MY GRANDFATHER’S BRACELET
You are looking at pictures of an idiot. This guy hangs around the Bungee Jumping station on the bridge between the borders of Zimbabwe and Zambia. He will show you a small cloth with a few copper coloured bracelets inside. He will go on to explain that he has hand-made them as his dearly departed Grandfather taught him as a child. He may even elaborate about how it took years to learn the craft. It is all lies. They are made by machines in factories. There are other idiots just like him all over Livingston. I had 2 of them together at one point in town when one of them starts with the ‘Grandfather taught me’ while the guy next to him had identical bracelets held out a few inches away!
I took pictures of this guy because he is the worst. He will start by sounding like he works with the bungee jumping people. He does not. He will follow you and will also follow you again when you return over the bridge. He is a major nuisance. Just keep saying ‘NO’ in a slightly loud manner. Most scurry away, not this guy. Do not even speak to him if you see him. And do not buy the bracelets unless you really want them and you should only pay $2-3
- Women's Travel
- Family Travel
If you think that taxi drivers here are any different from other taxi drivers elsewhere – think again. Yes, they lie, cheat and steal. Thieving bastards – every one. They will happily charge you $20-50 to get between Livingston and Vic Falls. I finally jumped in with a taxi that already had passengers and paid less than $5. OK, Maybe there is one honest guy. Do not trust these guys at all in general. If you share – you pay less again.
(It's 11 kms between the falls and town).
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
STUCK IN THE MIDDLE OF VICTORIA FALLS
If you come to this side of the falls in the dry season, you can walk over them! In fact, you can see the inviting Livingston Island right in the middle of the falls. It has a commanding view over the always wet Zimbabwe side. If you get close enough – you then find out what the problem is. This sign explains. If you go over to the island the security guards will arrest you. That means a fine. They certainly gave me and my 2 local companions dirty looks until we turned back. If you were to actually make it further and get onto the Zimbabwe side – yep – big fines and trouble with police that may very well not be trustworthy. Go out for a walk, just stop at this sign.
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
- Family Travel
Mukuni Village: Pressure to Buy, not 100% Original
Mukuni Village is the capital of the tribe and home of the tribal cheif that owns the land on which various resorts and hotels now sit.
If you are looking for a genuine native African tribal experience, this probably isn't going to be it, however.
1. The community does have a number of homes made from the stereotypical grass.
2. The community has electricity to some buildings, one or two small stores, and Coca-Cola among other things is featured in advertisements.
3. Modernization is definitely here. Walking by the pits into which the people of the village throw their trash, it is possible to see everything from plastic bottles to batteries to candy wrappers.
4. The village is in fact the genuine home of these people. It isn't a place where people live in modern homes and come to the village only to demonstrate how people once lived - as in "Living History" museums in many places.
5. The village is in fact the same location where these people have lived for many years.
6. You will be guided around a small area of the village by a tour guide who lives in the community. The tour guide will tell you a number of interesting pieces of history that have been a part of the community for a long time.
7. The only real native skill on display will usually be a visit to a place where some community residents make sculptures. They show off their hand tools. They do not show off the electric dremil tools and other modern electric instruments that I noticed sitting off to the side - which apparently they use when visitors are not around.
8. At the end of your tour, you will be taken to the "market" where you will be subjected to high pressure sales tactics of the various local carvers, some whom you saw earlier and will try all manner of tactics to sell things to you. They will even claim you as friend because you saw them earlier. The area you are taken may be dark and kept under heavy cover from the sun, which also means that it will be easy to play the Zebrawood - Ebony trick on you.
Unique Suggestions: Several items:
1. To avoid the Zebrawood - Ebony trick (fairly inexpensive Zebrawood is carved, and treated with heavy shoepolish to look like Ebony or other expensive hardwood) take a very close look at the wood carving you are being offered. If possible, look at it under daylight outside the heavily covered tent area (if that is the area of the "market" you were taken).
2. Be very aware of fair prices. Before going to the village, find out prices from street vendors or at the sculpture vending area of Victoria Falls. The vendors in the Mukuni Village "market" will claim they are offering you a discount as there is no middle man between them and the vendor in the town of Livingstone itself, or at the falls. This may be the case, but that doesn't mean that they will offer you a good price - it only means that whatever price they get from you will go into their own pocket rather than that of the middle man. They are probably more likely to make a higher profit from a visitor than from the middle man, not give a better deal.
3. Offer your guide a tip to NOT visit the "market" if you feel you already have more than enough wood carvings of elephants, rhinos, hippos and the like. Quite honestly, these things all start to look alike after a while, and it seems like the true genuine hand crafting has gone out the window in favor of mass production of very similar sculptures. This may not work, but on the other hand it is worth a try to offer the person some money NOT to go through there. They can work out with their fellow village residents how to split the money.
4. A considerable portion of my visit was spent simply walking around while the guide tells you history and stories of the village. My impression is that on special occasions you might be able to see some genuine native dances or other special ceremonies. Consult the timetable for these before your visit in order to make sure your visiting time is also the time for these special ceremonies and celebrations.
Fun Alternatives: As I write this, the situation in Zimbabwe, across the river, is very desperate. If you really want good deals on these types of carvings, and you are going to visit the Zimbabwe side of the falls anyway, look at the prices over there.
On the other hand, as long as you are aware of the prices charged in other parts of Livingstone, and other parts of Africa, for very similar trinkets, then you will have some bargaining power.
At the same time, it should be noted that the reason these people put such pressure on the tourist to buy such things is that they have very limited options for income. Therefore, maybe you don't want to bargain as well as you might and be generous to the residents of this community.
In terms of experiencing the real nature of rural Africa, there are quite a number of other communities out there that don't have electricity, are far from the nearest store and are otherwise less touched by western / modern / European / American culture. Try to see if you can find a guide that would be willing to take you to visit such a place. I visited such communities in Moçambique just by visiting some local churches - NOT by going to locations that are on the map for the tourist trade. On the other hand, places like that don't have walking tourist guides to explain things and will not have tourist trinkets on sale. It should also be noted that photography in this type of village may not be welcome, as there are still some superstitions about taking the image of a person away.
- Adventure Travel
- Arts and Culture
VicFalls Bungee Jump not great and waaaay too dear
The Bungee Jump from the bridge over the Zambezi at Victoria Falls is, in my opinion, a rip-off.
For a start it cost 90 dollars just to jump. Thats waaaaaaaaay too much even by Western standards.
The Bungee is advertised as 111 metres, but that is the distance between the bridge and the water… don’t be fooled into thinking that you can do a water splash here, they won’t let you. You get just over half way down, and for most of that drop the bungee is already slowing you down.
I think my actual ‘free fall’ lasted well under 2 seconds, half of what you get on the gorge swing (see below) ,which is less height but more free fall, due to the rope not being elasticated.
Also – the T-Shirt and video etc are well overpriced, and not great.
Unique Suggestions: I havent jumped in a more spectacular place than this, so thats one benefit.
Fun Alternatives: For about 70 dollars you can do the Zambezi Swing (enquire in Livingstone). That was a full day (drinks, transport etc included) of abseiling, and gorge sliding, climaxing with the Zambezi Gorge Swing - which I found more exciting than the bungee as you get much more freefall, plus the flying is also horizontal once you swing at the bottom!
When I first did the Gorge Swing I decided to keep my mouth fully shut and not make a sound even when I got to the bottom. When I climbed back up all the guys were looking at me very nervously, as they said that nobody in the history of the swing had ever done that before, and would I please not do it again.
The website of the Gorge Swing is: http://www.thezambeziswing.com/
- Bungy Jumping
- National/State Park
Most Expensive Refreshing Place!!!
Do not let the driver of your rented car take you to a hotel or restaurant. They take you to the most expensive one!! Our driver took us to the best 5-star hotel in Livingstone after a morning's ride from Lusaka. No doubt it was a 5 star resort, but we did not expect to be there for just freshening up!!! We asked him to take us directly to the Victoria Falls!! It was more refreshing there!!!
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