Friday, June 02, 2006

The Mighty Zambezi

We woke on the 10th day in a bed strewn with rose petals - in the Airport Southern Sun, Johannesburg. Off to departures, where we discovered that our flight north would land in the town of Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and not over the border in Livingstone, Zambia (where we wanted to be). So it was that we came to spend a very uncomfortable couple of hours in Mr Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Some numbers that might help you to understand the present condition of that country: men have a life expectancy of 37, women 34 - the lowest in the world - and the official rate of inflation has reached almost 1,000%. - the highest in the world. The immigration officers in the airport extracted USD 110 from us for the privelige of entering this paradise.

We were met, as expected by a friendly man with a very battered minibus, who got us to the land border, and, eventually, through it: the border itself is formed by the Zambezi, a river of awesome power, across which arcs a large single-span bridge - halfway across, we have reached Zambia.

Bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia

Our (extremely comfortable) hotel was the strangest yet: the entrance looked just like the gate of an army barracks, the impression re-inforced by the mock military uniforms worn by hotel security staff, who turned out to be omnipresent on the perimeter of the hotel grounds. And what grounds! The trees and lawns of the gardens harbour Zebra and antelope, and are visited nightly by troupes of vervet monkeys, who arrive just before sunset. We were charmed to see them playing on on the lawn, and started to film them - until we realised exactly what they were playing at - and that we were recording a sort of vervet Kama Sutra. It seems that they divide their lives equally between sleep, fornication, and the pillaging of any hotel room whose window isn't closed tight.

Victoria Falls at sunset

Our room, as advertised, was a five minute stroll from the lip of the falls themselves. The deep bass ground-trembling thunder of the falls themselves has to be heard - and felt - to be believed. Simultaneously, the endlessly falling waters and the rising, shifting mist are ethereal and fascinating in their variation. Above, you see the sunset as we saw it, on our first evening in Zambia, at the lip of the Victoria Falls.

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