Going Places: Tales from the road: Postcards from Africa

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
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By Todd Krieger

July 25: Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe

An amalgamation of every ski town, surf camp, and adrenaline-charged vacation spot you've ever been to, Vic Falls is filled with global children in search of beer, some loud music, and that elusive bond of camaraderie where machismo and nature appreciation co-exist.

A place of legend, Victoria Falls was stumbled onto by the explorer David Livingstone, who could not stop himself from invoking a heavenly presence in every description he penned. Coined Victoria after Livingstone's queen, the local name of Mosu-oa-Unya, or Smoke that Thunders, seems more appropriate. The mist that rises above the falls can be seen from miles away, and at night the roar beckons you to come and witness the spectacle. Water pours down from unimaginable heights, and rainbows sparkle on the haze, mesmerizing, enveloping, cooling.

Postcards from Africa
Adrenaline overflows at Vic Falls
Rafting the Zambezi
Video: 739K .avi or 718K .mov

Like good touristas and sportspeople, we sign up for a full day of Class V whitewater on the Zambezi. Guides claim it to be "the most difficult whitewater commercially rafted in the world today." Beginning with a breathtaking view of the falls from below, we set off downstream, flipping twice--once on "Star Trek" and then again on the aptly named "Oblivion." On a couple occasions we take the long swim, drinking in a gallon or two of Zambezi glop. The rush of high-grade rapids is made that much more fantastic by calm, dreamlike cruises in still pools along the way. Looking up through the gorges, you're tempted to think a pterodactyl might come winging into view over the prehistoric sheer rock landscape.

And when that's over, I see yet another opportunity to have my heart rate leap exponentially: bungee jumping from the bridge connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe. Idiot's adrenaline doing its job, I am primed for my 111-meter free fall by a cadre of wacko instructors spinning out a comedy routine designed both to terrify and put at ease. Leaping at the appointed hour of 16:56, I make way to the platform, look upon the outrageous beauty of the Zambezi flowing fast and free beneath me and Zam-Zim gorge spread out before me. Poised to soar like an eagle--surviving a love tap from my instructor (who actually tried to push me off)--I leap to my death.

But the cord holds. I survive. Next adventure, coming right up.

NEXT: The eastern highlands of Zimbabwe
Video by Monique Stauder

©2000, Mariah Media Inc.

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