Guest Post/Photography by Greg Wagner
Gregory Wagner is a landscape, wildlife, travel, sports, and commercial photographer and blogger based in Fort Myers, Florida.
His photography is amazing and captures the beauty of the destination perfectly!
It was a short flight of barely over an hour from Johannesburg, South Africa to Livingstone, Zambia. As we approached the airport we clearly saw the huge clouds of mist created by Victoria Falls located 13 miles south. Despite seeing videos, despite first-hand reports from friends, and despite a vivid imagination, seeing the “smoke” created by this natural spectacle from that far away told us we were in for the treat of a lifetime.
Zambia’s First Hostel
After going through immigration and customs we grabbed our luggage and within a minute we met the airport shuttle driver from Jollyboys Backpackers who was there to transport us and a few other travelers from the airport to the hostel. Jollyboys Backpackers (https://backpackzambia.com/) is billed as the first hostel in Zambia and caters to budget travelers.
There were three of us in the room and it cost each of us about $35 per night, a far cry from some of the some of the hotels in the area that can literally be between $500 and $1,000 per night. On site is a concierge service which will help with tours, safaris, transportation to and from Victoria Falls, bungee, you name it. A great little bar is located in the center of a gathering place with picnic tables, bar stools, sofas, table tennis, swimming pool and spa. WIFI is also available and, by the way, the signal was very strong.
Listed on the Top Ten Natural Wonders of the World, Victoria Falls is practically impossible to describe in words. The falls are a whopping 5,577 feet wide (over a mile) and range from 260 to 305 feet high.
Because they are so wide the only way to see the entire width of them is from the air. Plus they are a bit like Niagara Falls in that they are actually in two countries: Zambia and Zimbabwe. When we set out in the morning to see and photograph the falls our intent was to spend only a half day there but it was not to be.
Fine Dining in Livingstone
When in Zambia you MUST eat where the locals eat….when they’re in the mood for Mexican food or pizza. Obviously one of the great things about travel to other countries is to experience the local flavor and cuisine. And we did that a lot during our 24 days in Africa but in Livingstone we just couldn’t pass up Zam Mex Restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/zammexrestaurant/) on Kuta Way Road near the center of Livingstone or pizza and dessert at Da Canton Bar and Restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Da-Canton/311282292385392) on the main road near the south end of town.
The gelato at Da Canton is out of this world and our pizza was excellent. Though it may sound like a back-handed compliment, the food at Zam Mex was surprisingly authentic Mexican, something we already had decided it wouldn’t be when we chose to have dinner there. We were very pleased and impressed.
My New Artist Buddy
Along west side of the main street through Livingstone there is a huge tourist trap known as the Livingstone Market. There are about 50 to 60 individual, small, open-air shops full of “authentic” African art, crafts, jewelry, rugs, clothing, carvings, you name it (though I didn’t run across anyone selling their photography now that I think about it). Every sales person had the same line: “no charge to come in and look”. The word “authentic” is in quotes for a very good reason. There’s a lot of merchandise sold there that comes from wholesalers and is mass produced, and we were made aware of that long before we made the trip to Africa.
Which leads me to my buddy Augustine Sikambala, the artist.
Augustine is one of a very few vendors in the Livingstone Market who sits in front of his shop and creates beautiful, original works of art right before your eyes. No gimmicks, no mass-production, just pure talent, enthusiasm and genuine gratitude towards those of us who appreciate not only his work but his attitude and ethics. Augustine and I exchanged email addresses, I bought one of his paintings of an elephant, I took a few pictures of him in action, and now one of the pictures I took of Augustine is his cover photo on his Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/augustine.sikambala/?pnref=story.
…And in Conclusion
As is usually the case, once you leave some place great you swear to yourself you’ll go back some day. I do that all the time, even promising myself I’ll return to places that are NOT half way around the world. It’s a lot like going to your high school reunion and seeing people for the first time in forever and making “plans” to stay in touch or to get back together soon and more often. But it rarely happens. Right now I think I have about a thousand places I’ve promised to return to and MAYBE it will actually happen. Livingstone is one of those places. I’d go back in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose. However, there are about 2,000 or more un-visited places I’ve promised myself I’d go to and I think I need to get those done before back-tracking. That’s my way to wander.