Wed, Dec 16, 2009
Hearing of Livingstone, a small town in Zambia near Victoria Falls, reminds me of my childhood days in Scotland. I am not talking crap. This town was named after a missionary, Dr. David Livingstone, who was born in Blantyre in Scotland, which is coincidently my birth place as well. I sometimes marvel at the development in technology and human behavior that took place in the past couple of centuries. Dr. David was the first white ever to watch the ‘Smoke that Thunders’, the ancient name of Victoria Falls (See, I told you. Even the name has been changed). And now, thousands of people including whites travel to watch the thundering smoke.
The last time when I visited this cascading falls, I halted for 2 days at The Zambezi Sun Hotel built nearby, not because of its exquisiteness but due to its oddity. Why odd? The hotel is nothing but a ring of chalets encircling the open-air pool, restaurants, bars, and shops. I stopped worrying after being food-plundered twice by the monkeys that wandered in the ground and over my chalet. Zebras standing besides watched me and grinned silently. A Zambian band performed live music every night that was so loud that people couldn’t sleep even in the chalets. So they forcibly had to come out and attend the concert.
I have seen 2 major waterfalls in my lifetime: Victoria and Niagara. Niagara, to me, seemed more influential simply due to the amount of water thundering over the crimson crags. However, Victoria is not as powerful as Niagara but is less commercialized and displays more natural magnificence than Niagara. Some unendorsed guides offered a walking tour to the desolate land of Livingstone Island that was in the center of Zambezi River very close to the plunging water. Being quite adventurous I took the rope walk to the island. Later, I found the sign “Beware of Crocodiles”, which made me wrathful and I didn’t pay the guide. This kind of walk is not at all recommended and is quite precarious and perilous.
Although not so rich country, Zambia seemed to me quite a pleasing place, unlike its southern neighbor, Zimbabwe. Some years ago I took a day tour through the border to watch the falls from the other side. I entered a town and hired a cab who asked questions more than my boss. He was shocked to know that I am a British visitor and warned me to be careful. He said “Zimbabwe was once a good place, not anymore”. I told him that I am quite informed and regularly watch television news and read newspapers except since last week as I was traveling to various locations. He smiled and quietly informed that last morning, Zimbabwe had been separated from the British Commonwealth. I looked at my face in the rare view mirror. I looked very much British.
On my way to the falls, a policeman interrupted me and asked for a £30 ‘gift’ for entering the fallaciously privileged country. Obviously, I couldn’t deny the inducement and paid him off. When I reached Southern Rodesia near the First Gorge out of the famous seven gorges, two healthy people asked for some funds on behalf of the third blind one. I could have given some pounds as donation, but they seemed to be threatening me rater than begging. I avoided them and continued walking, but baddies are always baddies. They snatched my bag and disappeared. Luckily, the bag contained only some travel equipments. My passport, money, and cards were in my wallet. Undoubtedly the panoramas of Victoria Falls were fabulous from Zimbabwe, but the experience was quite depressing. I wandered around the place and next day went to the island of Livingstone (this time from Zimbabwe). I saw the Statue of David Livingstone, thought about my childhood days and smiled probably for the first time since I entered Zimbabwe. No more dreadful incidents took place, but the ambiance was manifestly ruined, at least for me. While returning, I once lost my way. However, I avoided contacting the policeman standing nearby who would help me in no way except making me £40 poorer.
Later when I went home and watched the TV news, I heard Robert Mugabe uttering lividly against the British Government, I realized that I was in the wrong place at an erroneous time.
I have seen Victoria Falls thrice in my lifetime (because of its relation with my childhood), twice from Zambia, once from Zimbabwe as it gushes between them. However, I would recommend Zambia as the ideal location to watch the awe-inspiring falls.