Monday, July 13, 2009

I bless the rains down in Africa...

Not even a week had passed since my first visit to Livingstone (Victoria Falls) and I was itching to get back. I had also heard that the Falls were open for viewing during the full moon each month – a fact not mentioned in any of the guide books. Locals mentioned that Victoria Falls was the only place in the world where one can see a lunar rainbow. Determined to not miss the opportunity and also doubting such a moon rainbow could possibly exist, I hopped on the six hour bus to Livingstone, barely touching ground in Lusaka since the last trip to the bush.

The weekend was amazing – rafting down the Zambezi during the day, jogging through the town at dusk and dancing at the disco till dawn. I needed to catch an 8:30pm bus back to Lusaka on the night of the official full moon. Fortunately, the park was open for the couple of days before and after the full moon. After a huge seafood meal with friends, we all smashed into a Land Rover and headed to the falls. We arrived about 10:15pm and had 45 minutes until closing. The sky was full of clouds, but the falls were still illuminated by the moon and the sound of the crashing water was even more intense than during the day. We walked the narrow path in the dark…there were absolutely no lights guiding the path or even another person in the park. As 11pm crept closer, I realized that the clouds had ruined my one chance at seeing the lunar rainbow. But I was so amazed by the sight of the falls at night that I didn’t even feel disappointed…

That is until the next day, in which I spent the majority debating whether or not I should attempt to go back to the park one last time before my bus left for Lusaka. The sun set just after 6:30, so this would give me over an hour in the park before I would have to rush back to town to catch the bus. About midday, I decided it was too stressful to chase the rainbow again….at about 4pm, I decided I had to at least try. I convinced Maya to return with me and we set out at 6pm, to ensure we were the first ones through the gate. I again walked the entire path, in search of the elusive rainbow. The wind had picked up, which meant we were absolutely soaking wet from the mist in less than five minutes. Other rainbow seekers stayed at the viewing point closest to the gate to avoid getting wet, but we marched on. Actually – marching is probably the wrong term, since we tripped every other step given the darkness combined with an extremely slick pathway. Safety precautions and railings are nonexistent and with each step, we were one step away from going over the edge…literally. The moon continued to rise as we made our way to the end of the path, but there was no sign of a rainbow. I entered the final viewing point, looking down to make sure I didn’t lose my footing. As I lifted my head and looked out to the bridge from Zambia to Zimbabwe, there it was… “RAINBOW”, I screamed, shocking Maya, who was still struggling with her footing.

I will never forget that first moment I spotted the rainbow...but it only became more pronounced as we made our way back to the gate. By the time we arrived at the bridge in the path, there was a full rainbow stretching from Zambia to Zimbabwe. The bridge is an incredible viewpoint, but also the wettest portion of the walk. Therefore, I would normally run across as fast as I could, head tucked down to keep the mist of my face. But this night was different. I stood in the middle of the bridge, the entire falls stretching before me, the lunar rainbow overhead and sang Toto’s ‘Africa’ at the top of my lungs with the mist streaming down my face. Now raise your hand if you you think I am one ridiculous musungu (my hand is raised).

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