But for some reason, nothing seemed to be easy when it came to the convoluted process that was getting a visa and vehicle entry permit into Zambia. The heat, the lack of signage, the expense of it ($50 USD for a Zambia/Zimbabwe visa, $20 USD for road tax, more money for carbon taxes, insurance, paying fixers, all in Zambian Kwacha), and most of all, the chaos of the place, made it a horrible experience.
But at least now we were in Zambia.
And I have to say that this border crossing may have been a good introduction to the country. Because in comparison to Westernized South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana, Zambia was the first place that I felt I had truly entered the “Africa” that I had been told about, both the good and the bad.
But the good was more beautiful than I had ever expected.
On the other side of the border, the roads were lined in green foliage, bright and rich from the recent rains, and between the trees you could see round mud-brick houses with thatched roofs. Men rode around on old bicycles with baskets of goats, turkeys, chickens, or children on the back. Women wore colorful saris wrapped around their waists as a skirt and sometimes tucked it in over their chest like an oversized bath towel. Their hair would be done up in intricately-designed braids, sometimes dyed in similar colors to their clothes. And to literally top it all off, nearly every woman would be carrying something on top of her head, perfectly balanced on a platform of braids. A tray of bananas or mangoes maybe, or a bushel of corn meal, and a Zambian woman’s purse is always better carried on her head than over her shoulder.
Due to a continued relationship with international communities, Zambia is relatively safe and stable to travel through. But because Zimbabwe has been economically hindered for decades by the controversial policies of its former leader, the revolutionary Robert Mugabe, traveling through this proudly independent country is much more challenging. Even after Mugabe's death in 2019, basic services are still lacking, lines for petrol are long, and crime caused by “machete gangs" are a real problem.
So if Victoria Falls were said to be more impressive on the Zimbabwe side, would the risk of going be worth it?
Visiting Victoria Falls is not cheap. The visa for entering both countries is $50 (called UniVisa), the park entrance fee to Zimbabwe is $30 per person, and for Zambia it’s $20. For two people, that's $200, but for most, the falls are worth it.
Livingstone is such a tourist hub, we ended up meeting lots of other motorcycle travelers there, and spent a couple of fantastic days hanging out with Andie. She's a British motorcyclist who lived in Livingstone on and off for years and had all the scoop on what to see and do. She was insanely fun to talk to, and the hours would fly by without us even realizing it. She even gave us talismans carved of the Zambezi River God called Nyami Nyami, who was said to be a serpent-shaped protector of all who go to the river.
Most of Zambia is very rural, and the more east you go, the more mountainous it gets. These vibrantly green mountains hum in the chirps of insects and birds, and between them, sleepy little villages of thatched houses sound of laughing children and smell of burning charcoal. Coming to Zambia, I didn’t really know what to expect out of the country, but I found it to be a breath of fresh air, or at least, humid, hot, sticky air. But the landscape was expansive and vast, with monkeys and baboons out there in the forest, and the lifestyle of the people was simple and comforting. Zambia to me felt like the real-life version of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight" song. You just can't help but smile as you traverse through it.
Most people in Zambia, and much of Southern Africa, are Christian, and so Christmas is a big deal. Even though it was summer here, and the sweltering weather didn’t make it feel like Christmas to me, there were Christmas trees and decorations everywhere. So we also decided to get into the spirit and decorated our bike. We also splurged and gave ourselves a nice Christmas Eve dinner of a T-bone steak!
We were in our tent just about to fall asleep when I noticed a firefly glittering above our tent. We had the rainfly off so we could see the stars, but this was so much brighter than a star. Soon came another firefly, and another, blinking very fast, unlike any firefly I had ever seen before. It never just went dark and flew away, but instead gave off a constant blinking glow like Christmas lights.
So we got out of the tent and found ourselves in a glittering world of thousands of dancing fireflies illuminating all the rippling hills, with millions of twinkling stars above us, and to put the icing on the cake, a lightning storm was flashing through some clouds in the distance. It was unbelievable. We tried to take a picture, but it just didn’t come out. It was a moment simply to be appreciated for what it was.