It took a long time to get through the border from Botswana into Zambia; very busy with trucks, cars, and people transferring between the two countries. The trucks and cars were lined up in the same line trying to go opposite ways. Women and girls were walking, carrying belongings on their heads. Men were loading heavy boxes of fruit onto a truck, border guards paraded around toting rifles, and little children were running about. We made it through the border and continued to Livingston. We passed small villages and people walking on the sides of the road along with many signs and billboards stating problems with AIDS.
The land is flat but green and soon we saw a cloud of smoke in the distance. All I could think of at this point were the comments Dr. Livingston wrote in his journal when he was traveling down the Zambezi in 1855. The natives called it “The Smoke that Thunders.” Livingston wrote, " Approaching the spot in canoes, the party could see the columns of spray and hear the thunderous roar of water miles away from the falls: After 20 minutes' sail from Kalai, we came in sight, for the first time, of the columns of vapor appropriately called 'smoke,' rising at a distance of five or six miles, exactly as when large tracts of grass are burned in Africa. Five columns now arose, and, bending in the direction of the wind, they seemed placed against a low ridge covered with trees; the tops of the columns at this distance appeared to mingle with the clouds. They were white below, and higher up became dark, so as to simulate smoke very closely. The whole scene was extremely beautiful; the banks and islands dotted over the river are adorned with sylvan vegetation of great variety of color and form. No one can imagine the beauty of the view from any thing witnessed in England. It had never been seen before by European eyes; but scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight. The only want felt is that of mountains in the background. The falls are bounded on three sides by ridges 300 or 400 feet in height, which are covered with forest, with the red soil appearing among the trees.
Victoria Falls is just that. There are no other words that I can think of to describe it better. We entered this World Heritage Site and walked the trails to different viewpoints. The mist of water was so thick at times that it was raining and no views could be seen. The falls appeared again along the trail and rainbows followed us through our sights. The noise sounded like thunder. How amazing this scene must have been to Dr. Livingston after traveling through this country by ox cart for hundreds of miles.
We visited the market outside of the park and were hassled by vendors trying to sell things. They were very aggressive and had the same story. "Come and look. I am from the village of Mucuni and look what my grandfather has made. We need money in the village. Come and buy for my grandfather."
We drove to the Livingston airport for a helicopter ride over the falls. I could not believe that the split in the earth went on for at least a mile with water tumbling over the edge. Again rainbows sprang back up at us. The helicopter tipped from side to side so we could view the falls from every angle. Such an astonishing site.
The following day I shared a taxi with two of my fellow travelers to drive us back to the town of Livingston. The cab driver told us that his mother had been killed by an elephant two years ago. His mother and another woman from their village were collecting wood for fire when the elephant came out of the bush, picked his mother up, threw her down and stepped on her. The other woman got away before the elephant came back.
We walked to a local market where fruits, vegetables, drinks, cloth and everything else were for sale. A woman carrying a bundle on her head passed us dressed in colorful clothes of red and purple. Another woman had a small child wrapped in a cloth blanket which she carried over her back. We bought a few bananas and talked to some of the women. Although our language was not the same, we had some laughs. It was hot and the street was busy on the way to the Livingston Museum. We heard music and singing come from a building next to the museum. There was a church service going on and people were clapping their hands, singing, and jumping up and down. One man was blowing a horn and another was playing a drum. They invited us in and we joined their religious celebration. A group of small dark-faced boys were in front of us and they reached out their hands to ours. We worked up a sweat jumping and clapping hands with them. As we were leaving, one of the little boys came toward me with a hug and a good wish of good-bye.
The Livingston Museum was fascinating. Exhibits of the history and culture of Zambia filled the rooms. It told of ancient tribes, their beliefs and traditions, many of them involving the animals of Africa. The owl is considered bad luck and if one lands near you, a family member or someone close to you will become sick or die. Elephants were not eaten because they believed they consumed all the other animals. A whole room was dedicated to Dr. Livingston. Original letters Livingston had written were displayed behind glass. His books, clothing, and medical bag were there along with old photos and sketches of him, the villages, and the people. They also had displays on Robert Moffet whose journals I had read before I left for Africa. He was a missionary that stayed in Africa for almost 30 years. His daughter became the wife of David Livingston.
The three of us walked to the local craft market where we were again hassled to buy something with the same story told as before. I bought a necklace for my daughter before escaping. We walked into a local meat market more out of curiosity than to purchase something. Some strange looking pieces of meat were behind the glass counter. Next was the bakery filled with all sorts of goodies. We resisted and stopped at a small outdoor restaurant for a soda before taking a cab back.
We took a van to the village of Mucuni the following morning. I was excited as I was hoping to meet all the grandfathers that the vendors were boasting about. Typical African village of huts and reed fences. When Livingston had first come to this village, he was the first white man they had seen. They thought he was a ghost and told him to wait under a large acacia tree. The chief of the village met him there and they talked for hours. That tree still stands and the people of the village have held meetings under that tree ever since. The villagers were friendly and open to photographs. Children played a game of ball on the dusty road between the huts, the school, and the church. A woman was mixing a liquid with a stick in a large wooden barrel. She was making beer. Music and singing came from the church and we walked the dirt path to the building. People dressed in colorful outfits were entering the church. One woman had a skirt on made from a cloth that said “Womens Catholic Society.“ HIV and AIDS notices were posted throughout the village. There are 7000 people in the village and 1100 of them are small children. Seven hundred of the children were orphans having lost their parents to AIDS. Three young men were in the shade of a large tree playing a game of mawcala with stones on a board they had carved. Older men were making crafts and the local chicken was running around. The people were friendly and always seem to be smiling and laughing.