TUESDAY, CHRISTMAS EVE. Up in the town, we stocked up on groceries and booze, which we stored in a box in the tent to keep the ants away, then we prepared ourselves to go and see the Victoria Falls for the first time.
It cost a mere Z$5 to get into the Falls area, and we walked down through the dense forest, wet from the heavy rain, towards the roar of water echoing up through the trees. Our first glimpse of Mosi-oa-Tunya¹ was through the trees across from the Devil’s Cataract, where tons and tons of water roar over a 93-metre cliff into the chasm, sending up a cloud of spray and a deafening noise. As we walked along through the trees bordering the cliff edge, it became wetter and wetter, as the spray from the falls fell in dense clouds, soaking us in minutes.
The Main Falls were a cataclysm of water exploding over the rim of rock and crashing down into the deep gorge. At Danger Point we stood out on a point of rock and looked over the edge down into the seething pit of black rock and swirling spray, flying up into our faces by the blast of air thrown up by the falling water.
The track along the clifftop ended at a small clearing, from which the Zambezi Bridge was visible spanning the deep gorge with a brown water of the river, now free from the horrors of the falls, surge away downstream as if running in terror from the violence of the cataract.
Back at camp we put on some dry clothes, then hired a couple of bicycles and cycled the five kilometres out of town to the Spencers Creek Crocodile Farm. They had an impressive range of crocs, ranging in size from little footlong hatchlings up to a 12-foot Silurian monster, sunning himself beside the fence with a smug look on his face. A well set-out group of cages housed a leopard, several wild cats, and a serval, and there was also an informative AV program about crocodiles and other aspects of conservation.
Cycling home we saw a large group of baboons, a family of warthogs, and a couple of antelope, which flitted through the trees at the range of our vision. We passed an old baobab tree known as The Big Tree, upon which a history of missionaries and explorers have carved their names and dates, the oldest visible one being 1891.
Back beside the river upstream of the falls, we stop to watch the river drifting swiftly yet calmly towards the distant roar of the falls, and then the rain drove in in torrents, soaking us for the second time that day in seconds.
We cycled back to the camp through the downpour and found that Jim and Corinna had arrived. The evening was spent with a Kumuka crowd under an awning, playing drinking games, while sheets of rain turned the camping ground into a lake. But our tent stayed dry, thanks to the network of trenches that I dug around it to channel the water away.