Lessons Learned the Hard Way – No. 21

22 07 2008

You know you’re a city slicker when…

 

Victoria Falls is a relatively small, unhurried town in the middle of the Zimbabwean bush. Although visited by tens of thousands of tourists each year its sidewalks rarely bustle and it’s more customary to find a wayward elephant or warthog strolling the dawn streets than a rush of commuters. Despite that, the constant muted roar of traffic from a nearby highway disturbed me night and day and detracted from the otherwise natural setting. 

 

I was camping in the centre of town in a large campsite that boasted showers, flush toilets, enormous trees for shade, was conveniently located near restaurants and shops and was only a short walk from the town’s eponymous natural wonder. Apart from the occasional train shunting on the nearby tracks or the claxons of the antiquated fire engines, the only sounds were the calls of colourful birds…and the incessant rush of traffic.

 

The Falls were spectacular, even in the dry season with the water levels considerably lower than in full flow. Unlike Niagara, there was no expensive visitors’ centre or souvenir shops cluttering the entrance, no skyscraper hotels and casinos with rotating restaurants towering over the gorge. There were no waxworks, night-time illuminations or massive car parks. Instead, there were rustic pathways that wound their way through the rainforest, knee-high wooden barriers separating visitors from a dizzying drop and warnings to watch for dangerous wildlife.

 

It was a spectacular natural wonder in a spectacular natural setting and it was very easy to imagine that little had changed since Dr Livingstone became the first European to set his eyes on it more than a century earlier.

 

On my third day, while buying a postcard in a small shop cooled by a creaking, rusted fan, I asked where the motorway was.

 

“Motorway?” the shopkeeper asked, confused. “There are the roads that lead to and from town, but I wouldn’t really call them ‘motorways’” she replied.

 

“But I can hear the constant roar of traffic…even at night. It must be trucks transporting goods to and from Zambia?” I insisted.

 

“No, that would be the Falls.” She replied scornfully, hurriedly ringing in my purchase and ushering me to the door.

 

Post by: Simon Vaughan  © 2008

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