Livingstone is a nice little African town in Zambia. On the market street, ladies selling fruit and vegetables sit by the roadside with their baskets hidden under large umbrellas. The African Tulip trees are huge, shady and vibrant.
Makeshift stalls are the local version of a bar – each has a stock of spirit bottles and a bored looking host. The sound of children chanting, laughing and singing echoes from the schoolyard.
There is a small museum celebrating, who else but Dr David Livingstone. The blue taxis have seen better days: ancient Toyotas with spiderwebs for windscreens.
If you’re not comfortable with going into Zimbabwe, the town of Livingstone in Zambia is the best place to base yourself to see Victoria Falls and go white-water rafting on the mighty Zambezi.
I visited Vic Falls when it was at low water so the falls were not huge but they certainly do thunder. The spray rises high in the air; sun shining through and making amazing rainbows across the Batoka Gorge.
Walk the path along the river bed at the top of Victoria Falls. You’ll more than likely acquire a local ‘guide’ who will show you the way through the rocks and dark pools of the great stream. The air is fragrant from the yellow blossom of a flowering tree. Past Livingstone Island and at last to the Devil’s or Angel’s Armchair, depending on your point of view.
Sitting dangling my feet over the edge of Victoria Falls is a mind-blowing experience, I have to say. Peering down through the foaming cataract, the thick mist, to the boiling river below. Looking across the abyss to Zimbabwe and some surprised-looking tourists on the other side.
An intense triple rainbow arcs away below me. The sound of the rushing water is immense. Despite being so swiftly flowing, swimming in the water is pleasant, warm and soft. Just before the edge the water has caved out a cup, a pool, where you can splash about and climb on the rocks at the rim with relative safety.
The Batoka Gorge is beautiful; the most beautiful setting in the world to go white water rafting, or to do anything really. It zigzags acutely away from the base of Victoria Falls, the water up to 40 metres deep in places. The air is a cool relief from the African heat above.
The white-water rafting companies here are professional, with experienced guides who love their work. I had never rafted before but had no trouble fitting in. Yes I was tossed out of the raft twice going through rapids and rapidly hauled back aboard for fear of resident crocodiles.
My first experience of swimming with crocodiles? But it was exhilarating stuff and there was also plenty of periods drifting calmly down the luminous river, listening to birdsong and watching out for those crocs. In fact the most difficult part of the day was climbing up the path out of the gorge in the evening.
Back in Livingstone the local Lubasa orphanage welcomes visitors and a group of us played board games and football with the kids there one afternoon. There was some outrageous cheating at snap and we learnt that you should never let the scoreline get in the way of a good penalty shootout!
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you been to Victoria Falls? Did you sit in the Devil’s Armchair?