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Steve and Emma's Travel Tales

A Waterfall Worthy of the Wow Factor Tag

ZAMBIA | Wednesday, 24 July 2013 | Views [386]

The 7am bus from Lusaka left on time – well a few minutes late with the driver telling hangers-on to leave the bus as he was over time!  We used Mazhandu Family Bus Services who provided a good, comfortable coach at Kw110 per seat. It seems many of the bus companies supplement their earnings by doubling up as a delivery service – makes sense since the bus is going anyway.  It meant that we had to stop a few times along the way to drop off goods but we still reached Livingstone in the predicted 7 hours.  It was a pleasant smooth journey and we managed to talk ourselves into front row seats for a great view of the countryside.

On disembarking from the bus we were pounced upon by taxi touts who were predictably quoting double the fare to our guesthouse.  In true arrogant taxi driver fashion they refused to accept the real price but a bloke with a car would so he earned a few quid.  We’d taken the gamble and booked ourselves into Tabonina Guesthouse for the 4 nights we’d be in Livingstone.  As you know it’s very rare we stay in a place for 3 nights, let along longer, so we could only was as good as it looked on tinterweb.  We weren’t disappointed as this is a cracking little place – in fact their philosophy and set up is very similar to our guesthouse aspirations.  http://taboninaguesthouse.com/

Again it’s in the $40 price range and our en-suite room had towels(!), bedside tables & wardrobe, tea & coffee making facilities and a mini-fridge.  Plus, the rate included a simple breakfast of cereal, toast, juice and a brew along with free wifi - when it’s working.  There’s a lovely little pool for all to share (a bit cold at this time of year), a small simply stocked bar, pool table and dining area.  Apart from breakfast no food is provided on the premises but it’s only a 10/15min walk into town.  Besides which they provide a brand new fully equipped kitchen that you’re welcome to use at a small additional fee of Kw5 p.p.p.d.  We availed ourselves of this a couple of times and it was lovely to have some home cooked food.  There’s also an information folder in each room and the staff are more than happy to help arrange any of a whole plethora of activities on offer in the area.

Livingstone itself isn’t the most inspiring of towns but its wide, neat streets make it pleasant to walk around.  There are several supermarkets in town should you want to go self-catering but plenty of choice for dining out options.  We went to Olga’s Italian Corner and tucked into scrumptious pizzas and also had lunch in Spot which has a nice garden setting.  The only other place we visited in town was the Livingstone Museum which we found to be very interesting and informative and good value at only Kw25 a head entrance fee.  We enquired about a game drive / sunset river cruise package but it was already fully booked.  We weren’t too disappointed as we’d had a great private river trip a few days earlier on the Lower Zambezi; plus, we’d heard it can turn into a bit of a messy booze-cruise.  As for game drives - we’d had 4 excellent jaunts around South Luangwa NP and were about to embark on a trip to Chobe NP and the Okavango Delta in Botswana. 

So we held onto our dollars and let’s face it we were only here for one thing – to take a peek at Victoria Falls.  Now many of you will know that waterfalls have consistently failed to wow us over the years; surely this one wouldn’t let us down.  At $20 (Kw100) a head entrance fee it was going to have to be something special!  Sorry Murchison Falls but this has knocked you off top spot for the most impressive and fantastic falling of water we’ve ever seen.  I’ve a sneaking suspicion it’ll hold onto that top position pretty much forever too.  Yep, it proved to be a grand day out Grommit!  It kept us enthralled for a good couple of hours so that speaks volumes in itself.

There’s a selection of little trails you can take to enable you to view the falls from all angles.  We first took the most popular path to view the falls from the top where you witness the ludicrously wide Zambezi River tumble into an abyss.  I really do mean ludicrous – the falls are 1.7km long although the geography and spray make it impossible to see its entire length.  The water literally thunders over the edge and into the narrow ravine below in an incredible display of the power of nature.  For any of you, who’ve visited the North East of England, try to imagine something like 400 Cauldron Snouts lined up and in full spate.  We visited during quite low water season so the spray wasn’t as drenching or view obscuring as we know it can be.

We then walked down the track, carefully inching past some huge baboons, to see the channel all those millions of gallons of water flows into.  We were surprised at how serene the water seemed to be as it flowed along its merry course in Zimbabwe.  This section of the gorge is named the Boiling Pot but it was barely registering a gentle simmer when we were there.  However, it was amazing to see the transformation of a 1.7km river to a 20m stream albeit a mighty powerful stream.  Finally we walked along the ‘Best Photographic Trail’ which initially seemed to be boasting claims above its station.  However, we realised as we progressed down the path that the views from there gave us a better sense of scale of the falls.  Plus towards the end of the trail, one strategically place viewing area, enables you to see straight down the gap in the gorge where the river continues its flow.  In other words you look across the Boiling Pot and through the gap to witness the Zambezi spilling over the edge and plunging 100m, kicking up a cloud of spray as it hits the pools below. 

There are a couple of posh (and I mean ultra-posh) hotels near the top of the falls and we’d heard that the Royal Livingstone would probably allow us budget travellers in.  It didn’t look good initially as on reaching the gate on foot the security guard wouldn’t let us in – apparently you’re not allowed to walk down the drive.  As we milled around wondering what to do a minivan pulled up, a lady jumped out, walked straight round the barrier and proceeded down the drive.  Well if he wasn’t going to stop her why should he stop us – we marched in past him pointing to the lady ahead!  The hotel is very plush but set in a wonderful site on the banks of the river a few hundred yards from the top of the falls.  We could clearly see the spray but were amazed that we couldn’t hear the crash of the water.  We ordered a beer, that wasn’t too silly a price considering where we were, but the food menu prices had us scuttling back to town for something to eat.  All-in-all a fantastic day out.


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