Zamb-Easy

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Zambia feels like the real Africa! From the minute I drove down the ferry plank I was surrounded by at least 10 guys, mentioning to me and shouting “Park here! No, no, park here!”. “Thank you, really, but I don’t need a fixer. Don’t follow me around or bother me, because I will not pay you.” Regardless, one of them decided that he had caught his prey, and walked beside me as I begrudgingly tried to ignore him. The border is a disorderly array of buildings built randomly on both sides of a road congested by lines and lines of trucks. There is no possible way to understand where you should go, or to make sense of the various taxes you need to pay at different shady-looking “offices”. You feel as though you were spun around repeatedly and then set lose to be shunted from one place to the next. Immigration! Customs! Now you must pay a Carbon Emission Tax! Now a Council Levy (what the hell?!?)! Now a Road Tax! Now get Insurance! At each cubicle a line of people stretches, waiting for the privilege of paying 20 dollars and being released from this mess. I must admit I am thinking of opening up my own office there, charging for, say an “Environmental Government Protection Service Fee”. Seems like it could be a good business. After finally finishing the rounds, I then needed to pay the man who decided that he would follow me around, pay the guy who decided that I have to have reflective tape on the bike and pay the guy who decided he would watch my motorcycle. You feel slightly helpless, but, oh, the relief of getting out of there! And to Livingstone as well!

Four years ago I flew to Tanzania to climb Mt.Kilimanjaro. My grandfather (ever to blame for putting crazy ideas into me head) gave me the book “The White Nile” by Alan Moorehead. The book describes beautifully the history of the various expeditions to find the source of the Nile, and of course tells of the legendary meeting between Stanley and Livingstone.

My grandfather (who drove twice from South Africa to Europe by motorcycle) also gave me his old maps when I began planning my trip. They hung all across the walls of my office as I marked little red dots, beginning to trace the route I would take. I would go over and over the names of places like Makgadigadi, Kigali, Kampala, Lilongwe. During long meetings that stretched on I would fantasize about sitting on the banks of the Zambezi with a cold beer. Your boss is annoying? Disillusioned by the work that you do? Life is getting you down? Well, no worries – ’cause in a few months you’ll be sitting on the banks of The Zambezi River, and all that won’t matter.

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IMG_16541All this build up meant that I was quite emotional when I got to Victoria Falls. The thing about the falls is – you can’t really see them. Not in their entirety, not in all of their amazing gloriousness. They are too big, and you can’t get back far enough to see them. You see bits and pieces – the view from atop as the river rushes towards the precipice and plunges down, the view of the rapids below – whirlpools swirling violently, the view from the bridge across from the falls, mist rising and drenching you as though you were in a torrential downpour so that you can hardly see the falls themselves. You must stitch together the details in your imagination in order to appreciate properly what you are seeing. It seems to be that the only proper way to see Victoria Falls completely is from the air. But to think that for hundreds of years that was impossible! And only now can they be viewed as they are meant to be! I felt awe and peace looking at this stunning natural wonder.

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The next day I continued on my way to Lusaka. Oh, Zambia, what a wonderful contrast to Namibia and Botswana. For the first time in a while – hills! And not just flat, straight roads stretching endlessly. And green trees, breaking the monotony of the desert scenes. People everywhere, invariably by the side of the road selling beautiful red tomatoes stacked in a perfect pyramid. Like in all other African countries I have been to so far, there were many police roadblocks, all of them courteous and letting me drive on quickly.

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However, as I entered Lusaka I was stopped by two policemen with a speed camera. They mentioned me to the side of the road where several other drivers had been detained as well. A police car was parked there, four policeman working out of each door in a makeshift “office”, with chairs for the accused persons. The policewoman asked for my license and then halfheartedly began filling a form that was already partially filled out. She told me that the fine is 300 Kwacha, about the equivalent of 27 USD. I asked for a receipt, to which she replied that I would get one after I paid. Another policewoman from the front of the car told me that I should plead with her to reduce the fine. The policewoman took my 300 kwacha, gave me back 200 kwacha and sent me off (of course, without a receipt). So I expect that it all made its way into her pocket. It all felt rather silly and ridiculous.

In Lusaka a friend of Uwe’s, Marius, very very kindly allowed me to stay at his house even though he is away, and his coworker Jeremy showed me around the city. Once again, generous and kind people along the way who make my trip what it is. Tomorrow I will drive east towards Malawi, hoping to strike north from there and gain ground for the time I lost in Botswana. I want to please add this excerpt about Stanley’s and Livingstone’s meeting, for those who would like to read or reread it.

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David Livingstone arrived in Africa in 1840 with two goals: to explore the continent and to end the slave trade. In England, his writings and lectures ignited the public’s imagination regarding the “Dark Continent” and elevated Livingstone to the status of a national hero.

In 1864 Livingstone returned to Africa and mounted an expedition through the central portion of the continent with the objective of discovering the source of the Nile River. As months stretched into years, little was heard from the explorer. Rumors spread that Livingstone was being held captive or was lost or dead. Newspapers headlined the question “Where is Livingstone?” while the public clamored for information on the whereabouts of their national hero. By 1871, the ruckus had crossed to the shores of America and inspired George Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, to commission newspaper reporter Henry Stanley to find Livingstone.

Henry Stanley was a remarkable man. Orphaned at an early age he spent his formative years in a workhouse in Wales, crossed the Atlantic at age 15 as a crewman of a merchant ship and jumped ship in New Orleans. Befriended by a local merchant, he took the man’s name – Henry Stanley – as his own and went on to fight in the Civil War before working his way into a career in journalism.

Leading an expedition of approximately 200 men, Stanley headed into the interior from the eastern shore of Africa on March 21, 1871. After nearly eight months he found Livingstone in Ujiji, a small village on the shore of Lake Tanganyika on November 10, 1871. Stanley and his expedition approach the village of Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika. He describes the scene:


“We are now about three hundred yards from the village of Ujiji, and the crowds are dense about me. Suddenly I hear a voice on my right say, ‘Good morning, sir!'”We push on rapidly. We halt at a little brook, then ascend the long slope of a naked ridge, the very last of the myriads we have crossed. We arrive at the summit, travel across, and arrive at its western rim, and Ujiji is below us, embowered in the palms, only five hundred yards from us! At this grand moment we do not think of the hundreds of miles we have marched, of the hundreds of hills that we have ascended and descended, of the many forests we have traversed, of the jungles and thickets that annoyed us, of the fervid salt plains that blistered our feet, of the hot suns that scorched us, nor the dangers and difficulties now happily surmounted. Our hearts and our feelings are with our eyes, as we peer into the palms and try to make out in which hut or house lives the white man with the gray beard we heard about on the Malagarazi.

Startled at hearing this greeting in the midst of such a crowd of black people, I turn sharply around in search of the man, and see him at my side, with the blackest of faces, but animated and joyous, – a man dressed in a long white shirt, with a turban of American sheeting around his woolly head, and I ask, ‘Who the mischief are you?’

‘I am Susi, the servant of Dr. Livingstone,’ said he, smiling, and showing a gleaming row of teeth.

‘What! Is Dr. Livingstone here?’ ‘Yes, Sir.’

‘Yes, Sir’

‘In this village?’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Sure, sure, Sir. Why, I leave him just now.’

In the meantime the head of the expedition had halted, and Selim said to me: ‘I see the Doctor, Sir. Oh, what an old man! He has got a white beard.’ My heart beats fast, but I must not let my face betray my emotions, lest it shall detract from the dignity of a white man appearing under such extraordinary circumstances.

So I did that which I thought was most dignified. I pushed back the crowds, and, passing from the rear, walked down a living avenue of people until I came in front of the semicircle of Arabs, in the front of which stood the white man with the gray beard. As I advanced slowly toward him I noticed he was pale, looked wearied, had a gray beard, wore a bluish cap with a faded gold band round it, had on a red-sleeved waistcoat and a pair of gray tweed trousers. I would have run to him, only I was a coward in the presence of such a mob, – would have embraced him, only, he being an Englishman, I did not know how he would receive me; so I did what cowardice and false pride suggested was the best thing, – walked deliberately to him, took off my hat, and said, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’

‘Yes,’ said he, with a kind smile, lifting his cap slightly.

I replace my hat on my head and he puts on his cap, and we both grasp hands, and I then say aloud, ‘I thank God, Doctor, I have been permitted to see you.’

He answered, ‘I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you.’

Then, oblivious of the crowds, oblivious of the men who shared with me my dangers, we – Livingstone and I – turn our faces towards his tembe. He points to the veranda or, rather, mud platform, under the broad overhanging eaves; he points to his own particular seat, which I see his age and experience in Africa has suggested, namely, a straw mat, with a goatskin over it, and another skin nailed against the wall to protect his back from contact with the cold mud. I protest against taking this seat, which so much more befits him than me, but the Doctor will not yield: I must take it. . . .

Conversation began. What about? I declare I have forgotten. Oh! we mutually asked questions of one another, such as: ‘How did you come here?’ and ‘Where have you been all this long time? – the world has believed you to be dead.’ Yes, that was the way it began; but whatever the Doctor informed me, and that which I communicated to him, I cannot correctly report, for I found myself gazing at him, conning the wonderful man at whose side I now sat in Central Africa. Every hair of his head and beard, every wrinkle of his face, the wanness of his features, and the slightly wearied look he wore, were all imparting intelligence to me, – the knowledge I craved for so much ever since I heard the words, ‘Take what you want, but find Livingstone.’

He asked me to tell him the news. ‘No, Doctor,’ said I, ‘read your letters first, which I am sure you must be impatient to read.’I called ‘Kaif-Halek,’ or ‘How-do-ye-do,’ and introduced him to Dr. Livingstone, that he might deliver in person to his master the letter bag he had been intrusted with. This was that famous letter bag marked ‘November 1, 1870,’ which was now delivered into the Doctor’s hand 365 days after it left Zanzibar! How long, I wonder, had it remained at Unyanyembe had I not been dispatched into Central Africa in search of the great traveler? The Doctor kept the letter bag on his knees, then presently opened it, looked at the letters contained there, and read one or two of his children’s letters, his face in the meantime lighting up.

‘Ah,’ said he, ‘I have waited years for letters, and I have been taught patience. I can surely afford to wait a few hours longer. No, tell me the general news. How is the world getting along?’ “

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