Backpacking Livingstone and Victoria Falls

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The awesome sight that is Victoria Falls.

“I determined never to stop until I had come to the end and achieved my purpose.” – David Livingstone

The Mashandu bus that would take us for a 7-hour ride from Lusaka to Livingstone town was almost an hour late (90 Kwacha one way). But it’s good to wait than rush. Erin and I busied ourselves people-watching at the busy bus station. We both agreed places like it were almost the same all over the world – hawkers egging you to buy all things imaginable (from tomatoes, eggs, bottled water, fake sunglasses and souvenirs). The colors, smell and frenzy kept us from getting bored.

In the bus, we traded seats with a nice lady so we can sit together. But Erin’s charm didn’t work on a grumpy guy who never hid his annoyance that we requested him to move. The lady did instead. Zambians are so friendly this one is a rare specie. There is always an exception. Then the next downer came. A preacher started his sermon in the middle of the bus – and on top of his lungs. Ear-spitting you can’t miss every word. For all his good intentions, I got a headache when he stopped 45 minutes later. He said he would be brief, huh! I don’t think Jesus was pleased with his performance – and the donation bag that came after.

Our shuttle bus.

To cut to the chase, we arrived Livingstone at around 2:00am. After a mild argument with the taxi driver who took us to a campsite rather than Jollyboys Backpackers Lodge, we settled quite nicely in the lodge that’s so clean and homey. The staff are also extra-friendly. At US$10 a night, it was a treat! We can hardly wait – but we did sleep a good deal catching up with what we missed in the bus.

At 10:00am sharp, we were ready for our shuttle! A busload of giggly and excited backpackers filled the bus – a group of Italians asked if the shuttle waits for us. Nope, it won’t. One has to shell out 40 Kwacha for a taxi back. Refreshing was the apt word to describe the 30-minute or so ride. I am getting impressed with Zambian’s safe driving.

After paying K100 (roughly $20) for entrance fee, we were on our own exploring the park where VicFalls (as many locals would call it) is located. Seeing it for the first time was – oh, well – to put it mildly, jawdropping. Make that double! An amazing sight. We were told we came at the right time. March to May is when the current was at its strongest.

There you are – right before our eyes – 10 million liters per second of gushing water, we were splashed generously despite the miles of distance. Call that blessings. Named after the Queen of England and found by David Livingstone in 1855, Victoria Falls is known as “the smoke that thunders”. It, indeed, does – complete with its white splendor!

Disregarding the plastic cape, we decided to get crazily wet (bags, rubber shoes and all) running past the splashing rails, the hardly-seen knife’s-edge bridge and back. We were soaked and dripping – laughing wildly and madly. On our way back, tourists eyed us with a sly grin (silly women they must have thought) but we couldn’t care less.

It was a wild-wet-walk we were willing to do all over again if we had time. Maybe longer. Worth every drip we took from the raging falls. The walk to the boiling point was a slow and languid one – often punctuated by a baboon hurriedly crossing our path. Many cliffs overlooking the gorges have no rails – the view was both breathtaking and terrifying. A fall is surely sudden death.

True to its name and popularity, Victoria Falls is worth the 7-hour trip from Lusaka. A UN Heritage Site (proudly announced at the entrance), it brings indescribable joy to every visitor. I was charmed all the way. Nothing like it. Oh, well, until the next trip to God’s amazing creation. Tell me, maybe Macchu Picchu can match the feeling?

We must go beyond textbooks,
go out into the bypaths and untrodden depths of the wilderness
and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey.
-John Hope Franklin

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