What's one of the 8 Wonders of the World in Africa? The answer is thunderous Victoria Falls (or Mosi-oa-Tunya or ‘The Smoke That Thunders’) on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia. When I planned my big trip to Africa, naturally Victoria Falls was on the list of things to see. I mean, come on! It is one of the 8 natural wonders of the world and my own local Niagara Falls is a must-see local destination near my home.
Lucky for me, I have family living in Livingstone which is just 10 minutes away from Vic Falls! Sa-weet! I couldn't pass up an opportunity to visit this magical place in Africa and visit one of my very favorite family members. I first met my Mom's cousin, Dawn, in Wales. That's a long story. My Grandfather is Welsh and Dawn is the daughter of my favorite Great Aunt: Elsie. Elsie was a spitfire and I stayed with her every time I visited Wales.
Naturally, when I realized that Dawn now lived in Zambia, it was a no-brainer. Visiting Zambia and Dawn was now part of my big African Adventure!
One perk of staying with someone when traveling is not having to do a ton of research about that area. It saved me a ton of time prior to the trip and I was able to focus my energy on getting my flights for free instead. Because I already knew and traveled with Dawn, I knew that she would be honest about what she thought I should see and do in her town. Let's just say that we are very similar... blatantly honest.
On my travels, I did end up hiking the entire thing. I hiked all of the trails on both the Zambia and Zimbabwe sides of Victoria Falls and will blog about that and my review later on down the road. If you are heading over soon, just leave a comment and I'll get to it faster ;-).
Dawn was awesome and set up my different excursions for me, as she runs a motel in Livingstone. I had zero desire to bungee jump Victoria Falls, so I did a Microlight flight instead. Oh man, it was scary and yet the BEST way to really see Victoria Falls.
So what to see in Livingstone that isn't the Falls??
Interestingly, the best thing I did in Livingstone, Zambia for tourism wasn't seeing Victoria Falls. It was something completely off the beaten path and something I would have never known about if it hadn't been for my cousin Dawn.
Thanks to Facebook, she knew that I like to bike around my area, so she connected me with a cycle tour of Livingstone which is a fundraiser for a school. YES, PLEASE!
It was amazing. The kid brought me a bike and picked me up at 8 am and we were off. Together, we cycled through all of the various neighborhoods in Livingstone and he described life and work in each area. It was fascinating as well as eye opening.
He discussed how people pay for their homes, what their day to day lives are like and threw in a little history and politics of Zambia after Colonial rule. There were a lot of little kids that ran after us to meet me and say good morning. They were enthralled with my sunglasses, since they could see their reflections. Even though they probably hadn't eaten breakfast, they were so friendly and wanted to shake my hand and welcome me. My biggest regret from the trip is not taking photos of the kids. I suppose I didn't want to be yet another tourist who was exploiting the locals or something. I was also hella hungover. ugh.
It was pretty cool to learn about living in Zambia and discussing racial topics, which had dominated my travels throughout Africa. He explained to me that unlike neighboring Zimbabwe, Zambia had decent Presidents after they left Colonial rule and basically adopted the "well, we tried it your way and it didn't work. no hard feelings" mentality. Because of that national stance, I felt very safe and welcome in Zambia as well. Indeed, it felt the least racially tense country that I visited. Especially compared to America. People all say Hello when you are walking down the street and even the street vendors are very polite. Aside for paying more than the locals for things, I never got the sense that the color of my skin was an issue.
What I wouldn't give to have had my zoom lens on me. My guide was VERY clear that I stay very still and quiet while they settled to the other side of the road and went on their way. It was surreal to say the least. They are a part of life in Zambia, just as deer are a part of ours here in North America.
After that excitement we took a trip through the local market where my guide explained all sorts of items for sale and how they are used in every day life. I learned that pregnant women eat rocks for magnesium and other minerals as a form of prenatal vitamins.
I cannot thank my cousin Dawn enough for setting this up for me. It was an adventure that I will never forget.
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