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Published: July 26th 2012
A 16 hour bus trip from Mbala to Lusaka. It was the best bus I've been on in all of Africa thus far. It was German built, judging by the Emergency Exit signs in German, and there was one seat per passenger - a wonderful concept n this part of the world. Met a paediatrician and a school teacher on the bus. The yonug doctor was heading to Livingstone to see his family before he started his new posting in the Northern province. The young teacher specializing in handicapped needs was heading to Lusaka to try sort out a missing exam paper for a course he'd finished at Uni. The bus stopped every couple of hours for passengers to stretch, get food and visit the loo. As for the toilets on the route, they were generally clean and most even had running water. Wow! That's luxury travel, in my books. The bus arrived in Lusaka a little after 03:00.
It was a "video bus" as you're likely to encounter anywhere in the world. Of course, You don't get a choice on the video being shown. It started with a few African Gospel singers then soon progressed into a full length B-grade Russian-Israeli movie with a seriously bad and very violent plot line compounded with swearing in every dialogue. Luckily the movie stopped half way in, because it needed a 2nd DVD to be inserted, and the operator wasn't paying attention I guess. Then there were several Zambian episodes of some locally produced attempts at comedy, where every second line was "Jesus" or "You are stupid" with seriously bad acting. Then came the continous assault of Jesus porn, in the form of loud African gospel style singing and swaying (can't call it dancing). At first it was amusing and mildly entertaining, but it soon became over whelming, especially when everyone was trying to sleep. Many people put a coat over their face to muffle the sound and cut out the bright light from the screen. The worse thing was it was on a continuous loop. The same DVD played over and over. Eventually, people complained loudly enough that the volume was turned down.
Oh, I also forgot to mention the angry preacher who got on the bus and began a loud sermon at one of the break stops. Luckily, it was not in English. Every now and then some people in the bus would say "Amen" or "Alleluah" ... The look of anger in his face was just priceless. Not love, not sympathy, not happy, just plain unadulterated anger. With a voice to match the facial expression. He got a few Kwatcha in the end for his angry ministrations. People actually paid to be yelled at and treated like sheep. No American TV evangelist could have matched this guy for the Fire and Brimstone look in his eyes. I was tempted to take a picture of his angry face, but didn't want to insult any people who were actually Amening to all the vitriolic. He also gave out a cell number - so that he could shout to them in person I guess.
Hopped into a taxi and went to the Lusaka Hotel. Yes, it's only a few blocks from the bus station, but I'm not walking that at 03:00! The taxi drivers refused to haggle. I felt like trying the old Monty Python line about "well if you won't haggle, I won't you" ... but, considering the time and place and options I had, it didn't seem very sensible. So, I paid the 20,000 Kwacha (US$4) to take me the 4 blocks.
Yes, it's 5,000 Kwacha to the dollar. You only need US$200 to be a millionaire here. Wanna be a millionaire? Just move to Zambia. The largest denomination note is ZK 50,000. So, yes, one needs large pockets to carry any meaningful amounts of money.
And that's just what I had to do today, since I decided to fly from from Livingstone to South Luangwa NP instead of busing back to Lusaka for 8 hours then busing East to Chipata for another 8 hours and then taking another transport to the park. The plane tickets are listed in US$, but since a couple of months ago, one must pay for everything in Kwacha. So, I walked up and down Cairo Street, the main street in Lusaka, finding the ForEx place with the best rate, and changed the amount I needed. Then the travel agent took my money and converted back to US$ at his rate. I had 6 Million stuffed into various and sundry pockets going from the ForEx bureau to the travel agent. I felt perfectly safe Walking down Cairo street with bulging pockets.
And that's why there's no pics for this entry. I didn't want to lug my camera around when dealing with all those millions. Oh! The travel agent uses a functioning dot matrix printer and makes carbon copies. How retro is that!
So, here's the plan. E.. and W.. of the NEW crew flies in tomorrow from Doha. We head South to Livingstone/Vic. Falls for 6 days, with possible day trips to Botswana and Zimbabwe and then fly East to South Luongwa NP for 3 days of Safari before overlanding to Lilongwe in Malawi.
Oh, a piece of travel advice for East (and probably Southern) Africa. If you're counting on using credit cards, bring Visa NOT Mastercard. Almost nobody accepts Mastercard. Visa is grudgingly accepted, with a hefty 5%!o(MISSING)r so service charge tacked onto the cash price. Furthermore, traveller's cheques are a waste of time ... except as emergency funds. Bring US$ cash in large denominations dated 2006 or later. Pounds Sterling are accepted in commonwealth nations at a rate less favourable than US$ and Euro at even a worse rate. Don't even bother with Aussie$ or Canuck bucks.
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