Monday, June 29, 2009

Just because you can fit through the hole, doesn't mean you should crawl through it...

After catching up over late night beers and early morning coffee, the ladies caught a flight back to South Africa and I caught a shuttle to the falls. This was not my first trip to the falls – I had been on the Zimbabwean side in November 2006. However, the falls looked completely different – and not just because I was viewing from Zambia, but because there a significantly greater amount of water (November is dry season and June is still reaping the benefits of rainy season).

I spent the first two hours walking in awe – soaked by the mist, with the roaring water vibrating in my ears. For most parts of the trail, I was the only person in sight. Mainly because walking the path closest to the falls required one to commit to becoming completely drenched. Fortunately, I was wearing a hand-me-down trash bag inspired poncho and Teva sandals. Most others were sticking to the dryer routes.

I finally made it to the end of the trail to find two rainbows and the bridge to Zimbabwe in the distance. As I turned around, I nearly bumped into a young woman wearing a Gortex jacket, pants and hiking boots. Her father laughed, making a joke about how our two very different outfits were serving the same purpose with the same effectiveness. I ended tagging along with them for the next hour or two on the trail. The father was a renowned physician and researcher, while the daughter was about to start medical school in Chicago. In addition to our common health-related interests, they were both from NY and I was appreciating the return of sarcasm to conversations.

We decided that we wanted to cross the bridge to Zimbabwe, which can be done without any special visas, just a bridge pass. We followed a path that was marked ‘To Bridge’, but it ended at a fence and a great deal of barb wire. However, there was a hole in the fence, and lo’ and behold, it was big enough to crawl through. The father crawled through first and as the daughter began to protest, I followed suit and she was left with no choice. In the process of climbing through the fence and young British man on the other side asked if I was trying to break into Zimbabwe. I laughed at the prospect…

However, as soon as we made it through the fence and down onto the bridge, we were greeted by a guard with a carbine, very angry about the offence (of-fence suddenly the word is so fitting) we just committed. I was not worried about being shot or jailed, but I was definitely panicking that we were going to have to pay an exorbitant fine or bribe. Fortunately, the good doctor was a good talker, while his daughter and I played dumb quite well. Before the guard could object, we were all back through the fence and briskly making our way away from the crime scene.

Rejoicing in our freedom, we made our way back to their five-star hotel for some wine and lunch…

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