LIVINGSTONE COMES ALIVE ONCE MORE

HAVE you watched those horror movies in which the abandoned houses are intact down to the last piece of furniture and even the utensils? Apart from this, an odd, dirty teddy bear and clothes are always left behind since the owners must have left in a hurry.

HAVE you watched those horror movies in which the abandoned houses are intact down to the last piece of furniture and even the utensils? Apart from this, an odd, dirty teddy bear and clothes are always left behind since the owners must have left in a hurry.

Usually the only person left in the entire town is a hobo who makes it his business to scare away intruders who accidentally stumble into these ghost towns.

All these thoughts were going through my head as the charming Charles, our driver, explained that were it not for Sun International's timely intervention, the town of Livingstone, Zambia's tourism capital , could easily have slid into becoming a ghost town.

Sun has brought life to the quaint, small ancient town with two luxury hotels - the platinum Royal Livingstone and the equally elegant Afrocentric Zambesi.

The Zambesi nestles on the bank of the mighty Zambesi River as it meanders lazily through the picturesque scene that forms part of the front of the beautiful Livingstone hotel.

Our entourage, graciously hosted by M-Net who were launching their new television reality show What If, oohed and aahed at the natural and breathtaking beauty that instantly promises tranquillity. We were welcomed with drinks under a tree as old as Methuselah. Talk about paradise!

The rooms, with their large inviting beds, are absolutely beautiful. You can relax on the sofa, watch TV and have a drink from your mini bar, but you dare not open the balcony doors unless you are prepared to wrestle with the monkeys who thrive on anything that glitters or looks edible.

The first night was spent enjoying a long, leisurely dinner at the Livingstone after a sumptuous lunch had been laid on by the Zambezi. I turned in early, which is unusual, because the next day was going to be hectic.

After a breakfast fit for a king the group was divided according to activities. Some had chosen to fly over the Royal Livingstone and Zambesi River to get an eagle's eye view. Others had opted for gorge swinging and bungy jumping. Feeling a bit under the weather, I had to miss the gorge swinging.

Later in the day, feeling better and ready to tackle the adventures offered at this exclusive holiday destination, I went on a river cruise aboard the Queen Elizabeth. I was in total awe of God's creativity and very aware of my vulnerability as I cruised on the hippo and crocodile infested Zambesi with its abundance of whirlpools.

Taking fate in my hands, I got into the small boat that takes you further down the river. I came face to face with a huge crocodile that was relaxing and was reluctant to either entertain or frighten us.

I will never forget the elegance of a bygone era that manifested itself on the steam train. Our forefathers truly enjoyed the finer things of life, from genuine birchwood furniture to gold, silver and crystal glasses. We were the guinea pigs who sampled the new menu. The food glided down our throats and the ambience was sophisticated and conducive to great discussions. All this was washed down by a variety of the best drinks.

By the time we returned I conceded that life is good for people with money. The steam train is a new addition to the many things happening in Livingstone.

The Victoria Falls, better known as Mosi oa Thnnya, humbles you and reminds you of the greatness of God. The continuous smoke from the water, the timeless falls and their depth tell you that Zambia and Zimbabwe might at some point have been one country. Sharing the falls and the triangular confluence of the Zambesi River is awe inspiring.

I loved the fact that most of the colonial buildings are well preserved and put to good use - and are the pride of the community.

Livingstone has grown a lot since the last time I was there. The people are as gracious and as friendly as ever. The hotel staff are charming with their colonial-era uniform.

The trip is not complete without a revitalising massage on the banks of the Zambesi. I felt like a new woman. For me, after everything Kenneth Kaunda, affectionately referred to as KK, did for us, it will always feel like home. I was really sad to leave and I cast one long last look before disappearing into customs.

l Gugu Sibiya was a guest of MNet.

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