Getting out of our shuttle when we arrived at our accommodations in Livingstone was an eye-opening experience – three of us were thinking, ‘hmmm, is this really the place’? Not that it wasn’t nice but it was definitely rustic for a 2-week stay. While the 4th person, Keegan, was thinking ‘wow this is going to be so cool’!! If you remember the Twilight Zone series, it’s kind of like an episode where a family goes on a camping vacation but never gets to leave and group after group go through and we were still there! People stay maybe 2 or 3 days and then move on, we were there so long that the staff officially labeled us Zambian residents. However, we all came to appreciate the Jolly Boy Camp/Hostel for the extremely kind staff and for all the people that came through while we were there.
As I mentioned, the person who came to love this place the most was Keegan and why wouldn’t he; he could talk to backpackers from all around the world every night at a campfire (we needed to drag him to bed); play a game of billiard’s with kids from Holland; listen to jamming music all day and night in the common bar area while he played cards; sleep under a mosquito net; belly up to the bar for orange Fanta; wash his clothes in a sink; cook meals in an outside shared kitchen; all the staff knew him by name and he got to go on adventures. One evening Keegan, Kendal and a boy they had met from Rome played cards late into the night. They had a great time and laughed a lot. The next morning we were heading out of the camp in a taxi for the day and the Italian boy came running and told the taxi to stop (the boy was leaving that morning). He reached in the taxi and gave Keegan a necklace that he had gotten when he was in the Serengeti in Tanzania to see the migration the week earlier. “This is a gift for you, ciao”. What a nice kid; that memory will live with us forever.
This is a frugal backpackers camp/hostel (I can now check hostel off my list) and we met group after group of volunteers (of all ages) from all over the world, here to help this country in many different ways. Some volunteer for a week some for up to 6 months or longer. It’s simply amazing and being that this is a shared camp we all had one common area and at night everyone talked to everyone, “where are you from, what are your plans and where do you go from here”. Everyone was positive and happy. The stories we were honored to listen to were endless and wonderful, we have learned so much. There are so many fantastic people in this world.
When we first arrived we were instructed by our camp that its best to use the contracted taxi’s to make sure you are not taken advantage of by other cab drivers. Also, try not to walk alone outside the security perimeter and even if you are with someone never walk at night outside the camp. The camp like many secured places we have seen thus far in South Africa and Zambia has an electrical fence and then barbed wire somewhere incorporated onto their secure border. One of the staff told us that the bad people don’t want to kill you they just want to rob you. Amy and I walked to the grocery store many times during the day and took the kids as well with no incident. At the ATM’s there are even police officers with old AK47’s at the ready…so again, not so bad.
Keegan and I decided to take advantage of a free walking-city-tour offered by our camp one morning. We were the only 2 to show up for the tour of Livingstone. Keegan knew what it looked like outside our camp and even though he was hesitant he said, “let’s do this”. Jonathon our tour guide works at our camp and showed us around for about 2 hours. This was like any movie you see where they show the impoverished side of Africa, all you have is dusty dirt roads, road side shacks that are shops, mothers walking with babies on their backs in scarves, ladies carrying buckets and groceries on their heads and men working on roads and houses with antiquated equipment (if any equipment at all) and children playing happily in the streets. Keegan and I stood out as tourists; a good lesson for both of us of what it is to be in the true minority. At first I was nervous walking around but as I continued to talk to Jonathon and learn about his country and his city I became more appreciative of the struggle these people have gone through and will continue to go through for some time.
Note: historical portion of blog you may want to skip:
It’s interesting to me that we are in Zambia, Africa visiting one of the Seven Wonders of the World and it’s named after a British Queen. But after talking to Jonathon and understanding the time frames of David Livingstone’s 1855 discovery of the Mosi-oa-Tunya things sort of came together. Other European explorers and most likely Arabs had already passed through this area and seen it prior to Mr. Livingstone but dismissed it because they were in search of other treasures (Zambia is one of the top 3 producing countries of Emeralds – a lesson we learned at the campfire from an anthropologist traveler doing research). In 1911 North-Eastern and North-Western Rhodesia merged to form the British Colony of Northern Rhodesia. After colonization and the establishment of the imperial rule many decades passed and much happened (too much to put in a short blog but extremely interesting). Zambia went through a heavy segregation period where blacks and whites could not socialize. Their Independence took place just 47 years ago in 1964.
The North-Western Hotel in Livingstone where Queen Victoria stayed is still standing today, it was built in 1907. It’s in a shambles but is an official National Monument so it can’t be torn down. The original sign still hangs above the entrance, Jonathon asked us to look closely and we could clearly see a black person pushing a white person in a cart (it looked like a wheelbarrow). This was one of the attractions of the hotel because these people were pushed all the way to Victoria Falls and back, which is over 10K one way. We took that similar route to the falls (but with a paved road) and to actually see where and imagine how these people were pushed is amazing. Ironically enough this hotel was also the first place to have and allow a multi-racial social bar in Livingstone in 1961.
Every country has it’s own very deep history and I am enjoying learning as much as I can as we travel through each location. We head to Cape Town, South Africa next – this will be one of our longest stays (in the same apartment) during our journey.