Nomadic Swara: Victoria Falls, Zambia

Cliffs at Victoria FallsVictoria Falls upcloseINTOXICATING! That’s the only way I can describe the euphoric feeling I had as I ran on top and yes … through Victoria Falls this week. The hypnotic sound of the water crushing through rocks is spellbinding and you may think a siren is calling you to try its wonders. Mark my words, running through the falls is dangerous with a lot of warning signs, and it is meant for people like me. I may not be the first of my name or ruler of nine realms, but I am certainly the breaker of rules, the one who colored outside the circles as a tot… because… honestly where is the fun in always following the rules.

It’s unusually bright for 5:30 am in Livingstone; what wakes me up is the thunderous rush of the falls, and this is an incentive for an adventurous run. I have heard of the falls but never been to them and never dreamt that I would actually run through them (thanks to the low season).

As I begin my run, I bump into a herd of antelopes that quickly and nervously raise their heads. I guess we were both cowards because as I made a U turn and ran in the opposite direction, I heard them galloping away. That sudden rush led me to the gate of the falls, which also has a mixture of primary and secondary forest. The secondary forest has running paths that go around the falls for about 4 kms.

Footbridge at Victoria FallsAs I ran along the edge of the falls, I literally climbed on the guard rails to feel the mist coming from the falls, then would connect back to the track. At some point I ran through a narrow bridge, which had a 100 metre drop; this bridge connects a ridge between the falls. It’s so narrow and slippery due to the mist, and the only thing that was going through my head was, “don’t look down, don’t look down,”! Of course I sneaked a peak, quickly raised my eyes and hands as I continued running (so far I was alone on the track, so I was allowed to be a muppet!). With my hands raised for a minute, I remembered the iconic scene of The Titanic with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio on the bow of the tragic ship, and Celine Dion singing in the background. Well, I did not have DiCaprio, but with giddy merriment and raised hands, I sang loudly and badly on how my heart would go on, as I continued running across the bridge.

The bridge ends on a 45 degree inclination that leads to a section of the forest called the Boiling Pot. This is aptly named as now I had the opportunity not to run along the falls, but inside the falls and the river. This is possible due to the low season. The run to the Boiling Pot is filled with primary forest and a medley of signs that range from REMEMBER THIS IS A NATIONAL PARK AND HAS WILDLIFE, KEEP TO THE PATH, BEWARE OF SNAKES, & DON’T GET INTO THE RIVER! As I said earlier, I am the breaker of rules, except for the snake business… I know my limits. But, of course I dipped my legs in the rushing water.

Anyway I am getting ahead of myself. Running into the Boiling Pot is a typical Swara run, 45 degree inclinations, slippery because of the mist and moist leaves, but what was consoling was that I was literally surrounded by the falls as I ran. The rushing sound of the water was an experience I never thought I would have, though was quickly brought to heel by the steep inclinations.

Bridge at VIctoria FallsAnother consoling aspect of this run was I met fellow runners. We would occasionally grasp trees for support as we ran up and down the Boiling Pot . By the time I was done, 10kms were completed and I literally tottered back for breakfast and it felt so good when someone asked, did you run this morning? And I would answer, yes I did, right in the falls, not just on top of it!

It was worth breaking the rules.

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