17/40-1 New Country Number Seven (or More Accurately Number Five)

23 Nov

I forgot to mention that while we didn’t actually get to do doughnuts in our boat around the four corners (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe) on our river safari, we did venture into Namibian costal waters for a few seconds (I asked our guide Max* and he obliged). I also forgot to mention that while we were on our land safari, I did this a lot.

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And speaking of international borders, the bridge at the Falls was half in Zambia and half in Zimbabwe. So I also did this.

So if you include Namibia and Ethiopia (which I don’t) today we landed in a new country (number seven for this trip).

Where are we? Well, here’s a clue. It’s hot. And this place has both Uber *and* Netflix. And we can’t drink the water. Under penalty of praying for death. And the food is really good. We had lunch a few hours ago.

The reveal will come… tomorrow!

*I should really give a shout-out to our guide Max. He really made our Safaris something special. He found the lions when all the others drove right by. He kept us out on the water longest – we were the last boat in for the night. And he was super-knowledgable about all the birds and walking animals in the park.

15/40-1 Day of Travel

23 Nov

I was really keen on visiting Ethiopia on this trip however things got messed up. Our original plan involved a 0200 flight from Lusaka to Addis Ababa for a 0700 arrival. Our connection to our next non-stopover destination was to leave at 2300 giving us sixteen hours to explore Addis.

So, what happened? Well, Sarah got an email three days ago from Aeroplan telling us our 0200 non-stop direct flight had been cancelled and replaced with a flight leaving twelve hours later and routed through Harare Zimbabwe (it was a direct fight but it was a non-non-stop one – it had one stop – but we didn’t have to get off the plane).

Our sixteen hours in Addis proper was now three hours at the airport. On the plus side, we did get to spend an extra night at our Lusaka resort home. That was nice.

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14/40-1 Day of Rest

23 Nov

Sarah and I rested at our resort home in Lusaka for one day. It was nice.

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13/40-1 The Train from Livingstone to Lusaka

23 Nov

The only thing I really wanted to do in Africa is ride on one of their trains. Sure the falls were nice

and the Safari was ok, I guess.

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But what really gets my motor running is a train ride adventure across an amazing continent where I defeat Steve by either a single point or on tickets.

Preferably on tickets

The train from Livingstone to Lusaka runs twice a week and it leaves at 8 PM. We caught the Monday train – tickets went on sale at 14:00 the day of travel and we were first in line. Posted journey time was 14 hours to Lusaka. We bought two first class tickets for about $13.50 CDN each (125 Kwacha). We asked for first class but our tickets said second class. We realized later that first class appears to be a second class cabin for two people instead of three. There was a couple from France on the same train – they got their second class tickets later than us at 1700 and they ended up in different three-person berths (one for boys and one for girls).

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Boarding was supposed to be at 1900 for a 2000 departure. We got there at 1840 and boarded at 2000 and we finally got moving at 2100. The platform looked like this. Everyone around us was very friendly.

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Our cabin was basic with a lower bunker and and upper bunk (the middle bunk was not engaged). It has a power outlet so we could charge our devices. The window opened for air flow (it got quite hot but cooled right down at night). There was a sink we didn’t use that was covered with a dropdown table. The door had a good lock. There was a restaurant car that sold food (I think). I got us a couple waters on my one visit before we left the station.

The toilets in our car were ok. There was water on the floor and the flushing mechanism was broken so we had to empty the toilet manually by pouring water in the bowl from a fifteen litre jug. But that was ok because each of us only had to use the WC once.

Going to the toilet on a train can be tricky especially if ones’ business requires sitting. So it’s generally a good practice to eat light and not drink lots in the hours before starting a rail journey with questionable washroom facilities. Earlier in the day we had lunch at a resort so fancy the cheapest room price was $800 CDN and I think I saw the President of Namibia walking down by the river. While I was excited for the train ride, I managed to forget the previously-mentioned best practice of eating light and making room. I had a huge burger and fries and didn’t go before we headed to the station.

This was not a problem because my constitution went into survival mode when we got to the platform. When we first arrived it was telling me, maybe… but then after a few minutes everything got locked down and I was good till we got to our resort home in Lusaka.

So the train ride. Was supposed to be fourteen hours. While we had beds, there were no pillows or sheets provided. We improvised by using our perfectly sized 25 litre backpacks as pillows and it was warm enough that we didn’t need sheets. Went to sleep around 0100 and woke up at about 0700 to find that we had completed roughly half of the 475 km journey in about ten hours. We were very behind schedule. While the evening had been cool, during the day it was well over thirty degrees in our cabin. It got even hotter when we napped (we closed the door and lost the cross breeze from the window).

Basically we spent almost a full day in a (private) twenty-five square foot room with minimal air circulation and during the morning the hot African sun was blasting us through the window. The only food we had was two packets of crackers, four tiny bananas (donated by Antoine – the French dude), and 105 grams of Lays’ potato chips. When I was lying down resting I sweated so much the vinyl from the bed fused with my shirt (which is now ruined). And the train was loud and at some points, very shaky.

But we did have decent 3G coverage most of the way so I was able to chat for a bit with Joc who was not traveling on a train for twenty-four straight hours. Also we would frequently stop for long enough to go buy some food and water from the locals selling stuff at the stations (which we didn’t do).

All told we got into Lusaka around 1915 – over twenty-four hours after we first got to the station in Livingstone. Anna kindly picked us up at the Hungry Lion restaurant right next to the train station and the three of us went out for Italian and beers. Sarah and I had been showerless for a while (about thirty-six hours), but we managed to change into some fresh clothes right before we got off the train. And it was a covered patio – so kind of outside and we sat far away from the other guests.

Then end.

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Our Lusaka Resort Home

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11/40-1 The Animals…

22 Nov

Day eleven. It’s time for some Safari action!

After three nights in Livingstone we departed for a new country – Botswana and the famous Chobe National Park where we were staying for two nights in a high-end boutique safari lodge. It was a 45-minute cab ride ($65 CDN) to the Kazungula Ferry. This ferry crossing is interesting because it’s (maybe?) the only place in the world where four countries meet at a single point (China, Kazakstan, Russia and Mongolia have a similar thing going on but I think China and Kazakstan don’t actually touch each other.)

They’re building a bridge where the ferry is now.

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I asked our boat driver if we could go to that point of four countries so I could make a funny joke for Steve, but he said we didn’t have enough time. 😦

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So when we got there we had lunch, checked in, and headed out on our first safari – the boat ride! I think this might have been my favourite. Check out these photos! We saw a giraffe, a hippo, a monorail lizard, a crocodile, and a water buffalo.

The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn for our first driving safari. On this one we saw two lions (they’re the tigers of Africa) and some elephants and some sort of dog-like creature. Also zebras and one other animal I can’t remember right now. Maybe a gazelle or a Chevy Impala.

Note: Sarah and I were capturing all these memories with our shitty iPhone cameras so you’ll have to forgive us for the general shittiness of the photos and/or videos.

Some elephants. I sneezed real loud and scared them all away.

The best part of a satire-jokery-style blog is you can say the embarrassing things you did and your readers will think you’re just making a funny joke!

In the afternoon we relaxed at the resort before heading off to the evening safari where we had a little adventure. One of the other safari cars from a different resort got stuck in the sand and as strict adherents to the Safari Guide Code (leave no safari guide behind) we stopped and helped them get unstuck.

The pulling didn’t work so a bunch of us just lifted the car out. We also saw a massive herd of water buffalo.

And the next day we left for the quick journey back to Lusaka. I mean the bus ride down was about eight hours, how long could it take to go the same distance on the train? Probably about the same amount of time. Yeah, that sounds about right.

10/40-2 Zambia Visas (Not the Credit Card Company) for Canadians

21 Nov

TW: travel info post

To visit Zambia Canadians need a visa. They had several options. Single entry. Double entry. Multi entry. Kaza Visa.

We opted for the multi-entry because we would be entering the country three times – on first arrival, after visiting Zimbabwe (day trip), and after two nights safari in Botswana.

The Kaza visa $50 USD – exists to promote easy passage between Zimbabwe and Zambia – it’s valid in both countries. It also permits a day trip to Botswana. We couldn’t use this one because our visit to Botswana is longer than the maximum allowed duration.

So we ended up paying $80 USD for the Zambian multi-entry visa. This was all fine and good until we went to cross the border into Zimbabwe and they wanted to charge us $75 USD each for a Zimbabwe visa. All the other countries had to pay only $35 USD per person. It was starting to get a little expensive to spend six hours in a different country to simply look at the falls. $10 for the cab, $150 for the visas, $70 for the park entry fee.

Anyway, Sarah was able to convince the immigration officer to give us a Kaza visa for $50 US each which should cause some headaches anytime we cross back into Zambia because I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to have two visas for the same country valid at the same time.

Does anyone know why Zimbabwe singles out Canadians? It was really odd to see that list posted there on the wall of the immigration booth with Canada alone in it’s own special category of visitors.

It was all worth it though. The falls were spectacular.

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10/40-1 I Have to Go

20 Nov

All right, settle down people. Settle. Settle, people. People settle.

Thank you.

I’ve been closely reading your comments and your feedbacks and your suggestions and your minds and it’s now all very clear to me that my posts on this trip are seriously lacking in the type of content YOU’ve come to expect (or daren’t I say, demand) from diehardthree.com.

Well, not wanting to disappoint an even greater number of people than I do normally external to my writing, today I am going to deliver. Right next to where we are staying is one of the best world attractions. It’s been in the top twenty or the top ten of some online listicles, but right now it’s in the top three water features of my heart.

That’s right! We are staying at the beautiful Victoria Falls Waterfront Hotel and the natural wonder right close by is the Zambezi River!

Ha ha ha! Jk, jk, it’s the falls, the Victoria Falls.

Sorry about that here’s a picture.

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The main problem with waterfalls is that everyone thinks theirs is the best. Take the Canadian one for example. We think it’s the best, but in reality, it isn’t. I know this because there’s a simple way to measure the quality of a waterfall.

For a waterfall to be considered great, it needs to have high scores in each of the three traditional waterfall metrics: water volume, falls height, and falls length. While volume and length are relatively easy to quantify, measuring height is actually quite challenging. Do you measure from the base of the falls proper? Or do you have to account for the angle to calculate an adjusted height? What about yaw?

Anyway, these minor discrepancies are not important. But what is important is that for a waterfall to be truly spectacular it has to have an element of danger.

I call it: the survivability factor.

So while Niagara Falls might seem impressive with it’s highest rate-of-flow in the world, all that extra water has the unintended consequence of softening the landing of anyone who happens to find themselves floating too close to the edge.

Now on the other hand, here is another picture of The Victoria Falls.

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As you can see from the verticality and the high-quality exposed rocks at the base there, it has a survivability factor of zero*. So when you combine this with length, height, and water flow, and then you consider the complete absence of casinos and wax museums within walking distance of the falls, good olde Victoria Falls comes out on top!

*The waterfall survivability factor is an inverted scale so a score of zero is the highest, like in golf.

9/40-2 🎵 God Bless the Trains Down in Africa 🎵

20 Nov

The city of Livingstone in the southern region of Zambia is an incredible place. The area has unique and interesting wildlife, wonderful people, fascinating geology, and of course – what everyone comes here to see and learn about – the great African trains!

It was our first full day in Livingstone so I made sure to set my alarm for 05:00 so Sarah and I could be first in line to visit the Zambian National Train Museum when it opened at 10:00. Sure we got there early and we had to wait around for a few of hours. And yes it was so hot our driver who dropped us off came back unprompted a couple of times to bring us water to keep us from dying of dehydration during the wait. And yes there were in fact no other customers in line to delay our entry.

But none of that is important. What is important is that we got to visit a quality rail museum and we learned a few things about trains.

Were you aware that this train here was the first one to have the sex number painted on it? It’s true – this was all the way back in 1892.

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In Africa, they sometimes use steel for their railway ties. In Canada we use wood and in Germany they are made out of concrete.

Did you know that back in the olden times, the people of England went half way around the world to Zambia and built a train network so they could more easily move around some of the Zambian trees they had just cut down?

Why the English didn’t just cut down their own trees wasn’t really explained but from what I can tell it’s one of those things that goes unmentioned but everyone kinda assumes – it’s the thing your supposed to do when you make contact with a region of the world before they make contact with you. You go in there and take their stuff.

 

Michael Bay once made a movie where a few dozen of these super-heavy giant train wheels were pushed off the back of a moving transport truck into traffic smashing a whole bunch of cars and the driver of the transport truck didn’t even notice.

Also, the movie took place in the future.

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It was a great day!

9/40-1 Get Those Animals Outta Here!

19 Nov

I’m trying to blog! This resort is just terrible. Blogging is almost impossible with all these interruptions.

I’d like to speak to a manager please.

8/40-4 By Bus from Lusaka (Zambia Capital) to Livingstone (Victoria Falls, Zambia Side)

19 Nov

**Alert boring technical nerd post alert**

Every now and again I get some random people poking around here looking for some authentic, non-toilet travel reports from the places I’ve visited. So for any travellers out there who want to visit Zambia and need to get from Lusaka to Livingstone, here is a rundown of what you can expect when you take the bus. (I imagine it’s the same going the other way.)

On Wednesday November 14, 2018 Sarah and I were dropped off at the bus terminal in the centre area of Lusaka. There are two different terminals across the street from each other – intercity (domestic buses) and international. The International side has buses going to Harare (Zimbabwe capital). Go to the other one.

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Domestic Terminal

When we got out of the car we were immediately surrounded by dozens of people wanting us to buy stuff and “help” us find a bus to get to where we were going. We had to ignore them and tell them to go away. They were pretty aggressive and they followed us to the intercity terminal. They stopped bugging us when we found a couple of dudes wearing shirts embroidered with “City of Lusaka” – they looked official so we were pretty sure they were not part of some sort of short confidence scheme.

They pointed us to the Mazhandu Family Bus Line – we found these guys online.

They had a bad crash a couple years ago – it made the International news – but they assured everyone that they fixed the problem. Now each bus has an extra driver to cover for the main driver if he’s sleepy. To be honest, I would have gone with some other provider but I did’t really find any reviews.

We got to the ticket booth at 0735 and the first bus had just left. We bought two one-way tickets for 200 kwacha each (about $22 CDN).

The sign said the next bus to Livingstone was at 0900, the guy said it would arrive at 930 and we’d leave at 1000. It actually showed up at 1100 and left just before 1130.

The bus was a full-sized coach with functioning AC. We had pre-selected seats (front row – my god) but someone was already seated there by the time we fought our way to the door. We ended up sitting in seats 10 and 11.

We stopped once about halfway for about ten or fifteen minutes. Toilets were good. There was a small restaurant that sold snacks and drinks.

The whole journey took us about eight hours. The speed limit on the road was 80 kph and most of the traffic stuck too it. A lot of the commercial vehicles had a posted limit (also 80) on their bumpers or tailgates. Still, our driver was keen on passing as often as he could. A bird also hit our windshield.

We got into Livingstone after sundown (just before 1930) and again our bus was immediately descended upon by locals looking to sell us taxi services. One dude named Matthew had a pretty good pitch and he was totally cool with me taking his photo and sending it to my mother before we got into the car so she could know where to start looking had we gone missing.

I sat up front and he dropped us off at our resort twenty minutes later. Quoted price was 70 kwacha, we paid him an even hundred ($11 CDN).

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Of course the photo didn’t turn out so I had to settle with a capture of his license plate.

If you’re in Livingstone and you need a driver, call Daniel using WhatsApp. He was great! Reliable, good prices. Highly recommend.

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