Hitchhiking Zambia: Kariba Dam to Livingstone
Hitchhiking Zambia: Kariba Dam to Livingstone.
I decided that I wanted to escape from my 19 year old lady-friend so I packed my goods and checked out of my fantastic guesthouse. Girls who spend all of their time on their telephone when you are hanging out drive me nuts. It is probably her thoughtless and careless youth. Oh well, life carries on.
I felt so terrible. The driver was apologizing to the mother and I was apologizing to the child, who had tears running down her cheeks as she cried. I was asking her mother to ask the little girl to move her fingers. She wiggled them and they seemed to work. I told the driver, the mother and the child how sorry I was. My stomach ached. The driver took off. When I went to turn around to check on the little girl ten seconds later, the crying had stopped. That was a relief. It must not have hurt her too much and the thick door rubber must have cushioned the slam. Her fingers must have been small enough that they fit in the door gap. So lucky. Then it was like nothing had happened…
The ride dropped me just outside of Siavonga at a T-intersection where I hitchhiked onto another vehicle with Zambian immigration officers inside to the Zambia border immigration office. In the office, I told them that I wanted to see the Kariba Dam, so they took my passport, handed me a blank piece of paper that they stamped the date on and sent me through. That seemed suspect…but they told me that is how they do it. So, I took their decision at face value. I told the immigration officer that I hoped he would not sell the passport (he liked that) and walked through a gate into no-man’s land towards the dam between Zambia and Zimbabwe.
I hitchhiked a pick-up truck who took me right to the dam. It is crazy easy Hitchhiking Zambia when you are a foreigner. If the first car to encounter you does not pick you up, the next one will….
As I walked out on the dam, I approached a soldier with an AK-47 to ask him if I was allowed to take photos. He said it was not a problem and asked me for cigarettes. I told him I do not smoke, pointed at him and said that he should not either because it is bad for his health. He liked that I gave him attitude.
The dam is pretty impressive. From the date of the diversion (1957) to its grand opening by Queen Elizabeth II (1960), it took only three years to construct the 128 meter cement structure. From the highest point in the middle, it is a 25 second spit fall. I tried three times and ended up with the same result every time. However, it was impossible to get an accurate spit fall to water count at the Kariba Dam. I left soon after.
On the way to exit the dam, I went to talk to the soldier again, who had asked me for cigarettes. I told him that I had something that he might like. I pulled out my pipe and tobacco for him telling him that I only smoke it on really special occasions. I asked him if he had ever smoked from a pipe before. He had not. I made him smell the wonderfully flavoured tobacco. He was really excited.
We enjoyed a pipe-bowl of tobacco together and I taught him and his friend how cool it looks to point at objects you are talking about with the end of the pipe rather than using your finger. That sure made them laugh. I spent about 15 minutes with them, gave them Beaver stickers, and a little of the tobacco to roll into a cigarette later. It was a lot of fun and it sure made those guys happy.
I hitchhiked with two Chinese road construction engineers to the Zambian immigration office where I picked up my passport while they changed vehicles. They picked me up on the other side of the border in another vehicle and drove me for over an hour in air-conditioning to the Livingstone Junction where I jumped out and was standing in the middle of nowhere with ladies selling bananas to every vehicle stopping. It took me about ten minutes, but a man pulled up and I asked him if he was driving to Livingstone. I asked him if I could jump in. He said that would be alright. I asked him how much money he wanted. He told me to just get in. Awesome!
Well, Emmanuel from Zambia, and I had a great visit on the drive. We became really good friends and he became one of my favorite people I have met so far in Africa. We had about five hours together on the drive to Livingstone. We just got along so well and shared life stories. It was a great ride. And, air conditioning again! Hitchhiking here kicks ass!
In a town called Mazabuka, we stopped to meet a friend of his. There was a lady with his friend who ordered and paid for pizzas and drinks for Emmanuel and I. Wow. Five Star treatment. Emmanuel even bought phone credit for me and I had a difficult time making him accept payment for his generosity…
Zambians have driving etiquette that I have never seen before. If one comes up behind a large vehicle to pass, the vehicle ahead signals towards the other lane if it is unsafe to pass. However, if it is safe to pass, the vehicle signals towards the ditch. Once the passing vehicle is ahead, he turns on his hazard lights to say “thanks”. It is a really nice touch.
Emmanuel and I stopped in a town to look for new windshield wipers for his pick-up truck. As we were walking around, people were asking him for money. Emmanuel is a heavy man and he told me, “When the people see a big body in Zambia, they think money.” I said, “And you are walking with a white-man. People must look at us together and think we are a bank.” He sure laughed at that.
It was interesting spending time with Emmanuel. He is a business man, who has his hands in a lot of things in Zambia. He told me that part of the reason the country is not getting ahead is because foreign investors come in, they make money and then they take the money out of the country again to change it into other more stable currencies. As a result, none of the banks have any money in them and it is difficult to get a loan as the banks do not have access to funds.
We arrived at Livingstone at about 20:30 and I checked into the Livingstone Backpackers. $12 a night for a bed. It has been a long time since I stayed in a backpacker accommodation. A utopia of white-people in Zambia. How uninteresting. I went to the bar and chatted with the three people standing closest to me. They all seemed pretty generic to me so I was pretty happy to go and meet Emmanuel when he called to take me with him to a bar in town.
Emmanuel and I had a local friend in tow with us and she wanted to go to a night-club called 7-11. I am not even kidding. 7-11 has nightclubs here in Zambia, complete with staff wearing regular 7-11 uniforms. It was a dance-club with music at unnecessary volumes as people sparsely sat silently at tables, unable to talk over the noise of the terrible music, but it was where we were because the 24 year old friend with us has typical 24 year old club lust.
Eventually we moved to the upstairs of the club where there was a terrace overlooking the street. There were two girls together at a table, and I was pointing at them, making sure they knew I was pointing at them, while telling Emmanuel that I really liked the one with curly hair. Emmanuel called the girls over for me and the one I was not as interested in came over to talk to me. I complimented her on her dress, told her she was very pretty, and asked her if she could send her friend over to talk to me.
I call that the “Travis Fisher Move”. Travis, my friend ever since I could comprehend the concept of “friend”, and I have spent years together and I cannot count the times in my life where Travis went to the bathroom and a girl approached me with big eyes, which would startle something in me, and then she would ask me where my friend went. That was always shitty to be on the other side of, but I guess that is how life goes. It is not something that I have ever done to girls before, but I did it tonight because the wrong girl came to meet me.
It went off pretty well and the friend came to meet me. I spent most of the next hour and half with Karen from Zambia. Her friend turned out to be her cousin. I picked on Karen a lot and she liked me. I asked Emmanuel if he thought she was a prostitute. He told me he did not think so. Later in the night, I ended up making out with Karen. She had been showing me photos of a lot of travelling she has done in Africa. Emmanuel wanted to go home. Karen wanted me to stay with her.
Emmanuel thought that maybe he should take me back to the hostel and that Karen could be a prostitute. I got nervous. I had been very touchy with Karen and she told me that she was getting very horny. I did not know what to do, so I asked her if a situation came about that I went home with her, would it involve money? She told me it would not and I relayed this to Emmanuel. He told me that it would be better if I did not go home with her. Just to be safe as she might say what she wants to say now but then might expect money later. He told me to take her phone number, set up another date with her, and take her to my hotel rather than me go home with her…
I reluctantly took his advice, took Karen’s phone number, snuck a full beer out of the bar and Emmanuel drove me back to my hostel where I hung out with the generics for about an hour, got tired of their conversation interruptions and went to bed.
I probably made the right move. Karen was gorgeous, but ah, I had my camera and my phone with me. Perhaps I will set something up with her later. Perhaps I will just let it go.
I sure have been on a roll lately though… Women…the chink in my armour…