Vic Falls

28 Nov

Victoria Falls provides the largest sheet of falling water in the world. Its native name, Mosi-oa-Tunya, means “cloud that thunders.” And it is just that.

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Our Lonely Planet guide had a list from A to Z of things to do at the falls. We, unfortunately, only had two days at the falls, so we had no choice but to choose between the various activities. We settled on visiting the Devil’s Pool and white water rafting down the Zambezi River, starting just after the base of the falls.

The Devil’s Pool is a natural pool that sits on top of the falls on the Zambia side. The edge of the pool is literally the edge of the waterfall.

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Earlier in the day, when we arrived at the Zimbabwe side of the falls, we saw people climbing in and out of Devil’s Pool. We had read about the pool and seen a YouTube video of people swimming in it, so we were well aware of what to expect and were not surprised to see them. Many other tourists, however, had no idea what a bunch of tourists were doing standing at the edge of the falls. It looked insane and crazy. Later that day, we knew that’s what people were going to think about us.

When we arrived at the tour launching point on the Zambia side, we were all surprised at how calm it was on top of the falls. The only thing that might signify any danger was the rising mist in the distance.

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We hopped in a boat and were driven to Livingstone Island. We walked the rest of the way to the falls. The sound of the falls began to grow as we neared the edge. The rising mist was being blown back into our faces and cameras. Then, the drop off appeared before our eyes.

There was no small barrier wall. There were no fences. It is untouched. The only thing between us and a 350-plus foot drop was a small stumble. It didn’t seem safe. It wasn’t.

Our guide pointed into the distance where there was another group swimming in Devil’s Pool, indicating where we would be in minutes. It was near the rushing, tumbling water, the cloud that thunders. It seemed less safe.

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When we arrived at the pool, we were presented with two options:  climb in or jump in. The first person in our tour jumped in. That left us no choice. Everyone would be jumping in.

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We figured when we hit the water, we would be pushed to the edge of the falls by the flowing water. We weren’t. It literally was like a pool. It was also quite deep and at the edge of the falls, the rock had developed into a barrier wall. It was actually quite safe. As long as you stayed within the barriers of the pool, there was nothing to worry about.

The rest of our time there was pure fun.

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After the pool, we returned to Livingstone Island for a nice meal. The setup was pretty terrific. There was nice food and cold beer. Also, a toilet with a view.

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The loo.

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The view.

Then, we hopped back in the boat and cruised away from the thundering of the falls to the quite serene waters next to the drop off point half a kilometer away. We sat on the deck of the hotel that runs the tour and had a beer. Our thoughts turned to our next adventure tomorrow morning at the bottom of the falls.

We woke up early to be taken to the white water rafting launch point. They went over the safety instructions and what to do “when, not if,” we were tossed out of the boat into the Zambezi River. There were many class 5 rapids on our tour, and we had to be prepared how to handle them.

When we were climbing into the boat, we (Eric and Dane) volunteered to sit at the front. It was an immediately regrettable decision. Our guide was going to make us work hard and the two people at the front of the boat were going to have to do all the heavy lifting. Our guide was also an asshole, which made things slightly less enjoyable.

Luckily for Eric, he was demoted from the front within minutes. It was embarrassing for him at first, but it was the best thing that could have happened to him. He was out of the hot seat.

By rapid five, we were all tired and ready for a break, but we wouldn’t be given one, and we had thirteen more rapids to conquer. Eric and two others had fallen out at rapid number three but the rest of us had remained dry up to that point. It didn’t last. Our entire boat flipped soon thereafter. It was actually kind of fun being tossed into the river. I mean there were rocks and crocodiles and stuff, but it was still fun.

The next time everyone in our boat fell out was when our guide got cocky and wasn’t really paying attention. In the boat, we did our best to listen to his instructions. That’s why when everyone (except our guide) realized our boat was headed directly for a rock, we kept paddling straight for it. The guide kept yelling “forward!” so we kept going forward. When we were nearly on top of the rock, however, our guide said something else, “Oh shit!”

We slammed into the rock and everyone flipped out of the boat. Somehow our guide managed to hold onto the rope around the boat and was eventually able to pull the boat off the rock where it had been lodged. The rest of us floated down the river for quite a ways. We even floated into calm water where the crocodiles tend to hid out. Luckily everyone was able to get to shore without incident. We spent the remainder of our time waiting for the boat and making fun of our asshole guide.

We fell out of the boat a few more times and developed tons of blisters on our hands before we reached the final rapid. This rapid, we had been warned, tossed nine out of ten boats. Three boats went ahead of us. All of them flipped. Then, it was our turn. We went into the rapid and came through the other side. It seemed rather simple and very anti-climactic, but we cheered anyway. We certainly had no part in getting through that rapid. We just happened to be lucky enough to hit it the right way at the right time.

That afternoon, everyone had planned to do a few things as the hours ticked away on our time at Vic Falls. But everyone was too exhausted. We were confident, however, that we had done the two most fun activities at the falls, in order of greatness, Devil’s Pool and white water rafting the Zambezi.

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