Stories from Southern Africa – part two: Zambia & Malawi

Last time, I wrote about South Africa and Botswana. I’ll continue with Zambia.

Zambia

The plane landed in Livingstone, Zambia, and I got to my hostel where the South African guy I met in Kasane had made a reservation for me. We hung out and I also met two Dutch girls. With these two Dutch girls, I went to explore the Victoria Falls from up close the next day.

We took a mini van to the Falls and I remember sitting next to a 12-year old Zambian girl. She was eating a lolly pop and telling me about the city of Livingstone as we drove by “That’s my school, and that’s the supermarket”, etc. She was very cute. We arrived at the Victoria Falls shortly. It was dry season, meaning that the Falls were not as spectacular as could be, but it also meant we could walk down to the rocks! These rocks are normally covered by the water in the rainy season but since the water was lower, we could reach it! So we started walking around this beautiful park. There were beautiful views on the Falls from all sides and we walked everywhere. We decided to walk down to the rocks as well. At one point, we were in this amazing jungle. Everything around us was so immensely big and tall and there were all shades of green! We stopped for a moment to take it all in, but then we felt little things falling from the trees! We didn’t know what it was. It looked like half-eaten berries? We looked up and there were a bunch of monkeys bombarding us! We were in their area, clearly! So annoying! Thus, we walked on. We got to the rocky area, with some guidance from locals since we had to go over slippery rocks and we were holding on to tree branches for stability. It was a lot of fun! We sat on the rocks and looked up the canyon. It was gorgeous! I was looking up to the bungee jump bridge that was between the Zambian and Zimbabwean side. I decided it was too much of a chill day to go all the way around for a bungee jump. Also, I didn’t see one person jump and from the bottom, it looked way higher! In hindsight I’m happy I didn’t do it after I read that story on the BBC about the rope breaking on that bungee just a few months ago.

Victoria Falls

After the Victoria Falls, the three of us were pretty hungry. Our hostel told us about a pizza place called the ‘Funky Monkey’ and we decided to check it out. Apparently it wasn’t too safe to walk around but since it were the three of us and we could walk quite fast-paced, we just walked. We got to the Funky Monkey, but it was all empty. I remember from the Lonely Planet that there was a hostel just a few doors down and I suggested we take a look and see if it has a nicer atmosphere and maybe they’ll have good food as well. We walked over and went in. I looked at all the decorations on the walls while one of the girls asked about food. I suddenly hear my name. It wasn’t one of the girls and I was puzzled as to who it could be? Someone I met just one week into my travels? I turned around and I see my friend from law school there. I couldn’t believe my eyes! I didn’t know she was travelling in this area and she didn’t know about travelling here. I was so happy to see her and it was the third amazing thing to happen in just one week of travelling. (The other two were the free flights.) I honestly thought I would die at the end of my trip since I had so many amazing moments, like the universe was just toying with me. I met my friend and her boyfriend, who was in the same law school but whom I never actually met during those years. It was all too ironic and crazy. All of us ended up having dinner at the Funky Monkey together and I couldn’t stop smiling at this amazing coincidence! It’s still one of my favourite travel moments.

After Livingstone, I went to Chipata via Lusaka. I took a bus and transfered onto another bus in Lusaka, so I didn’t see too much of the city. The bus was late, as usual. But this time, the bus was running five hours late. I was getting a little nervous since I didn’t like arriving in a new place at night. Somehow, despite having a Zambian SIM card, my phone didn’t work and I could not reach any of the hostels in the Lonely Planet. On top of it all, the  Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa, had just passed away. He was very much loved by all people in Zambia and his body was being travelled to all nine provinces in Zambia in order for the people to say goodbye to him. It happened to be that his body would be in Chipata the same day I would arrive and there were people travelling with him through the country, as an ultimate symbol of respect and honour. So with this fact in mind, I was very worried that I would have no place to sleep.
The bus arrived in Chipata after dark. I believe it was 8pm and of course it was very dark. I took a taxi and I hoped that the hostel wouldn’t be full. I told the driver where I wanted to go to and he told me it would probably be full, but we will try. He told me there are many hostels and hotel in that area so I shouldn’t worry. We got to the first hostel and indeed, it was full. I didn’t like this news. He was very nice and told me that we will find a place to stay. He drove me from hostel to hostel and went in to ask. It was the fourth or fifth hostel that we stopped at and luckily, they had a room available! I thanked the taxi driver for his kindness and relieved to have found a bed for the night, I walked in. I was shown to my room, which was simple, and I went to the dining area. I ordered something simple and stared at the tv, just like another guest. He was telling me how good their president has been for their country. It was so sad to see the whole country in mourning, but at the same time it was beautiful to see a politician who is loved for what he did.

Malawi

The next day I was on my way to Lilongwe, Malawi, and would be going to Nkhata Bay. The bus ride to Lilongwe was ok, no problems. In Lilongwe, I only went out to get some preventive medicine since I would be swimming in Lake Malawi. When I arrived in Nkhata Bay, I was so happy! The Lake was gorgeous and not at all like a lake. I am definitely someone who loves the ocean more than lakes, but this was gorgeous! There’s a funny story about this lake. Apparently it was discovered by Dr. Livingstone. He asked his local staff “What is that?” and they told him “Nyasa” and he named the lake ‘Lake Nyasa’, not knowing that Nyasa actually meant ‘lake’, so he had named the lake ‘Lake Lake’.

Lake Malawi

I believe I planned to stay at Nkhata bay for only a day or two/three and I ended up staying there for five. I met two lovely locals who were taking me around everywhere: Chicken Pizza (yes… he has a Malawi name as well, but he wanted this to be his nickname so that no-one would forget his name, I think he succeeded in that!) and his friend. I met two British guys who were super funny and a British couple – the girl taught me how to snorkel – yes, I’m a diver now, but I didn’t even know how to snorkel before 2008! I ended up having a heavenly time, playing guitar while staring at the lake, snorkelling, the guys went fishing, we had barbecues on the beach in the evenings… I got some handmade souvenirs: a little sign with a giraffe on one side and my name on the other and earrings in the shape of the African continent – these are still my favourite earrings. And the sunrises… They were gorgeous! I didn’t mind waking up early for a view like that!

Lake Malawi sunrise

But after five days, it was time to move onto Mozambique. I got on the bus back to Lilongwe and from there went via Blantyre and Mulanje to Muloza, near the border with Mozambique. From there, I could walk to the border, my Lonely Planet said. So after I got off the bus, I started walking. There were bike taxis, but I didn’t want to take them. One, I had a big backpack and I couldn’t go on the back of those bikes – feel bad for the guy biking hard to move me forward. I kept walking, but he kept saying it’s very far. I didn’t believe him and responded that it’s ok, I can walk. But he kept biking next to me, saying it would be very far. After maybe 500m in this heat, I asked if I was halfway and he said that it was much further. So, I agreed to go on the back. But I wanted my bag to be on a second bike so it wouldn’t be too heavy for him. So, we arranged that. After a little while on the bike, we reached the border crossing at Milange.

That’s it for part two – Zambia and Malawi. I will write about problems on the border crossing and hitchhiking in part three – Mozambique and Swaziland.

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