Commuting Through Zambia

We spent Monday afternoon walking to the Zambian side of the border to catch the sunset with a different view of the Falls. In my research I found many people who said that one side or the other was better, but a lot had also said that while you’re in the area you may as well pay extra for the double visa and see it from both sides. I’m glad we took this option as I wouldn’t be able to pick a side that has a better view because they’re completely different. The Zambian side allowed us to go closer to the water and we could see the flow from the river down to the actual Falls. Sunset provided the perfect backdrop and every minute the colour changed giving us an entirely new view. We were worried about the sun beating us so we spent our time running between the different viewpoints, not wanting to arrive anywhere too late and miss out. We were so glad we’d chosen to do it and our issues only arose after the sun was down and it was time to get home. From a safety perspective we’d been told it was too dangerous to walk at night. Not because of people, but because the elephants come out to play. We weren’t sure that the people were too safe either, so we jumped in a taxi that would take us from the Zambia border to the Zimbabwe border – there’s about a kilometre of no man’s land – and then a taxi from the Zimbabwe side to our hostel where we could have a nice dinner before crashing into bed.

The next morning we did some exercise before having our peanut butter on bread for breakfast. Turns out we’d expected a self-catering kitchen which didn’t exist, so we were out of luck for a toaster and missing a stove for the burritos we had planned on cooking the previous night. We were heading to the Zambian side again that day but to stay the night in order to head to Lusaka for our flights out on Thursday. We were happy we’d experienced the taxis the night before as the drivers attempted to charge us more than double what we’d previously paid, and we were able to haggle them lower or simply move on to the next driver who was willing to take our money. The taxi on the Zambia side was a new one for us and we were unsure how much we were supposed to pay especially considering we didn’t know how far away the hostel was. We went a bit lower than the price we were offered and the driver seemed happy, opening the boot for us and driving towards our next home for the night. Along the way he mentioned elephants up ahead and slowed down for us to take a look. Not just a few elephants, but at least 20 elephants sat just off the side of the road eating the greenery. Only in Africa.

The hostel, Jollyboys, was just what we needed complete with self-catering kitchen, a pool, questionable wifi, and luckily a donation box for the local orphanage giving us the chance to get rid of a few things without having to throw them in the bin. We ventured out to town for a walk and were quickly met by the classic African city I’d grown to love in Malawi with makeshift shops, crazy drivers and people who won’t leave you alone on the sidewalk, selling you something or asking to have your babies, just the usual. Walking to the bus station took us to a whole new level as someone approached us simply saying ‘Shalom nice buses, air conditioning’ – incidentally the bus company we were headed for – followed by about 10 more who flocked around us like flies, each just yelling their own bus company and why we should go with them. It got to the point where they grabbed each of us attempting to pull us in the right direction but, not being our first day in Africa, we shrugged them off, told them to not touch us and essentially leave us alone, and walked straight to the Shalom ticket office. We laughed at the ridiculousness of it and realised that we were well and truly back in the real Africa, unsure what would be in store for us when we were to board the actual bus the next day.

The same thing happened. Our taxi pulled up at the station at 6am and for the last 20 metres we had the same guys literally running after the car, crowded around it as though we were some form of royalty. We got out and they seemed to leave us alone when they realised we already had tickets and their selling techniques wouldn’t work on us. It became a form of entertainment to watch them though. As we waited for our bus to depart we watched each car arrive at the station, most carrying locals and still the men would chase the car down the hill and surround it when it stopped. We couldn’t help but laugh and wonder if they thought what they were doing could ever be effective.

The 8-hour drive was uneventful. Each stop gave us a new town to look at and people who would get on the bus trying to sell their fruit, biscuits or drinks, sometimes four at a time walking down the narrow bus aisle before getting off just as our driver began to pull away. We experienced another foot and mouth disease control point, this time forming a line and having a police officer simply pour a bit of water over our hands to ‘wash them’ and get back on the bus. I’m unsure if the locals think this to be as silly as we do or if they think it’s a valid way to control the disease. Regardless, it gave us a chance to stretch our legs and have a bit of a laugh.

Lusaka looked to be a nicer city than Livingstone, something that surprised us considering the amount of tourism in Livingstone due to the Falls. We pulled up at the bus station and this time there were hundreds of people all concentrated in this one location. One man took a moment of eye contact to mean we wanted him as our taxi driver and he took it upon himself to grab both our bags and start walking towards his car. With nothing we could do, we ran after him and when it was a little quieter, stopped him to ask how much we’d be paying. Asking for more money than we even had we tried to haggle him down until he couldn’t handle it and someone else came up and told us we could go with him for that price instead. It was almost all our remaining cash, with just a little to afford a tin of pasta sauce for dinner that night, which turned out better than expected but still not excellent.

The following morning we woke early to order breakfast before heading to the airport, the moment where we separated and the dreaded goodbye had arrived. I’m happy that I’ve become more used to the goodbyes, but I still can’t help but get upset, unsure when I’ll see each person again given they’ve come from all over the world. At least I have an endless supply of couches to crash on should my travels continue, particularly around Europe.

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