It was David Livingstone, in November 164 years ago, the first European to visit “the smoke that thunders”: the most spectacular waterfall he had ever seen in his life and which, was renamed “Victoria falls” in honor of the Queen of England at the time.
But those falls, 128 meters wide and 128 meters high in the widest part and highest point, were obviously already known to the local populations, who had called them Mosi-oa-Tunya, “smoke that thunders”.
Livingstone arrived there to open new trade routes and going up the Zambezi River he came across that huge mass of water that fell downstream, being thunderstruck. These are not the highest waterfalls in the world or even the widest, however, they have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage list for their spectacular beauty and it matters little that they are not able to break any records.
Net of the difficulties of the last few months, during which a prolonged drought has more than halved the Zambezi river by limiting the flow of water and, consequently, the power of the jump, the Victoria Falls are able to impress precisely for the enormous mass liquid that swoops downstream with an impressive sound background, the same that thousands of years ago made the natives think of the definition of “smoke that thunders”.
The thunder is that of the water that crashes on the rocks below, while the smoke is nothing but the water vapor that rises in the movement of the whole mass, falling back on the surrounding territory for hundreds of meters and making it precisely, for this reason, an absolutely unique place in the world, with an absolutely original ecosystem and therefore worthy of the attention of scholars.
The visit to the Victoria Falls, which separate Zimbabwe from Zambia, is one of those experiences that are remembered for a lifetime, both for the beauty of the place and for the ways in which one must approach the big jump: once paid the admission ticket, in fact, you have to follow a long path on foot inside a real equatorial forest perennially moistened by the steam of the waterfall; a path that begins to predict how it will end once you can lean on the balustrade that allows you to look directly in front of the extraordinary jump of the Zambezi.
As you get closer, the steam begins to intensify and turn into what could be mistaken for raindrops, at first sparse and harmless, but then getting bigger and more intense. In just a few minutes you get soaked with water from head to toe, but due to the high temperatures at any time of the day, it is a relief rather than a nuisance: the top can be reached in front of the waterfall, which can be glimpsed between the steam and the “rain” caused by the jump, a sort of apparition for which the first inhabitants of the place obviously ended up disturbing their divinities.
A full-blown shower, therefore, is an inevitable pledge to be able to enjoy a truly mystical and divine gash.