We spent our last day in Livingstone exploring Victoria Falls. I was shocked to see how different the falls were in the dry season. Compare the two photos. The first one is from when we went there in August — the falls were truly spectacular. The second is late November — a beautiful and impressive canyon but not the majestic falls of before.
In August the falls lived up to its name, “smoke that thunders” (Mosi-oa-Tunya), with mist and spray from visible up to 30 km away. The sound was deafening and there were single, double, and 360 degree rainbows everywhere. This time (November) there was virtually no mist (except a little on the Zimbabwe side, which you can see in the distance in the photo on the right above) and it was quiet. Of course, the advantage of visiting this time of year is that you can go to Devil’s Pool and such, but you really miss the true impact of the falls.
Every time we’ve come to the falls we’ve been warned to avoid illegal guides. There are always a bunch of young men trying to sell you things, take you on tours, be your next best friend, etc. Apparently these illegal guides account for many of the accidents occurring on the falls. When we were inside the falls park we watched one such illegal guide take three older persons (~60 years old) who did not look very fit to sloped ledges and crumbly rock sections on the other side of the falls. The photo’s blurry below because I tried to zoom in to show the danger these people were in.
It’s hard to tell from this photo but with binoculars we watched these people climb down onto a gravely sloped ledge. Kevin tried to videotape it with our little Sony because seriously, we thought there was a 50-50 chance one of them would slip. A young Norwegian woman who was spending the year in Zambia as a sports volunteer told us that just three weeks earlier an American was taking a photo of his family at the falls and stepped back to get a better angle and plunged right into the falls. She said his body laid there for about 4 hours until they could retrieve it because it had fallen on a ledge.
The big event of the day was Kevin’s bungee jump. Ever since he was little he always wanted to fly. When you asked him “what do you want to be when you grow up?” he’d say either, “I want to be big, bigger than Ryan,” or, “I want to be a bird so I can fly.” He did a parachute jump for his 18th birthday and this bungee jump was our gift to him for his 20th birthday.
First, he had to sign his life away.
Then, there was the long walk to the center of the bridge, in the area known as “no man’s land,” exactly on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
At that point he was told to make sure his shoes were on tight, because if they slipped off the harness might slip off. This tip did not calm his nerves.
Then they harnessed him up.
Now he was ready to jump into the Victoria Falls ravine.
He shuffled to the edge of the platform.
Then the guide counted 5, 4, 3, PUSH, 1. That’s right, they pushed him off at the count of 2! Must be they have a lot of people change their mind at the last moment and they’ve learned to not give people the option to back out.
He did a beautiful job swan diving down.
Kevin said there was absolutely no pain or jerking, that because the bungee is elastic it was a relatively gradual slowing down, springing back up and going down again (about 3-4 times). Honestly, it looked easier and safer than the white water rafting to me (as you’ll see in the next posting’s photos). I think I’m going to do it.
We reunited on Zimbabwean soil, and then walked the bridge back to Zambia.