Sunday, December 18, 2011

arriving in zambia

This is the view that I have right now as I type on my computer

We’ve arrived in Zambia! After a long long long twenty four hour bus ride. We took the Intercape bus line, which is like the Greyhound of Southern Africa, except it’s a Christian company so they pray before each ride, and show really bad religious films on board. Sometimes I think I can’t deal with overnight bus rides anymore, where the seats don’t recline enough to get a proper night’s sleep (not when the person behind you is kicking you). Backpackers take the philosophy that the journey there is part of the adventure but these days I’m feeling I’d be perfectly happy to skip the sore back by flying straight to my destination and having more time to spend there.

At Oshiverongo, we had a pit stop. I went into the Puma gas station, which was advertising a contest where you could win a whole live sheep, where I bought some guava flavoured Oshikandela. Then we were informed that the bus was experiencing mechanical problems so we would have to wait while they tried to fix it. We sat on the curb in the parking lot, drinking beers and popping malaria pills out of boredom, feeling like a cliché from a Diableros song, wondering if we were going to have to camp out here all night. Then the bus roared back to life. Yay! The bus was fixed!

It turned out the bus wasn’t fixed. The oil was still leaking into the diesel. The driver had just decided to see how far the bus would go anyway. Sigh. I kept repeating the mantra “the journey there is part of the adventure” and tried to make myself believe it.

When I woke up the next morning, the bus was still running and we were in the thick of the bush, honking to scare animals off the road. I was fascinated to see rows and rows of traditional dwelling huts at the side of the road. I had never been up north before.

[north house]

A barber shop in the Caprivi Strip

A shop in the Caprivi Strip

The Zambian border was kind of an African stereotype. People lined up before a guard standing by a broken fence with a bucket of water. We were supposed to use that to wash our hands from food and mouth disease. I preferred my hand sanitizer. After that, we had to find out way to the border control building, navigating through a hectic maze of sad stray dogs, roadside snack stands, and guys waving wads of dollar bills offering “ForEx” (foreign exchange). Once we actually found the unmarked building, there was a mess of people inside pushing and shoving their way up to the desk, with nothing even resembling a line. This distressed British Dean, because it was very not British. We signed our information in the paper book, had our passports stamped, and miraculously found our way back on to the bus.

The Zambian border control building

Snack stands at border control

Once we crossed the border, we still had another three hours to Livingstone. Zambia was very cloudy and green, compared to Namibia. We drove through the Zambian countryside, which was filled with flooded greenspaces, cows, giraffes, huts, the occasional beautiful white orchid, and Coca Cola billboards. We arrived in Zambia only five hours later than scheduled, which was actually pretty good apparently.

Livingstone, Zambia

At the Livingstone hostel, we found a note from my friend Joseph saying he had gone white water rafting. He suggested we go on a sunset cruise while we waited for him to come back. We asked the front desk about what was available. She told us that there were two, one for $45 and one for $55.

“What’s the difference?” we asked her.
“About ten dollars,” she answered.
“Um, is the more expensive one at lot better?” we tried again.
“Not really,” she said. So we went for the cheaper one.

Once we arrived at the “harbour”, which was a dock at the end of a noisy beach bar, we saw why it was cheaper. It was basically a big covered barge with a bar in the middle, the kind of barge Rob’s friends built themselves and float down the Clyde River on every summer in Lanark. The other more expensive cruise was a fancy white double decker ship. But we didn’t mind. The other ship was full of quiet older tourists. Ours was full of partying friendly Zambians and a braai cooking sausages and chicken. And an open bar, of course.

Our boat

The other boat

The boat bar.

The boat braai.

On board, we quickly met up with some local Zambians, including Lucy and Levi. Lucy gave us each our own Zambian names. She named me Chilashan, which she explained meant “kind hearted” but I wasn’t so sure, seeing how it suspiciously had the word “Asian” in it.

Drinking with Zambians

Maddie and I reenacting a scene from the movie Titanic at the bow of the “ship”.

There was not only a sunset, but also hippos and crocodiles and elephants!

You looking at me?

A bigger crocodile. Delicious.

It was my first time ever seeing hippos.

When we got back, Joseph had left a note in our room saying he had gone to Zambezi restaurant and we should join him there. Having enjoyed his last piece of advice, we found our way there, where I ate more mapone worms (caterpillars), which I now seem to like munching on as snacks. I also ate crocodile meat, which was pretty delicious.

Afterwards we hit up a club that the locals had recommended to Dean. Dean told us it was called Pheromones. “Really?” I said. They named a night club pheromones? That’s certainly trying to sell something. When we got there though, we realized it was actually called Fairmont, and it was empty, which just goes to show you can’t believe anything Dean says.