In this journal:
- barbeque with crocs;
- monkey selfies;
- the most majestic cross-country waterfall.
I walked into the immigration hall with a sleepy eye: it was 2 a.m. Only one line was open, and only 8 passengers got off the airplane. Most of them were heading to Harare, Zimbabwe, where the plane would continue to, or transferring to Lilongwe, Malawi. I handed my passport to the lady, and handed her my credit card as well. She swiped it for 50 dollars of visa fee, slapped a piece of sticker onto my passport, fucked up in doing so and awkwardly tore it off just to slap it on again, filled in my name and allowed stay duration (not mentioning she wrote my name wrong), and waved me away. I walked out of the terminal, expecting a line of taxi waiting and a lot of drivers hustling, like every other airport, but I was wrong.
There was no car, no human, or even a dog. Nothing. Nada. I stood in the chilly night dumbfounded. I thought I was in the biggest airport of a country’s capital, but it felt like I was standing in the middle of the jungle and ready to do some camping. After 5 minutes of walking around and looking for something alive, a person approached me. He asked: taxi? And I looked at him, and feared that if I said yes I would be taken to a slaughterhouse and be fed to hungry pigs. It was the shadiest taxi driver I had ever seen. He wore a pair of jeans and a dark blue shirt, while swinging his car keys and shaking his left foot. He took me to his Toyota sedan, and I silently made a prayer as he loaded my bag into the trunk. I needed to pay him 250 Kwacha (local currency, about $25) to be thrown into a ditch in middle of Zambia, great.
However, after some asking around and turning around, (apparently he had no idea where my hostel was) we finally arrived at the hostel. He was actually a nice guy, and I realized this was as legit as taxi could get in Lusaka. Well, just me overreacting I guess, but it is quite rare for me to do that.
I slept awfully well, and woke up to a beautiful day. Lusaka, like Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, has little interest for foreign travellers. The only thing I could see myself doing was going to the mall. I had a lovely breakfast, and took a walk in the local street. I found out that the mall was quite nice, actually VERY NICE. It was definitely better than my local mall back in Canada, and it features 1 dollar ice cream!!! Seriously! 9 kwacha for a cone? sign me the fuck up! I think I just fell in love… They also have this KFC-like restaurant called Hungry Lion. I ordered a huge combo meal, and it ended up only costing me 7 dollars, and oh my sweetcorn it was great.
I also greatly enjoyed their supermarket. It was lavishly decorated, and I think it surpassed my local Whole Foods with literally 1/10 of the price. All kinds of local fresh produce and international imports lined the well-decorated aisles. Home style bread, jam, salad, pasta, and cured meats all were made in store with some very friendly prices. I cannot praise the supermarket more, as you can see, and I guess it has something to do with expectations. Never underestimate a country just because you have never heard of it. Some of the less developed countries have much better facilities than USA or Canada in a lot of cases that I have encountered, and this mall in Zambia is the prime example!
Let me tell you more. 1 dollar≈10 Kwacha. An ice-cream cone is 9 Kwacha, a large box of juice is 15, a loaf of bread is 8, a box of freshly made salad is 15, and a kilo of orange is 12. A hamburger is 15, a 2-course boxed meal to go in the deli department is 28. I suddenly wanted to live in Zambia.
I paid a visit to the bus terminal as well. I needed a ticket to Livingstone, and I got one for under 10 dollars for this 5 hour ride. The entire terminal was a huge hodgepodge of bus, shops, people hustling, and just endless touts circling around me like pestering flies. I ended the day with more food in the supermarket and some beer from the bar in my hostel.
I woke up to pack and prepare for my bus ride down to Livingstone, and I boarded the bus right on time. At 10:30, the bus slowly rolled out the station, and I waved Lusaka goodbye. It was a relaxing time, thanks, Lusaka.
I passed by a lot of interesting towns and farmlands. The bus picked up and dropped off many people and cargo, and the person sitting beside me even dropped something off mid-road so he could deliver a package!
I arrived at the township of Livingstone around 3 pm. I was quickly approached by a herd of touts, but I already had a place in mind. I went to the Jollyboys hostel by walking a horrifyingly far 2 blocks, and I checked in and found nothing much to do besides hanging out by the cool pool and drinking expensive drinks. I decided to try and make some friends, but of course after a few hours everyone kinda forgot about me except a very small bunch. So it was better to go for dinner because food=life>friends>basically everything else in life. All the delicious food I have not tried is basically the only thing that supports me through those cold, lonely nights.
I arrived in a crowded restaurant. It seemed to be quite popular among Trip Adviser users. It was of course European pricing. I walked in and gestured for a solo seat, and the waitress twitched her eyebrows. She led me to a table in the lovely backyard, and a candle was swiftly lightened up as light was dimming from the horizon. I looked at the menu, and saw the “daily special” billboard hanging by the counter. It said:”daily special: impala burger”. Impala? HECK YEAH. Just in case you have not realized what it is, just look into my first part of around the world travel in Kenya. It has a lot of game viewing and of course, shows you how an impala is like. I have the holy duty to try everything, especially food, so I had to order this over the wrongly spelled “fettucine afraido”. Seriously, why do some people hate trying the local cuisine while travelling and only eat western food in order to be disappointed? Going local once in a while seriously won’t kill you, and you are experiencing their culture for pepperoni’s sake!
While it was not windy, it quickly got chilly. (let me remind you it was in the dead of winter) The wind swept through the garden like me sweeping through a cheap Asian buffet, and I was shivering even before my drink arrived. The staff started bringing out fire baskets to be put underneath the tables. Every other table quickly got one, and some big tables even got three, but I did not. I looked around, and realized that I was the only person who is by himself, and all other tables are occupied by couples, workmates and full families. I occupied a table for 4 just by myself, and there are people waiting and staring at me like a cheetah staring at an impala. Because I am lonely as fuck, I wasted a lot of resources, and did not deserve to have a fire basket to warm up. Before overthinking got me, my impala burger appeared between my fork and knife, and suddenly nothing in this world was a problem.
I quickly devoured the burger, which I had absolutely no problem with. It tastes like… haha you think I would tell you how it was in this series? You have to go to the Strange Food List! take a look, and come back okay?
I walked the five blocks back home, and quickly rejoined the group conversation…haha who am I kidding, I went to sleep like any other miserable fuck who could not be accepted into any group. Nap after food, ummmmm~
I woke up to catch the hostel’s free shuttle to Victoria Falls proper. The falls sit at the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe. So in order to see all of it, you have to cross the border which is a hassle as the nearest border crossing is a solid hour drive. What deterred me was the horrendous visa fee. You have to pay $50 to enter Zimbabwe, even for 2 hours, and you have to pay $50 to re-enter Zambia even though you literally left that very morning. Maybe next time when visiting Zimbabwe, or you will never see me crossing the border!.
The bus dropped us off at the entrance to the park. On the way I was lucky enough to re-connect with Tiffany and Katrina whom I briefly talked with the previous day. Tiffany (from Colorado) wanted to enjoy herself at a luxury hotel by the edge of the falls, as she had already been to the park before. Katrina (from Bodø, Norway) and I then paid $20 to enter the Victoria Falls National Park. Before we entered, we could already hear the crashing sound and see the rising smoke from the falls. In the local language, it has the name that literally means “smoke that thunders”. With a quick walk, we were beside the edge in no time. Katrina took a great shot of me along with my excitement.
It was absolutely amazing, and there is little that I can say to justify its might. The moisture met the sun, creating a double rainbow.
The water clashed with rocks so vehemently that caused the rising moisture to become some kind of constant drizzle even 50 meters above the surface.
Katrina and I explored further, and the fascinating features just kept our eyes on two sides. The waterfall comes down into a gap in the Earth from one side, which stretches from Zambia to Zimbabwe for more than 500m. It was basically a wall of waterfalls when we viewed from the other side. It then falls into the canyon, and there is an opening on the other side, making the water flow a T shape.
It was truly a marvel to behold, a wall of water falling into the deep canyon just a few dozen meters from you, like the sky is falling along with its clouds, its stars, its thunder and its linghtning. I had not felt such fear of this world for quite a long while. This is the kind of things that makes you humble, and willing to learn from mother nature.
There was also a railway bridge that spanned across the deep trench, and it was built more than 100 years ago after a dare. Now only costly tourist trains pass through, but I bet money definitely could buy you a stunning view and a lifetime experience.
After the main trail, we took the side trail named “best photographic trail”, and to be honest, it is a bit far from the action. We got some photos, and had a little snack break at the viewing platform.
We then decided to go down to the depth of the canyon, and view the waterfall from beneath. However, before we could hike down, the path was congested with a clusterfuck of baboons. Yes, baboons, big, scary baboons. And they were doing something that humans should feel ashamed of.
After they were done with the garbage, we finally started our descent. It was a steep climb, and we were surrounded by baboons: it was their territory. They seemed to take a particular interest in backpacks like Leonardo DiCaprio’s interest in tall blonde girls. (seriously, look it up, I will wait here, I am not going anywhere) It was a crazy struggle with them, because they had some incredible skills sneaking up on us as well as agility that I could wish for, and they were outrageously strong. I eventually refused long enough so that they gave up. One of the males sat on a bench, quite vanquished. I sat down with him, and comforted him with a selfie.
The bottom was the entrance of a river into the major falls. The bend, however, perfectly blocked the waterfall. As a result, we only had some great views of the bridge from below. Katrina and I sat down in the rock pile, quietly watched the fierce water blow by.
After a while, we returned back up and wanted to go back to the hostel. However, on our way back, we heard the traumatic screaming of three girls: the baboons attacked and tore apart their backpacks like I tear apart chicken tenders! Stuffs were scattered all around, and the rest were deep inside the baboons’ mouth. Well, apparently they were not a fan of that selfie.
Upon returning from the park, we had some great meals in one of the cafes. We originally wanted to go into the store that was dubbed “7-11” and found out it only had alcohol! A 7-11, FULL OF ALCOHOL!!! Let that sink in for a while.
Well, it was actually just a fake one, as it turned out, surprisingly, 7-11 did not have a branch in Zambia. After the food, we got ready for a boat ride~! woohoooooooo~! We were picked up by a bus and led to the Zambezi riverside. It was more like a floating shack with an engine than a boat.
We had a great dandy ol’time on the boat with unlimited alcohol, food and fun. A lot of hippos could be seen around the area, and elephants as well, we even saw a crocodile swimming right next to us!
The sun slowly descended into the forested horizon, leaving a flock of birds flying back to their nests.
We slowly finished our beer and our ride, and quickly the beautiful day ended. The boat, uh I mean the shack, slowly docked and a bonfire was set up. It was a great day, as the smoke of the fire slowly faded in the starry sky…
Next morning, I joined another group to tour the local village. I happened to join the three girls who fell victim to the baboons yesterday: Sara, Sneade, and Claire. They re-iterated to me how scary the situation was, and added a little more “embellishments.” We waited for the pickup at 10, but at 10:10, some guy showed up with a car we never expected. It was a campaign car for the New Democratic Front. If you don’t know how they campaign for votes in Africa, you are about to have a treat. They drive around with big pickup trucks with huge loudspeakers mounted at the back. They play songs specifically written for the party and the candidate, telling how good they are and why you should vote for them. Then have everyone dressed up in the party t-shirts, and everyone sticks his/her body out waving flags and shouting slogans, yes, that includes the driver. Back to the story. He apologized profusely for using a political car to send us to the village, but we were exactly opposite of disappointed: we were goddamn excited. We asked him to turn on the loudspeakers, and the entire van instantly entered earthquake mode. I even stuck my head out of the sky window, flying a banner, and screamed “VOTE OMAR!!!!!” I had 0 idea who Omar was, what his policies were, what position he was running, etc. But as you can see, I cannot give more fucks. Omar is the best.
We arrived into the village in style, with me wearing the banner like a cape, with music screaming “OMARRRRRRR” in 190 decibels. I say we got everyone’s attention. We were then led through the village and given a tour. We saw how they got water from underground hand pumps, and we helped some kids wash dishes and plates.
We saw the plantations, and animals they herd. They even took us to an initiative which had the goal of providing children with free education. The public education system demands 60 dollars a year, which a lot of families cannot afford, and the children go uneducated, and continue the poverty cycle. This free home-run school is aimed at stopping it.
We eventually ended up at a local’s house, and the owner would prepare us a local meal right in front of her doorstep: because there is no kitchen in the house. Her house was already one of the best in the village: it is made of bricks. Almost every other house is made of mud and straws. Usually you pay some men to make a straw frame and a satched roof, and then pay some women to fill the frame up by mud. Voila, you have a house that can last 5 years! When it collapses, you do it all over again. This house made of bricks, however, can last a lot longer. She cooked a similar starch-glue made of corn that I tried with Frank on my Kilimanjaro trek. She also made a dish that is salty to accompany with it, just like what the porters did on the mountain. It is spinach with tomatoes in salty water, added with crushed peanuts. It was SO GOOD. We all devoured the dish along with the corn starch, and talked about the situation in Zambia and the village. We waved goodbye to her 2-year-old daughter as we left.
We got back and talked a lot. Fiara, Katrina, Claire, Sneade, Sara were all there, and it was definitely a great circle of conversation. I also got to know a German named Till, who would work in Shanghai for a while! We talked and laughed and joked and argued, and the night quietly fell upon us…
I woke up early and took a taxi to the Livingstone Airport. I didn’t want to say goodbye to all these great people, and I chose to let the conversation hang in there, so that we can continue when we meet again. Quickly I arrived at the airport, and checked in to my business class flight to Johannesburg, operated by British Airways. Yes, BA operates flights within South Africa and between Zimbabwe/Zambia and South Africa. The flight was only 2 hours, and business class made it even smoother. However, the pesky intra-Europe business class also is adopted in southern Africa, damn you narrow bodies!
I arrived in Johannesburg around 3 pm, cleared immigration with a breeze and got picked up by the free shuttle offered by my hostel. It was so cold… It was in the dead of the winter, and it was barely 10 degrees Celsius/50 degrees Fahrenheit, and it was Africa!!! I shivered my way into the hostel that was barely a block from the terminal, and used the time to catch up on a lot of things with wifi. I was just transiting here, so I did not plan to explore.
I went to a nearby hotel to have dinner, and I was warmly greeted by a friendly server. He recommended me ostrich steak that costs 200 Rand/13 dollars, and I gladly obliged. Well, how can I miss the chance to add another thing to my Strange Food List?
It was well presented, greatly priced, and holy mother of apple pies it was DELICIOUS. Find out more details in my Strange Food List.
I slept a cold night, and got back to the shuttle bus the next day. I pushed through crowds at OR Tambo International Airport, saying goodbye to Africa, but just for now. I checked into my Qatar airways flight, and quickly entered the business class lounge. I had a gigaton of food and filled myself up like a brand new tire, and got very tired.
I loved Zambia. It gave me a lot of surprises. The mall stunned me for how clean and organized it was while keeping jaw-droppingly low prices. The waterfalls, oh man, I don’t want to explain it anymore, it was the sky falling in front of me, and I struggle to compare with Iguazu Falls. The boat ride, the village visit, and the stay in Livingstone, were all made great by such nice people Katrina, Fiara, Sara, Sneade, and Claire. I sincerely wished I could do it again, and I would not change a damn thing. I found Zambia to be more than fun: it was incredible.
I got on my flight departing for Doha, and it was surprisingly empty. I got a whole 3 seats by myself, and I realized that these 3 DO. NOT. RAISE. ARMRESTS!!! Seriously, I literally checked every other seat in the cabin, and the armrests all raise! What is the point if I got 3 seats for myself and I could not lie down to sleep by raising the armrests!? AH DAMN TOMATO FUCK ME SIDEWAYS…
I was awake all my flight, and arrived in Doha with a sleepy eye. However, I was also awake on the flight to Edinburgh. I kept thinking what Africa had brought me, and what kind of revelation it would give me. More importantly, I was so excited that I could not sleep. I am going to Scotland!!! IN SUMMER! It will be such a huge shift in tone, from African winter to Scottish summer!? I could not wait to be completely astonished. Bagpipes, highlands, castles and mythical stories! LET’S GO!!!
this concludes my Africa part of trip (not really to be honest, as there is a bit more later down the trip)