Zambia, so easy going, they could have invented Malibu.

Lusaka Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 12 › view all entries

Righty-oh, this one will be a bit more rambling than usual.  Try to stick with it.  I thought I'd write a blog on Zambia as a country since we left it last night and are now in Malawi, and then hopefully add a second one detailing what we've been up to recently tomorrow sometime, before disappearing up a mountain for a while.  You know me and mountains.

But first: OH MY GOD THE MICROLIGHT FLIGHT WAS AMAZING.  It was, absolutly incredible, fifteen minutes soaring through the air strapped not in a harness but by an airline seatbelt, to a big kite with a propellar attached.  The views of vic falls, the delta before and the gorge beyond were incredible.  I saw a herd of elephants with babys (!), hippos swimming underwater, got close up to possibly the most awesome view ever.  And just generally had an incredible time.  I even got a go at flying the thing which was rather scary.  The whole thing was absolutely incredible.  Just awesome.

Zambia is, as Lonely Planet calls it "real Africa".  It is raw Africa, with few tourists, vast, vast distances between everything and more edge, with fewer tourists.  And yet the people here tend to be incredibly friendly and welcoming.

So thats all the cliches out the way, what do I really think.  As Jack (some random english guy we met at Jollyboys bar in Livingstone who has recently finished a placement down a mine shaft!) put it: "It shouldn't work, but it does".  The Zambians are very laid back in their approach to everything.  If they were anymore laid back, they'd have invented Malibu.  This can be a good thing, or a bad thing.  There is no concept of providing a good service, just of doing one's job.  Anything where you interact in a retail setting is just as much about what I am offering them with my money as what they are offering me with their goods.  I'm not so much a fan of that.  And are they really that friendly.  Yes, the Zambians tend to be incredibly outgoing, willing to talk to anybody about both you and themselves, keen to learn about other cultures, but are they that friendly.  We've been in several situations, notably in Lusaka, which we visited again, i do now hate it there, where it seems like people are only being friendly in order to get something from us.  As an example, in attempting to find a bus ticket shop to get us to Malawi, everyone was willing to help us, to get us to the right ticket office, so that they could get their nice little cut of our fare, which the bus company attempted to recoup from us by charging us excess baggage.  People at craft/curio stalls are all very friendly, and its nice to have a chat, but it just feels like its all a facade, an attempt to charm you.  There is a distinct lack of vegetables round here aswell, which is annoying.  Although their crisps are not overly flavoured like UK ones tend to be.  They're quite nice really.  And they do do a nice cornish pasty when pushed.  But there is a distinct lack of their own gastronomic existence.

Don't get me wrong, when the Zambians have nothing to get from you, they are genuinely friendly, and some of the people we have met have been fantastic in helping us.  The kids in the African village were humblingly friedndly and welcoming.  Our guide in the Lower Zambezi, Martin, was informative, funny and a great person to be around.  So, the Zambians, outgoing and charming yes, but don't necessarily confuse it with friendly.

With the death of the president Dr. Levy Mwanawasa last week, Zambia stands at a crossroads in its existence.  Dr. Mwanawasa brought the country back to multi-party politics, has provided free primary education to all, reduced and virtually wiped out corruption.  He was an icnredibly loved leader judging by the response of the nation as a whole, the tv and radio have been at a standstill ever since.  And also the people we've met have had very little bad stuff to say about him.  Even if they agree he was a little unstable in the head.  It is up to the ruling political party to decide on an interim president until the general election in 2011 (such is my understanding, I could be incredibly wrong), if they get this right, and a good president is chosen, and in 2011, there are free and fair elections then Zambia will become a more prosperous country with the Zambian people having a brighter future.  But then again, I felt the same thing about Evo Morales, Bolivia's first indigenous president, when I visited Bolivia in 2006.  And look how thats turning out.  Politics is a funny thing.

Whilst Zambia may have a bright future; with high fuel, accomodation and food costs and its not the most easy place to get around and live in.  It is somewhat with regret that we've actually been looking forward to getting to Malawi.  I shouldn't think like that about a country, but I do.  I'm trying hard not to dislike the country just because its difficult, but so many things get me about it.  Whilst all the activites we've done have been incredible, there isn't actually a lot to do.  The towns and cities tend to be rather bland.  There's nothing you can immerse yourself in for a few hours, no cafe culture to go and relax with.  Zambia is about waiting between one awesome activity and another.  And there is a hell of a lot of waiting.  To sum it all up:  Zambia is the best country I've ever been to with no concept of pudding.  I'll leave it up to you to decide what I mean about that.

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photo by: pearcetoyou