To Livingstone

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Africa » Zambia » Livingstone
August 1st 2008
Published: October 1st 2017
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Geo: -17.8573, 25.8429

We had our usual breakfast, then packed up. At 10am, we returned to Namibian customs on Impalila Island, then crossed to Botswana Immigration. We said good-bye to Patrick, then were transferred - in an open bus - to the river crossing.

We heard from Ralph and others that the lorries are ferried across one at a time, so they often have to wait days for a passage. Prostitution is apparently rife in the queue - and we had heard that this contributed to the spread of HIV from Zambia to Botswana and Namibia. Wonder if it's true. In any case, we counted 53 lorries waiting to go from Botswana to Zambia.

We, on the other hand, drove past the long queue of lorries to the beach. Three minutes late, a motorboat appeared, we were loaded onto it, then we zipped across the river. We were met on the other end, walking to the immigration office, paid the outrageous Zambia visa fees, and then went to our van. It was all very painless - except forking over the cash. Then, a 40 minute drive to the lodge. All tolled, our transit time today, through three countries, was less than two hours.

We had lunch at the main lodge (Tongabezi), then were taken by motorboat to the island, to our Sindabezi camp. The island is quite small, and our room is a platform with a bed, thatch roof, and mosquito netting. Plus a deck with chairs and sofa. The loo and shower are behind. Looks like a great place to spend our last couple of days in Africa.

Because we wanted to visit the Livingstone Museum, we only had about 20 minutes before we needed to return to the mainland. We were then loaded into a van and drove to Livingstone. Along the way, we passed over some railroad tracks; were told they were built to carry timber from the forest to Livingstone ... but that the timber is all gone. A few years back, the government instituted a passenger service, which runs two times a week or so.

We didn't see much of Livingstone today; might see more tomorrow. But the museum was quite interesting. The first room was about Paleolithic man - not terribly well-done; the second room was the usual stuffed creatures in glass cages surrounded by painted diorama. We whizzed through those.

The next two rooms were a pair: our village, our town, each set up as if you were walking through a village or town. "Our Village" had three buildings: on the men's side was a house/bicycle workshop and a second house. The man sat, repairing a bicycle or working with tools. The women's side has a maize-silo and more buildings in a painted backdrop. The women were loading corn into the silo or tending babies. We were told that daytime activities are always separate for men and women. From the village, we moved into "Our Town", which took up the debate about whether it is good to leave a village and go to a town - different painted characters had different thoughts: one said he had no interest in leaving the village, where one could enjoy the breeze. Another said that the village held no future and he wanted to go join his brothers in the city and live the good life. But other displays explored unemployment, HIV, and the sense of isolation that comes from living in the city (e.g., one is a number, not a name).

The next room had displays about local cultural practices around birth, initiation, marriage, medicine, witchcraft, and death. We were the only white people in the room - and everyone else was fascinated by the witchcraft display. A couple of people asked our guide about some of the artifacts; clearly popular.

From there, we moved to an exhibit about Livingstone. They had many of his personal artifacts and some of his letters in glass case (double-sided drawers, so one could see both sides).

The final room covered slavery, colonialism, and the period of post-independence. We wished we had more time, particularly for the latter. There have been three separate republics - including one that called for elections under a single-party participatory democracy structure. This held until student groups, trade unions, and others called for multiparty democracy. Which is what they have now, according to the displays.

We rushed out to the van and returned to the lodge. Coffee on the terrace at Tongabezi, then resting in our shelters on Sindabezi. We particularly enjoyed the sounds of the river - no rapids around here, but tons of birdlife, including the thundering of quelea swarms, the meowing birds, and diving darters and cormorants. Plus, the Ho Ho Ho of a hippo in a near pool. It grows dark as I write this, and the parafiin lamp has not yet been lit, so I think I'll close and just lie here and listen to the riparian entertainments.

We had dinner al fresco, just the four of us, plus Chris (our guide). We spent some time talking politics - especially about Zimbabwe. (No one we've talked to has expressed any support for Mugabe - and they seem quite sincere - raising the subject themselves, speaking at length), Zambia (of the three Presidents, the second squandered what the first had worked to build up; only now are they getting back to where they were years ago). We learned about Chris' personal history, working to become a guide, losing a job when his previous employer closed up shop and returned to the UK, the application process for Tongabezi, how he was hired as a valet and worked for years as that, how the company offered to pay for him to finish his guide certificate, and how he's been doing that for four years since. It was very pleasant, sitting under the stars at table, or by the campfire (the "bush tv" as everyone jokes). Eventually, we retired to our sleeping platform, where we told stories until we sent the kids to bed.

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