Victoria Falls and Iguaçu Falls

Click here to read a follow-on article about Victoria Falls and Iguaçu Falls with photos.

I’ve had the rare opportunity over the past year to visit two of the world’s largest waterfalls.  I visited Iguaçu Falls on the Argentine-Brazilian border in February 2009 prior to leaving South America, where I had lived for two years.  I just returned from a short weekend trip to Victoria Falls on the Zambian-Zimbabwean border, which is a six-hour trip from Lusaka, Zambia by car.  As measured by water volume, these two waterfalls are two of the largest and arguably most spectacular waterfalls in the world.

It’s easy to make comparisons between the two.  In truth, both waterfalls are equally impressive.  They’re different, so it’s difficult to say whether one is “better” than the other.  Iguaçu Falls is larger by volume and longer.  It comprises numerous waterfalls that give it a layered effect, and it stretches over a longer distance than Victoria Falls.  The Parana River above Iguaçu Falls collects at the top of the falls and cascades down over what must be a stretch of five miles or longer.  At the same time, Iguaçu features a boardwalk on the Brazil side that puts you near the heart of the waterfall, the “Devil’s Throat” (La Garganta del Diablo).

Victoria Falls appears visually larger than its Latino counterpart.  The sheer “in your face” effect it offers you while the Zambezi River spills over is incredible.  The pathway on the Zambian side puts you very close to a massive wall of water that drops at least a couple hundred feet in front of you.  Although I wore rain gear, I was soaking wet when I passed close to the falls – wetter than I was at Iguaçu.

Although I left Iguaçu Falls convinced that it is unsurpassed in its grandeur, Victoria Falls rivals it in intensely.  Of course, visitors to either locale would undoubtedly insist that each waterfall is more impressive than the other.  As an objective outsider, I believe that these two falls collectively rank as two of the more beautiful and awe inspiring natural wonders of the world.  If you ever have a chance to visit either one, don’t miss out.  You won’t be sorry spending the money and time to behold two of God’s greatest creations.  In this respect, I feel blessed to have experienced both.

Zambia Map

Boomslang Barry: Zambia’s Answer to Groundhog Day

Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today and foreshadowed six more weeks of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  Phil is an interesting meteorological barometer, and I would enjoy spending February 2 someday in Phil’s home, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, watching him predict the change of season.  Watching the Bill Murray film “Groundhog Day,” one of my favorite comedies, convinced me that it would be worthwhile making a pilgrimage to rural Pennsylvania in the middle of winter to see an overgrown rodent tell the future.

To my knowledge, the Southern Hemisphere does not observe the tradition of looking to a larger-than-life animal to predict future weather patterns.  Animals play an important role in foretelling a change in season (e.g., the opening of hunting season), but Punxsutawney Phil doesn’t have a counterpart in the other half of the world.  Perhaps it’s time for a country, town, or village south of the Equator to anthropomorphize a prescient creature that signals a significant event and popularize it to attract tourists who want to gawk at its predictive prowess.

If Zambia were to adopt this tradition, the termite might be the most fitting creature because it appears whenever the rainy season starts (in late October/early November).  Unfortunately, termites aren’t loveable like groundhogs and would not be popular with termites.  Watching termites appear with the first rain would not draw in significant numbers of tourists.  Rather, the animal or insect would have to be adorable and irresistible to those who are attracted to odd traditions for the sake of superstition or curiosity.

Zambia might do well to adopt the snake as a national weather barometer and cash in on its newfound fame.  As they are often temperamental, and sometimes lethal to farmers, farm animals, and bystanders who cross their paths, snakes are not popular here.  Many Zambians differ from Americans in that their natural inclination is to kill snakes rather than to avoid them.  Nevertheless, snakes are good predictors of weather changes here because of their reptilian nature.  Whenever the weather changes from hot to cold or dry to wet, snakes often move to warmer places such as road surfaces.  Zambians could turn local logic on its head and emulate one type of snake – a more beautiful, “less” dangerous variety such as the beautiful but deadly boomslang – as a harbinger of change. A town or village could establish a festival signaling the beginning or end of rainy season and adopt one snake that can publicly announce the season change in front of throngs of tourists.  Boomslang Barry, perhaps?

Boomslang Barry

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Flat Stanley’s Adventure on the Zambezi River

Flat Stanley traveled half way around the world from his home in North Idaho to Zambia, a country in southern Africa.  He joined us on an adventure this weekend on the lower Zambezi River, an area north of Victoria Falls.  We had a memorable time staying at Zambezi Breezers, a camp located near Chirindu on the Zambian-Zimbabwean border.

Flat Stanley enjoyed his very first safari river boat cruise down the Zambezi River.  Flanked on one side of the river by Zambia and the other by Zimbabwe, he cruised down the river and encountered beautiful terrain and exotic wildlife.  He passed several islands as we navigated the river.  Mountains rose in the distance on each side of the river valley.  Subtropical plants and trees dotted the landscape, and long wild grasses covered the land except where the earth crumbled along the river bank, exposing the rich red soil.
Zambia Flat Stanley

During the river cruise, Flat Stanley saw all sorts of wild animals, from elephants that grazed along the river and crocodiles lounging on the river banks to hippos soaking themselves in the water like a chain of floating islands.  Flat Stanley observed many types of birds, including eagles and cranes, and he even saw an impala in a distant meadow.  His favorite moment was taking a photo with a young elephant watching our boat curiously from the river bank.

Zambia Flat Stanley

Flat Stanley saw storm clouds brewing in all directions, a common occurrence during the rainy season.  He saw brilliant lightning flashes, heard bellowing thunder roar and surveyed the beautiful and volatile cloud formations painting the sky.  He saw a couple of particularly dark storm clouds brewing not far from us.  One of the storms barreled toward us quickly from the south.  Although we had turned around and were heading back to our camp, we met the storm with our boat in the middle of the river.  We battled fierce winds, hail, and lightning.  We were soaking wet but made it back to the camp safely.

Flat Stanley survived but was discolored from our memorable experience.  He enjoyed his adventure on the Zambezi River and will never forget it.  It changed his life forever.

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