Katima Mulilo — People crowd the shallows of the riverbank, as the cascading water trickles over the rocks offering a cadence to the rhythms and notes of the festive season.
Not too far away a flock of birds hover lazily above the water, beckoning the rain as schools of fish negotiate the currents of the great Zambezi. Katima Mulilo is in happy festival.
Aptly named 'Stone City' by locals, because of the fascinating rock formations of the area, this spot has become a magnet for the residents of the town, as well as visitors, and offers a welcome escape from the hustle and bustle of life in the town and most importantly is a sanctuary from the scorching summer heat and oppressive humidity.
For first time visitors, a view of 'Stone City', which is nestled in a lush forest and etched against the choppy and foamy Zambezi River, can be absolutely breathtaking.
And to accentuate the splendour of this idyllic location the Zambezi/Sesheke Bridge hovers majestically over the river only a few metres away.
The only drawback is that there are no ablution facilities or parking. Perhaps it is time for the town council to pay a little more attention to 'Stone City', which is undoubtedly a great recreational site. Failure to do that will only lead to degradation. Already pollution is a big problem.
Fortunately the chief executive officer of Katima Mulilo Town Council, Charles Nawa, says the town council has already embarked on a de-bushing exercise aimed at improving the site.
"At the moment plans are there to improve that area. As you know, it's a popular area, especially during the festive season. The council took a decision to develop the area and we got help from UNESCO to do that. We have already given a tender for de-bushing and the work has already started. After we clear the place, we would like to put up ablution facilities and braai areas and improve the roads leading to the area", said Nawa.
Nawa also revealed that a boundary dispute over the area has resulted in the slow pace of development. "Unfortunately again, we have received a letter from the Mafwe tribal authority that the area belongs to them, even though it is clear that the place is situated on the town lands of Katima Mulilo. We are still talking over the issue and this has been one of the reasons why we have stalled. In the meantime, we plan to put up temporary toilets and rubbish bins," said Nawa.
The reputation of 'Stone City' has even crossed the boundaries of the country and today it attracts visitors from as far as Botswana and Zambia for the sole purpose of recreation. The area, considered somewhat of a frontier between Namibia and Zambia, lies very close to both the Wenela border border post and the Zambezi/Sesheke bridge on the outskirts of Katima Mulilo. At night, when the bridge is fully illuminated, the reflection of the giant structure in the water is astounding.
"It's very hot in Katima and one can only relax at Stone City, because you get to swim in the river and there are no crocodiles at that spot," said one regular visitor.
'Stone City' offers more than the charms of nature and presents an ideal opportunity for business-minded people. "One can also do business at Stone City. Many young people go there to relax and as you know, there are no shops nearby, therefore I can sell things such as soft drinks, beers and braai meat," said one resident.