Friday, June 25, 2010

Victoria Falls and Livingstone

This week, I took my first tourist trip in Zambia to see Victoria Falls, a game park, and the town of Livingstone. Another volunteer, Patty, and I went with a Zambian friend, Angelina, and her grandson, Prince.

We boarded the Mazhandu Family Bus at Kitwe Monday morning for the 12-hour trip,including rest stops. A pastor prayed on the bus before our departure, asking for a safe journey. (On the way home, we got a sermon and an invitation to give our lives to Jesus, too!) The bus was comfortable. They even served snacks and drinks, free--more than some airlines today. Unfortunately, they also played Nigerian movies, which are rather like overdramatic soap operas, at high volume for about 6hours of the trip. The rest of the time the driver played beautiful praise music.

Patty and I stayed at a guest house, while Angelina visited with her daughter, who only has one bedroom so couldn't put us up. Having a Zambian friend with us was not only fun, but a great advantage. She knew the area, and she advocated for us--got us into the Falls and museum for the Zambian rate, insisting that we were working in Zambia and thus qualified and should not be considered tourists. This saved us a lot of money. She also negotiated for us at the craft market, so we good great bargains there, too. It was lovely to get to know Angelina's daughter and other grandchildren.

Victoria Falls are an awesome natural wonder--broad sheets of water, eight gorges, surrounded by rain forest full of rare ferns, monkeys, and lush trees and plants. Their original, traditional name (Mosi-oa-Tunya) means "smoke that makes noise," referring to the mist and tremendous spray from the falls. We rented rain capes, since you cannot help getting wet from the spray, especially this time of the year. We saw rainbows in the mist. Spectacular!

We also took a tour of the nearby Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park to see the animals. One edge of the park runs along the Zambezi River which forms the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. The guide, in telling us that we might not see the elephants, commented that elephants don't understand borders, and they wander between the two countries, generally in Zimbabwe in the day and returning at sunset to Zambia. It would have been fun to watch them swim across the river, but we saw the park in the morning. We did encounter warthogs (kind of ugly and reminded me of javelina), velvet monkeys with big eyes, gentle, deer-like impala, playful chimps and gorillas, majestic buffalo (with birds on their backs, who eat the ticks!), zebras (each one has a distinctive pattern of stripes, and they take dust baths like horses do), giraffes (did you know that the female giraffe has hair on her horns?), storks, eagles, and other birds, crocodiles (even an albino), and finally a white rhino. It was a good visit with a knowledgable guide.

The Livingstone Museum included collections and information on the archeology, history, geography, and culture of the area. There was a huge relief map showing the falls and its gorges, which helped put that into perspective. I especially enjoyed learning about life in a typical village, David Livingstone's adventures, the struggle for Zambia's independance, and some traditional religious practices through the many displays.

Zambia is not crowded with tourists, and it is more affordable than many places. I hope that some of you will consider a trip here if you ever come to southern Africa. Take a look at the Bradt Guide on Zambia (by Chris McIntyre) for accurate information--or email me. It was a great trip, and I look forward to exploring some other wonderful sights while here in Zambia.

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