Travelling down the Zambezi with his small party of local guides and porters he must of been pretty shocked to look over the edge of the falls from the island where he moored his boats. David Livingstone was the first white person to “discover” Mosi-oa-Tunya (the cloud that thunders)in 1855. Later naming it after a lady he was keen on, Queen Victoria.
Livingstone I presume?
For me the town of Livingstone (named of course after our Scottish friend) has always conjured up images of colonial buildings, quiets streets and a jumping off point for classic African adventures. I’d always feared that the reality would be far from my childhood dreams. Livingstone is in fact just your classic hustling and bustling border town with a few extras because it is also a tourist town, therefore nothing special.
We spent our time in Livingstone just outside of town only 5km from the falls, lazy afternoons in the Waterfront lodge restaurant eating great tourist food, drinking the occasional cold Mosi beer and enjoying the view of the Zambezi and the mist above the falls in the distance.
It’s funny to be in a tourist area again, especially one so well known as this one. The place we stayed is also a crossroad/ changeover point for many overland truck companies or Mzungu wagons as Ken calls them. Advantages of a tourist area : lots of good food, hot shower and somewhere quiet away from prying eyes being once again I’m an anonymous tourist instead of the only tourist in town. Disadvantages, more hassle on the streets, overpriced taxis, food, beer and camping, and of course tourists…
So I finally got here, I also decided to bite the bullet and pay the $140 for a Microlight flight over Victoria falls, and even went as far as to pay the $20 for the photos (They don’t allow you to use your own camera for “safety reasons”). What can I say…..in a word AWESOME. What a way to see the falls. Unfortunately the view from the ground of the falls is very misty and wet right now due to the high water level, the falls only appear from the mist from time to time as the wind blows through.
The next day we crossed the bridge which marks the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and so a new round of adventure can start in country number 6. I’m looking forward to travelling here because of all the bad press and prejudice this country gets I’m curious to see how much is true and how many police check points will try and get a bribe out of me. I suspect that travelling by bike in Zimbabwe will be fine, time will tell.
The town of Victoria falls is one of those custom built tourist towns, which apart from the weather feels a lot like Blackpool in spring, kind of dead, a few touts hanging around trying to earn some money and the half deserted markets, the place feels a lot like a ghost town. Yesterday while one guy started following me try to sell me old bank notes I said “are you deaf I said I’m not interested” His reply was a little heart breaking and probably true, “no man, I’m not deaf just hungry”.
Ken left yesterday which was a surprisingly sad, we really clicked the last couple of weeks and had a great time together, its great to have a drinking buddy, someone to make breakfast when I couldn’t get out of bed and someone to talk to that gets what this is all about. Take care Ken it was fun!
The Overlander trucks
Ok its not my thing to get locked up in a big brother truck for months with other tourists, but fine each to their own. Sitting on a table next to a large group of these “travellers” is always amusing though. Ok, so they are loud and often drunk, that’s fine any group can be like that, what is funny to listen to though is the willy waving (bragging). “I’ve done Egypt, done Zanzibar, done this done that….” and the next one chirps in with a tougher, harder or more interesting series of countries, areas or story” and this will continue all night, and ironically I never hear anyone say I’ve travelling in…., seen….., enjoyed…..explored….had the time of my life…..its always DONE, as if there’s some competition going on to tick off a list of countries and must do activities. Don’t get me wrong I don’t judge these people, this is their way of having an African adventure and I guess they enjoy getting drunk most nights, sleeping half the day and getting kicked out of the bus from time to time to take some photos at a tick the checklist spot.. But boy am I pleased I’ve found a different way to see Africa.
I’ve now crossed into Zimbabwe and I’m staying at the Shoestring backpackers in Vic falls. When I arrived it seemed like a classic backpackers hostel, nice big quiet garden, dorms, camping, a bar etc etc…While I’ve been here I’ve had chance to meet and talk to several interesting people travelling the hard way. These independent travellers are what used to be called backpackers but for some reason they’re not anymore, so many labels and travelling sub cultures its hard to keep track of what people are nowadays. These people have been interesting to talk to, travelling Africa via public transport and hitchhiking which is pretty much the hardest way to cross this continent unless you try to walk it. Many stories and tips for things to come.
I now plan to rest here another few days (yes very lazy, only cycled 15km in the last week ) and catch up on some writing and may even have some time for some reading.
In a couple of days I’m also going to publish the full story of my Kalahari adventure a few months ago, a story that I wrote after a little reflection in the Namib desert. Its a difficult story to share but I feel I have to close that chapter of my life. So get your tissues ready!!