Zambia - Over The Top

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Fri 26 Sep
Up reasonably early, breakfast and off to the falls; very impressive and not too busy, took loads of photographs knowing that none could give the real impression. Being the dry season the river level is not as high and so rather than one continuous curtain there were several gaps.

Seeing a grass hut on an island about midway along the top I wondered whether I could get there. I made my way around to a point on the river above the falls and was soon approached by Felix who offered to be my guide. He said he was not registered and couldnít give me a receipt but as the Zambezi was moving forcefully I realised it would be foolish to attempt to cross without local knowledge. We discussed and agreed a price and set off. The first challenge was walking 50m along the top of a weir wall Ė the width of my foot but with the mighty Zambezi rushing over it to a depth of 5-7 cm. Because of the force of the water we stood on the wall facing upstream shuffling one foot up to another. It wasnít quite "one slip and youíre done for" but I really didnít like it. Actually this was the worst bit, after that we were walking confidently across the rocks, some dry, some wet and soon came to the island.

The hut I had seen was in fact a dining area used by an up-market hotel, which brings guests by speedboat for champagne breakfasts, lunches and sundowner cocktails. On the other side of the island there was a lot more flowing water disappearing to our left as it plummets 111m into the gorge below. Felix explained the next stage was to swim across; I really wasnít sure about the idea, nevertheless I stripped to my underwear and wrapped the camera well in a plastic bag. Felix was going to wade or swim keeping one hand above water to keep it dry. In fact it was easier to stay on course by swimming, with wading there was more force on the body and itís easier to lose oneís footing. Soon we were both on the other side clinging to a small area of rocks and no more than 3m from the edge. Felix then jumped into the water in front of me to demonstrate it was safe. In fact it was a very deep pool with a natural rock wall on the waterfall side and a good flow of water spilling over the edge. I was too cautious to jump in but soon joined him and found I could swim up to the wall and by resisting the force of water with my arms could even peer over the edge. This was wonderfully exhilarating. Incidentally the water was really refreshing under the scorching African sun.


Zambia - Over The Top

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