zambezi

6 Feb

Chapter 6

It was a rigorous but beautiful exercise.  They saw a number of elephants grazing from afar. The scene was picturesque to Sandy who had never seen an elephant in its natural habitat. The water was serene but the clouds were anything but serene. Gradually the wind kicked up making controlling the boat a near impossibility. Sandy and Illuminada increased their efforts at the oars. The water seemed to suddenly begin to rage.

‘Hey I see land!’ Sandy shouted above the roar of the waters.

‘Where?’ asked Illuminada

Sandy pointed to a place that looked more like an island.

‘Good work Sandy’ called Illuminada. ‘Let’s try to get there.’

The closer they got to the Island the louder the roar. It looked like the earth was shooting up smoke somewhere up ahead.

‘There are no volcanoes trying to erupt around here is there?’

‘No Sandy. Just keep paddling.’  

Up ahead was Livingstone Island. It was so called because that was the island the Englishman David Livingstone stood when he first discovered the Victoria Falls in 1855. It was a small island very close to the lip of Victoria Falls. As they approached the island the waters were like a raging tornado. The crashing waters convulsed as it sped to the edge of the over hundred foot cliff to descend into the gorge with a thunderous crash.

Illuminada and Sandy were powerless now as the boat raced towards the precipice of its own will.

‘We are gonna die!’ wailed Sandy.

The boat raced along and with a sudden twist headed for the bank of the island. The boat slammed into the river bank as the raging waters beat vigorously on the stern. Illuminada grabbed hold on a branch of an overhanging tree.

‘Grab my hand!’ she shouted over the thunder of the roaring waters. The river was a violent convulsion with a mind of its own.

Sandy tried to grab Illuminada’s hands. She had to struggle against the waters which threatened to drown her and the endless bobbing of the boat. Finally she clutched Illuminada’s hands and Illuminada pulled with all her strength.

Though Sandy tried as much as she could, the weight of the backpack was getting in the way.

‘Let go of the bag’,

‘What?’ Sandy could not hear her.

‘Let the back pack go! Let it go!’ yelled Illuminada. It was clear that she was losing strength. Sandy realizing to what she was referring managed to detangle herself from the backpack. No sooner had she done that than she was free of the boat. The boat free of their weight was torn away from the bank with great force and disappeared over the lip of the waterfall. Illuminada hung on precariously to the branch as she tried to find a firm footing.

Sandy could not stop her flailing hands. She had swallowed more than enough water as it was. In her panicky situation she noticed that the branch was coming off the tree.

‘Look out!’ she screamed as her face registered the shock.

In the midst of the tumultuous noise and raging waters, Illuminada heard the distinct snap of the branch. Illuminada tried to grasp at anything that was solid matter. It was an effort in futility as she and Sandy were totally engulfed in the water. Sandy felt herself plummeted with so much force she felt her bones rattle. She found herself in a whirlpool. ‘Now I am surely dead’ was her last thought before she was catapulted into oblivion.

 *                           *                      *

The Victoria Falls is one of the widest waterfalls in the world. It measures about two kilometers in width and descends a height of over a hundred feet into the Boiling Pot. When viewed from afar during the height of the wet season it gives a panoramic view. The Upper Zambezi in all its glory takes a leap of over a hundred feet and crashes into the middle Zambezi which begins with the Batoka gorge. To the natives Victoria Falls is simply known as Mosi-oa-Tunya which when translated means the smoke that thunders. This is so because of the thunderous noise created by the cascading waters and the cloud of mist it generates.

At the foot of the fall the water is compressed into a space of twenty yards and it continues its journey into Zimbabwe. The Victoria Falls is a natural boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. 

During the dry season some daring tourists take a swim at the Devils pool, a small pond created at the lip of the falls by the Livingstone Island. From here they could gaze down the falls. Trips could also be taken by raft to the base of the falls. These trips are known as the float of angels.

All of these daring adventures take place during the dry season. It is never attempted during the wet season. That is considered suicidal.

No one ever survived a fall off the lip of the Victoria Falls not in the dry season and certainly not during the wet season.

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