From Livingstone, we went on a day trip to a local village close by. It is called Simonga and a village tour for tourists is being organised by volunteers of the village. As we have been told this “tourist initiative” is a combined effort and the proceedings are used to improve life in the village and to extend the tourism there (a guesthouse is currently being build for example). This is something that we had not seen anywhere else as normally tours are run by individuals and mainly white people.
But back to our visit itself, we got picked up by Astor in Livingstone and he brought us to Simonga. Astor is the main driver behind the tourist initiative. He and the driver Oliver gave us some insights on the area on the way. Once in the village we met a quirky and talkative Richard who would be our guide for the day. He basically explained the whole village life to us. First up was the setup of a home (traditionally a hut for each room – e.g. kitchen, bathroom, bedroom – and children would get their own room aka. hut at the age of 14).
Then we went further to look at the construction site of the new guesthouse which will consist of two huts where tourist can stay for an overnight trip. So far the basic structure had been layed out by the main poles for the wall.
We continued onwards to a finished hut where Richard would describe the constrution process and special technique used to prolong the livespan of such a hut, e.g. protecting the poles from termites with coal paste or regularly renewing walls and roof. In general one hut would last for about 10 years.
Some families however also decided to use self-made bricks for their houses to prolong the livespan. Some kids were at the time preparing new bricks to be dried and then burned.
On the way to the school and hospital we passed a particularly nicely decorated hut owned by the local artist. The school and hospital were some of the few buildings build with “real” bricks and glass windows. This was achieved with the help of european funds. However, the classrooms themselves did not offer much more equipment than basic tables and chairs. Talking to a teacher and some German volunteers it became obvious that education here still has to be achieved with very limited funds and may still need to advance a lot.
Around lunchtime we met with Astor and two other local men and they brought us down to the Zambezi river to have lunch in the nature of the small national park (the village itself is also located inside the park). Lunch was exceptional (Nshima – maïs paste – with a variety of meat and African vegetables). Meanwhile we discussed with Astor how his tourism project came to be and he told us about all the expansion plans he has for the futur (offering safaris, overnight trips to the village and much more).
All in all, it was a great experience to get to know the culture and one that makes you feel good as well because you know that the money directly supports the village and not only some already rich individual. So if you get the chance, don’t miss to visit Astor, Richard, Oliver and many other nice people in Simonga!