Lusaka, hated with a passion?
Lusaka Travel Blog› entry 4 of 12 › view all entries
*righty, so my travbuddy account is now working again after a minor hiccup, so on t'internet for the second time today, sigh. We're actually currently in Livingstone, visiting all the attractions round there, but I thought I'd write a final account of the wonderful city of Lusaka, and possibly also try and upload some photos.
"I hate Lusaka with a passion, it's good to be back in the bush". These were the words of an american expat lodge owner we crossed paths with near the lower Zambezi national park. Similar sentiments were echoed by the Zambian owner of the lodge we started our safari from. And in a way they are right. Lusaka is a very bustling city, crowded full of people such that Chris, Alex and I had to walk in single file most of the time, which doesn't make for the best way to view the city. Its very much a local city for local people. The markets sell all kinds of things, the crowded nature with the sites and smells are certainly interesting to walk through, but not to shop in. There are no artisanal craft stalls like you'd find in all major cities in South America. These people clearly don't get tourists, white people are still somewhat of a curiosity. There are no tour agencies, this makes trying to organise anything difficult. They particularly don't get backpackers, the poorer tourists who aren't staying the hotel, catching a taxi to everywhere they want to go. They don't seem to realise why we would want to visit their market. All in all it makes it very tricky to be a tourist here. Its a bit like Ranau was in southern Sabah in Borneo, where people really didn't have a clue what on earth we were doing there.
But is the lack of tourism actually a good thing. Have we just experienced the real Africa, somewhere where its not easy to get around and do things. Where its certainly not easy to cross the roads without getting run-over. Its an art-form we had to learn very quickly. Or is it just me? What with everything being so expensive here, am I just a bit frustrated at also not being able to do the things I've come to expect from travelling given my majority of SouthAm experiences so far. There's only one musuem, which is a bit limited, though fascinating. Only one monument, which seems a bit poor for a capitol city. Petrol here is one of the most expensive in the world, and in such a large country this impacts heavily on all sorts of goods, especially food. The budget that previously put us in good stead is now just covering survival, let alone doing anything interesting. For example, we haven't been eating in restaurants like I have in so many other countries. This is partly because they don't seem to have a very rich restaurant culture (due to the lack of tourists perhaps), in fact they're whole gastranomic culture is disappointingly limited compared to the Andes. But its also partly because of the cost. We haven't been able to afford proper nights out and have settled for cheaper fast-food or getting our own food from supermarkets far more often (which isn't really a problem, before I start sounding like a pretentious git!). More "western" shops can be found at two big malls further out of town, but these are dull soulless places like all out of town shopping and frankly, are much worse!
And yet. The people remain incredibly warm and friendly, like all Zambians, we've met. They are laid back, and very willing to talk about their own culture, learn about yours and generally have a good chat. The three-move handshake which seems to fairly regular is very friendly, and people always want to know your name and where you're from. There are exceptions to the rule of course, when people are overly friendly and helpful and then ask for money afterwards. But giving the nation the benefit of the doubt I'd say that this friendliness is genuine. Certainly outside of the city. In the african village we visited whilst on safari, everyone was enormously nice, especially the kids. I can tell you that the celebrity walking along holding the hands of village children shots that crop up from time to time aren't staged. It happened to us! And the kids wanted to sing to us and find out more about us. All in all it was a very humbling experience.
But where does this leave Lusaka, the capitol. Overall its a very real and raw place, intruiging would be perhaps the word I would use (especially if I could spell it correctly). Its not a bad place. Its not a city I love, and certainly not a place for a novice traveller to negotiate. It'll certainly be interesting to see how it all compares to what will be a tourist trap, Livingstone, which most certainly is on the major tourist trail. I'm glad to have seen Lusaka and I definitly don't hate it with a passion. I'm just quite glad we've only got one more night there.