Hikers Haven

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Water cascades down the Batoka gorge after the rainy season, creating a miniature replica of the Victoria Falls

 

I have always been fascinated by the way in which the beauty of nature so effortlessly surpasses even the most intricate of human structures. With an acute appreciation of art, sculptures, music and writing, I have come to realize that the beauty of these objects lies in the fact that they are attempts to capture and recreate the grace of the natural landscape.

The sharp ascent down the Batoka Gorge in Victoria Falls is cushioned by the bounty of thriving indigenous vegetation that creep through cracks and envelop the narrow path in a green dome. Patches of velvety moss and iridescent lichen blanket the rock surfaces, and fill the air with an earthy, mossy scent.

The only sounds that interrupts the stillness is the gentle tumbling of dislodged stones as we navigate our way, and the cheerful babbling of the water that freely cascades down the rock face. It flows across the path, oblivious to the three awestruck hikers. During this rainy season, it seems too risky to attempt to cross this temporary stream, because as tempting as it may be, one slip of the foot could be catastrophic. As we settle our weary bodies amidst the thriving fauna, a feeling of tranquility and serenity encompass my heart.

It is difficult to comprehend that the only human intervention in this captivating place has been the haphazard alignment of rocks, boulders to create a make shift pathway. Had we continued down to the very bottom, we would have found ourselves meters away from the bottom of the Victoria Falls, where the powerful flow of water continues its journey into the Indian Ocean. Due to the velocity of magnitude of the water, the rafting season has drawn to a close, but this is where rapid 1, christened the Boiling Pot due to the continuous churning of the raging water, can be found.

Contemplating this ferocious volume of water brings to mind the legend of the Nyami Nyami. According to the legend, the Nyami Nyami is the river god that has a body like a snake and a head like a fish, and the Zambezi is his Kingdom. In 1951, the Tonga people who in the area surrounding Lake Kariba were told that they would have to move further inland, as a massive dam wall was going to be constructed to facilitate a hydroelectric power station. The chief warned the constructionists that they were sure to encounter the wrath of the Nyami Nyami if they attempted to violate his kingdom and separate him from his wife. Sure enough, as the dam wall neared completion, a massive flood, more vicious than anything on record for the last century, wiped out all efforts. Undeterred and determined not to be cowered by some folklore, the constructionists resumed building from scratch as soon as they could. One again, as the dam wall was starting to look and more stable and impressive, yet another flood shook the land. It was only after the third attempt, was the wall finally built. Though it is daunting to think that such as powerful entity with such elemental control could exist, my family has never taken a trip on Lake Kariba without sacrificing something to the Nyami Nyami river god.

Reluctantly, we take a final glance around this miniature oasis, before starting the climb back out the gorge. With a stitch in my side, an aching burn in my calves and smile in my soul we leave already in anticipation of the next visit.

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