Jul 3, 2006

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.


  1. Anonymous9:46 PM

    Ah, Amanda!
    Less than 48 hours and off to waters of another hue....

  2. I am rather behind ... Sigh.

  3. Anonymous2:49 AM

    I'll minion. Teacher, teacher, pick me!

  4. A marvelous Stanley and Livingstone bio came out in 2004. Into Africa: The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone

  5. Anonymous: it's hard to boss lackeys with secret identities. Reveal yourself!

    Marie, thanks for the link. I'm developing quite a crush on Stanley – such a plucky orphan! – so I may order a copy. Ax.

  6. And Stanley was a journo, too. Though for my money, Livingstone was a bit mad, as were so many of the great explorers.