While I was in Tanzania, I was already thinking of other countries to visit. The obvious choices were the ones surrounding the country so I wouldn’t have to go far. i tried to find out what each country had to offer. Predictably, since all of the countries in this part of Africa have similar terrain, all of the countries promote Safaris. But I was interested to see something different. I then came across Victoria Falls. I can’t believe I’ve never heard of it, considering the fact that it’s the largest waterfall in the world… or maybe I did hear about it in elementary school or high school, but those years were in a different era. heh. The pictures of the falls that I saw on the internet left me in awe. The falls is located in the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. My travel insurance doesn’t cover Zimbabwe though for some reason. So it has been decided. My next destination would be Zambia.
I still had to figure out how to get there. After doing some research, the most convenient way to get there would be by plane. Cheap fares are available on Fastjet, a low cost carrier. It flies from Dar Es Salaam to Lusaka and it only takes 2 hours to get there. If you buy tickets early, you can get a one way ticket for just $50 USD. Another option is via train. A first class ticket on the Tazara railway costs about the same. It would take about 2-4 days to reach Zambia though, and you would still need to take a bus to reach Lusaka because the last stop is in Kapiri Mposhi, about 2-3 hours away from Lusaka. This is a good option if you have a lot of time to spare and you want to go the scenic route, but 3 days (more or less) on a train is a little too much for me. If you’re on really tight budget, a third class train ticket costs about $30 USD, but most of the people I spoke with do not recommend it for travelers. Once you see those seats, you’d realize that it would be torture to travel on those seats for 3 days unless you’re used to it. Also, the train usually gets delayed, sometimes as long as a day. So it’s really not an option for people who don’t have much time. I also would rather be walking around in Zambia the next day rather than just sitting on a train, no matter how beautiful the view from the window is.
It was a late night flight, and we arrived in Zambia at around 11 PM. It was close to midnight when I got through immigration. The taxi driver that the hostel arranged for me was already waiting outside. As advised by a fellow traveler, it could be hard to find a taxi late at night from the airport and it would be even harder to take public transport. For 20 bucks it wasn’t too bad. You could split the cost if you are with friends. I couldn’t see much of the city because it was already dark, but I was surprised to see that everything seems to be in order. Coming from Dar Es Salaam, it seemed as if I was transported to another universe. Streets were clean and well lit, buildings were modern, the roads were wide and well paved… I would have to explore the city in the morning. I booked a room at Lusaka Backpackers and we arrived at around 12:30 AM. Thank goodness I could check in anytime– had to sneak in the dorm room though because my room mates were already asleep. A bed in a dorm room costs 12 bucks a night. Not bad, considering the place had a lot of amenities. The common area was huge, there’s a pool and a bar where you can interact with fellow travelers. WiFi was fast and reliable. At first I was taken aback when I saw that the rooms had no fan, but once I slept I realized that a fan was not needed because it was cool and breezy at night. Could be a problem for those who sleep during the day time though. Security could be a problem since the locks on the doors could be forced open easily, but nothing got stolen while i was there. Overall I liked the hostel. When I woke up in the morning, the vibe of the hostel was very relaxing especially by the pool where I ate breakfast. Could be a bit hard to make lasting friendships though because most travelers in Lusaka are only transiting. I stayed for 3 days and everyone else were just staying for a day lol. People were either headed elsewhere in the country, (most commonly to Livingstone or to South Luangwa National Park for a Safari) or they are going to catch a flight out of the country the next day.
After eating breakfast, i decided to walk around. Lusaka impressed me. The city is definitely worlds away from Dar Es Salaam, and since my mind was preconditioned by the media, I really didn’t expect to see such a modern city in Sub Saharan Africa. Streets were indeed very clean. Public transport was easy and modern. There are even huge malls, one even had 10 Cinemas! There are lots of restaurants, including familiar fast food chains. The entire city actually reminded me of places in California, like Riverside and Burbank. All of my friends back home were very surprised when I showed them pictures of Lusaka. Actually the airport was also modern, I was just too tired to take note of it when we arrived. If i took notice of that, i wouldn’t have been surprised that the city as a whole was very modern.
The bus station was very near the hostel so I decided to buy a ticket. Almost all “Mzungus” take the Mazhandu Family Bus line, so i decided to just go with the flow and buy a ticket together with the other Mzungus. Livingstone is 7-8 hours away from Lusaka, and when I saw the buses i knew that 7 hours would just zip by. First class buses actually look like first class buses! That’s right, it’s a first class bus based on Western Standards and not on African Standards! And a one way ticket only costs 10 bucks! All right, it’s probably more of a second class bus based on Western standards, but after riding all those so called first class buses in Tanzania these buses in Lusaka look like they are fit for a king. lol. I took the 7AM bus the next day. Unlike in Tanzania wherein most of the passengers inside the buses i took were locals, the bus to Livingstone had a lot of tourists. This isn’t really surprising considering the fact that most travelers in Zambia go to Livingstone to see Victoria Falls. Also, the buses are very convenient an comfortable. There were a number of stops, but it usually just took about 5 minutes per stop except for that one place where we stopped for lunch. In just a few short hours i would be in Livingtone, and I was so excited that i didn’t get to sleep. That’s the first time i didn’t sleep while riding a bus in Africa! i just admired the view from the window, and without realizing it, we had already arrived at our destination.