While in Livingstone, of course we went to see the falls. Again, photocopied receipts of work permit applications were accepted as if they were the work permits themselves, so we got in for the resident price of 7,000 kw (which is the price of seven chicken eggs, ten guineafowl eggs, or a meat pie in the grocery store, and less than $1.50 US), considerably less than the non-resident price.
Once inside the fence, we wandered along the path until we came to an outlook point.
November is absolutely the worst time to visit the falls in terms of water volume, but I still found my first view of them somewhat breathtaking.
We followed the pleasant wooded path down some stairs and over to the other side of the promontory, which looked out across another lovely canyon.
What can I say, I like bridges. And the light was pretty incredible. This bridge was part of the brainchild of a Frenchman around the turn of the last century who wanted to make a road from Capetown to . . . Cairo? Marrakesh? Somewhere in the north of the continent.
After some discussion about where the water at the bottom of this gorge was coming from (and, for Chris and I, some eavesdropping on someone else’s tour guide), we followed the path back to the falls side.
Mind you, while I can only imagine how impressive it is in full torrent, personally, I tend to prefer elegant, trickling waterfalls that dribble over cascades of rocks, and I'm sure that I will not be able to watch individual streams of water in March or May.
Note that rocky cliff; you’ll see it again.
I feel that I should include other people in a few pictures, just for verisimilitude. The landmass in the left background is Zimbabwe, which has a better view of the falls, but we didn't go over there.
I was constantly surprised by the lack of guard rails and attention paid to the tourists. Mostly there were guard rails, but aside from the lookout points, they were usually only about knee-high, and in several places, the chains had rotted away entirely, leaving a meter or two of rocks and grassy scrub between the path and the lip of the gorge. In one notable place, the fence was composed of wooden sticks not even as thick around as my wrist and branches covered in inch-long thorns. (Actually they were technically prickles, since they weren’t modified twigs. But they were still an inch long. It sometimes seems like almost everything here has thorns (prickles), as if to remind the unwary expatriate that yes you are in Africa. I believe it’s actually a physical defense (as opposed to a chemical defense, like those bitter plants in Chobe) because water is so scarce in dry season that anything that doesn’t fight back gets eaten to the ground, and sometimes below that. I find this lots of fun combined with the fact that I wear skirts all the time here. I’ve mentioned that Zambia is very hard on clothing, yes?)
After going as far as we could while still in Zambia (actually, I'm told that we missed a path somewhere that would have let us hike down the gorge to the Boiling Pot, but I'm just as glad we didn't, really), we turned around and went back around the end of the gorge.
It was somewhere around here that we met the baboons. We’ve been warned several times to be wary of the baboons at the falls; they’re very used to people and will take anything that looks like it might be food, including water bottles and Shoprite bags. Alison has promised to give me a copy of the photograph of the baboon waltzing along the path next to us in pursuit of another baboon’s muffin.
Remember that cliff? The advantage of visiting the Falls in dry season is that you can climb around on top of the falls.
If you weren't near the edge, bits of it were oddly otherworldly, completely separate from the rest of the area. I could have believed that we were not 20 meters from the top of a hundred-meter plunge into roiling water and sharp rocks.
Don't worry; they're not AS close to the edge as it looks.
I spent a while being surprised that so much of the footing was stable, but after a good distance it occurred to me that anything that would wobble when I stepped on it was unlikely to remain in place under the full force of the water in rainy season. This did not stop my from testing things before I stepped on them, especially when going from rock to rock across the streams that fed what waterfalls there were.
And take a look at those rocks! Though I'll admit that it was also at times disconcerting to walk along narrow stone ledges between partially water-filled deep circular gouges in the stone, rather along the lines of what a giant might use to make elephants into soup.
I'm not as close to the edge as it looks, either. Although it was still rather closer than I was entirely comfortable with. One hundred meters is a long way.
Chris and Matt, who, if you recall, went rafting, told us that those cute little wavelets are the height of a man when you're down there among them. That deep green circular swoosh on the left is the boiling pot, by the way. At least, that's what we decided, because of course none of this was labeled.
This side didn't have any fencing or guard rails at all. I suppose it would have been rather impractical to build any, since this area is under water for some large portion of the year, and would have spoiled the view of the falls, but I cannot imagine this big of a tourist attraction in the United States being so utterly without guards and protective everything.
I, a slow scrambler, was somewhat perennially behind, which gave me ample time to reconfirm what I had decided at Lockinvar: my water-sandals, while pretty good, are not Tevas, and definitely not hiking boots. (Not that I would've kept up if I had been wearing hiking boots, especially since I kept deciding to hike some distance away from the cliff, where the land might be a bit flatter. Even so, my legs were sore the next day from the rock-scrambling and (really very moderate) slopes. I don't do stairs here. Macha is almost entirely flat, and there are very few two-story buildings, none of which I go in on any kind of regular basis, so I go up at most two or three steps at a time. Which just goes to show that choosing to live on the third floor in college did indeed help keep me in shape.)
After a while, we did come to one sign, a discreet notice asking us to please not go any further in order to help protect the environment. Not that there was anything to stop you from going ahead; in fact, several people did. Personally, I had to wonder what the daily traffic of tourists with enough gumption to hike out that far could do to a landscape that managed just fine with the full force of the Zambezi river rushing over it much of the time.
I had a lot of difficulty taking pictures of the falls because the viewscreen of my camera just wasn't big enough. I felt like I needed a panoramic lens that could capture an entire sweep of landscape.
By the time we finished the trek back to the path, we were all very ready for food, so we caught a taxi back into town and ate at a very nice Italian place that served excellent pizza and sandwiches and also gelato. It wasn’t as good as gelato at home, but it was pretty good ice cream. We spent the afternoon just lounging about, and that evening went to an Indian place. There’s a story there. The menu of this particular restaurant was posted at the hostel, where I noticed it because it was a) very cheap, b) Indian, and c) the second-cheapest item on the menu was goat curry. We tried to go the first night, but when I asked the woman at the desk, she started drawing a crazy squiggle across the little free map, then told me it was complicated, and did we just want Indian food? I wanted goat curry, but I said yes, and she directed us to a different place way off in the other direction. I asked if it was cheap and she said it was reasonable.
And — I suppose that it was on the expensive side of reasonable. (Aside from the fact that you had to order rice separately if you wanted it, which I thought was odd, and Alison, who’s lived in India, found very weird.) It was nice restaurant. Probably only moderate-nice by US standards, but I would’ve put it in the running for Nicest Restaurant in Livingstone. Admittedly, the food was REALLY good. They didn’t have goat curry (and I got a lentil thing, anyway, because Alison agrees with me on the Restaurants Are Best When You Share theory, and she’s vegetarian, and meat was more expensive).
So we tried again for the cheap Indian place on the last night in town. It turns out that it was all of two blocks away and on the main drag, so I can only conclude that the first woman either didn’t know where it was or for some other reason didn’t want us to go there. It was a step and a half above hole in the wall, and there was outdoor seating — but when we looked at the menu, it was NOT what had been posted at the hostel. It was nearly as expensive as the really nice place. And there was no goat curry in evidence. We looked at the prices and concluded that we would go back and eat what they were serving at the hostel that night.
“I’m sorry,” I told the waiter, handing him the menu, “but this is more money than we want to spend.”
“Wait, wait!” he called, as the others were already walking away. “We have another menu! Like this!” He indicated the specials on the chalkboard, which were indeed much cheaper. “I will get that one.”
We looked at each other and shrugged, figuring that we could still walk away. And he returned with a much more durable menu, the first two pages of the one that had been posted at the hostel. The goat curry had been on the third page.
“Do you think it’s kosher to ask him for the third page?” I asked wistfully. A moment later he came out with it. We could only conclude that the first menu he’d given us was the muguwa menu.
They were out of goat meat. But I got to try puri, which is an Indian flatbread, except it’s not flat because it puffs up into a ball. And the replacement curry was good.