Sunday, August 30, 2015

Victoria Falls Day

I think it goes without saying, but I'll say it was another early morning. We were visiting Victoria Falls today and some of us had other sightseeing adventures planned. We had to see the falls in the morning so we could get to our other adventures afterwards.

On the way to the falls, Michael, the bus driver, drove us by a sacred tree called the Baobab Tree. The circumference of the tree is 26ft.  It is 85 ft tall and between 1000-1500 years old.  the baobab tree has a huge significance in the African history and culture.

This info was grabbed from another website...

The baobab tree is a symbol of strength, wisdom, health, long life and beauty. It is a sacred link to the past, and is sometimes associated with the beginning of creation. The baobab tree is often referred to as the “upside-down tree” because its branches resemble roots sticking up. Thought to live thousands of years, the baobab has deep roots to enable it to find water underground, and it stores water in its trunk during rainy months to sustain it through the dryer periods.

The trunk provides shelter to people and animals, especially birds. People weave rope mats, paper and cloth from its fibrous bark, which regrows after it`s stripped from the tree. Baobab leaves are used as condiments and medicines for fevers and other ailments.

In the spring, the tree bursts forth, exquisite flowers, which then become fruit. The gourd-like shell contains a white pulp that`s used in porridge and juices. African peoples treasure the baobab fruit for its extraordinary health properties. Plentiful in antioxidants such as vitamin C, and packed with fibre, this super fruit contains most of the nutrients needed to live a long, healthy life.

One myth is that a lion will have you for dinner if you pick a flower from the baobab tree. Or, if you drink water soaked in baobab seeds hungry crocodiles won`t eat you.

There are many legends about how the tree came into being. One is about the god Thora who didn`t like the baobab in his garden, and so he threw it down where it landed on earth – upside down yet still growing. Another story is that the gods became so angry by the beautiful baobab`s conceit that they turned it upside down to teach it a lesson. In time, the tree became stronger and helped the African peoples thrive, as they too grew more resilient. Through the ages and across the African continent, people have told many versions of this legend. Yet the story always comes back to the unique circumstances of the tree, and its willingness to give so generously to the African peoples.

After a quick lesson in the baobab tree, and watching some Zimbabwean men come out of the bushes  to sell the tourists (us) their Zimbabwean crafts and money that is no longer in circulation, we were off to the falls. 

The bus parked in a parking lot across from entry gate into the falls area.  The parking lot has similar singers and dancers like the airport least they weren't singing that Lion Sleeps Tonight song. There were crafts being sold in the parking lot as well. 

We entered the gate after reading a little about the falls, and immediately head the rush of the water.  we walked down to an overlook and it was breathtaking to see how much water was falling off of a 300ft ledge.

Livingstone- Discovered Victoria Falls
The mist from the falls would come and go, and it was almost like being in a rain forest.  Good thing we wore our raincoats.  We continued to walk the 1.3 mile length of the falls, stopping at overlooks to catch the views of the falls.  It was spectacular.  Pictures really can't do it justice though.  The sound, mist and dizziness experienced from looking over the edge is something that you would have to experience to really get a good feeling of the beauty of it all. During the winter months (the time we were visiting), the water flow is less, so you are able to see more because the mist is "at a minimum." During the summer months the water flow covers the entire ledge and the mist is so strong that in some spots where we were able to walk out and look over the edge, you wouldn't have been able to do that.

Walking to the end of the falls, we saw the bridge that people bungee jump off of. The thought of bungee jumping crossed my mind for about 3 seconds.  Then, I thought about the country that I was in and how they probably do not have as many safety rules, and nixed the idea. We do have a friend from high school that was just over in Zimbabwe the week before we got there, and she bungee jumped and survived. :) We also got to see someone bungee off of the bridge, and that was quite a site.  They hung upside down for a few minutes before they were picked up by the worker and hoisted to the top.  I didn't see any wet spots in their pants...but we were a pretty good distance from them, so who knows...

Bungee jump bridge

The walk and picture taking took about an hour and a half to complete. Mo, Mrs. Healy, Ian, Karen and I had an appointment to take a helicopter ride to see the falls after we were done walking it.  I wanted to get some pictures of the falls from the air, and was excited to get up and check it out.  Laurie didn't need to go.  She said that she will take a look at my pictures when I got back. 

We got to the helicopter pad and signed some waivers that said something about giving all of our assets to the helicopter company if we don't make it back, but I don't really know the details, I didn't read it...thankfully we made it back.  One group ahead of us went up, then it was our turn. 

The flight lasted 13 minutes and it was just enough time to see what you needed to see of the falls and the Zambezi river.  The mist from the falls is so prevalent from miles away.  We had the best of both worlds by being able to see the falls from the ground level and from the air. 

Zambezi River

After our helicopter adventure, we got a ride back to the hotel.  We were having another farewell dinner tonight for those of us having to leave tomorrow, and had about 4 hours to relax or explore before dinner. We ate lunch and watched a "vulture feeding" at 1pm. The hotel feeds the vultures scraps from last night's dinner.  They do this to preserve the vulture population. If not, vultures feed on farmers' cows and other animal carcasses that lions or leopards kill, but the farmers will poison the carcasses to try and kill the cats and stop them from eating their farm animals.  When the vultures eat the poisoned carcass, they too are poisoned and die. Vultures are crucial to the eco system. 

After lunch Laurie and I hung out on the top floor where there was a sitting area with a couch and a couple of comfy chairs to hang out in.  It was an awesome spot for looking out at the watering hole and watching warthogs, impala, crocodiles trying (and failing) to catch storks on the banks and many other animals come down to grab a drink of water.  I caught up on some emails and Laurie read a little bit between watching the animals. 

Dinnertime came quickly, but the 4 hour relaxation was much needed after 2 weeks of going non-stop. While we were relaxing, Matt walked over to the Zambia side of the river and got some great pictures of the falls.  Mo and her mom caught the trolley into town and walked around.  Others relaxed by the pool or took a nap. 

Dinner was good but the conversation was better.  We had a few tables with our group members at them and we all reminisced about this trip, past trips and future trips that we would like to eventually take.  Don, our tour guide, really did an excellent job of making everyone feel that we were the only people in the world.  We sang happy birthday to our Aussie friend Karen, and her husband Ian presented her with a Southern Cross pendant for her necklace. the night was winding down and slowly people started leaving the tables and heading for their rooms.  We watched a hyena browsing through the leftover scraps from today's vulture feeding. There was a sadness in the air, as most of our group was leaving in the morning.  Only 4 members from our group were going on to Botswana for 2 more days.  Laurie and I had something to look forward to tomorrow. We were doing a lion walk with a lion rescue group outside of town.  It was going to be a 4:45am wake-up call, but it was going to be awesome.  It should be a great way to end an amazing trip. 

Ian presenting Karen her birthday gift

The Kims

From the left: Don (tour guide and friend), Mrs. Healy, Marg, Mo, Laurie and Matt

From left: Val, Vanessa, Terrance, Cameron, Ian, Karen, Cheryl & Kayla

Sorry the pictures are so dark! 

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