Tag Archives: Victoria Falls

Beauty in the dry season (or, last Monday was a good day to be at Victoria Falls)

I have previously posted a Monday travel blog on Victoria Falls, with photos showing its full capacity and beauty at peak season, along with the abundance of rainbows dancing through the water both by day and night.

View from the Rainbow Bridge   July 2013 / December 2014
View from the Rainbow Bridge December 2014 / July 2013

Visiting Victoria Falls at the moment, at the end of a long, late dry season, is a very different experience. Some people even told us not to bother when we were in southern Africa last week. Because on the Zambian side of the falls there is hardly any water, and on the Zimbabwe side, perhaps 10% of the maximum flow.

Zambian side of Victoria Falls July 2013 / December 2014
Zambian side of Victoria Falls December 2014 / July 2013

But I’m very glad we still had the opportunity to visit. Because there is a unique and fascinating beauty in the dry season. It is different, but equally worthwhile.

Zam falls

 

The contours of the gorges become much clearer when there is no water to obscure them from view.

Zam falls 2

The colours of the water and the rocks are seen in a different light.

Looking back to Zim

 

From the air, you can get even closer for your bird’s eye view.*

Sideways air view

 

The dimensions of the place are easier to make out and understand.

Gorge close up

And of course there is still water rushing over about one quarter of the falls … and its scarcity makes the sight and feel of its cool spray even more precious.

Zim falls

Because there was less water and therefore less danger, we had access to lookouts that are closed most of the year round, giving unique perspectives closer to the falls.

Lookout

 

And for the really brave (or crazy) there was an opportunity to swim in places that are inaccessible most of the year round.

Devils pool

 

And I was reminded that there is beauty in the dry seasons of life too.

Close up falls

 

A Facebook friend commented on one of my photos asking if there was a drought. No, I replied, it’s just the dry season. It comes around every year. There is no expectation that the Falls will look the same year round.

Gorge view

 

It makes me wonder why so often we seem to expect that our lives will look the same as those of others around us. Just because we do not appear to have what they have does not mean we are in a drought. Whether it is relationships, money, jobs, status, experiences, lifestyle … it is too easy to judge ourselves and others by what we do not have. But we are in our own season and I wonder if we look closely whether we can see and celebrate the unique beauty of where we are right now.

Rockface

What others perceive as a lack may in fact be the very thing that provides us with unique opportunities or perspectives. It may be that we grow more, and we certainly grow differently, in different seasons.

Panorama

As just one example, I’m currently single and perhaps other people look at my life and think there is a “drought”! But this season has brought me all kinds of incredible opportunities to serve and learn and grow (and yes, travel) that might not have been possible had my circumstances been different.

River view

And I wonder if part of the secret to contentment is learning to appreciate the beauty of times that might at first glance appear “dry.” Because in the end, as a follower of Jesus, I truly believe I lack nothing because I have Christ. And so I can learn to be content whether I appear to have everything or to have nothing. And that’s the best kind of beauty of all.

Cataract view

 

* A very generous anonymous supporter of our mission team provided for us to have the incredible experience of flying over the Falls in a helicopter, which was a wonderful gift.

Rainbows: Today would be a good day to be at Victoria Falls

There is some debate over what makes the world’s largest waterfall, but Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border can make a fairly good claim to the title, and it is absolutely breathtaking.

Falls 3b

What makes it even more special is if you visit the day before, day of, or day after a full moon – which I have happened to do both times I’ve been there, by chance rather than by design, and which is also the case this week. Night visitors are permitted for these three dates each month, and the Falls by night themselves are spectacular. The big attraction, however, is the remarkable phenomenon of the lunar rainbow (more easily viewable here than some other places in the world due to the lack of nearby city lights).

Lunar Rainbow

What did I love about Victoria Falls?

Victoria Falls are 1.7km in length, a gaping chasm in the earth, and there is no one place on the ground from where you can stand back and see the whole thing.

Sign

But walking along the length gives an impressive view nonetheless.

Zim falls

Visitors to the Falls will get wet! Up close it’s a little like being in a tropical monsoon, except that the rain is coming up rather than down.

Looks like rain

Walking between Zambia and Zimbabwe, you have the chance to look back on where you have previously been, and see how small you are in comparison to the thundering falls.

Misty bridge

Mostly, I have loved visiting at night, seeing the rainbows from the interplay of the moon and the water.

Night rainbow 2

No photo can quite do it justice, but if you have the chance to visit during the full moon, it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Night Rainbow

What did I learn from Victoria Falls?

The name Mosi-Oa-Tunya means the smoke or mist that thunders, and you can see and hear why locals gave the falls this name.

Mist off the water

Walking between two countries is always a learning experience, and the Rainbow Bridge border between Zambia and Zimbabwe is no different. I learned much from the people I met on both sides about generosity and hospitality, as well as suffering and living ordinary life in the midst of political turmoil … but those are all topics for other days and other posts.

Rainbow Bridge

Victoria Falls themselves remind me of the majesty and beauty of this earth … and how small I am in comparison. Being there made me think of the psalmist’s prayer: “When I consider the work of your hands … what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for us? (Psalm 8:3-4)

Zim falls 2

Not only did we happen to be at the Falls during a full moon last year, but it was the “supermoon,” or largest moon of the year, which was apparently 30% brighter than normal. I enjoy learning a little bit about these kinds of astronomical phenomena, but at the end of the day, I also just enjoy being amazed and in awe at the magnificence of the universe without needing to understand it all.

Super moon

Similarly, the abundance of rainbows at Victoria Falls, both day and night, makes me marvel anew at this beautiful phenomenon. Again I can understand something of the optical and meteorological explanations …

Double Rainbow

… but I also love the reminder that this is a promise from God. The rainbow is the divine archer’s bow, turned away from the earth; God in effect “laying down his weapons” against us. That the God who holds the entire universe in His hands, in light of which we are like mere dust, has promised us that we have nothing to fear from Him, is a truly remarkable wonder to ponder.

Rainbow Bridge

The lunar rainbow at Victoria Falls also reminds me to experience the wonder and beauty of this earth with my own senses and not just through the lens of a camera! The photo below may not look very impressive, but it is a memento of an amazing experience. Standing on a narrow, rickety footbridge, high above the ground, in the middle of the night, with nobody else around, getting soaking wet, with a rainbow forming a full 360 degree ring around us, was a “wow” moment I will not soon forget.

Standing in the rainbow