Africa in 1913 – Victoria Falls

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Thursday, October 23, 1913:

10/20 – 10/24: It’s been so rainy and dreary this week that I begin to feel awful grouchy. I certainly am under the weather these days. Any way October never was a favorite month of mine. I don’t have much to write about for her.

 Victoria Falls (Source: A Woman's Winter in Africa)

Victoria Falls (Source: A Woman’s Winter in Africa, 1913)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Yesterday, I shared some excerpts from a 1913 book called A Woman’s Winter in Africa: A 26,000 Mile Journey by Charlotte Cameron  Since Grandma didn’t write a separate diary entry for this date I’m going to share some more from the book. I’m still amazed at how adventuresome some women were a hundred years ago.

Here’s some quotes from the chapters about Mrs. Cameron’s visit to Victoria Falls. The falls are located on the Zambezi River at the border between what is now  Zambia and Zimbabwe.

In a short time the train stops in a sort of wood. A small tin station stands close by—and a big white wooden signboard spells: “Victoria Falls.”

victoria.falls.1Five minutes’ walk under trees, and through pretty gardens which, have large whitewashed stones round the flower-beds brought me to the Victoria Falls Hotel. After registering I passed through the hall  to the verandah.

A beautiful view greats you as you look down two great gorges covered with fresh trees and kept ever verdant by the ceaseless spring. Victoria Bridge, 600 , foot  high, with a cantilever span of 500 feet, is the loftiest bridge in the world, and in the blue distance resembles filigree work I take a hasty breakfast feeling I must lose no time before seeing the Falls. I set off, camera, sunshade, and notebook in hand.

Victoria.falls.3

The managing clerk accompanies me to the end of the verandah. “Don’t you think I should have a guide?” I inquire. “Oh, no it’s not necessary,” he responds. “The paths are well laid out, as you will see by the signboards.”

In all the hotel advertisements one reads that the Falls are only a few minutes away. This is quite deceptive. After half an hour’s walk over a rather rough road you come to Victoria Bridge. All along the approach the roar of the Falls increased its thunder; but even so you are totally unprepared for the scene that opens before you?

Everywhere are wonderful trees, crystallized into eternal freshness by the mist They crown and decorate well-worn pinnacles of rocks. They you stand on Victoria Bridge. To the left and far below is the dark brown water, churning in what is called the Boiling Pot. The water rushes in, swirls, runs about in impotent anger, having been hurled over a precipice, down 400 feet, and into this maze from which there is no outlet. At last, however, it rushes under the bridge, flows with loud protest, hissing over rocks, and wends its way through deep and narrow channels to its natural bed.

According to Wikipedia the bridge was constructed in 1904-05. I’m continually amazed at how many technological wonders are more than one hundred years old.

22 Responses

  1. I’ll be going there next year!

  2. She could be describing my visit in 1981. I guess natural wonders don’t change all that much! By the way, I fried some pears tonight. They were delicious.

  3. Hang on, Grandma: only a few more days left in October!

  4. What a delightful way Charlotte Cameron has to describe her journeys. I love reading old travel books since the writers describe everything so much better for the public at home who did not have computers, tv and probably the means to travel themselves.

    • I agree– Old travel books are fun. I enjoyed reading bits and pieces of the Charlotte Cameron book to do these posts. I may get busy, but I’m hoping to read the whole book.

  5. Reminds me of ‘Out of Africa’ by Karen Blitzen. How courageous those women were who first ventured into Africa.

    • I don’t often think about it, since in many ways women’s roles were more limited in the early years of the 20th century, but there sure were some courageous, adventuresome women back then.

  6. not only that but she seems to be travelling alone!

    • Yes, she traveled alone. She has an alter ego called “Imp” who encourages her to travel and who talks to her periodically throughout the book. The first lines of the book are:

      “Where are we going this winter?” jauntily asks the “Imp of Travel” as it perches itself on my shoulder. . .

      “Imp, we cannot go this year. I have not finished my work. . .”

      (Of course, Imp convinces her to go to Africa.)

  7. I’ve been feeling October grouchy like Grandma these days, thanks for sharing Charlotte’s interesting adventures to cheer us up!

  8. I agree with Flora, she does excellent descriptive writing.

  9. Beautiful writing!! Victoria Falls is one of my favorite places in the world. Been there many times in the 80s and 90s. Hoping to see them at least once more.

  10. Do I feel the mist from the falls? Beautiful!

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