THUNDERING IDIOTS, I PRESUME?
VICTORIA FALLS, Zimbabwe "See the smoke?" people kept asking, as we drove to the Victoria Falls Hotel, a five-star colonial throwback near the world's largest curtain of water.
"Mist, you morons," I longed to shout.
Good thing I didn't. Because the 100-meter-tall, mile-wide spray is locally known as Mosi-oa-Tunya, the "smoke that thunders".
In 1855, the explorer David Livingstone was the first European to flounder across this spectacle. A decade later, he dropped off the map, while searching for the Nile's headwaters.
Back when newspapers were newspapers, this mystery could not stand . The New York Herald sent reporter Henry Stanley and 2,000 lackeys to find the lost Scot. March 21, 1871, he strolled into a village on the shore of Lake Tanganyika and lo, there was the good doctor: pale and shopworn, but alive.
"I would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing," he wrote, "I walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said, 'Dr. Livingstone, I presume?'"
Pure class. Of course, he had eight months to work that line out.
And minions. Squadrons of minions. If only I had a few, my pre-trip research and bon mots would greatly improve, I'm sure.