Monday, December 19, 2011

Living on the edge in Victoria Falls

Allison got robbed by a baboon yesterday at Victoria Falls.

It seems like it’s almost a rite of passage for everyone who lives in Africa to get robbed at some point. Joseph was taken down quite violently in Johannesburg but nothing was taken from him. I barely noticed the guy that took two bucks from me. Allison was deprived of her chocolate bar by a baboon, who was, quite frankly, kind of a jerk.

We had been hiking all over the Zambia side of Victoria Falls, exploring the various trails and admiring the impressive views it had to offer at various different vantage points. Victoria Falls is not the largest waterfall in the world, nor is it the strongest, or anything like that. And yet it’s still world famous for being an awesome site. David Livingstone described it as consisting of “scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.” The locals call it Smoke That Thunders. I’ve been to Niagara Falls many times, so it was pretty exciting to discover a new world famous site.

We first hiked down to the Boiling Pot, which is a bend in the canyon with crazy rapids that Joseph had gone down in a white water raft the day before (he only fell out once). The sign to the trail claimed it was only a 650 metre trail, which we thought would be nothing, but then we realized it was all stairs.

Almost looks like a scene from Jurassic Park. I was waiting for an angry T Rex to jump out

Boiling Pot

Still, it was worth the cardio exercise. After we finished admiring the view, we headed back on the same trail only to be confronted by about a dozen baboons, hanging out on the steps.

What the.

After my last encounrter with baboons at Daan Viljoen, I have developed what some may refer to as an irrational fear of baboons. I don’t consider it to be irrational. Baboons are jerks. Sometimes, they are face-ripping jerks.

Dude, that’s a scary baboon.

Luckily, these ones were used to tourists so they weren’t feeling threatened enough to rip anyone’s face off. Instead, they kind of just looked at us. Eventually the babies lost interest and went back to hanging out with their mothers. However, one large male baboon, clearly the alpha male of the pack which the locals call Prince, strode up to Allison, gave her one more look, and then grabbed her bag.

Allison put up a noble fight and there was a brief tug-of-war that ensued, but eventually Prince the baboon won, and Allison was forced to sit back and watched as the mischievous thief went through her bag, tossing aside all of her clothes, flipping through her Lonely Planet guidebook, and then finding the goldmine – her chocolate bar.

What a jerk.

Allison patiently watched him rip off the wrapper and eat the chocolate bar, all while staring at her in the face, daring her to do something about it. When he finished, Allison politely asked him to go away so she could collect her bag again. He refused. Allison asked him again, because she is a polite Canadian.

Allison watches baboon

Eventually some Zambian men came by and said something sternly to the baboon. The baboon shrugged, put down the bag and wandered off. I think we need to learn how to speak baboon.

That was not the craziest thing that happened to me that day, however.

This was the craziest thing I did.

We had a guide take us on a walk to Livingstone Island. Walking to an island may sound totally benign and unremarkable, but this island is actually right on the edge of the waterfalls, and you’re walking through the rapids to get there.

I am not making this up.

I have a fear of heights and water so this was a great exercise in staring at my fears and saying “Poo to you.” I had the chance to do that with my fear of baboons that morning, but having completely failed at saving Allison, I decided to walk to Livingstone Island instead. The trick is to hold hands so that even if you slip, you aren’t swept away because your friends will pull you back up.

That was the most intense hand holding session of my life

We are standing on the edge

And then, if that wasn’t crazy enough, we swam in the Devil’s Pool. Again, swimming in a pool sounds not so dangerous but it’s a lot more hardcore when you realize it’s right at the edge of the waterfall.

The Devil’s Pool is a natural waterhole at the edge of the water fall. You can’t see it in the photos, but right at the edge there is a ridge under the water that stops you from going over the falls. I have no idea how anybody discovered this ridge. I can’t imagine someone going around jumping into random parts of the fall to find out which parts won’t send you over and kill you. But someone evidently did.

And then we went home in a speed boat. Once I got back to the hostel, I had a hot bowl of eland stew and a cold bottle of local Mosi lager. I think that was possibly the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life.