Zambia is indeed a calm country and I found most of its citizens to be very soft spoken. My main driving force to go to Zambia was to see the Victoria Falls but I am happy that Zambia decided to show more of itself to us as the Victoria Falls were a great disappointment of sorts. We managed to enjoy the below while there.
a) New Kapiri Mposhi:
This is the first town that welcomed us into Zambia. It is located in central Zambia and we arrived here via the Tazara train from Tanzania. It is generally a small town with most of the main amenities found in the same area. We thus tried to sample it via the below means.
a). Sample the local delicacies:
In the train, we made friends with some ladies who thereafter invited us for a meal at their home. This would indeed be an introduction to the hospitality of Zambians. They prepared Nshima which is made from maize meal and water, the equivalent of Ugali in Kenya, though much softer. We also had fish, Ifisashi which are vegetables mixed with peanut powder, umulembwe which is ocra leaves and mukoya which is a popular fermented traditional drink similar to porridge.
2.Visit the local market
My highlight of visiting the market was seeing various insect delicacies on sale. In Zambia, several insects are eaten and here I got to see the large Mopani caterpillars, locally known as “ifishimu/ifinkubala. They are mainly dried or roasted and it was interesting watching people eating them. I however, was unable to convince my tastebuds to sample them.
1)Get an aerial view of Lusaka:
We took a bus from New Kapiri Mposhi to the capital Lusaka, covering about 200km in 5hours. Their roads are in good condition and the buses are also quite comfortable. Lusaka is generally a small town with the tallest building being Fidenco House which has 23 floors. We opted to visit this building to get an aerial view of the town and truly, it was a sight to behold.
In the bus from New Kapiri Mposhi to Lusaka, we made friends and this greatly enhanced our trip once in Lusaka. Petronilla not only assisted us navigate the busy bus park terminal in Lusaka but also gave us a guided tour of Lusaka. Interacting with her family enabled us to learn some of their culture.
3) Learn their culture
You will easily note that when a young person is greeting an older person, they slightly bend their knee and have their one hand holding onto the wrist of the other, as a sign of respect. I also noted when greeting the men, they would shake my hand as they put their hand over their heart-also a sign of respect.
4) Visit the Victoria falls in Livingstone
The town is quite small and is best known as the holiday destination for travelers and tourists. It is popular because it is home to the famous Victoria Falls locally known in the Kololo language as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” which means “Smoke that thunders “.
The famous Victoria falls is on the Zambezi river and is located in both Zambia and Zimbabwe due to being on the border. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is known as the World’s largest waterfall due to having a combined width of 1708 m and the longest sheet of falling water due to its height of 108m. The Batoko Gorge where the water drops into, is also a spectacle in itself.
I was however shocked and disappointed by the state of the waterfalls in December 2016, there was no “Smoke that thunders”, no waterfalls, no vibrant Victoria Falls. What we found were dry rocks, streaks of water in some areas and we could actually see the dry base of the Batoko Gorge.
I was shocked, I didn’t even think this was possible, no water at the Victoria falls? We were however informed that this is a common occurrence especially during the dry season and in this case, during the drought season. I was sad but chose to enjoy this new landscape-exposed rock, exposed Batoko Gorge, that’s not something one expects to see often. I therefore advise one to check the weather as well as the state of the falls before travelling here. What was interesting to see, which almost seemed mystical, was that we could see gushes of water, we could hear “The Smoke that Thunders”, from across the Zimbabwean side, strange I tell you. Definitely, we had to thereafter venture into Zimbabwe, to sample their version of the waterfalls.
5) Get the Zimbabwean Pass
Zambia and Zimbabwe share the Victoria falls and are separated by a bridge. For those not planning to move further into Zimbabwe, yet would like to cross the bridge, you can get a free pass from the Immigration office. This also allows one to partake and enjoy the various adrenaline sports like bungee jumping and zip lining carried out on the bridge. One presents their passport at the immigration office and they are handed a pass as they leave their passport behind. Kindly note, this pass doesn’t give you permission to enter Zimbabwe, it is more like a pass into “No mans land” which is the area between the two countries. One can easily walk, about 30 minutes or hire a taxi, we walked. Once we returned the pass, we received back our unstamped passports. Go on, its worth it.
There is a variety of accommodation options across the country, for all pockets and tastes. I was however quite impressed by how having a swimming pool seemed like a bare necessity, even for basic accommodations like backpackers. We stayed at both Lusaka Backpackers in Lusaka and Jolly Boys Backpackers in Livingstone and I was greatly impressed. This was the first place I learnt that some accommodation facilities offer self-catering options, where guests can cook for themselves and store their food in the fridge if they opt out of the facilities catering. Every travel has its learning points-this was one.
We arrived in Zambia via the Tazara train from Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania. The train we used was new, super clean, fresh and very comfortable.
The staff were also very warm and friendly and the food cooked on order very delicious.The whole ride took two nights and three days and I highly recommend it as It allows one to enjoy the beauty of different towns enroute as well as providing an amazing train ride experience.It is also an amazing experience listenning to the chugging of the train as it navigated the journey and especially at tunnels and bridges.
It also enables one to make friends who in our case opened their home to us in Kapiri Mposhi. At the border town of Nkonde which we arrived late in the night, I was impressed to see that we didn’t have to disembark as the Immigration officers boarded the train and attended to all. Kindly note that once the train crosses the border, the currency used immediately changes from Tanzania Shilling to Zambian Kwacha, make sure you change some with the money changers who aboard at the border. Do not lose your train ticket and or receipt, they will be requested at the end of your journey.
From Kapiri Mposhi to Lusaka, we rode a bus for about 5 hours covering 200 kilometers and another one from Lusaka and Livingstone covering about 483 kilometers in about 8 hours.
Zambia is indeed an amazing country filled with very calm, warm people. The hospitality of the people and their soft spoken nature, truly stood out. I truly enjoyed the towns I visited, New Kapiri Mposhi, Lusaka and Livingstone. There is still so much more to see and do in Zambia and thus, I will have to return. Next stop, was Zimbabwe.
For more on Zambia check out : http://22.214.171.124/wangechigitahi.co.ke/zambia-101/