Monday, December 10, 2007

Vic Falls, continued

It's Monday, and unfortunately, I have 'real' work to do. Today's entry is late because I know most of you click over here just to look at the pictures. To start, here's a lion left over from my Kruger posts.

More on our stay in Victoria Falls:

Breakfast here was only half buffet. The package included a menu of hot breakfast choices rather than cooking stations, with the exception of a crepe station. After breakfast, we took off for Victoria Falls, Mosa Oa Tunya, or, “The Smoke that Thunders.” From the distance, it does look like there’s a fire, but the smoke is actually spray from the falls. The falls are three times wider and twice as high as Niagara. It was the “dry” season, which means there were places where the cataracts weren’t in full force, but it also meant we could see everything without getting drenched.

A fair enough tradeoff as far as I was concerned. We walked the trails for close to 2 hours, seeing more wildlife and amazing views of the falls. Fantastic rainbows.

The sounds of the water mixed with the hum of cicadas for a symphonic background, punctuated by the helicopter tours. Lots of vervet monkeys, some baboons, and another antelope species, the bush buck.

From the falls, we went to a local craft market and were subjected to the high-pressure pitches of the vendors. Browsing was almost impossible as each insisted on stopping you to show you his personal store (a spot on the ground) with carvings of all sorts laid out. I think I got through maybe a tenth of the stalls, buying a bowl, a mask, and a variety of carved animals. I’m not fond of haggling, but we were told that the asking price would be about half of what the items were “worth.” However, given the extreme poverty of the country, if I paid a few dollars more than I might have been able to bargain for, I figure it was worth it. What we spend on a coffee at Starbucks can make a major difference in the lives of these people. Tourism is about the only industry in the area, and the population is shrinking due to starvation. The sad thing is, they export most of what they produce, leaving nothing for the natives. Our driver told us that when we go to Botswana tomorrow, he’s going to be buying cooking oil, rice, and staples for people he knows in Zimbabwe, because it’s not available in the local shops. He said sometimes they go months without seeing loaves of bread for sale.

At the hotel, we went to the observation deck on the top level—the entire hotel is laid out in ‘layers’ and you’re forever going either up or down to get where you want to be. Three days won’t be enough for me to figure it all out.

From the balcony outside our room, I saw a mother wart hog nursing her 4 piglets.

I looked up and five elephants came to the waterhole for a drink, ears flapping.

We cleaned up and went to “The Boma” for dinner. This is on property, but far enough away so you have to ride a shuttle—not for distance, but because there are critters out there who might decide you’d make a nice meal, or just want you off their property. This is an “experience” as much as a restaurant. As we arrive, women tie African cloth wraps around our shoulders.

We walk past a huge grill where half an animal (impala, we find out) is roasting on a spit. We’re brought the local beer to sample as a welcome—and it’s no better than what we had in Zululand. Then we have warm water poured over our hands, and dry off with a proffered towel before we get an ‘appetizer’ platter of corn, which seems to be made from dried corn, although our waiter said they prepare it by boiling; roasted peanuts, which are smaller and toastier than what we’re used to; and fritters made of their local corn flour. From there, we had a choice of ‘normal’ appetizers. Dan had crocodile and fish, and I had goat cheese. The buffet had just about every possible game animal, plus salads, vegetables, and on and on. We both took the challenge and ate the mopani worms (which were grilled until they were nothing but charcoal-flavored crunch) and got a certificate proving we’d done so. After dinner, there was more dancing, then everyone got a drum and we were taught some basic African drumming. I can’t say that we were good, but we were loud, and we had a great time.


Jenyfer Matthews said...

Fried worms!! I hope you FRAME that certificate! Love the pictures...

Terry said...

I got as far as scanning it -- I'm planning an entire post (or two) on Food, so I'll try to get the certificate up when I do.