Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Victoria Falls to Lundazi, Zambia . . . "Mulibwanji"

First stop in Zambia was Livingstone, a small town close to Victoria Falls. David Livingstone 'discovered' the Falls in 1855 when locals (who had no doubt discovered the Falls quite a bit earlier) took him to a place they called 'Mosi-oa-Tunya' (the smoke that thunders). It seems that Livingstone thought the less dramatic 'Victoria Falls' would be more appropriate.

As a city-girl at heart I am generally underwhelmed by the wonders of nature. While Phil can happily gaze at the beauty of the jungle during sunset, I can't help but wonder whether our enjoyment couldn't perhaps be improved by a coffee shop near the water and a cocktail bar in the baobab tree. So, I must admit that while I was looking forward to seeing Victoria Falls, I was also thinking . . . water . . . falling . . . seen it before.

What can I say? Seeing the Falls was an amazing experience. Better than New York on a Friday night and an English pub on a Sunday afternoon (apologies to my NY and London drinking buddies). You can spot the Falls from more than 10 kilometres away - a huge cloud of spray on the horizon. Arriving at the Falls we could see part of the 1.7 km wide curtain of water with (what I was told was) 9 million litres spilling over the edge every second. It was a very wet wet season. Walking on the cliffs 50 metres opposite the Falls the spray from the water hitting the ground and bouncing up about 100 metres soaked us and everything we were carrying. "Free shower" the locals commented as we left, by which time I was seriously rethinking my city-girl status.

After the Falls we went back to Jolly Boys backpackers (I don't know who names these places) to rest and competitively swap travel stories with other backpackers.

Me: Botswana was fantastic, especially the elephants, in Chobe we saw a baby elephant! So cute.

American: Yeah. We saw baby elephants in Kenya too and a pack of lions with some lion cubs. That was definitely the highlight.

Norwegian: Wait until you get to Tanzania. We saw a pack of lions kill a baby elephant. Amazing.

And so on . . . until we moved onto minibus (combi) horror stories.

Me: It was pouring with rain. The driver was speeding while talking on his mobile phone, shelling and eating peanuts.

German: Pouring with rain. Surrounded by mist. No windscreen wipers. Zero visibility.

Brit: Pouring with rain. Night time. No brakes. The driver used the handbrake to take corners. Driver was wearing a crash helmet and you could see the road through the floor.

The next morning we happily avoided the minibuses and got on a 'luxury' bus (you get a whole seat to yourself) to Lusaka. Six hours later we had arrived and, after the long drive, did we stop for the night? "No", says Phil, "there is another bus in 30 minutes".

"But that means 8 more hours on a bus today."

"Yep. Let's hurry before we miss it."

There is no stopping Phil once he gets his travel momentum going so it looked like we were fast-tracking it out of Zambia. We managed to get to the border town of Lundazi a day and a half after leaving Livingstone which was a minor miracle given the roads. The poor roads were generally blamed on "the rains" which didn't make much sense to me unless it rains bowling balls.

Anyway, avoiding the most popular and easiest border crossing (Phil mentioned something about the "road less travelled") we made it to Lundazi and - stopped for the night?

"No need", says Phil, "we can get across the border and into Malawi tonight."

With help from an American, who was in Malawi with the Peace Corps and who spoke a little of the local language, we found out that the cost to get from Lundazi (in Zambia) to Jenda (in Malawi) was 30,000 Zambian Kwacha per person (about USD $10). We managed to find a taxi almost immediately to take us both to Jenda for ZK60,000. No bargaining necessary. Another minor miracle.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Our driver informed us a few minutes into the journey that he was going to take the ZK60,000 but was only going to take us to the border - a few kilometres away.

"How", we asked, "are we going to get to Jenda then?"

"Perhaps one of the small boys with a bicycle?"

As our bags were the size of the small boys who 'drive' these 'bicycle taxis' this was not a viable option. So paying ZK60,000 to take us 5km to the border instead of 50km to Jenda just did not seem like a good idea and we insisted he take us back to Lundazi. We soon found a truck driver willing to take us to Jenda for ZK60,000. We peppered him with questions: All the way to Jenda? For ZK60,000? Not just to the border? All the way? We leave now? For ZK60,000 total cost? All the questions were answered in the affirmative so we relaxed and went to buy some drinks for the trip.

When we got back we found there had been a price hike. "Just give me ZK140,000 and we go" he said. We were not happy. In fact, Phil was so unimpressed that he suggested we stop travelling (!) and stay overnight in Lundazi so we could cross the border with some locals the next morning.

But it seemed that Phil's travel bug was not to be thwarted, as we were walking to the guest house the truck driver, who had a change of heart, picked us up and took us all the way to Jenda, across the border, for ZK60,000.

Finally in Malawi - did we stop in Jenda for the night? Of course not. By this time I was swept up with Phil's enthusiasm for forward motion and we eagerly got on another bus. But we did stop eventually.

Next entry Malawi- hopefully in a week but internet access has been a bit sketchy so it could be longer. Phil assures me he will have a few more photos up this week.


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