Journey to Johannesburg

I completed the final leg of my bus adventure from Kenya to South Africa! It’s been a wild ride, filled with memorable experiences and unforgettable people. It’s been long at times and less than comfortable, but I’m glad I did it and will remember this trip for the rest of my life.

The bus from Lusaka to Johannesburg takes a cool 24 hours. Add to that the 7-hour ride back from Livingstone and waiting time in-between, and my final stint took about 35 hours. Fortunately for me but unfortunately for this blog post, the trip was rather uneventful. As always, however, interesting things happened at border crossings. When I arrived at the Zimbabwe border, we waited in a stuffy, crowded building for almost an hour to stamp our passports. When I got to the front, I only had a $100 bill to pay the $30 transit visa fee. The agent took my money, quickly stuffed it into his shirt pocket, and declared that he didn’t have any change for me. I should have seen that one coming. When I persisted in asking for my change back, he said I should go see the lady at the cashier’s office. Of course she didn’t have change either, and I apparently insulted her deeply by asking if she really didn’t have any change at all, so I came back and asked the guy again for my change please. He said I should come back the next day, or better yet, on Tuesday and they would have the money. I told him that was stupid and he started to get really pissed. He handed me the dirtiest $50 bill I have ever seen, and said that after visiting another counter to receive my transit visa, I should come back and beg him for the remaining $20. So I went to the other counter and got my visa, asked the nice gentleman there for the $20 they owed me and got my money without a problem. I waved the money at the jerk’s window and bolted out of that office into Zimbabwe as fast as my legs would carry me.

After a long drive through Zimbabwe, we arrived at the South African border crossing. This one looked more like crossing from Mexico to the US, complete with barbed wire fencing, trenches, searchlights and police vehicles. This one also took a long time, but the staff were incredibly friendly. They only asked me how long I wanted to stay in SA, before stamping my passport and letting me through. I was expecting a full-fledged arsenal of questions so this was a pleasant surprise. Borders and all I finally arrived in Johannesburg and met up with my South African friend’s family. It’s great to finally be here and know that I’ll be flying (thank God) to Cape Town tomorrow to meet up with my family for our gallivanting around the country.

Advertisement

Livingstone

After two days in Lusaka, I packed my bags and headed for Livingstone – home of the world-famous Victoria Falls and supposedly the highest volume waterfall in the world. Despite this distinction, I didn’t visit the falls the day after I arrived, deciding instead to sleep in and chill out for a much needed day of rest. I stayed at Jollyboys in Livingstone, a really cool backpackers hostel in town, complete with a swimming pool and restaurant. I read for half the day, then met some Japanese JICA (Japan’s equivalent of Peace Corps) volunteers and hung out with them the rest. I barely left the Jollyboys compound.

I did visit Victoria Falls the following day. I’ve never seen so much water in my life. The flat, somewhat boring drive to the falls is deceptive – all of the sudden you see huge spouts of mist rising into the air and you know you’ve arrived. Walking into the park, from several hundred meters away you hear the primordial roar of the waterfall. You finally see it and think, “how can that much water pour down from a single place?” And then the water fall continues – for another 1.7 kilometers. Being the wet season, the volume of water was even more than normal and at times we couldn’t see it at all because of the intense spray. In fact, the spray was going so high that it was raining from a blue sky in the forest next to the falls. At one point we crossed a bridge and a solid sheet of water hit us the entire way. We were soaked, but loved the experience.

Unfortunately Victoria Falls broke my iphone camera despite my best attempts at keeping it dry with a plastic bag. I did take some pictures before walking through the spray though.

Image

There it is

Image

Awesome rainbow and the bungee jump bridge

After seeing the falls up close and doing an hour-long hike to The Boiling Pot on Zambezi River, my travel companions were set on bungee jumping. They wanted me to join them, but having done it once in New Zealand, I didn’t feel the need to prove myself again. Adding to my misgivings was the fact that the rope on this particular bungee famously broke last year, plunging the jumper into the water. Check out the YouTube Video here if you haven’t seen it yet. Of course this didn’t happen again, but I’m sure everyone was thinking about it as they took the dive 🙂

While everyone was bungee jumping, I was busy bartering with Zimbabwean trinket-sellers. In Lusaka people told me to take clothes to the market to trade, so I brought an extra white T-shirt today to see what would happen. Sure enough, they wanted the shirt for a copper bracelet so I made the trade. They also wanted the flip-flops off my feet, but I told them I needed these to return home. Last but not least, I bought a 50 trillion dollar bill from Zimbabwe for a whopping $4 US. Unfortunately it’s worth nothing because Zimbabwe uses US dollars these days, but I can now say that I’m a 50 trillionaire.

Lusaka

My last day in Mbeya, I bought a ticket to my next destination: Lusaka, Zambia. you show up in African bus stations and a swarm of people surround you asking where you’re going. Everyone tries to pull you onto their bus, and when you choose one, the guys who lost out do a lot of shouting and shoving. Mbeya was no different and the guy who I chose took me to his sketchy office to buy my ticket. Since the buses are not licensed to carry people all the way to Lusaka, I was told I would have to get off the bus at the border, get my visa, walk across, and find the agent who would get me onto a bus on the other side. I was convinced I had been frauded again and would never see a bus in Zambia. Surprisingly though the agent met me at the border, helped me the entire way, and got me onto the Zambian bus.

Even though it was another 18 hours to Lusaka, the trip was vastly better than the Tanzanian one. This bus had air conditioning, seats that leaned back, and a toilet on board! I had never experienced these luxuries in East Africa. My greatest fear in traveling overnight was arriving too early in Lusaka while it was still dark. Being white in an African city by yourself at night is usually not the greatest idea, especially when you haven’t made arrangements for your hotel yet. Thankfully, we pulled into town just as the sun rose over the horizon.

Since there aren’t famous sights or tourist attractions in Lusaka, my goal was to make as many connections as possible. I met with a guy who works for Zambikes, a local company making hand-made bamboo bicycles – among other products – and the Zambian director of Campus Crusade for Christ. It was fun meeting people, sharing meals, and finding more about the country through the locals.

It’s really interesting to compare the countries I’m visiting now to Kenya where I’ve spent the most time. Making an analogy, I would say Zambia is to Europe as Kenya is to the US. Zambia is a little more refined, nicer and more organized while Kenya is fast-paced, busy and where things are happening. A final note on my sleeping arrangements: sharing a room with Africans is terrible. They wake up exactly at the crack of dawn every day, and begin turning the light on, joking and laughing in the room. When I told them that people were trying to sleep they laughed at me, said it was 6 O’clock already and kept talking.

Image

Shopping Mall in Zambia

Image

Real Muffins! Amazing