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Beer and Biryani :: The Travelling Adventures of Matt & Donna  
Victoria Falls - Rainbow
JUNE 07, 2007

The World's Best Cheeseburger

First of all we would like to apologise to Zambia, while her recent tourism campaign promoted "The Real Africa" to us, Zambia was merely a mediocre version of Africa.

To be honest we probably did not give her a fair go, we slipped in from the west and dissapeared in the east in a little under a week without sampling much that she has to offer, but herein lies her biggest problem, nothing she has to offer appeals to the overland traveller.

For travellers like us, touring hopefully from Southern Africa all the way north to the Middle East, we have to ration our big ticket activities, firstly so we do not get safaried out, and secondly to conserve what little money we have. So when we look at an activity - i.e. a safari, we look to where the biggest and best safari will be, or to where the safari offering the best value for money will be. And unfortunately Zambia has nothing that fits either of these categories.

Before you send in your scathing comments, let me explain a little further. Before entering Zambia we read numerous books on the country and during our tour we visited both the state run tourism authority and an independent travel agency and the verdict was simple, Zambia has three things to offer. One, Victoria Falls, viewed safely from within the Zambian Borders or accessed through a day pass to Zimbabwe. Two, numerous heart pounding "adrenaline activities" around Victoria Falls in Livingstone. Three, Safari's, in its many game parks, both private and public.

Let me tackle each of these items in turn. First of all Victoria Falls, as you are aware, we visited from the Zimbabwe side, which is commonly known as the better viewing side. Not only for sheer spectacularityness, but you get to see about 70% of the total falls from Zimbabwe as opposed to 30% from Zambia. Originally we were going to view from both sides, however after being disappointed from the good side, we wrote off the Zambian side.

As far as adrenaline activities go - sure, these may well be some of the best, however they can also be done anywhere in the world and are not why we decided to travel through africa.

Finally the National Parks, with only a limited budget we opted for Kruger in South Africa - supposedly one of the cheapest safari parks as it allows you to self drive - but also one of the best. Aside from this we are saving our cash for the Serengetti and the Masaii Mara - sorry but Zambia cannot compete with these three.

So with her three big ticket items ruled out, we decided to skip from Livingstone to Lusaka, stock up on much needed necessities, then cruise straight onto Lake Malawi.

The seven hour bus ride from Livingstone to Lusaka was actually a pleasant experience, clean, on-time and spacious. On arrival however boy was Donna pissed when the backpackers we had supposedly booked at had no reservation for us and was full up. As the sun set steam was rising as we made our way through the back streets of Lusaka to an alternative, also with no rooms available. After a few phone calls we settled on a dorm at Kuomboka.

Kuomboka -
For some reason Lusaka was sold out accommodation wise. Our only option was a backpackers come guest house called Kuomboka. Unfortunately this was not our first choice, surly staff, no water, rats in the roof and broken toilets. Do not get me started on the noise or the damn rooster that started up at 2am. Kuomboka proudly takes the honours in the worst accommodation we have had so far.

We took a few days to explore the capital of Zambia. Lusaka was a fairly nondescript city. Lonely Planet trumpets Cairo Road which we thought was pretty bland in comparison to some of the other African centres. Our only item of note was a pickpocket experience as we crossed the railway bridge from Cairo Road to the Bus Station. Donna was distracted by the first person, while the second grabbed me, pretending I had stepped on his foot. After remonstrating with me for a few seconds I felt his hands probing my pockets, looking down in time to catch his hand in my wallet pocket. Ripping it out and pushing him off we hi-tailed it out of there with all our gear still on us.

To cap off a rather bland country, our bus ride from Lusaka to Lilongwe in Malawi was something we will remember for a while. Rocking up at the bus station at 8am for an 8:30 bus (same company as last time) we were forced to sit and wait for five and a half hours until the bus was reasonably full enough to leave. It was then a seven hour grind through the afternoon and into the night where we were dropped off at a small border town called Chipata. During the journey I was lucky enough to enjoy the company of a local Zambian fellow - 12 sheets to the breeze who decided I was his friend for the trip. Donna found it quite amusing when he asked my name and started laughing and shouting at the top of his voice "he's a doubting thomas, aahhh he's a doubting thomas". Ironically, he could not have been more accurate! Donna faked sleep so not to be hassled and it was not until his boss, also on the bus, beat him around the head that he shut up. It seems on this trip, I attract all the drunks and dogs.

Being ten in the evening we expected to call the day's travel quits, however the touts picked us up and before we knew it we were on a second bus travelling towards the border. At the Zambian side we enjoyed a one hour wait for the immigration official to appear, when he finally showed it turned out he was as pissed as a fart and spent 15 minutes chatting up one of the female passengers before attempting to stamp our passports. The Malawi immigration process was relatively straight forward. One passenger, an Austrian had to hand over a small bribe to be allowed into the country (the alternative was a 24 hour round tip back to Lusaka to get a visa). The bus was also searched, Donna almost had a heart attack when her bag was pulled out covered in white powder. No need to panic, it was only flour! An hour later we pulled into Malawi's capital Lilongwe. Grabbing a cab it was 3:30am when we finally hit the hay for some hard earned sleep.

So you do not think Zambia is all bad, she did have one redeeming quality. That is the best Cheeseburger we have ever had, and could quite possible be the best in the world. For anyone in the neighborhood check out Kilimanjaro cafe in Manda Hills Lusaka - it beats the hell out of a Johnny Rockets Burger...

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  A really honest appraisal. Many tourists atttempt to unrealistically "paint the lilly" You have described the country as you found it. Hopefully your future experiencies will be more rewarding. Enjoy the journeying, Cheers

William - June 26, 2007

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