Travelling to Zambia is not for the faint-hearted!
A member of the D.U. team has just returned from the trip of a lifetime to Africa – her account of the experience is a must-read blog post……
“Do you know how far Zambia is? It is a journey not lightly undertaken, that’s for sure! 6 hours overnight to Dubai, a wait in the airport lounge for the transfer to Lusaka and another 6.5 hours crammed into cattle-class before arriving in the African sun. If you are dressed for a chilly British Spring day, you will be melting by the time you exit Immigration!
Once through Immigration, and craving some air-con, we plodded into the Arrivals Hall where a large placard bearing our name was proudly being waved by a cheerful soul wearing a huge grin. Our heroine was Mwaka Kaunda, who along with her husband Clement, had come to ferry us to our host’s home. Rush hour compelled us towards the ring road, and despite missing the sights and sounds of the town centre, I was able to drink in the amazing vista that was 5pm Lusaka.
There are no pavements in Lusaka apparently – certainly not on the route we took! People are quite happy to walk along the side of the main road; health and safety is not an encumbrance in this part of the world! Bicycles share this pseudo-pavement – one of my abiding memories is of a man carrying a very care-worn goat around his shoulders. The goat was clearly not impressed by this indignity, nor having it’s feet bound by twine! Sharing this space is a plethora of wild flowers (or maybe just exotic weeds, but they looked very pretty to me!) a spectacular display in sunshine yellow and orange. Added to this are roadside market stalls selling everything from charcoal for cooking fires, tomatoes piled high in pyramid form to yams, cassava and other traditional foods. At the traffic lights, young boys tout mobile phone top up cards – the juxtaposition of the traditional and the up to date that makes modern Africa what it is today.
Some areas we passed appeared up-to-date, with rows of shops, bars and hairdressing salons for the appearance-conscious modern population. Other areas displayed less modern tendencies, with lots of tiny houses, small shops, car repair yards and any number of children running to and fro in between. We saw odd looking metal structures with the appearance of towers laid end to end, which we later discovered were reservoirs. Many homes in such areas do not have a piped water supply but rely instead on a borehole and pump water up from under the ground, which in turn is stored in a plastic tank mounted on these structures.
We spent our first five nights in a beautiful, airy and spacious property on the west side of Lusaka. It was certainly stunning, and a very auspicious way to begin our stay. Our hosts were happy to assist us in our aim – a series of seminars on outreach Sunday school. With their help we travelled to a number of churches and gave example lessons and told people about our own Sunday school in the UK.
After our stay in this fabulous home, our hosts kindly volunteered to drive us the 7 hours to Livingstone. There is a coach, apparently, and we also tentatively looked into the train option over the internet before our travels. However, Zambian trains are hot, slow and most definitely not for the novice! Every time we mentioned the word “train” to our hosts they looked at us like we needed our heads examining! So, all in all, the offer of transport was very welcome indeed.
We arrived at a much more traditional style property, sporting thatched rooves on each of the “lodges”. A kind of African B&B… We were travel-weary and the order of the day was definitely shower-food-bed!
In the morning, we took the coach transfer to Victoria Falls. We had been warned that the mist from the Falls could make the surrounding area very wet….
This is in fact an understatement! Imagine a heavy summer thunderstorm mixed with a torrential downpour with added water from a burst fire hydrant, along with the constant roaring of millions of gallons of water passing over the Falls and you may just get the picture. The Falls were in full flood, as the rainy season had just ended; the wide Zambezi river flows serenely to the end of a rocky crevasse and then crashes down, tonnes of water every second. Possibly one of the most awe-inspiring sights and sounds known to Man. Despite “dressing for the occasion” in very unflattering waterproofs, we inevitably got soaked. It is unavoidable really – but so worth it! Once you are back in the sunshine, you soon dry off. It was sheer pleasure to eat our lunch near what is known locally as the Boiling Pot, at the bottom of the falls.
Tourists are always encouraged to shop, no matter where in the world you are!
There was plenty to choose from and we eventually negotiated our way into one of the small shops, politely insisting we were “looking with our eyes and not our ears” (the browsing equivalent of “don’t call us, we’ll call you”). It became apparent that buying anything was going to take nerves of steel and a great deal of determination to secure a reasonable price. We British are not traditionally good at bargaining, and the rest of the World is very aware of this fact. Despite this, we managed to complete purchases to the satisfaction of all concerned. Our local friends later confirmed we had made deals fair to all involved, so we were very happy with this conclusion.
We flew back to Lusaka; one hour on a 30-seater plane was preferable to another 7 hour drive notwithstanding the kindness of our lift to Livingstone! This time we took up residence with Mwaka and her family, in a much more modest but family orientated home. Back to work – more seminars followed.
However, it seemed appropriate to end our African Idyll with a Game Drive. Chaminuka (meaning “a hill”) did not disappoint. The Reserve is based around a large hotel/lodge in traditional wooden African style, built unsurprisingly on a hill. We had booked a whole day’s activities for ourselves and our lovely hosts. The wonders of seeing giraffe, zebras, ostriches, impala, bushbucks and hartebeests in their natural habitat cannot be underestimated. Oh, and let’s not forget the spitting cobra – although to be fair some may wish to do so! The Rangers were on hand to answer any questions and their in-depth knowledge of the wildlife enhanced our experience no end. We finished off with a traditional lunch – buffet style – of nshima (maize meal cooked to a solid mashed potato consistency), chicken, fish and mixed local vegetables. A post lunch boat trip around the lake was followed by a guided walk through the Bush and the finale was afternoon tea on a cool, breezy veranda.”
It has been raining in London – oh wouldn’t we all love to be watching Zebra in the sunshine?!
Thank you for sharing your experiences Jo – it has been wonderful!