Tuesday, 14th February 2012
As often happens, writing things down whilst they're fresh in the memory conflicts with actually doing things so, on my return to the U.K., I've expanded my original brief update.
There was originally a settlement next to the Falls, as a staging point for crossing the Zambezi, but this settlement was moved to higher ground on Constitution Hill because of the problem of malarial mosquitoes near the river. In 1904 the new settlement was called 'Livingstone' after the Scottish missionary and philanthropist Dr. David Livingstone and in 1911 the town became the Capital of the British Protectorate of Northern Rhodesia and still retains some of the Edwardian colonial buildings of the period. In 1935, the capital was moved to Lusaka and Livingstone became a quiet town. Latterly, the development of tourism around Livingstone has restored the town's fortunes.
The Royal Livingstone is a resort hotel with rooms laid out in blocks of 8 along the bank of the Zambezi perhaps a mile up river from the Victoria Falls. From the manicured grass leading from rooms to the river bank you can see the spray rising from the Falls - 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' ('the smoke that thunders'). It's all very pleasant.
At 16:00, I had a 'Sunset Cruise' on the 'African Queen' (nothing like the boat in the film) which went upstream 'game spotting'. Lots of birds, hippos, crocodiles.
Wednesday, 15th February 2012
It transpired Wednesday was 'at leisure', so I made some arrangements of my own. 08:40 saw me being picked up for a 30-minute Microlight flight over the Falls and over some of the game reserves with Batoka Sky. It was splendid and I rather think should be compulsory for all visitors to the Victoria Falls. Alternately, United Air Charter operate helicopter flights, but I'm glad I elected for the Microlight.
Then, I took the 'Heritage Tour' which didn't work quite as planned. The last call was supposed to be the Railway Museum (did you know there was a railway museum in Livingstone? - I didn't) but I made it the first call and, of course, it took longer than expected. There's a separate report on the Museum here.
I'd also discovered that Bushtracks operate a steam-hauled evening dining train in conjunction with the Royal Livingstone Hotel on Wednesdays and Saturdays so the Curator of the Museum offered to come to the railway and make introductions.
All the people at the railway, where the steam locomotive was 'brewing up' for the evening run that day, were quite charming and a footplate ride that evening was readily offered by the manager, Ben Costa.
By now running late, I took a quick tour round the Livingstone Museum in the town. This is Zambia's oldest and largest museum and gives a good impression of the work of Dr. David Livingstone. It was Dr. Livingstone, of course, who re-named the Falls after the then Queen and he was active in the abolition of the slave trade. It's interesting to note that Dr. Livingstone is still so revered in the country that, following Zambia's independence in 1966, the colonial name of 'Livingstone' for the town was retained. Sadly, the museum does not allow photography, nor does it have a catalogue for sale but it's well worth a visit.
I returned to the Royal Livingstone for High Tea and a shower and by 17:00 I was back at the station for my footplate ride. There's a separate report on the 'Royal Livingstone Express' dining train here.
I was back at the hotel by 22:00 exhausted, dirty but very happy. All excellent stuff.