THURSDAY 26 DECEMBER – THE SMOKE THAT THUNDERS Jim, Corina, Linda and I went over to the Zambian side of the falls for the morning. Border formalities were speedy on both sides, with a 2 km walk between costumes posts over the Zambezi Bridge which spans the gorge at a dizzying height. A rock dropped from the bridge took 6 1/2 seconds to reach the water.
The Zambian side has none of the crowds of tourists, safety barriers and fees, that the Zimbabwe side features. Here there is just rock, water and adrenaline. The falls were almost close enough to touch, and the only thing to hold you back from the edge is your own courage…or lack of it. Jim and I followed a narrow, slippery track along the very edge of the precipice, while Linda and Corina took the safer concrete path, stopping every now and then to lie out on the edge and peer into the swirling depths. At the apex of the cliff, Jim and I climbed out onto a small pinnacle of rock standing out above the river as it left the falls, much to the fear of Linda and Corina, then we walked back through the dripping forest and along the track leading upstream. About 100 metres above the falls, we spread out clothes out to dry in the warm sun while we sat and talked with a couple of Australians.
After an hour or so our stuff was dry, so we wandered back over the bridge and returned to our camp. We had a snack and a drink then the four of us went down to the Vic Falls Hotel for a beer. Jim and I left the girls on the veranda and walked down a steep track leading into the gorge. The path dropped steeply through the bush, first over a well-defined but very steep watercourse, and finally a series of step ladders and ropes descending the rocky streambed to the bottom of the gorge. We sat on the rocks above the thick brown water of the Zambezi River where it slows, fresh from the violence of the falls, and takes a 170 degree turn around a sharp point of rock, then finally drops out of sight over a huge rapid. The place was quite peaceful apart from the annoying Flight of The Angels aircraft buzzing around overhead. The water below us turned in a slow eddy creating a large pool of leaves and branches slowly turning anticlockwise in the current.
We sat there for an hour or so, then climbed back up the steep path to the hotel, stopping on the way to watch a family of mongooses chattering about in the undergrowth. At the hotel, we had a drink and I made use of the phone in the lobby which some enterprising soul had discovered could be used to call anywhere in the world for nothing.
I rang Ann and Betty back in Britain and wished them a Merry Christmas and Linda did the same. Later in the evening, a group of us returned and made calls all over the world. I rang Joe and Mick, Linda rang her friend Kerry and we scored some more free meals at the buffet.