Today we had the opportunity to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world, Victoria Falls. Victoria Falls is over 100 meters high and stretches across 2 kilometers above the Zambezi river that separates Zambia and Zimbabwe. During the summer months the falls are at their peak, with ton after ton of water falling over the cliff edge every second.
We left very early in the morning for the falls. I think all the African taxi men are sick of us by now because we have figured out how to avoid all their tourist traps. We go straight to the local bus station and catch a local chicken bus to our destination. In the local buses you get a more authentic experience and at 1/20th the cost.
We caught a bus around 8:00am in the morning from Livigstone and were at the falls in less than 20 minutes. During the entire drive (and walk within the falls) we saw hundreds of baby baboons and their families traveling from place to place. Baboons will always be an iconic image of Africa for me from this day forward.
The falls were beautiful, but due to the height of the water and the time of year, anytime we got close to the falls it felt like we were being hit by a monsoon. I quickly figured out why they rented raincoats out at the entrance of the park… Luckily Andrew and I had our waterproof jackets with us and we were able to visit all parts of the falls.
We crossed a little suspension bridge to an island viewing point where we were soaked by sheets of water being thrown at us by the falls… We hiked down to the boiling point at the base of the falls and watched people Bungee Jump and Gorge Swing from the bridge in Zimbabwe as well as raft through the rapids creating by the large falls. At one point during our adventures in every nook and cranny of the falls I even had my orange stolen from me by a baboon. I guess that is why they tell you not to eat in the park…
We spent nearly five hours in the park, tracing livingstone’s adventures we he explored the falls over 100 years ago. When you travel, history really comes alive, and you get to see the most amazing things.
We finished up our day browsing through the craft shops just outside the park. African woodwork is some of the most amazing woodwork I have ever seen in my life. Each tribe had his own tradition, and unique woodworking skills are passed down from father to son for generations.
When many people are selling items in the same location, they label their individual space with a shop number. Shop 11 was my favorite shop. Shop 11 had a man who really wanted my hair tie that was on my wrist. His younger sister in the village had long hair and there was no place to buy hair ties. He wanted to trade me some earrings (the same earrings that the man in shop 3 wanted to sell to me for $10) for my hair tie. I gladly accepted the offer from the man in shop 11, and walked away with beautiful earrings made from a blue stone they find when they are mining copper.
We finished our time at the shops and proceeded to head to the bus stand which was a little walk from the entrance to the falls. We were quickly greeted by a taxi driver who told us their were no more buses going to Livingstone. We brushed him off, walked to the bus stand, and found a bus that was going to Livingstone. We waited for about 30 minutes until it filled up and then we were on our way home. We have found that many people lie in Africa if it means getting money from tourists. The best thing to do is pretend you are a local. When we tell people we live in Malawi at first they look at us strange because I have very fair skin and Andrew is part Chinese…but they quickly brush it off and accept our broken Chichewa.
Evenings have been my favorite part of the day here in Livingstone, thanks to Twaambo and Betty. Today they agreed to teach us how to make nshima as well as a variety of other Zambian dishes like delele (okra), Chinese (Chinese cabbage), and Zambian steak (T-bone beef marinated in spices). They pulled out their Brier or Zambian charcoal stove and we all sat outside their hut cooking the delicious dishes and talking.
You can only cook with one pot at a time on a Brier, so the entire cooking process took several hours. This was a good time for us to sit and talk about our lives. We finished up our cooking around 9:00pm and sat down at the table to enjoy our meal together. Everything was delicious, despite the fact that Andrew and I cooked it all, and Thwaambo and Betty simply guided us.
We have enjoyed every minute with Thwaambo and Betty and we are so lucky that we have been able to stay with them.
As I unwrapped myself from my blanket fort in the morning, I couldn’t help but smile. We were going to see Victoria falls.
A few months ago Kylie had asked my grandma what were two places she’d always wanted to go. She said first, Cape Town in South Africa, and second Victoria falls.
Since grandma is very old now, there is no way she’d be able to fulfill either of these dreams. So I was excited to go, experience it for myself, and share the experiences with grandma. For me, that was the most exciting part about our plans.
We caught local transport up to the falls and got there quite early. We could hear the roaring of the falls more than a dozen meters away and that only amplified the excitement Kylie and I felt. As we paid the entrance fee, rounded the bend, we saw them.
The falls were incredible. A giant walk of roaring, crashing water plummeted over 100 meters into the river below. Here is the great Zambezi river, I thought to myself.
Since the falls are so large, and are constantly flicking beads of water into the air, there are two permanent rainbows that hang over the falls, adding to the picturesque scene.
Kylie and I spent most of the day exploring the area and walking from vantage point to vantage point to snap photos.
Since the spray from the falls are so large, a lot of the photos are obscured by water. In the end, it didn’t bother me. I was seeing the falls for grandma.
Unfortunately I know Kylie was a little disappointed. She loves photos, and since the spray was so high, a good clean shot of the falls was hard to find. Couple that with the fact we went too early to swim in Devils pool, I think she was hoping for a bit more.
Nonetheless we had a wonderful time and returned to Livingstone in good spirits.
Most of our evening was spent at JollyBoys backpacker lodge using their free wifi and setting our plans for the next morning.
Being around backpackers and tourists after staying with locals provides a very clear contrast on behaviors and attitudes. Most of the backpackers are nice people, but don’t dive into local culture. Few if any that we’ve met have even tried Nsima, which is so prevalent around the region. Few have wandered the cities or spoken with the people. Oftentimes they come for the experience, document it with a few videos or photos and then set off seeking greener pastures. Of course Kylie and I have been guilty of blowing in and blowing out, but I’ve loved the fact we’ve been staying with locals for so much of our journey. It really has made the experience rich and full.
When I think of Africa, not only will I think of the many incredible experiences we’ve had, but the many wonderful people we’ve met all along the way. Charles and Kikoncho in Uganda, Vincent in Rwanda, Katrice in Kenya, Abdul and Allen in Tanzania, Professor George, Mrs. Flossy, Manice, and many others in Malawi, Colin and Thwaambo in Zambia…. The lost keeps growing as our adventures continue. They’ve all been wonderful and taught me something about charity and kindness in their own way.
Kylie and I went to sleep tonight, looking forward to tomorrow.