August 09

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LivingWell in Zambia, chapter 5: Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls are the best known attraction in Zambia, if not Southern Africa, given their status as the seventh wonder of the natural world. They stretch 2km across and at the highest point, the Zambezi river plummets 108 metres down; twice the height of Niagara Falls. The water volume varies greatly between the rainy and dry seasons, with the flow in August apparently just a tenth of that in November. However now is a great time to go as there is still a lot of water, but not so much of the mist which clouds the view (though I still got a bit of a spray!)

On the Zambian side is the town of Livingstone, which was the capital of Zambia from 1911 until 1935 (when it was replaced by the more centrally located Lusaka). On the Zimbabwean side, the town of Victoria Falls offers a similar collection of hotels and activities. The Falls area is a little world of its own, not feeling representative of Zambia, and though more Zambian and less colonial idyll than I imagined, I left feeling that only visiting Livingstone would leave one having missed the real experience of the country.

David Livingstone was the first European to see the Falls in 1855, and named them in honour of Queen Victoria. However they were known locally as Mosi-oa-Tunya; the smoke that thunders (or the smoke that sounds there), which is a far superior name to my mind. Livingstone wrote poetically of the Falls, ‘No one can imagine the beauty of the view from anything witnessed in England… scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight’. One possible response to that is of course that he’s Scottish and it was a snipe at England, but really they are something you need to see and hear in person, as no picture quite does it justice.

There is a small museum with a history of Livingstone’s life and travels and a few artefacts including original letters, but it wasn’t the most inspiring exhibition.

In honour of the Falls, the ubiquitous Zambian beer is called Mosi, which promises refreshment on a similarly mighty scale. In the interests of thorough blogging, I tried some and can confirm it’s not too shabby.

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