Chelsi showed her ticket to the guards at the gate of the falls. While they stamped it she signed her name in the visitor’s book. It was the third time she had signed it; the first time was last April, with Chad and Aubrey, the second in June, with her mother, and now alone. Chelsi was new to travelling alone. For the last two year, any time she even ventured outside of her district in Northwest province she took a travel buddy. But even from the initial thought of coming to Livingston after COS conference, she didn’t think to invite anyone else. It wasn’t even because she thought no one would want to come; though it was true, at this point in her service nearly everyone she knew would have already been, multiple times.
The guard held her stamped ticket out to her. Chelsi replaced the pen on the book, took her ticket and crossed over into the park. She just wanted to be alone, to decide what she wanted to do, whenever she decided she wanted to do it. Not having to constantly worry about enjoyment, problems of another person.
And she was alone, even in the park. Only three other visitors to the park stood in line with her to buy a ticket that morning, and they had all first stopped at the craft stalls. It was the second week of school, too soon for student field trips, and a Wednesday, so no church groups.
The added rain from the season helped the foliage grow extra lush. Grasses grew up around her knees, large leafed vines crept up into the trees, while tree branch, heavy with rain and mist on their leaves bent down to greet her. Chelsi had in mind a particular spot in the park to visit this time. Her feet followed the cobble stone to a rock stairway that looked to drop off, right into the canyon. ‘This Way’ a yellow arrow pointed, ‘to the Boiling Pot.’
She took the first step down; every other time she had come to Victoria Falls the stair way was closed, due to the height of the river below. Though it was rainy season now, most of the water was still upstream in the Zambezi, making its way down from Ichelenge, Mwinilunga and across Western province. The water wouldn’t reach Livingstone and the falls until April.
Chelsi continued her decent. The stairwell started with even steps cut into the bedrock of the canyon. A wrot iron hand rail began just as the depth of the stairs dropped off. Now the short stairs were rocks buried and cemented in to place. It took all of Chelsi’s concentration not to lose her footing. When she did pause to look around she found that the trees had given way to scrubby bushes, which were clinging to the rock face of the canyon for their life. Yet with just a few more steps, her gaze was met with the canopy of the forest below.
The trees grew taller and taller as she carefully, carefully, climbed down into the forest.
At the bottom as heavy mist clung to the air. Huge leaves of the Elephant Ear bush hung over the path, vines with heart shaped leave bounded the canopy of the trees together and epiphytes dangled their roots to brush the top of Chelsi’s head, just as children sitting on a bridge might to the oarsman passing under. And here, Chelsi noticed, the chorus of insects and birds is so thick you can no longer hear the falls.
She followed the path, across a bridge, under a boulder, across a bridge, over a rock wall, and up, up, up, she scrambled, onto a flat rock. No soil, no trees, she looked out into the clear, where the powerful sound of rushing water again filled her ears.
Crossing the rock the little canyon opened up to the foot of the falls where the water crashed and cut into the rock walls of the canyon, forcing it back, creating a giant eddy of churning water, like water boiling hard in a pot. From her position she could the Victoria Falls Hotel and the bridge that connects Zambia to Zimbabwe. She had look down into this part of the canyon before. Even with high water, it didn’t look like much more than a swirl. But change your position, change your perspective.