The Hendersons Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls
An Unforgettable African Adventure
Sunday, March 25 - Johannesburg to Livingstone, Zambia
Our driver, David, picked us up at 8:45 and took us to the airport - along the way we went past another township - this one was Alexandra and was where David lives. It isn't as large as Soweto, having 2.5 million people compared to Soweto's 4 million. In the US, I think we picture African cities as being small and quaint - Jo'burg is huge, when you take in the townships - probably in excess of 10 million people.
Like so many people we've met, David wasn't shy in giving us his opinions about conditions in South Africa. There is much concern over Zimbabwe - especially if the country should erupt in civil war. So many people from Zimbabwe, desperate to flee the terrible conditions, come to South Africa illegally. They will even swim across crocodile infested rivers to escape. If they do make it to South Africa, they cannot find work, for unemployment is very high.
David has a couple of children - he, like parents all over the world, is putting them through private school - a huge sacrifice for someone in South Africa, but he knows that the only way they can have a good future is through education and the public schools are failing. Sounds so much like the US!
Our flight to Livingstone was aboard Nationwide Airlines, a small, regional carrier. The airport was busy - hundreds of people milling about, trying to get through check-in and security. There was no gangway - instead, we were loaded into busses and taken out to the aircraft - a 727! We didn't know they were still in service. Old work horses.
Our flight was pleasant with a good cabin crew and a nice lunch. Once we landed and went through passport control and customs, we were met by another driver and taken to the Royal Livingstone. Nothing could have prepared us for the attentiveness of the staff. As we walked to check-in we were greeted by a young woman and taken into the sumptuous bar. We were given ice tea and seated in leather chairs while she went through the check-in process. A young woman in a white uniform came up and offered me a hand and arm massage while we were going through the check-in. The food and beverage manager came forward and offered to make dinner reservations. Then we walked to where our luggage had been stored, identified our suitcases and were escorted to our room - very nice room, on the ground floor, with a view of the river. The butler came a few minutes later and introduced herself - if we needed anything, we were to ask her. Only two problems - the fan squeaked, so we went to the concierge and reported it - it was repaired within an hour - and the phone lines were down (and would remain so for the duration of our stay).
We unpacked and walked to the famous Victoria Falls. Nothing could have prepared us. They are thundering, huge, majestic. We had opted to take a path that was a bit distant from the falls (a wise decision, we learned the next morning as we nearer path is absolutely drenching).
After our walk, we sat on the veranda of the bar and had a soda while we looked out over the pool. How pleasant!
The Zambezi River is swift flowing - if you fell into it near the Royal Livingstone there would be no way you could save yourself - a long trip over the falls is in store for you.
A tradition in southern Africa is 'sundowners' - cocktails or wine before dinner while looking at the sunset. The sundowners at the Royal Livingstone are on a patio right next to the river. Service is impeccable, the sunset beautiful, a flutist playing nice classical music in the background.
Dinner at the hotel was also special, but the wine prices are shocking. Ah, well, you only live once. We had duck confit. Too much food to have anything else.
When we returned to our room, the bed had been turned down, soft music was playing and there were rose petals strewn on the duvet cover. We could get used to this!
Monday, March 26 - Livingstone, Zambia
While there are many things to do in Livingstone - helicopter rides to view the falls, parasailing, boat trips at the foot of the falls, the market in Livingstone and a museum, we merely wanted to relax. We breakfasted at the hotel (a very sumptuous affair) then donned our rain jackets and sandals and headed to the falls. The day was bright and sunny. We were so fortunate - it really was dumb luck, not advance planning - the sun shining through the mist created rainbows at every viewpoint - including across the pathway. It was so incredibly beautiful - and so wet - we were soaked before we got to the Knife Edge Bridge, as it is called. Along the way we saw a group of French tourists returning from the bridge - they were all clad in swimsuits and bikinis, a practical way to go through the mist, but the stretch marks were a little too much.
Once we got to the bridge, we were ringing wet - it was only the mist from the falls that caused this - we were several hundred yards from the falls itself. The bridge deck was awash with water (and footing a bit treacherous). I don't think we've ever had so much fun getting wet! The only bad spot was it was impossible to keep the cameras sufficiently dry and apparently the chip in my favorite lens got damp, as it failed to function the rest of the trip.
We returned to the hotel and cleaned up. We had such a wonderful time and were so pleased that we saw the beautiful sight.
We had a light lunch at the hotel - the highlight was panna cotta, this time with summer berries.
The rest of the day we read - a short while by the beautiful pool - one of the nicest I've ever seen in a hotel - but a thunder storm came through and we decamped to our little veranda for the remainder of the day.
We had dinner again at the hotel. There are two sections to the menu - a haute cuisine section and a 'comfort food' section with simpler fare. Tom had a pork schnitzel and I had a Thai chicken curry, both of which were very good.