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Posts tagged ‘Livingstone’

Something for Everyone in Livingstone

I find it difficult to leave this little piece of paradise. One can truly lose track of time in a place with sun, a pool and amazing travelers to visit and share experiences. Did I mention I am staying here for ten dollars a night and the bar has glasses of South African wine at two dollars a glass? It seems hard to believe that I have been here for two weeks but I look at the calendar and the holidays are approaching so it is time to move on.

If you wish upper class digs then Livingstone can accommodate you at one of the premier hotels right on the Zambezi such as the Royal Livingstone. In my current accommodation, I have to share a television and had to watch more soccer and rugby than I will ever watch in the rest of my lifetime; But hey, traveling is experiencing another culture and I have done that here. I have also enjoyed visiting with other travelers and learning from their experiences. Another nice thing about this spot is that people staying here do not have a set tour schedule and we learn and change our route by the people we meet.

Livingstone has the low key canoeing on the Zambezi to high adrenaline sports such as river rafting, zip lines and bungee jumping. You can walk with the rhinos or the lions cubs or you can ride on top of an elephant. You can join sunset cruise or choose a microlight or helicopter ride over the falls.

If you are reading my blogs you already know that early on I choose dipping in Devil’s Pool and feeling the water fall from the edge. You also know I dressed up and attended high tea at the Royal Livingstone. From my last blog you know another highlight was going safari in Chobe National Park in Botswana.

For my high adeline activity, I choose to go white water rafting on the Zambezi. Looking back I think I should have researched that one a bit more as it is common to have that “drowning feeling” at least once during the trip. One day when I was at the pool two girls were joking with a friend and wanted to recreate that “Zambezi Experience”. One girl grabbed his legs at the knees and moved them up and down. The other continually pushed his head under water. After a few minutes they had had enough and they allowed their friend George to resurface. He said, “Wow. That pretty much felt exactly like the Zambezi.” I said to him, “You felt like you were going to drown too?” He responded, “Yes, I was not sure I was going to make it.”

For me, I had fell out of the raft three times on rapid five, six and seven. On the first rapid I was pulled in by the girl behind me searching for something to hold on to as she was falling. I was surprised that I was to “keep my wits” about me, get my feet forward, stay in the middle of the river and keep my paddle up as I had learned in the states. Even though I never had to use that knowledge when river rafting back home. I thought, “Okay…that’s done. Everybody falls out once in a lifetime.”

The very next rapid I am bounced out again. This time I had chugged a bit of the Zambezi while I was out of the boat. I get back in and then comes rapid seven. This is the longest rapid in the chain. Here the entire boat flipped. Guide and all were in the water. As a former lifeguard I knew to swim to the light. When I reached near the top I was pulled down again. I swam up again to the light and I was pulled down a second time by the current. The third try I made it to the surface. This time I had no idea were my paddle was but didn’t care. I was still in the rapid and had a hard time moving through it. Needless to say I was not hungry at lunch as I was full from all the water I inhaled.

I admit that I was a bit shaken up from that ride without a raft or a paddle. I guess you could say I literally experienced being “up a stream without a paddle”….I was worried what was in store for the next eighteen rapids. It is not like I could just just climb out of the gorge. I hung in there and luckily did not fall out again. The next day I decided on a different activity, one more in line with my new philosophy that I was too old to put myself in such high adrenaline situations, so I went back to the Royal Livingstone for a facial and massage in a gazebo by the river. I decided to leave those “other activities” for the young ones.

While in Livingstone I also went on a sunset cruise and did a walking safari to see the rhinos. I really enjoyed having a chance to experience a walking safari in Livingstone. My guide told me several times that I must not run. “Rhinos have poor eyesight and can not see you. You must not run or move quickly. You are just a blur if you don’t make noise.” He continued, “If you get scared then grab on to my belt but do not run. You may only let go or do what you want if I am dead…If I am dead, then you can make up your own mind, but until then you have to listen to me. It is my job to bring you back the way I found you.” I told Charles okay and that he was in charge. I also told him that my mother would be grateful to him for bringing my back in one piece. He smiled and we had an understanding.

I really did not have a worry in the world when I was walking with Charles in the wild. In addition to my guide, I also had a military scout with a automatic riffle. After the Chobe experience, and having two people looking out for my safely, one with a gun, I was sure things would be fine. After the safari we drove back through Mosi-o-tunya State Park. Charles asked, “You did not seem scared to walk with the Rhinos?” I said that I was not after my last safari. Shortly thereafter we drove up to some elephants. The guide had the driver drive in a way that caused the male elephant to charge towards the back of the vehicle. He said, “How about now? Were you scared with the elephant?” I smiled back. “Yes.” He laughed. I knew we were far enough away that we were okay..so did he. “That’s okay. He got to do his duty.” Charles added. Then elephant walked off the road respected by his herd for protecting them from our vehicle.

I really enjoyed the activities I choose to participate in here. I must admit that my favorite days were sitting by the pool and talking with the people I met. Today, from the poolside I sheepishly state that I will leave tomorrow and will need the bill. “You are not leaving so I am not giving you the bill.” Stanly, one of the staff, tells me a second time and walks by again. Yes, some of the people I met here were starting to feel like family and it made leaving difficult. I know that the friendships I made here have forever change me.

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High Tea at the Royal Livingstone

Gazing above me is a large portrait of Dr. David Livingstone. Yes, the same man who the New York Herald had sent a search party to find in Africa in 1869. Two years later, when the man in charge of the search was sure he found him, he spoke those famous words, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume.” Years later, when David Livingstone passed away the local people cut out his heart and only sent his body home. They said they would return the body but that his heart belonged to Africa. I look up at the portrait at the man who traveled before traveling was easy, especially in Africa. What an adventure that must have been.

“Mam, here are the selections of teas. Let me know when you have made your choice.” Looking at the long list I replied, “What would you recommend?” “I would recommend the Emperors Green Tea.” “I will have that one.” “Yes, Madam.”

I sit and take in the rest of the room, as the music flowing from the grand piano in the bar takes me back to a time when Livingstone lived. Large china closets sit on either side of the portrait above the grand fireplace. They are filled with leather covered books, large vases, old cameras and spy scopes. There are large folding mirrors in the corners of the room. Couches, oversize chairs and small side tables fill the center of the room. On the side of the main room there are tables for two. Above me are two large wrought iron chandlers. Wood ceiling fans hang down and turn slowly making pace with the lazy afternoon. Past the grand piano in the other room I see the bartender wiping glasses spotless. Most staff are wearing gold and black silk vests covering their white button-down shirts. Other staff have blacks suits and wear a black bow tie. All staff wear a gold name plate. Ones not busy wait at the side of the room and look for the glance of customers who may be in need something.

“Would you like a tea sandwich? There is cucumber, egg, salmon or grilled vegetable sandwiches.” “Yes please. I will have the salmon and grilled vegetable. Thank you.” Later, I am taken to the center of the room to select my own deserts. “How to choose?”, I wonder to myself. It is a feast for the eyes. I am not wanting to take anything from the perfectly set up selection. “Can you tell me what deserts there are?” One of the staff begins listing off the selections. The are several types of scones, mini pastries, fancy small cakes, quiches, muffins and oh, the amount of chocolate. The chocolate truffle cake was an artistic work of perfection. It had white chocolate shooting up from the side of the cake and chocolate truffles on top in the center. “Can you cut that one for me.” I point to the truffle cake. “I am afraid I would ruin it.” “Of course.” I make my selections and return to my table as a staff member brings a tray with my tea.

The red and yellow rose china pattern remind me of home. I sit back and take in all that surrounds me. The piano music wafts up into the rafters and takes me away.
Henry James once said, “There are a few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” I could not agree more. When I return home I think I shall dedicate more afternoons to it.

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Swimming in Devils Pool within the Smoke that Thunders

I look out across the Zambezi River and see what at first looks like smoke towards the end of the river but it actually is mist coming from Victoria Falls, the second highest falls in the world. Victoria Falls was named by David Livingstone who first came to the island beside the falls on November 16, 1855. However, the local people have their own name for this place, which I think is far more appropriate, “The Smoke that Thunders.”

We embark on our journey from the shore beside the famous Royal Livingstone Hotel. It was a short trip to the island. We walked to the cliff where Livingstone stood and looked out at the falls. When Livingstone witnessed the falls for the first time he said, “Scenes so lovely must have been gazed upon by angels in their flight.”

It was lovely. Cliffs so steep and water misting up in all directions. We observe the plaque in honor of Dr. Livingstone and then make our way west on a trail lined with dry grasses. A double rainbow circles the falls where we are heading.

We come to the edge of the river and prepare to climb into the water. We wade in and after a few steps, we push off with our feet and glide toward the basalt rocks in the center of the river. It is a short swim to the rocks that are covered with water half of the year. It is only possible to reach Devil’s Pool in the center of the Zambezi from August to January each year. After the rains, the falls are too high and fast to reach this special area.

We reach the center and carefully maneuver the sharp jagged basalt rocks worn by years of the powerful moving water. My lifeguard explains where to jump in the pool near the face of the falls. “Jump out. It is too shallow right there.” He points to the three to four foot area under the water near the rocks. “Jump there. Where the water is greener. I will go first. Watch were I step to get to the jumping off point.” He walks out carefully and then jumps. He glides out to the edge of the falls and positions himself.

“Okay. Now you can go.” He points and verbally guides my every step to the edge. “Your left foot needs to be where your right foot is standing.” I reposition and look up. He stands ready. I jump.

Upon resurfacing I swim out to the edge. We sit and look around from all directions. “If something bites your feet, they are just fish. All you have to do is move your feet and they will go away.” A little later he guides me to turn and look over the edge. “Don’t worry….I will hold your foot the entire time.”

I turn and put my arms over the falls. It may be the low water season but I feel the water move powerfully over the cliff. I see the mist rise and the water shoot giant splashes up from the rock all the way down the side of the cliff. I hear the water crash over the side. I see the river below and small falls in every direction beneath. The double rainbow I saw earlier circle all the way around the falls. I grasp the full meaning of Livingstone’s statement when viewing the falls for the first time and I am sure that there are angels watching with me.

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