Victoria falls

It was the mighty Zambezi which led missionary Dr. David Livingstone (1813-1873) on his greatest and final adventure. In search of a means to access the interior, Livingstone tagged the Zambezi "God's highway" to the Indian Ocean and set off down the river, discovering the great cataract native Africans called Mosi-o-Tunya, "the smoke that thunders." Livingstone christened the great waterfall Victoria Falls after his queen. Today, the great chasm has lost none of it's allure, still considered one of the great natural wonders of the world.

The Zambezi Valley has been known outside of Africa for thousands of years. Legends suggest that the kingdoms of Hiram, Solomon and Sheba were enriched by the gold and ivory of Ophir - supposedly part of present day Zimbabwe. The Zambezi was one of the gateways to the ancient treasure trove. More recent history records some of the explorations of hunters, missionaries and slave traders along this part of the Zambezi River.

In the 1850’s famous Scottish Explorer David Livingstone travelled the 2000 miles (3,200 kilometers) from the source of the Zambezi all the way to the Indian Ocean. Lets travel the same course that Livingstone did 150 years ago and discover the mighty Zambezi for ourselves. The river has it’s source about 5000 feet above sea level in Northern Zambia. After just 20 miles the Zambezi has already become a strong, forceful body of water some 15 yards (14 meters) wide. Onward it pushes to the Barotse Plain. In this region the Lotse Indian people have built a way of life around the life sustaining waters of the Zambezi River. The water is instrumental in the cooking, bathing, fishing and drinking of the people here.

During the rainy season of February, March and April the water rises as much as 40 feet. This forces thousands of villagers to flee to higher ground. This yearly ritual has evolved into the Kuomboka Ceremony, in which the paramount chief of the Lozi people is paddled in his royal barge across to his Summer Palace, to the accompaniment of the villagers in ceremonial song.

Traveling further down the river, we pass other settlements and villages, including the Sesheke. Along the course many wild animals can be seen grazing along the river banks. After about 800 miles of river travel we are about to see one of the most awesome waterfalls on earth ? the mighty Victoria Falls. The Falls were named by David Livingstone in 1855 in honor of his Monarch, Queen Victoria. Every minute 150 million gallons of water dive over the one and a quarter mile gorge, descending some 350 feet to the floor of the crevasse. The spray generated from this awe inspiring display ascends a thousand feet in the sky. The native people call the Victoria Falls “Mosi oa Tunya”, or ‘the smoke that thunders’.

As it winds it’s way into the Central African Plateau, the mighty Zambezi becomes a narrow river, with water levels as low as 50 feet. After traveling 60 miles through the desolate Batoka Gorge, we enter Lake Kariba. This is one of the largest man made lakes in the world. It has become a rich source of food for the people of the area. After passing through the Kariba Dam area, we come to an area rich in green vegetation. Buffalo and hippos, elephants and hyenas, birds and giraffes can be spotted here, living off the lush vegetation that is so well nourished by the river. The river, however, winds on to the Chicora Plains, where it is bordered by a rich plantation of evergreens.

The peace and solitude of the journey is over as we approach the Kebrassa Rapids. Here millions of gallons water plunge over the rocks and boulders of the rapids to create a thunderous show of raw power. Next we encounter the Lupato Gorge. Here the Zambezi races over jagged rocks and boulders as it hurries to get out of the Gorge. From here it glides on calmly for the final part of it?s journey. Then the Zambezi divides, spreading it’s waters three to five miles wide as it travels down a broad valley for the last 200 miles of it?s journey.

As it comes into the Delta the River has become a number of streams that empty into the Indian Ocean. The once mighty waters of the great Zambezi are now swallowed up as part of that great ocean. Our journey down what David Livingstone called “God’s highway to the interior” has come to an end.

David Livingstone
Livingstone was a curious combination of missionary, doctor, explorer, scientist and anti-slavery activist. He spent 30 years in Africa, exploring almost a third of the continent, from its southern tip almost to the equator. Livingstone received a gold medal from the London Royal Geographical for being the first to cross the entire African Continent from west to east. He was the first white man to see Victoria Falls and though he never discovered the source of the Nile, one of his goals, he eliminated some possibilities and thereby helped direct the efforts of others.

Although popular among native tribes in Africa, Livingstone made enemies of some white settlers there because he learned African languages and had an unusually keen understanding and sympathy for native people and cultures. In 1843, while settling the Mabotsa valley, Livingstone shot a lion. Before it died, however, the lion attacked Livingstone, costing him the use of his left arm.

In 1865, at age 52, Livingstone set out on his last and most famous journey. He soon lost his medicine, animals and porters, but struggled on almost alone.

At a village on the Lualaba River he witnessed the slaughter of villagers by slave traders. The letter he sent home describing the event so infuriated the public that the English government pressured the Sultan of Zanzibar to stop the slave trade. The pressure was only partially successful. The trans-Atlantic slave trade, organised by the Portuguese, had began around 1530. In 1562 Sir John Hawkins started the English slave trade, taking cargoes of slaves from West Africa to the newly discovered Americas.

On Nov. 10, 1871 in the village of Ujiji, on the east side of Lake Tanganyika, Livingstone encountered Henry Stanley. He greeted him with his (now famous) comically understated words: “Dr Livingstone, I presume?”. Stanley had been sent by the New York Herald Tribune newspaper to help, but it had taken a year to find him.

With Stanley’s supplies Livingstone continued his explorations, but he was weak, worn out and suffering from dysentery. Then, on the morning of April 30, 1872, his two African assistants found him dead, still kneeling at his bedside, apparently praying when he died. They dried his body and carried it and his papers on a dangerous 11-month journey to Zanzibar, a trip of 1,000 miles. The natives buried his heart in Africa as he had requested, but his body was returned to England and buried in Westminster Abbey.