Livingstone

Trip Start Sep 15, 2012
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Trip End Dec 19, 2012


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Flag of Zambia  ,
Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Someone asked me what Livingstone looks like, and the answer is, not much. The town center, such as it is, looks like any small-ish city built out of concrete in the past 50 years, but it's mostly clean and in decent repair. You’d never be able to tell that there are 135,000 people here, it’s so spread out. There’s a town museum that’s supposed to be good, which I’ll get to eventually, There’s a street market selling everything from fruit I don’t recognize to bedding sets, and there are more taxis per square block than I’ve ever seen anywhere. (I’ll get some photos of downtown eventually.) Some people I met who were staying in the center said it’s quiet in the evenings, although there are a few lively bars and cafes. I’m staying a bit too far out to partake of the nightlife (not that I would much anyway). I read that the old city was prosperous and well-developed, but fell into disrepair for many years after independence, and the old colonial buildings are gone.

Outlying areas (meaning, anywhere outside the few blocks of the center) are flat, dusty, and non-descript. Buildings look more or less the same, regardless of function – a house looks like a school looks like a church, mostly set in the same "Zambian football field" of dust. The dust is bright red, and very fine, so walking any distance leaves at least your feet reddish. Everything is, however, set on quite large lots, and there are a few gardens, like the one at the lodge where I’m staying. It takes a full time gardener to keep it green. From what I could see flying in, and have seen walking around both on my edge of town and in the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, everything around the city is flat, (red) dusty, and mostly empty, although with lots of trees and grasses waiting for the rainy season to start. I’ve heard that after about two weeks of rain, the whole place comes alive. I’m tempted to come back to see that.

So, it doesn’t look like much. I like the town, though. People are nice, even the ones trying to sell you copper bracelets and trinkets from their pockets, and the town is laid back. It’s just touristy enough that it’s pretty easy to get things done, but it’s not overly packaged and systematized, and you can find people to arrange just about anything you want whether it’s offered or not. I don’t know whether it’s an activity or spontaneous, but when I’ve walked by schools in the morning, there always seems to be children singing, and everywhere else there’s some kind of music playing. (One day, it all seemed to be Dolly Parton.)

What else? The grocery store I’ve been to has an interesting layout. Usually you’d have your separate section for housewares, but here, for example, in one aisle, on one side there’s tea and coffee, and on the other, coffee mugs and coffee pots; in another aisle, there’s rice and corn meal on one side and cookware on the other. Well, I thought it was interesting – just a different way of organizing the same basic things.

Anyway, Zambia in general and Livingstone residents in particular are working hard to preserve what they have as part of developing tourism, which of course includes Victoria Falls (which I’ll get to several times over the next few weeks, in different ways), but also their native animals and local culture. With Victoria Falls’ (Zimbabwe) decline, Livingstone has been booming in the past years, with adventure sports and mini-versions of the walking safaris Zambia is known for (including the next entry coming in this blog, “Rhino Walk,” which I went on yesterday). They haven’t got it all organized yet (why is there a tourist gift shop outside the grocery store where regular people buy their food?).
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