I’m not usually one for adrenaline fixes.
However, as part of the overland tour in Africa, we are encountering a number of opportunities for exciting extra adventures.
And every time I think, hell, when in Rome.
Victoria Falls, or locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, “The Smoke that Thunders,” is a massive waterfall on the Zambezi river in Southern Africa, between the borders of Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The waterfalls are massive, impressive. They are formed as the full width of the Zambezi river plummets 300 feet down into a single, dramatically wide chasm that spans over one full mile.
The falls have been described as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. By some measurements, Victoria Falls (“Vic Falls”) is the largest waterfall in the world, and boasts, during the wet season, the world’s largest sheet of falling water. Regardless of rank, even during dry season, they are a spectacular sight to see.
During the early 20th century, the parabolic arch steel Victoria Falls Bridge was built across the Vic Falls chasm in order to connect Zambia to Zimbabwe. While this large bridge still acts as a central transportation artery between the two countries, it also provides adventurous tourists with stomach-turning thrills of their lives.
So, for our first adventure of the day, here’s a warm-up:
After getting my toes wet, of course the logical next step is to up the ante, and attach the harness to my feet instead of my chest.
Skydiving in Namibia
The final segment in today’s adventure alley brings us east of Victoria Falls to the vast deserts of Namibia.
Excited, shaken, but not daunted by my bridge jumping experiences, I decide to continue riding the hype train (or plane) all the way up to 11,000 feet over the Swakopmund desert in Namibia.
I could write about how the experience felt. But, in this case, pictures (or videos) really are worth 1,000 words.
Thrills aside, I’ll conclude this blog installment with a few less blood-pumping, but equally memorable adventures.
Our time in Botswana included a few days’ visit to the Okavanga Delta, a literal paradise on earth where vegetation flourishes, locals live as they have for thousands of years, and millions of wild animals thrive. Our tour included an overnight trip inside the delta, where locals shepherd us through winding, reed-strewn waterways and take us on long game walks over vast plains.
We swim in the cool, crisp delta water. We sleep next to grazing elephants. We watch sunset, and sunrise illuminate the heavens in flurries of pastel magnificence. We are treated to local music around a camp fire, and even end up dancing with the locals around it. We are (briefly) charged by an grouchy buffalo.
It’s an exciting, peaceful, humbling experience.
Flight over the Delta
After spending two days and a night in the delta, sleeping among the creeks and howls of nature, traversing its sprawling pathways by foot and by canoe, we return once more to civilization.
Much of this trip has been characterized by a familiar theme: departure and return.
A decent into the old, the ancient, the past, and a re-emergence into the present.
A glimpse of the wild, of the world in its rawest form, and a return to the human safety, to comfort.
An outward journey to discover, to learn what you do not know. A homecoming, and a heightened appreciation for what you always had. For who you used to have.
After our two days of exploring in Delta on foot, we leave the ground, board a plane, and fly high above.
Trees, plants, vegetation shrink to mere dots. The winding web of water canals becomes mere lines on the surface of a canvas. Huge, powerful, tusked elephants dwarf into tiny figurines. Even the vast, bustling herds of zebra and wildebeest appear inconsequential, just part of the sprawling, endless landscape.
In the air, my heart is conflicted. I feel like an excited kid, giddy, looking down at childhood dreams. I feel like an omnipotent being, lording down from the heavens upon everything below. I feel like just a guy, sitting in a tiny plane, flying over some tiny speck of land, somewhere over some tiny country in Africa. I suddenly feel old, and tired.
It can be a hard pill to swallow, travel. I’m not complaining, but it is tough. The times are among of the best of your life, but they take so much out of you.
If you want to leave the ground, you need to be able to handle the flight. In the air, there will be good. And there will be bad. There will be things you never suspected. Sometimes you can be a passenger, but you also need to know when step up, and fly yourself.
When it is all over, once you’re back on the ground, your world will never be the same. The earth itself remains unchanged, but you harbor a new perspective, a new appreciation for it. Once back on the ground, you can’t go back. You can never forget what the world looked like from above.