Livingstone is a small town in the Southern Province of Zambia. Evidence of its colonial history is apparent in some of its older civic structures, but I was more interested to learn a bit more about the person after which it was named.
Once again the great Scottish explorer / missionary David Livingstone left his footprint on Africa by having a town named after him. In 1855, he was the first white person to explore the area and set eyes on the Mosi-oa-Tunya, the smoke that thunders in Lozi, which he named the Victoria Falls after the British Queen Victoria. Bordered and shared by two countries, Zambia and Zimbabwe, the Victoria Falls is one of the wonders of the world. The Victoria Falls has the largest curtain on water in the world, spanning 1.06 miles. It drops between 295 feet and 355 feet into the Zambezi Gorge. Livingstone’s exploration of the Zambezi River and sighting of the falls helped to open up Central Africa to the rest of the world which drew more missionary work and trading.
During his explorations, Livingstone was assisted by a number of both European and local companions and servants. Two of his faithful servants were Chuma and Susi. Chuma was rescued from slavery by Livingstone in 1861 when he was still a boy. Susi joined Livingstone later on a journey in Mozambique when he was tasked with cutting wood. It was the two servants that tried to make him more comfortable during his last few days as he grew weaker from malaria and dysentery in Ilala, Chief Chitambo’s village, erecting a rudimentary hut for him. One morning in May 1873, they found him kneeling by his bedside.
Chuma and Susi and others in their party prepared his body for preservation by rubbing it with salt. They buried his heart underneath a mvula (rain) tree, where a monument was later erected. They then carried the body for 1,600km on foot for nine months to the east coast of Africa and reached Bagamoyo, in present day Tanzania in February 1874. The body was handed over to British authorities and put on a ship for England. Livingstone’s body finally reached England with his papers, journal and instruments intact that Susi and Chuma had faithfully packed away in boxes.1
I first saw the Victoria Falls when I went to Livingstone in 2009. I cannot even begin to describe its awesomeness. All I can simply say is that seeing this natural wonder is not just an act of setting eyes on a scene, it is much more than that - it is an experience. Those that are brave are able to bungee jump 111 meters towards the Zambezi River below. Zambia owes its name to the Mighty Zambezi, as Africa’s fourth largest river is also fondly referred to. For those of us not so brave, it is enough to walk across the Knife Edge Bridge, togged up in a raincoat for cover against the spray of the Mosi-oa-Tunya.
Acting very much like a tourist while I was in Livingstone, I was amazed to find out that not all people that live there have been to see the Vic Falls, not even once. They simply do not make the time. An African proverb popped into my head when I learned of this, ‘The harvest is great for those that have no teeth’, meaning good fortune comes to those that are not able to enjoy it.
I on the other hand was fortunate enough not to emulate the locals but decided to dig in with my teeth and enjoy myself as much as I could. I mean how often does a person step outside their hotel and bump into zebras grazing on its lawns? I felt very fortunate indeed sitting on a deck on the banks of Zambezi, watching the ‘smoke’ from Vic Falls in the distance as the sun slowly set. The only unwelcome visitors during my stay was a horde of the fiercest mosquitoes I have ever come across. As evening descended, the mosquitoes grew bold and managed to give my legs bites through my jeans. I never knew this was even possible.
I try to make it my mission to sample the local food, within reasonable bounds of course, whenever I happen to travel to a place I have never been before. So after applying ample insect repellent, I managed to ignore the pesky mosquitoes for a time and found my way to a restaurant along the main road to indulge in Zambian cuisine. That night I linked up with my cousin and devoured a plateful of nsima (the country’s staple, a hard porridge made from maize flour) with chibwabwa (pumpkin leaves cooked with tomatoes and onion) served with stewed broiler chicken.
I also made my customary visit to the local market and found myself at Maramba market. The market sells different wares from chitenges (patterned cloth in different colours), to curios for the ever-present tourists and food. There, I helped myself to some baobab fruit, a big dry hard pod with lots of seeds inside and sour but delicious tasting powder which is also used to make drinks.
Looking around me, I could see a lot of charcoal traders, most of which crossed the border with bags upon bags of charcoal for trading in Zimbabwe. My attention was drawn to the massive deforestation that comes with chopping down trees for fuel. Thankfully the upside-down tree, the massive baobab has managed to survive for centuries in Africa despite its massive size, since its wood is found to be unsuitable for charcoal making due to its high water content. And so it is that the baobabs have continued to live on around Livingstone…
1 Benge, Janet and Goeff Janey. (1999), David Livingstone: Africa's Trailblazer (Christian Heroes: Then & Now). Seattle: YWAM Publishing