not so much. But the thrill of this unique adventure overcame my natural indifference to swimming pools and I did not regret getting wet. I have the pictures to speak for me.

Sunset over the Zambezi.

We finished the night with dinner at the Royal Livingstone hotel, on the peaceful riverbanks of the Zambezi not far from the falls, which can only be seen from here as a white, silent mist in the distance. Zebras were strolling on the lawn of the magnificent Victorian-style property and vervet monkeys were playing between the reclining chairs at the pool. An army of well-dressed waiters ensured that all the needs of the (mostly retired, by their looks) crowd of hungry patrons were promptly attended. The food was indeed five-star. For once, I even wore a shirt, albeit not ironed. For a few hours we forgot about all the past and future dinners eaten in semi-obscurity by the side of the truck, balancing the plates of food on our knees, anxiously looking around for the hungry baboons lurking behind us, ready to steal anything edible they could get their hands on…

Posted from Stone Town, Zanzibar

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