Friday, July 30, 2010

Victoria Falls Hotel loses its bearings

The Victoria Falls Hotel in Zimbabwe is world famous, and that's where we are staying. It's also a magnificent hotel, and I can't imagine staying anywhere else if you are in this neighborhood. If you walk from the hotel entrance through its courtyard and then out to the grounds that look toward the famous Victoria Falls (which are the source of the water vapor you see in the upper left hand corner of the photo), you see a big flagpole—the bottom of which is shown in this photo—and in the distance the famous bridge that spans the gorge coming out of the falls.

After taking the photo, however, I started to wonder. First, I thought it was amazing that the hotel was situated over 5,000 miles south of Cairo, and 1,600 miles north of Cape Town. Africa is certainly a huge continent. Then I started trying to make sense of directions.

So I pulled out my trusty iPhone, and discovered that the falls were East-North-East of the hotel, and that looking from the flagpole to the bridge (in the photo above) was almost directly East. I turned on the Compass app on my iPhone and confirmed that from the position this photo was taken, North was to the left, and South was to the right, just exactly the opposite of what this famous plaque shows. To make sure, I called up the Maps app on my iPhone and looked at satellite imagery of the hotel and falls, and confirmed again that the plaque was wrong. Cairo lies 5,165 miles to the left, and Cape Town 1,647 miles to the right of the flagpole.

After an enjoyable dinner and show tonight, we went to see the assistant manager of the hotel, and I showed him my iPhone and how I had discovered that the plaque was exactly wrong. He was speechless. As an added bonus, we then began to hear the sound of vuvuzuelas coming from the front entrance to the hotel. Apparently, a large elephant had entered the grounds of the hotel, and hotel staff were trying to persuade him to leave by blowing on vuvuzuelas (which of course have become famous for ruining the hearing of all those attending the World Cup FIFA games in So. Africa). Turns out elephants don't like the sound either, and this one was indeed persuaded to leave.

Here are some shots taken while touring the falls this morning. The tremendous volume of water that falls into a relatively narrow gorge blows incredible amounts of water up into the air, creating what in some places is a virtual thunderstorm of rain and wind. It's very impressive.


CDLIC said...


My guess is the person charged with placing the plaque on the flag poll base had a wee-bit too much to drink and placed it on the wrong side. :)

Louis Cyphre said...

Mr. Grannis, you are a troublemaker!


Mr. Kowalski said...

Interesting your take on Zimbabwe.. it seems to be recovering. What do the common people of that country think of Mugabe ? Hopefully the ole bastid will be gone before too long and the people of that country can begin to lead lives out from under a government which was essentially an armed, looting gang from what I understand.

Scott Grannis said...

All I can say is that the few business people I talked to are very encouraged by the change in the currency regime. After all, by abandoning the Zim dollar, the government effectively gave up its ability to steal from the people via inflation (i.e., by printing money). This is a very, very important development. Giving power back to the people is a very good thing.

Unknown said...

Wow, cool post. I’d like to write like this too – taking time and real hard work to make a great article… but I put things off too much and never seem to get started.
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