Buses, Falls and Good Old-Fashioned Religion!
Trip Start Jun 25, 2006
127Trip End Aug 01, 2007
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Since we wrote our last posting in South Luangwa Park we've spent a lot of time in transit. Zambia is a really big country! Once the safari finished up, we had three-hour ride on the horrendously bumpy dirt road back to the town of Chipata, where we spent the night. Early the next morning, we caught a bus for an eight-hour ride to Zambia's capital, Lusaka to spend the night there. The final leg was yet another seven-hour bus ride to Livingstone, which is where we are now. The buses were a lot better than we expected. Although certainly not luxurious, the drivers were clearly on a schedule and had serious cases of lead-foot! We couldn't have driven ourselves any faster. Buses in Zambia often have various sayings or slogans painted on the back, some of the best I saw being "Don't hate the player" and "In God we trust". As an extra bonus, each ride started with a rather unique blessing that I'll leave it to Katie tell you about
The countryside of Zambia is rather sparsely populated and dotted with the occasional small village. Most residential dwellings in villages are round, mud brick or wooden stick homes with thatched roofs. The yard surrounding the huts is typically immaculately swept dirt, so everything here eventually gets dusted with the red clay hue of the local soil. The rural people we passed were certainly very poor and usually subsisted by farming small plots by hand or ox-pulled plow, fishing in local creeks and harvesting local plants to make brooms, roof thatch, etc to sell in the local market. For transport, far more people walk and bicycle along the road than drive. From what we saw though, the people seemed relatively well fed, and the poverty didn't have the squalor and misery that I encountered when visiting India a few years ago.
The local people we have encountered have been universally friendly but usually very reserved and soft-spoken. It seems that a large social emphasis is placed on being polite, well mannered and well dressed. For the most part, even very poor Zambians are sharply dressed in clean, pressed (but often threadbare) clothing, although the crazy combinations of patterns and colors many choose to wear together are often a bit, ummm..."eye catching." Men usually wear western attire but women are typically more traditionally dressed
On the topic of clothing, we have been really caught off guard and had a lot of double takes with the shirts we've seen people wearing. It is not well known that anytime you give clothing to Goodwill or Salvation Army, there is a pretty good chance it will end up in Africa. It turns out that charitable organizations in the US receive far more donated clothing than they can possibly stock in their thrift stores. They then sell the surplus clothing by the truckload to wholesalers who then ship it to African nations where it is sold in the local markets. A few of the better T-shirts worn by rural villagers that we spotted through the bus windows the last few days included: Elvis Presley's face, "West Virginia Athletics", "World Wrestling Federation", "Harvard Crew" the cover art from Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" album, and our absolute favorite was "Vote for Pedro." Along with that, we've seen a few comical knockoff brands including Addidos, Bolo, and a roadside café called "Tooters." But the original African store names are usually much more interesting, my favorite two being "Jesus is the Way Groceries" and a beverage stand named, "God's Water."
We are currently in Livingstone, which sits only a few miles away from the Zambezi River and Victoria Falls. Livingstone is much more of a haven for travelers than any other place we've been thus far in Zambia
After a few days recovering from the long bus rides, we headed to the falls. Since it is the end of the dry season the water flow was a trickle compared to its usual gushing. I was told that it was only at about 5% of its regular flow. But they were still very spectacular. Since the falls straddle Zambia and Zimbabwe, we will most likely be visiting them again once we cross the border. From our view, it looked like Zimbabwe has the better viewpoints.
We are having a great time here in Livingstone, seeing sights, swapping stories with some great people, and just hanging out. Thanks to the patient tutorials of Tim and Billy (two of the Brits we met in Lilongwe), I've even managed to learn how cricket is played, and can actually follow a match. Maybe I'll be able to watch one live once we get to South Africa! We are rested up for the next leg of our journey and are heading into Zimbabwe in just a few days.
To me, one of the most surprising things about Zambia has been the impact of all the Christian missionaries in this area
On our 8 hour bus ride from Chipata to Lusaka, the steward (like a flight attendant for the bus) stood up and introduced himself, explained all the stops we were going to make along the way, and then opened the floor to all the passengers to stand up and pray in any language. Several people wanted to take him up on the offer, and a women in the back row stood up and spontaneously gave a five minute prayer for all sorts of things, including safe travel to Lusaka. On the bus video system, two Nigerian made movies entitled "Guardian Angel" and "The Redeemed Sinner" were shown 2 times each, and seemed to be quite popular with the other passengers. I should also mention that we were the only two backpackers on the bus, and the locals were all extremely kind and polite
Once we arrived in Livingstone, we entered a little backpacker's paradise. Our hostel is just full of other travelers doing extended around the world trips, and many of them are actually in their thirties like us (instead of the usual right out of college backpacker taking a gap year that we commonly encounter). It has been great hearing about other's experiences, seeing their pictures, and actually having the ability to modify our plans based on recommendations. In fact, we have had such a relaxing time swimming in the pool and hanging around with other travelers that we really didn't go outside the hostel for 2 days
Today we went to see Victoria Falls, which was amazing, though not nearly as amazing as the giant baboon we ran into in the park. We watched as this baboon knocked over a rather large and heavy trashcan, untied the trash bag inside with his little baboon fingers and opposable thumbs, and started sorting through his "catch." His favorite item seemed to be an empty bottle of Fanta, which he rolled back and forth on the ground like a pastry chef rolling out a pie crust.