The Smoke That Thunders

4 Mar

Thought I’d update you on the progress of my Cape Town adventure.

There are some things in life that everyone needs to see during their time on this planet. One of those things? Victoria Falls. And I did just that last week!

Divided in half by the Zambia-Zimbabwe border, the falls exist where the Zambezi river plummets into several gorges.

Sure is hard to describe in words what seeing Victoria Falls is like. But here goes – it is pure beauty and power on a massive scale.  Over 5,000 feet wide, to be exact.

Here’s a picture of me near the Boiling Pot, a high-current section of the Zambezi just after the water makes its plunge.

Up ahead is the Victoria Falls Bridge, the connection between Livingstone, Zambia, and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. While I witnessed the falls on the Zambian side, I got the chance to walk out on the bridge to the Zimbabwe side, but didn’t cross over, as you need to pay for a visa and a new Zambian visa coming back in. Here’s the view from the bridge looking out on the Zambezi. This is where the bungee jump accident occurred a month back. I had enough of bungee jumping after I did it in the Nile River, plus this one is twice as high!

Here’s me at the border with Amelia, my American/Nairobian friend who also has a passion for travel and joined me on the trip.

David Livingstone ‘discovered’ the falls in 1855. Dr. Wallingford, I presume?

In the rainy season (now), the falls shoot mist high into the air, sometimes so strong that it drops back down like rain. I needed to wear a poncho. The rain shooting up and the mid-day sun created larger-than-life rainbows!

Here’s a footbridge leading to more falls. Quite ominous with the foggy mist.

And the view from there –

Mosi-oa-Tunya is the original name for Victoria Falls, in indigenous language “The Smoke That Thunders.”

What fascinates me about Vic Falls is that water falls from it constantly, and it has been around for much longer than the first Homo sapien to step foot on Earth.

After we explored all the viewpoints, we headed up to the river at the point right before it makes the plunge. In the dry season, some visitors walk out on this area to swim in Devil’s Pool, created around rocks.

Only disappointment is we didn’t run into the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, who was visiting that day.

There were monkeys walking around everywhere near the falls by the way, and apparently they are used to human interaction!

Shortly after the falls visit, I took a bus to Malawi, and have stayed in Lilongwe (the capital), Blantyre, and Cape Maclear. My favorite spot here is definitely Cape Maclear. Why? I think this picture explains pretty well.

Lake Malawi is the southernmost Rift Valley lake. It is freshwater – the swimming reminded me of summers vacationing on Lake Michigan. It is known as the Calendar Lake – 365 miles long, 52 miles wide, and 12 rivers feed into it. Too bad I visited in a leap year – it ain’t quite the Calendar Lake in 2012!

Cape Maclear is on the shores of Lake Malawi. From Monkey Bay, you take a bumpy dirt road 30-45 minutes to reach the cape. I rode in the back of a truck to reach our destination. I lost my hat on the ride and they wouldn’t stop to pick it up. Shucks. At least I only paid $2 for it at a secondhand shop in Dar.

The time here was so relaxing, and I could’ve stayed a week and not wanted to go anywhere else. I stayed a day longer than planned, and then headed to Blantyre. A picture from that ride, passing through Malawi’s mountain ranges in the south.

The Malawian people have been great, but transport not so much. There is a fuel shortage in the country, with the government not purchasing enough petrol and black market alternatives (from Mozambique and Zambia) flood the market. 5 liters of petrol runs you $20-25. That’s $15-19 a gallon. Americans reading this, please stop complaining about your fuel costs! The high energy cost in Malawi has inflated the cost of everything, with a Snickers bar costing over $2 and the price of maize, rice, and other staples rising daily. For Malawi’s poor, this has been devastating.  Here is a picture of 20-ish cars waiting in line to fuel up, a common sight in present-day Malawi.

A note on waiting for buses. In Nairobi, waiting for buses doesn’t really exist. Plenty of people are traveling, and buses leave on time for the most part. On the bus from Lusaka to Lilongwe, I reported at 4:30am for a 5am bus. But, there weren’t enough people on the bus, so the operators waited for the 8am bus riders to show up. So, for a 5am bus, we departed at 9:41am. The worst part is that there was absolutely no communication about the decision made or what time the bus was delayed until. In Malawi, waiting for buses to fill up, I’ve spent at least 10 hours in total on three buses/minibuses. Such is life in Malawi, and from what I hear most parts of Africa. Kenya and Tanzania are well-traveled exceptions.

The Malawian people, very similar to Zambians, are some of the most welcoming and kind Africans I’ve met so far. They go out of their way to get to know visitors and are always willing to lend a helping hand. Their advice has helped me understand the culture better and save money, among other things.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll leave you with a picture of taste-bud-shattering Baobob juice, a very sour and tart Malawian local drink. It kind of tastes like Warheads in liquid form.

Stay tuned for another travel update. I leave for Zimbabwe tomorrow, with Botswana the next destination after that. I fly back to Nairobi on March 23. Until then, I’m living the low budget, backpacking, tourist life. C’est la vie.


3 Responses to “The Smoke That Thunders”

  1. macmcnair March 5, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

    Ben, when you get home you need to make a Snapfish book or something! Only problem will be you may need to make several volumes with all of your adventures and hard drives full of photos! Wow what an amazing journey! Thanks for the fun updates. Blessings to you as you continue on your travels.


    • Ben March 7, 2012 at 6:15 pm #

      Thanks, Mac. I’ll start taking lower resolution photos so I can fit it in one volume, ha! Right now, I’m in a small town in western Botswana (Ghanzi) preparing for a safari to the Kalahari Desert tomorrow!

      All the best,

  2. Sheria Moore March 9, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    I am an indigenous Zambian living in South Africa and I just came back from VicFalls livingstone where I had an awesome, awesome time!! There is something magical and pure about these remote areas especially with their exquisite scenery and beauty, pure magic…! I intend visiting again sooooooon.. Reading your blog evokes in me sweet memories of my lovely holiday & of course memories of my people. May I now pronounce you officially Zambian! 🙂 Enjoy Africa dear, BEAUTIFUL blog! Very well written!! Until then! #wink

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