Quiz question: the sun is shining and the sky is blue, yet we’re sopping wet in spite of wearing bright yellow plastic macs. Where are we?
It was a mistake. What I failed to take into account was that last time, when I got only delicately damp from the spray rising from the Falls, it was the dry season. This time it’s the wet season and the level of the Zambezi River and the volume of water crashing over the chasm is much, much greater. Compare, say, your dripping bath tap and a torrential Highveld downpour and you’ll get the idea of the kind of difference I’m talking about here.
We browse the posters at the info kiosk for a few tips about what to expect. Although Vic Falls doesn’t even feature in the top 800 highest waterfalls around the world, it’s 10th largest by width and 13th largest by volume. Total width of its five separate falls is 1.7 kilometres, with Rainbow Falls the highest point at 108 metres. If you insist on looking for some kind of record, you could say that the Main Falls are the highest, widest sheet of continually falling water in the world.
Second, notice that word ‘documented’. Watch the water thundering over the cliffs in the peak of the wet season (February to May/June), when the Zambezi is raging, and you may suspect that one or two earlier adventurers might have found themselves tipping over the edge, losing their lives before they could report their staggering find and get into the history books.
Victoria Falls actually comprises five separate waterfalls, the first of them being the Devil’s Cataract. It’s aptly named, a roiling cauldron that’s more than a little scary. If some 1100 cubic metres of water come rollicking over the edge of the Falls every second, you can imagine what a noise it makes. The entire annual consumption of New York City goes over the Falls in just three-and-a-half days during peak flood season (April/May).
We try to console ourselves with the legend that a good soaking in the spray of the Zambezi gives you physical and spiritual purification. But we vow that if we ever do this walk again in the wet season, we’ll do it au naturel and Mother Grundy be damned.
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