Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Last View of Victoria Falls / Entering Botswana

Day 66: Kasane, Botswana
After I crossed the border back into Zimbabwe yesterday following my excursion to Zambia, I ran into Tom and Jude on the gorge bridge. We hung out there for a while taking pictures of the impressive double rainbow that formed a complete circle in the mist above the raging rapids. We then walked over to the park so we could get a grand view of the falls themselves. This view, although a bit further from the falls, was much better and grander than the view from the Zambian side. Walking parallel to the large unbroken sheet of water was a dramatic – and wet – experience. The falls are so powerful at this time of year that the water seems to disappear in an ocean of mist churning in a bottomless chasm. When the wind blows the water spray a certain way, the massive wall of water – the largest on Earth – vanishes completely, shrouded in a formless blanket of milky white. Rainbows appeared at several points, stopping abruptly in mid-air at the edge of the mist. As I continued to walk, the spray became more and more intense, and soon I was drenched, wetter than if I had stepped into a shower with my clothes on. The wind blows the spray around with such force that even the notes inside my wallet – in a zipped pocket of my waterproof poncho – were wet! The walk culminates in a point that juts out into the gorge. Dubbed "Danger Point," it is caught in such a perpetual deluge that rivers with no beginning and no end flow over the slippery rocks, changing course with the wind.

Rainbow over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe © Matt Prater
A rainbow over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

Double rainbow over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe © Matt Prater
A double rainbow over Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
View of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe © Matt Prater
The power of the churning water is evident in this view of Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

Rainbow and cloud, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe © Matt Prater
A rainbow stops abruptly at the edge of the mist coming from Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.

In the evening, I went with Tom, Jude, and Nix to the Kingdom Hotel for dinner. A Las Vegas style venue with a casino and several restaurants, the Kingdom Hotel is thoroughly Zimbabwean in theme, inspired by the Great Zimbabwe Ruins. On the walk to the hotel, we were startled by a massive elephant that walked without warning across the main road, almost causing a car crash. This event is a sobering reminder of the human-animal interaction that sometimes occurs in Africa due to the urbanization of natural ecosystems.

This morning we set off towards the Botswana border, where we encountered a new peculiar procedure. Foot and mouth disease occurs in Botswana, so the country requires check points at borders and periodically along highways. We all had to get off the truck carrying an extra pair of shoes, step on a mat containing a mixture of disinfectant and mud, stamp our extra shoes in the disinfectant, and then climb back on the truck. Some of us do not have an extra pair of shoes, but apparently as long as the majority of us do, the officers don't really care – it's just another elaborate manifestation of African bureaucracy with dubious benefit.

We soon reached Kasane, situated at the edge of Chobe National Park. The Chobe River, which forms part of the border between Botswana and Namibia, had flooded part of our campsite, and some lodges and other structures along the river were partially submerged or cut off by the water. In the afternoon, we departed for a cruise along the river, and we finally spotted our first crocodiles of the trip. We also saw quite a few hippos and an exciting array of elephants, some of them babies, lined up along the river bank. A few of the elephants "performed" for us, spraying water from their trunks to clean themselves. At sunset, we floated leisurely down the river back to camp.

Elephants by the Chobe River, Chobe National Park, Botswana © Matt Prater
Elephants stand beside the Chobe River in Chobe National Park, Botswana.

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