Vignettes from Africa IV – Day Trip to Zambia

Zambiaroadsign

ZNBC, Zambian TV was just a scream. At sign on at 6:00 p.m., Chinyama Mukuma, in a brown plaid jacket, and Bridget Nkhoma, brown blazer and a necklace with a cross, read us the news. It ran until they’d told it all, I guess. It started at 6:00 and ended at 6:18. Then some happy people down by a pool smiled and sang about how much they enjoyed "Saladi De-odorized Vegetable Oil." The next commercial was for the Gorilla, the Zambian equivalent of The Club anti-theft device.

The TV played videos on channel 4. They even played the warning against showing them in places like hotels.

•••••

We gambled. Three games available down at the casino, roulette, blackjack and Zambesi Poker – five card draw with no drawing. You just bet your hand. Mirja and I bought 100 Z$2 chips each and pulled up at the roulette table. Every single croupier was a trainee, and the trainer glared at all of them, all the time. I lost all my money straightaway but Mirja won about all of it back, and still we were in bed by 11:00.

•••••

While the sun rose over Zambia, white people disdained me over their cereals and fruit as I stuffed down sausages, bacon and cheese rolls. We changed hotels. Graceful, gracious, the Victoria Falls Hotel has a fine view over the fine back lawn, up the chasm of the Zambesi to the Zambia bridge and the falls' spray. Water costs more than beer.

•••••

The air parched, still, searing, we set out to walk to Zambia.


Africans don't queue, they congregate. After the congregation on the Zimbabwean side is the tar road walk to the bridge. Midway in the bridge some people bungee'd into the chasm.

A sign: You Are Entering Zambia, midway down the bridge. This is a three-reason bridge: foot path, rail track and road. None were much used. Maybe a dozen people trudged across and only a car or two and one semi, trailer-less, passed by.

Spray freshened the air as far as the bridge.  Out of the spray, dry wicked heat grabbed at your throat.

A metal shack fried in the sun at the end of the bridge.

"Are you pass control?" (We were stamped out of Zimbabwe.)

"Huh?" A boy in a uniform coiled around his girlfriend inside there. Must've been the End-of-the-Bridge Guard's uniform.

So we kept on walking, starting to trudge now, along the coiled concertina wire fence, along with our new friends who had sacks of grain and buckets and stuff on their heads. Around here a 20 pound sack of grain on your head not only strengthens your neck, it’s also shade!

Finally, Zambian pass control, watched over by baboons. A squat concrete building, not quite as simmering inside, and it smelled delicious, like onions frying.

We congregated. Mirja sailed through not needing a visa but I needed one – for U.S.$10.

I had inadvertently closed the Zimbabwe/Zambia border. They had to find the visa stamp. The clerk closed up the counter to go find the stamp man. I grinned madly at the row of Zambian men behind me for the next eight long, slow minutes.

Another long, slow trek in the boiling sun down a wide-tar road. A sign showed  Livingstone was ten kilometers. Lusaka was 452. But Hotel Intercontinental Musi-O-Tunya was only 500 meters. The sign read, "It's where you go when you've arrived." That's all we wanted to do, arrive.

Victoria And when we finally did, we planted ourselves under some thatch at Kuta restaurant. Mirja was dripping and all pink from the heat. We cooled down with a couple of Mosi Lager beers until our t-shirts had dried some. Then, the falls, down a foot path behind the hotel. The "Upstream Path" held the most spectacular view, way down the length of the falls the long way, back toward Zimbabwe, from above and nearly parallel to the edge.


Some young boys milled around and made Mirja uncomfortable. Mirja imagined Zambia as a den of thieves. A girlhood friend who'd lived there told her that.


So we made our way back. Bye to the baboons, Zambia border, the bridge, hello Zimbabwe, and back to our hotel where we had four Castles sent up to the room. We'd left the air conditioning on high all day. Delicious.  


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