Okay, now we have moved onto the country of Zambia, specifically right near Victoria Falls (or, as it’s called in the Kololo/Lozi language, “Mosi oa Tunya” which means “The Smoke That Thunders”). First thing, the sunsets continue to be very pretty.
We went to Victoria Falls during the dry season, so the falls were not in full…fall-age. The normally large and rushing waterfalls were sparse and there were gaps between them.
Here’s a bit:
Here’s another bit:
Here you can see the “smoke that thunders” part:
And here’s the most important thing I noticed. It appears that Africa is not as litigious as society as America, because there weren’t really any railings. Note the people standing right near the freakin’ edge of an undoubted death-plummet:
The attitude there was, don’t be a dumb-ass. If you die, chances are it’s your fault. And, in fact, two people died while we were there. Both of them were indeed dumb-asses and attempted to cross the rapids you see at the bottom on foot. They found the bodies downstream. I like that attitude. This is not a country where they have to put warnings on everything. “Do not use toaster in bath!” “Do not use curling iron while sleeping!” “Coffee might be hot!” I found it a pleasant respite from the usual.
So, The Moomins and Cricket and I arrived at the falls after picking up two additional people: Cricket’s sister Mishi and my niece Drea. Mishi was on vacation, but Drea was there on an eight-week overseas study thing. She’s becoming an engineer and she was there to improve the plumbing situation in some of the townships. We had many long talks about toilets.
The first day we were in Zambia we took a bus to the nearby country of Botswana for a game drive on the Chobe River. If you thought the crossing between Canada and America was laid-back, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Here is the border office between Zambia and Botswana.
Here is a poster outside the border office.
Here is a chicken guarding the border office.
We brought our passports and various disenchanted people stamped various things of various pages, and then we took a boat to meet our combi on the other side. Before we took the ride down the Chobe River, we viewed the area above (which is a national park) from the land.
Chobe from land:
Juvenile birds whose name I forgot keeping cool under a tree:
A warthog with impressive mutton chops:
An impala that was ripped apart (most likely while still alive) by wild dogs:
And then wild dogs. This was very thrilling because wild dogs are very rare, and that’s a good thing because they are one of the closest things to perfect killing machines. A group of lionesses kill about two-thirds of the prey they go after, but wild dogs kill 99% of the prey they go after. When they look directly at you it chills your blood because you can imagine they’re weighing you and guessing your speed and how they will take you down, and you know they would too. Also, they make a horrifying noise when they’re excited or hungry, it’s very shrill and hurts your ears.
Here’s a video of wild dogs killing and eating an impala (I’m warning you, upsetting, because I don’t think that impala is dead yet when they start eating it): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kw4vnFeWnXQ
And here’s a video where the wild dogs make that noise (imagine it being way, way too loud so that you want to put your hands over your ears): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4M1hf87vto&
But these wild dogs were just hanging out under a tree avoiding the mid-day sun. I love the dappled pattern on their fur.
STOP LOOKING AT ME.
We saw quite a few animals rummaging through poo for seeds. It might seem gross, but you have to remember that elephants only digest 40% of what they eat, so 60% falls out the back ready to be consumed by others.
We then got on a boat and slowly navigated around the islands and grass piles. The first thing we saw was an open-beaked stork, and as no surprise to anyone it might have been my favorite animal of the day solely based on the fact that it looks like it was birthed from the mind of Edward Gorey. I mean, look at it. It’s practically like one of his drawings come to life.
The next thing we saw was an antelope called a red lechwe, and it might be the most beautiful antelope ever. It’s like the supermodel of antelopes.
While we were sitting there looking at the lovely lechwe, on our right was a fish eagle. I started to sing “God Bless America” at it, but everyone else in the boat told me to kindly shut the hell up. It’s just such a patriotic-looking bird.
Did you know the fish eagle can turn its head around? I did not.
And on the left of us, big lizard. Real big. Right near the boat.
We trundled further on, and then we got to a big chunk of shore where there was an astonishing variety of creatures. First, more lechwe:
And then buffalo:
And elephants and many more lizards and a whole bunch of different birds, etc. What was funny was how little each animal cared about the other ones. We watched a gigantic lizard walk right past a sacred ibis (which is a creepy bird due to it’s mummified-looking head) and neither one gave any semblance of a crap about the other.
The buffalo were pretty great. One was drinking in the most ungainly fashion:
And one was in the water (which came up to his chin) eating the grass on the shore. What made this so amusing to me was because you couldn’t see his legs or most of his body, it looked like he had just flopped down on his face and given up on life and was being despondent in the grass. And then a bird came over and I visualized a conversation (please make the voices sound like New York construction workers):
“Hey Mike, what’s up?”
“Nothing. Just feelin’ blue.”
“Aww, that’s a shame, Mike. How’s Tina?”
“She left me, took the kids. The house is real empty.”
“Wow, I didn’t know it had gotten so bad. We should go out for a beer sometime this week, eh?”
“Yeah, that’d be nice.”
We also saw hippos in the water. That was the only animal the boat steersman was wary of. We stayed way way away from them.
Hippos grazing on land:
Hippos in the water:
We finally saw a lilac-breasted roller. On my last trip to Africa I desperately wanted to get a picture of one of these birds, but every time I tried, they flew off. This time Drea got a terrific shot of one. I may or may not have clapped my hands like a small child at Christmas.
We saw various cormorants and darters (which might be part of the cormorant family, the guide was a bit vague about this).
Geese! Egyptian geese, specifically. Many of them had wee goslings following them around (awww).
Crocodiles! There were two nine-year-olds laying like furniture on the shore.
There was one that eating a fish as it swam past us.
And once when parked the boat on the edge of the grass, I discovered a little fellow right in front of the boat. He was adorable, about a foot long.
This was a super-big deal. They are known as “the shy antelope”, so seeing one at all is a big damn deal. That’s why the video I found in my travels around the YouTube sphere makes me scream with rage and jealousy.
Look at all the freakin’ sable. That’s like the world population of sable. And babies! So very jealous.
The trees on the edge of the water looked amazing. Their roots specifically were intense.
Guinea fowl being photogenic on a root cluster:
Next entry: A continuation of Chobe with elephants and more elephants.