Malawian Rice Vendor

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Zambia round 2

It was nice to get back to Chipata and Dean's Hill View Lodge. Dean is an affable British chap who is slowly building himself a quaint lodge. Set on a wooded plot over looking the town of Chipata and the rolling hills beyond. Even though we are only 30 kms from the Malawian border and still in the heart of Southern Africa, we seem to be worlds away from Nkhata Bay. Zambia appears to be in much better financial shape than Malawi. There are more cars, and bicycles and the store shelves have a much wider selection available. Even the outdoor markets seem to sell a greater range of vegetables all of which look a lot healthier. We ended up spending a couple of nights at Deans just relaxing and taking in the sights and smells of the heavily Islamic influenced town of Chipata. We seemed to be two of only a very small handful of travelers in town. We spent a lot of time cruising the isles of the local Shoprite market searching for long sought after foods including yogurt! In Malawi we were only able to get our hands on a yogurt like drink that was quite sour and not very flavorful so a liter of yogurt in a variety of flavors was instantly a hit. Along with finding a fresh pineapple, we were in heaven. On the way back from the store with our hands full of groceries we decided not to make the 4km walk back to Dean's Hill, instead we hired a couple of guys with bicycles. We both sat on nice padded seats and let the boys do all the work while we enjoyed the lush scenery. The 20 minute ride back to the guest house cost us .50 cents each. We decided to see if we could make a move Westward the next day towards Lusaka and eventually back to Livingstone. Dean informed us that the best time to catch a bus was early at 5am so we tried to plan accordingly. We got to bed early at night and set our alarm for 3:45am - Yikes! This was so that we could disassemble our tent with enough time to catch our taxi at 4:30am. We double checked with reception that there was indeed a taxi coming at that ungodly hour then fell asleep to the sounds of blaring music from a nightclub down the road. We did feel a bit like senior citizens going to bed so early. We slept ok thanks to heavy duty earplugs which we never leave home without. Jeff woke up at one point and looked at his watch... it was 4:12am!! Obviously we had slept through the alarm. In record time, in the darkness of the Zambian night, we were miraculously able to disassemble our tent, deflate our air mattresses, pack all of our gear and sleeping bags in exactly in 19 minutes, all this from a deep sleep. On cue, the taxi honked his horn at exactly 4:30am as promised. The short ride in the darkness to the long distance bus station cost us only 20kwacha ($4 US) even at that unseemly hour. Upon exit of the taxi is when the real fun began. We did not reserve seats with the preferred bus company the day before (don't ask why we are usually much more proficient)_ As we grabbed our bags, we were literally surrounded by a dozen or so touts each screaming and trying to grab our packs to lure us to their respective buses. Normally this would not have been so bad but at4:30am with no coffee in our bellies and in the pitch dark, it was a bit overwhelming. At one point, Jeff screamed at the top of his lungs to these guys to "BACK OFF" but his voice barely carried over the madness. We were finally able to find a corner to hide and stow our packs. While Jeff sat watch, Erika set off to find a bus that was departing at 5am sharp and hopefully was fairly direct. Of course, each tout proclaimed their bus filled all of our stringent criteria including being the "safest". Erika had the smarts to ask the conductor of the bus that was already full which company he recommended and the gentlemen was nice enough to escort us to the departing bus. Once we got ourselves and our packs loaded onto the right bus, we found a couple of seats in the middle (this is the best spot, not in the back, too bumpy, not in the front, in case of an accident) of course the kid who helped clear space in the empty bus wanted money for placing our bags in the back (about $5) even though he did actually nothing to assist us. He was quite adamant that we should pay even though none of the other (non-white passengers) had paid a single kwacha. We held firm for quite some time before he realized his efforts were fruitless. Luckily the bus took off shortly after 5am thought only half full which we knew meant that it would not be a nonstop affair. Sure enough we made a number of stops picking up passengers and their worldly possessions along the way. Zambian buses unlike their Malawian counterparts seemed to limit the number of passengers. This meant there were no people stuffed in the aisles though we did share the ride with an odd chicken. We were able to make pretty good time on the tarmac towards Lusaka. Zambia in stark contrast to Malawi is quite sparsely populated. We did not pass too many settlements along the way. The scenery consisted of rolling, verdant hills as far as the eye could see. The change in seasons was apparent as they are heading into the "hot" season. Many of the lush trees were starting to lose their foliage. We were able to pull into Lusaka by 1:30pm and by that point we both decided to try and fore go a night in the hell hole called Lusaka and press on towards Livingstone, another 8 hour bus ride away. As luck would have it, we were able to procure the last two tickets for the 2pm bus onward!! We crossed the station and after stowing our packs, climbing aboard the bus just as it was pulling out of the station. Of course, only 15 minutes into the ride, barely on the outskirts of town we had to fill it with petrol so that instantly added a half hour to our long journey. One still can not fathom why they don't fill the bus ahead of time but TIA (This is Africa). The ride to Livingstone was actually uneventful which was a nice change and we were comfortable for the most part as we headed West following the sun as it slowly set over the outstretched savanna. Our backsides started to become sore and the last couple of hours that we spent cruising through the darkness of the Zambian night we fidgeted until we could find a comfortable spot. It was apparent that the driver felt as we did because he seemed to swerve from one side of the road to the other only keeping to the correct side as oncoming lights approached. I must admit I have never been a fan of night driving especially in a third world country. We finally pulled in to Livingstone a little after 10pm some 18 hours after we started our day. Fortunately for us, Jollyboys Backpackers had a campsite available because all the rooms were fully booked. Somehow, we were able to pitch our tent in the dark and shortly thereafter fell soundly asleep, the end of a very long day....

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