Tag Archives: Zambia

Reflections on Africa

DSC09978

Well, the dream is over and the adventure is nothing but a memory. I’m back home in Australia, it’s about nine degrees, and I can’t help wishing that I was still exploring strange lands on the other side of the world. My two months travelling through the Dark Continent have come and gone, and the astonishing landscapes and beautiful people of Africa are now thousands of kilometres away, but the things I experienced and the people I met will always be a part of me.

DSC01021

Africa was never a place I really wanted to visit, largely because the Australian perception of the continent is one of death and violence and chaos. Even leading up to my trip, I kind of felt like it was a place I should visit, rather than one I was actually passionate about seeing. That changed the moment I stepped foot in Africa. For that reason alone, it was the most surprising place I’ve ever been to – and my journey through Africa turned out to be the most enjoyable overseas trip I’ve ever had. If you’re tossing off up about going, just book a flight over there and go for it. Where else can you climb a mountain, dodge a carjacker, get chased by a lion and get smashed on great beer in the same afternoon?

DSC05746

I was very aprehensive about what would welcome me in Cape Town, and was worried about even making it from the airport to my hotel. The slums that slid past the bus window as I stared out in wide-eyed wonder did nothing to ease my apprehension, but it didn’t take me long to fall in love with the city. It’s certainly troubled, but it’s also overflowing with incredible hiking trails, lovely beaches, top restaurants and pubs, and some truly special women.

DSC01494

They call Cape Town the gateway to Africa, and it was the perfet entryway to the place. After renting a shitty Hyundai that even a sex offender would be embarrassed to drive, I found the rest of SA to be even more incredible. The rugged coastline, the misty mountains, the freaky animals, the beer, the dried meats, the gigantic fruit – dude, the place rocks. And despite having a reputation for being knob-jockeys, I found the Saffas to be the kindest, most helpful people I’ve ever met. Of course, I’m not black, which might have something to do with it.

DSC05998

Through the remote mountains of Lesotho, across the rolling hills of Swaziland, past the wild waters of Zimbabwe and shambling dead of Zambia, the beating heart of Africa entranced me and caused me to fall madly in love with the place. It’s no wonder that people have been travelling around the world to explore the wilds of Africa for so many years. It’s the sort of place that draws in the adventurous, the open-minded, and the lost.

DSC08091

In Malawi I found a special place surrounded by mountains, where the water is crystal clear and full of neon fish and lethal parasites. On the beaches of Cape Maclear I found peace and happiness in a place where few people have ever been. I visited so many memorable places in Africa, but the Cape tops them all, and the memories of the week I spent there will always bring a smile to my face.

DSC08631

After living amongst poverty and desolation, it was strange to end my journey on the tropical beaches of Zanzibar and Mauritius, where most people are most definitely tourists and not travellers. It would be wrong to call these places let-downs – they’re incredibly beautiful and I highly recommend both destinations – but it was disappointing to be back in civilisation, having given left the remote backwaters and interesting people that are inevitably drawn to them.

DSC06620

It was a privilege to cross paths with people having their own adventures in strange lands, and I cherish the friendships I made with people I’ll probably never meet again. It’s surprising how strong the bonds between travellers can be – when you’ve got nothing and no one to tie you to your normal life, that dude or dudette you bumped into at the hostel can feel like a lifelong friend. And that’s what travelling is really about – meeting people from different backgrounds and becoming a part of their life for a day or two.

DSC06024

Oh, and what happened to Prince Imotep, the Nigerian royal who sent me an email asking me to help him move his millions, thus kicking off this who adventure (before promptly being forgotten)? I dunno, let’s just say he came through, sent me the money, and I’m now so rich that I own a helicopter and one of those fancy Japanese sex robots. How that for an awesome through-story with a satisfying and believable conclusion? I really should be a Hollywood screenwriter or something.

G0526404

I wandered through Africa for two months, but it’s only since returning home that I’ve truly felt lost. There’s a line in the Third Eye Blind song Deep Inside of You that goes, ‘I’d walk with my people if I could find them’, and I think that for a while I was in-step with people I have something in common with.

G0165986

Oh well, there’s no time to wistfully ponder my time in Africa – I’m heading to Bali in a few days for a month of paragliding, drinking, and being awesome. What can I say, it beats sitting in the office.

DSC08646

Advertisements

Night of the Livingstone Dead

Zimbabwe is falling apart and there are beggars and troublemakers everywhere, so I decided to cross the birder to the relatively stable Zambia. Livingstone is the most prosperous city in this dusty, landlocked country, and I had a top time exploring it while waiting to jet off to Malawi tomorrow… right up until the zombie apocalypse broke out and I nearly had by brains sucked out of my skull by a bloodthirsty ghoul.

Livingstone isn’t full of tourist sites and won’t rival Prague or Cape Town as the world’s most beautiful city, but it offers a vibrant and authentic look at the real Africa. It’s relatively safe (when not overrun by swarms of undead monsters) and is small enough to explore on foot (but keep a chainsaw handy in case you need to dispatch a recently-reanimated ratbag).

Livingstone’s best known for its proximity to Victoria Falls, but unlike the associated town on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi, it feels like a proper city and not a tourist hub. There are run-down markets, expensive restaurants, colonial buildings and people carrying shit on their heads. It’s got a bit of everything.

I was minding my own business when a putrid, flesh-hungry zombie stumbled out of an open drain and started dragging itself toward me. I stared into it’s dead eyes and smelled it’s rancid odour, and nearly shat myself when it stumbled towards me on broken legs. I turned to run, stumbled, and let out a scream as the thing reached out for me.

A tough guy pulled up in a ute, jumped out and smashed the zombie across the face with a piece of wood, but the creature wasn’t even stunned. It snarled at the would-be hero and then leant in and sank its horrid teeth into his neck, sending blood spraying into the air like a fountain. I was soon drenched.

Somehow I got back to my feet moments before the zombie could pounce on me. I kicked it in the nuts, which did nothing, then followed that up with somw perfectly-executed punched that knocked the monster backwards. I scooped him up, keeping his teeth away from my flesh, and then hurled him into the street just as a semi trailer roared past. The zombie splattered on the front like an overripe watermelon. It’s a good thing I escaped, because I never got my anti-zombie shots before coming over here.

I looked down at the dead man who’d tried to help me, then saw a beautiful African woman step out of his ute. She looked at her dead husband, then at me. No words needed to be spoken, and she fell into my arms. We kissed passionately, and then we headed back to my hostel for several hours of passionate lovemaking. It’s not easy being a hero to people around the world, but it can be rewarding.

Yep, that’s a big tree alright

Zimbabwe isn’t only famous for the legendary Victoria Falls, it’s also  well know for the widespread slaughter of innocent white people a couple of other things, one big and one small. With today being my final full day in this unusual country, I decided to have a good crack at both.

The South Africans are immensely proud of their Big Pineapple, claiming that it’s the only Big Thing in Africa, but the Zimbos have something to say about that. Victoria Falls is home to the Big Tree, a 1500-year-old monster that is actually pretty large. Alright, it’s not awe-inspiringly massive, and being an actual tree rules it out of being a proper Big Thing, but it’s there, and that’s cool.

The slightly smaller thing Zimbabwe is known for is Robert Mugabe’s penis their delicious pork pies. These things are available everywhere for about 50c each and are able to be munched hot or cold, so I’ve stocked up on them for whenever hunger calls. They come in flavours such as peri peri chicken and beef, but I can’t tell the difference between them so I reckon it’s a load of shit that there’s more than one type. I’ve lost nearly a quarter of my body weight since February, but if I lived in Zimbabwe I’d put it all back on and more (and then get murdered, most likely).

It’s Sunday, and Sunday is for drinking and picking up German backpackers by the pool, but I found time to strut along the Zambezi River. Sure, there are signs warning about crocodiles, and falling into the deceptively calm water would mean a lethal plunge off the top of Vic Falls, but I like to live on the edge.

I also met some new hawkers; Hulk Hogan, Beautiful, Cloud, Professor Yes, Angel, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lion, Mike Tyson, Bridge, Goldman, Power Ranger, T-Shirt, Captain America, Vigilante, Smile, Heaven, Biscuit, David Beckham, McDonald’s, Hello, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Donald Trump all wanted to sell me worthless shit I don’t want or need. Don’t worry, fellas, I’m sure someone is desperate for a carved wooden hippo.

Well, that’s it for Zim. Tomorrow I’m heading over to Livingstone for a quick stopover before heading out to the truly wild and remote lands of Malawi. But first I’ve gotta smash this beer, smash this pork pie, and then hopefully smash that German chick over there in the bikini. Her backyard might get blitzed if you know what I mean.

The Great Victoria Falls (mas)Debate: Zim or Zam, yo?

Zimbabweans hate Zambians, and Zambians hate Zimbabweans, and it’s all because both countries claim to provide the best view of Victoria Falls. Having explored the Zam side yesterday, and visited the Zim side today, I can say that the best plan of attack is to see both sides in order to get the whole picture and experience as much of these incredible waterfalls as possible. But if you’re only in town for one day, I’d suggest heading to the Zambian side, because it offers more variety and a lot more monkeys. It’s a controversial opinion and I’ll probably be run out of Zimbabwe by Robert Mugabe for saying it, but there it is. Shit, if I keep up the helpful advice, Drunk and Jobless will start looking like a proper travel blog or something.

The big plus for the Zim side is that it offers a spectacular walkway that winds its way in front of the Falls for a kilometre or so, which gives a greater appreciation for the size of the thing than the Zam side. It’s a wet and wild trip, with the spray from the Falls cascading down in a torrential downpour reminiscent of a summer day in Melbourne. Don’t saunter through there with your winning Lotto ticket poking out of your back pocket is what I’m saying.

The Zim side has fewer walking trails, and doesn’t offer a way to walk to the bottom of the Falls. I was hoping to find a spot that allowed me to look up, rather than across, at the behemoth, because I think that would be even more incredible than what I experienced. In saying that, the views I had today were absolutely spectacular, filled with rainbows, and there’s truly no bad way to see this amazing place.

Of course, if you’re rich as fuck, there are helicopter and microlight flights over the Falls, which would be awesome. But if I had $US150 to burn on 12 minutes of excitement, it would involve a 19-year-old Russian who can put her ankles behind her head, and not some middle-aged helicopter pilot with half his lunch spilled down the front of his shirt.

Speaking of shirts, it’s funny how many of the older folk around here (and most of the tourists around Vic Falls kissed their peak mating days goodbye back when the Newtown Jets were still world beaters) get around in safari outfits. Khaki cargo pants, khaki shirts with heaps of pockets, and even those funny little khaki safari hats. I’d hate to break it to them that dressing like a character from Carry On Up The Jungle doesn’t make their 12-day package tour anymore wild.

Oh, and I met some more hilariously-named street vendors! Today I encountered Prince, Honest, Sunshine, Bart Simpson, Mr Excellent, Batman, Super Nintendo, Rainbow, Clint Eastwood, Emperor, Magic, Dude, Handsome Boy, Champagne, Happiness, The Rock, Supreme, Zimbabwe Warrior and Gary. That last bloke sure got shortchanged in the name game. They all wanted to sell me Zimbabwe bank notes (I got one with a Zoo mag years ago – and it’s the only decent thing that shithouse rag offered the whole time it existed), carved animals (the only sort of carved animal I’m interested in is a steak) or ‘the good stuff’ (drugs, apparently. Although if it’s as disappointing as when I offer girls ‘the good stuff’, I’m glad I passed).

The Smoke That Thunders

Over the years I’ve been fortunate enough to see some of the world’s most beautiful natural sites. Mount Fuji, the Great Barrier Reef, that Dutch chick I banged in Santorini last year. Nothing has come close the awe-inspiring power and majesty of Victoria Falls, a 108m-high, 1708m-wide wonder that straddles the Zimbabwean/Zambian border. This epic work of art is twice the height and nearly double the width of Niagara Falls and needs to be seen to be believed, and as I write this I’m still buzzing from how awesome it is.

I wasn’t enraptured by the town of Victoria Falls when I first got here, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s crawling with hawkers and beggars, selling everything from carved elephants to hard drugs, and asking for everything from a dollar to my shoes. I don’t know if they expect me to strut out of here barefooted, but I’ve been surprised by how many dudes have tried to buy the clothes I’m wearing. Shit, after five weeks of travelling I’m surprised my clobber hasn’t swaggered off by itself.

A typical wander to the corner shop to buy a beer sounds something like this;
“Hi, I’m Cowboy! Want a wooden giraffe?”
“Hello, my name is Delicious! How about buy a billion dollar note off me?”
“Good day my friend, I am Christopher Columbus! Would you like some black tar heroin?”
“How’s it going, I’m Peanut! How about a hat?”
“Yo, brother, they call me King Reginald! I will sing you a song!”
“Spectemur Agendo, I’m Percy Pringle. You want sex?”

The other thing that surprised me is that the Falls themselves, while extremely close to the town, are nowhere to be seen. They’re big enough that I expected to be able to see them while walking down the street, but the only viewing points are locked away in surprisingly expensive national parks. I can say without a shadow of doubt, however, that it’s absolutely worth handing over $US30 to bask in the glory of that torrent of water. It’s a place that can never be forgotten.

I visited the Zambian side of the Falls first (that’s country 48, for those counting at home), and the compact national park that straddles the legendary Zambezi River offers a number of walking trails and some epic views of what the locals know as Mosi-oa-Tunya – The Smoke That Thunders. I first plunged down the cliff towards a spot known as The Boiling Pot, which is at the bottom of the waterfall and looks out over an angry whirlpool of foaming water. I climbed through beautiful rainforest before emerging into a frighteningly loud couldron where water sprays in every direction and nature takes a backseat to no one.

Baboons run rampant in the park, fighting with each other, fucking, wanking, screaming, falling over, and occasionally attacking tourists who have a spare jam sandwich in their backpack. I watched those hairy little bastards mucking around for ages, and laughed my dick off every time one of them did something stupid. Come for the Falls, stay for the monkeys as far as I’m concerned.

The most impressive walk in the park crosses right in front of the Falls, taking in a suspension bridge that leads out to an island that seems suspended in the sky. It’s a wet walk, with the spray from the Falls soaking everyone who dares to wander out there. Trundling out there is like venturing into a storm cloud, with fierce winds and unexpected downpours smashing through. The view makes braving the atrocious conditions more than worth it, though.

The final track skirts along the top of the Falls, and offers a more tranquil view of the big girl. It’s incredibly pretty up there, and the constant sound of the water churning matched with my hangover meant that I soon fell asleep by the riverbank. When I woke up the sun was hovering above the gurgling waters, and I was treated to a brilliant sunset above one of the most amazing places on the planet. Sure, Victoria Falls might be touristic and awash with the disappointments that come with that, but the Falls themselves are absolutely astonishing. Two thumbs up from me!