Duration: approx 1 hour (depending on questions)
Ideal timing: (in our opinion) on the day of departure on the way to Victoria Falls Airport
Note: we consider this one of the Top Things to Do in Victoria Falls
General description: this interactive tour takes you through an authentic rural village, outside of Victoria Falls town. Here, a community member will guide you around their homestead, and from this you will gain a fascinating insight into Zimbabwean village life. You will have the opportunity to learn about the significance of the different parts of the homestead, as well as the culture and day-to-day aspects of village life.
Spoiler Alert: this write up describes this homestead visit in detail.
Victoria Falls Village Tour
On Saturday afternoon, we went out with tour guide Beks to experience the Village Tour and Homestead visit. Beks began our tour by taking us to a typical Zimbabwean rural village called Monde just outside of Victoria Falls town.
Rural villages in Zimbabwe are comprised of individual homesteads, have a primary school (if they are fortunate) and a communal borehole, which supplies water for the entire village at a single point. The dirt roads and tracks in Monde are relatively well maintained, though this may be because they are used infrequently, as few people living in the villages have the luxury of a car.
If villagers need to go to the hospital or anywhere else in town they would have to walk, catch a lift on a donkey-drawn cart, or maybe take the local version of “public transport” (packed omnibuses) if they can afford it. However, the latter is unlikely, as most individuals get by on barter-trade and with no source of monetary income have very little money.
Later in the tour, we hear a story about how when someone wants to build a structure (a new hut for example), they will home brew beer and then call their neighbours over, negotiate with them for their assistance on the build and then on completion of the build (and importantly only then) the assistants will be rewarded with home-brewed beer.
Victoria Falls Homestead Visit
Having toured the village to understand the layout, we then went to Ma Ncube’s homestead that forms part of the larger village.
Ma Ncube, who is incredibly well spoken (thanks to a brilliant education at the local Monde Primary School), welcomed us, and told us about the extended family, 14 people in total, who live within the homestead. While there, we had the opportunity to visit with her and some of her family, and Ma Ncube showed us through the different areas within the homestead: Winter Kitchen, Summer Kitchen, Bedrooms and outdoor working spaces.
We started in the Winter Kitchen, a round thatched enclosed hut, with just a few small holes in the walls for light. This is a very important place for the family. This is the place where women will give birth, and also the place where the dead are mourned – the body will be kept there overnight and the whole family and village will mourn together. Alpha and Omega. Where life begins is where it ends.
The family eat in the winter kitchen, with men sitting on stools, and women on mats on the floor. Ma Ncube showed us some of the cooking utensils and some of the ingredients and traditional medicines that they keep in the Winter Kitchen. She also gave us other details and insights about village life, for example, they do not destroy wasps nests, but rather respect them, Pigs Ear Plants are planted to ward off snakes, and round buildings are favoured as this ensures there is no corner for a snake to hide in (so it will rather not remain in the house).
We then went to the Summer Kitchen. This is also a round building, with low walls – covered by a thatch roof. This is where the cooking generally happens. At this time of the year, when we are at the end of the dry season, and the land is not producing anything, then the family has one simple meal per day. When the rains come and the fields are plentiful there are more items to snack on during the day.
Ma Ncube showed us one of the rooms where some of the family sleep. Simple and yet immaculately kept.
Outside, we greeted her daughters who were hand-weaving baskets, Ma Ncube showed us the washing up area, where plates were drying, and pointed to the location of the basic bathroom facilities. Then we walked past a variety of trees, including mango, paw-paw (papaya), guava, and baobab – each has a purpose in the village. The chicken coup is made from scrap pieces of metal and the hens lay in small thatched tee-pee type structures.
We finish our tour where we began, under a giant Natal Mahogany tree that provides excellent shade in one corner of the homestead, under which Ma Ncube has been doing her ironing with an iron heated on coals. There is no electricity in the homestead. Many everyday things that we take for granted (water, electricity, even a good steady supply of food) are not available in the homesteads, and this tour gave us an incredible insight into just how individuals, like Ma Ncube, get by in every-day life in the village.
Siyabonga (thank you) Ma Ncube!