Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Scenes so lovely...

...must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight - wrote Livingstone, in 1857.

Propelled by turbine and rotors rather than supernatural powers, we made steep turns above the falls, windows revealing a very vertical view of the chasm into which the Zambezi plunges so abruptly. This chasm is a huge slot in the bedrock which opens into an extremely sheer canyon that zigs very abruptly, before becoming slightly less sheer walled and turning slighting less abruptly. This was our next destination.

Victoria Falls

Turning his back on the falls, our pilot took the helicopter cross country, our shadow flitting over the fields and rondevels of subsistence farmers, scrubby "medium dry" land - Mopane everywhere. The very flatness of this landcape formed the perfect dramatic prelude to what happened next: the plain stopped, and the ground fell away below us as we crested the canyon lip. Down went the nose as our pilot made a dive for the canyon floor, turning steeply, so as to avoid flying into the opposite wall. Levelling out well below tree-top height, he proceeded to fly upstream just above the water, only rising to allow the steep turns necessary to follow the bends of the canyon. If at all possible, I'll upload the video I took of this - still images, can't really do the experience justice.

Eventually, out pilot ended his Luke Skywalker impression by pulling out of the canyon and taking us over a game park just upstream from the falls. A helicopter probably isn't the ideal way to stalk game, but it certainly gave us an outstanding "God's eye" view of a standoff between elephants and a pair of rhinoceros, apparently contesting for shade.

Yet another tropical sunset

Later, for a change of pace, we went for a river cruise on the African Queen - a two decker river boat similar to the kind of craft that ply Lake Constance. Finger food and an open bar, and ringside seats for another hopelessly romantic African sunset.

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