Category Archives: Zambia

Livingstone, Zambia

Author: Steve

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.

Sleeping quarters under the nets. Luckily we weren't in summer season so the mosquitoes weren't bad. We've been good about taking our malarone pills as well.

Playing pool in the common area.

Heading out for an adventure to the grocery store.

Keegan with Jonathon our great city-tour guide. Locals don't appreciate it when you take pictures so this was the only shot we got (one of the nicest buildings).

Keegan showing what the boys were cooking for dinner. He was wearing a bandana like the cool college campers.

Doing laundry.

Here's Kendal writing a blog and checking her emails in the common area.

Typical night at camp. You can see the money exchange rate to the left (we've been through 7 exchange rates since we left the states). The young couple in the back were from Holland, the women spent 6 weeks teaching AIDS prevention and sexual abuse prevention to women. The older couple on the right came to Namibia from Wisconsin 15 years ago after their kids left home, they basically never went back they stayed and build schools for kids throughout the region.

Chillin' in the backpackers cove. The staff asked Keegan when he would come back and he told them he would be back in 15 years. The more I'm learning about Keegan the more I wouldn't doubt that.


Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Zambia


Lubasi Orphanage and the Simonga Village – Zambia

Author: Amy

Part of our year journey was to learn how others in the world live.  Our experience in Zambia included seeing the amazing sights but we also chose to see some not so glamorous sights as well.

Steve’s short addition – Zambia is one of the poorest countries in the world.  They have an election coming up next month.  They have 17 political parties to choose from with a handful being the strongest. It is well known that this is a very corrupt political and economic environment.  The minimum wage has gone down, it was 180,000 kwacha and it’s now 130,000 kwacha per month (currently $1 US = $4700 kwacha, so that’s an income of about $27.66 per month or $331.92 per year).

We spent a few days visiting an orphanage called Lubasi Children’s home.  There are about 40-50 children there right now.  They can house up to 65, they don’t have more right now because they can’t feed them.  We asked the Director what we could do while we were there but even though there was a lot that could be improved/built they had no money for supplies (they are even having a hard time paying employees).  The Director told us the best thing we could do was spend time with the children and let them know how important education is to the success of their future.  They already have things stacked so high against them but an education will at least give them a chance.  AIDS and HIV is the main reason for the orphanages.  The children typically go to the school in town but they are on break until September 5th.  We spent time playing soccer, and games with the kids.  It breaks your heart to see the blatant desire for love and touch.  By the end of our visit kids would be leaning and touching of every part of us.  They loved to stare at and touch my skin and look at the freckles, I told them I was like a Cheetah.  They laughed – you don’t look like a Cheetah!!  Keegan had a blast getting schooled by the kids in soccer – ages 10-17 years old all play together.  It’s amazing to watch them – they are so incredibly fast and strong and LOVED having a new player to mess around with.  We brought a travel-sized game of Trouble (thank’s Kim and Caroline!) and Kendal spent 2 ½ hours playing Trouble with various kids.  They were in heaven (we left the game for them).

One of the girls Kendal and I played with a lot was Memory she is 11 years old.  When we talked to her about getting good grades so she could go to a boarding school she said she did get good marks but was worried that she might have to go to boarding school and she would have to leave her younger sister at the orphanage (they’ve been at this orphanage for 5 years).  Her younger sister, Blessing, is 9 years old and sick (even though you wouldn’t know it by playing with her). Memory told us how that the same morning she woke up and her sister, Blessing, was not in bed.  Memory said she was so very scared because she though her sister had died and her sister is everything to her.  Blessing was rushed to a hospital at 5am and according to Memory she was given a lot of medicine. We don’t know exactly what’s wrong with Blessing but to hear Memory tell the story is simply heart wrenching.

We were not allowed to take any pictures.  One day we were there during lunch – a common meal in Zambia is nshima it’s similar to a very thick porridge – that is served with cooked greens and a sauce.  Everyone eats with their hands.  I hated taking their food (we shared 2 plates between the four of us) but we didn’t want to be rude either.  Our next visits came after meal times. As I mentioned the orphanage emphasizes education.  They all know Nelson Mandela well because he has such a strong influence – his quote “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world” is taught everywhere.  The camp we stay at has a saying; if your backpack is getting too heavy leave your stuff for the orphanage.  We all are leaving with a lighter bag and a lot heavier heart.

We took a day trip to a local village – Simonga.  It was an incredible experience in taking what you are given and making the most of it.  We were given a tour by a grandson of the Head Woman.  The Head Woman controls basically everything that happens in the village from village disputes, who marries who and even outside village business and non-business relations.  This village is a part of a tribe run by a Chief that has about 250 villages.  This village is the only one with a woman head and is the largest, about 3000 people.  The people were very happy.  A huge asset to this village is a well-pump that the Zambian government (in coordination with a Japan manufacturing company) put in so they don’t have to take the long dangerous walk to the river for water.  Every so many days they get diesel to help automate the water and for other things but if they are out of fuel they need to hand pump.  The village is self-sufficient.  They make their own huts and grow their own food.  Elephants used to be the largest thieves they dealt with in regards to stealing what they had grown in their gardens.  They used to keep elephants out by burning chili powder around the perimeter because elephants hate chili powder.  But the smoke was also burning the eyes of the villagers so then they realized that even if you just rub chili powder on cloth and hang it on the perimeter the elephants stay out.  Interestingly the girls are still married-off for a dowry (5 cows, 2 chickens). The progressive Head Woman however doesn’t allow the girls to marry until they have finished high school.  The education they provide at this very humble school has become a highly important part of their village  – in fact they have their first college graduate.  This incredible person is currently enrolled in medical school in New York to be a neurosurgeon. Wow!  The kids made friends quickly in the village; it’s so refreshing to know their hearts are so kind and innocent.  They are very curious to look at us as we learn about them.

The men build the frame and the women fill the frame with termite mud

Here's Ronda showing Kendal her home

They make their own pots out of scrap sheet-metal

Fast friends

Kendal being taken for a walk


Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Zambia


Zambia, Africa – Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya)

Author: Kendal


Victoria Falls is one of the 7 Wonders of the World.  Today we went to the top of Victoria Falls. We got a taxi from Jolly Boys Camp (the place we are staying) to Royal Livingstone (a very, very fancy hotel, where we are not staying). While on the road to Royal Livingstone we saw some baboons walking on the side of the road! It was crazy! Once we got there we headed out to the boat that was going to take us to the only island on the edge of glory! 😉 Jk! I mean the edge of Victoria Falls! We took the same route that David Livingstone took when he discovered the beautiful falls. Well it was discovered before he got there, he was just the first white man to find it and to tell others about it.  We got off the boat and were treated like royalty.  We were handed what I think was an orange Fanta with Sprite before the tour. Then, because it’s kind of like the water rides at different theme parks, we were given raincoats. The water sprays everywhere, approaching the falls it looks like you’re headed into smoke but it’s actually the spray from the falls. It’s known as “Mosi-oa-Tunya” or the “Smoke that Thunders”.  They told us that we had to take off our shoes so we started walking barefoot with our raincoats.  There was mud everywhere! When we stepped sometimes our feet sank into the ground past our ankles! It was like a mud bath for our feet!!  As we headed over it was hard for me to imagine what it would look like because of the mud slowly squeezing its way between my toes, and toenails but I was kind of picturing some pictures that I had seen of Victoria Falls. Everyone in the group (which was 8 of us) had to hold hands as we reached the edge.  We then walked to the edge of Victoria Falls! It was not even close to the pictures, you might think that they photo shop the pictures to look that beautiful (I know I kind of thought that) but they don’t! So the pictures are real! I swear! They are not a green-screen backdrop with fake pictures!!! It was that magnificent! The guides took our picture as we posed by the water. When we were getting our pictures taken at the edge of the falls, which is 360 feet straight down, dad was squeezing my arm so hard! It was like when you go to the doctor and he checks your blood pressure with the machine. Then everyone went and walked through the mud and rocks again (barefoot!). Once we reached a certain point they let each of us go, one by one, to the edge of Victoria Falls and look down. It was an awesome view and Dad was even brave enough to get a picture for you! After the cool view, the guides asked our group if they wanted to go swimming. The option was to dip/swim in the top of the falls before the water goes over the edge.  Our family said no, but four other people went swimming. While they were swimming, we went to eat breakfast overlooking the falls.  It was very tasty.  After that, one of the guides washed everyone’s feet, to get rid of all the mud from our mud bath.  Like I said we were treated like royalty.  Shortly after we took the speedboat back to the Royal Livingstone. When we got to the hotel we sat on a swing and talked about our favorite parts of the adventure. Because we still had 2 hours until the taxi came back for us we decided to walk around the hotel grounds. As we were walking we came across at least 20 or more monkeys that live on the hotel grounds. They were just roaming around like it was normal!!! They were so cute! They started following us so we started to FAST-walk back to other people. We asked one of the cleaning people if the monkeys were friendly and he said yes, but when we asked a security person he said no.  He was holding a slingshot aiming at the monkeys.  Mom started talking to him, and he said he could show us the giraffes, and zebras that they had on the hotel grounds!!! So we got a ride on a golf cart out to see the animals and the trainer came out and explained it all to us for FREE! It was awesome!  Finally, before our taxi came for us we got a drink on the Zambezi River.  All in all it was an awesome experience.

That's Keegan walking behind one of our guides and the edge of Victoria Falls is right in front of them. That's not smoke, that's spray from the falls down below.

Here we are on the edge of Victoria Falls - a few steps to our right and we're heading straight down, it was so exciting!!

Here's another angle - you can see Dad's "death grip" on Keegan, his other hand was holding me. As long as the sun is out there are rainbows everywhere.

Because it was so dangerous you decided whether you wanted to go look down the falls. We all did. The guide was asking me, "Kendal do you want the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, if yes go jump for it"!! I didn't.

Here's the view, that's 360 feet down and the roaring water was so loud!

This is breakfast overlooking Victoria Falls.

Keegan was looking at all the monkeys on the roof and was shocked to see what was behind him.

That's me at the Royal Livingstone Resort.


Today we went to see the other side of Victoria Falls. We took a free shuttle there from Jolly Boys and a taxi back.  Once we got there we saw baboons everywhere! All kinds, some had babies, some older, male, female, all different kinds, and they are very scary looking. We had been warned by many other campers that the baboons do attack and take your bags so keep your bags concealed or don’t bring them (they are looking for food). We walked inside the gate and we headed into the forest.  It’s almost like a rain forest in the desert because of the spray from the falls.  It’s very green and pretty in this area.  We started going one way but we get stopped in our tracks because a huge male baboon was standing in our way, and its face seemed to be taunting us. We turned and headed another way down to the Boiling Pot (because we were following people) we went down half way, it was very steep, but then figured out that it’s not the way we wanted to go so we headed back up. Finally we got on the right path. We went and took a few pictures and were about to get a snack before we went to look at the falls closer when we heard the screams! A lady and a very big baboon were fighting over her backpack, they were playing tug of war with her large backpack, but then the lady fell backwards into a bush and the baboon had the bag, by then a number of men, including a park worker with a knife, came rushing in to help, chasing the baboon but the baboon easily ran and jumped off the side of the cliff with the bag. (We found out later that you are not supposed to chase them if they have your pack, just let them look through it, once they don’t find food or even if they do they will drop the bag and take off, if you chase them they will run to places and you will never see your bag again).  After the show 😉 we had a snack and restored our energy, we then headed to Victoria Falls. As we got closer we started to feel the water. Then we saw it, the breath-taking view of Victoria Falls.  It was just beautiful, my favorite part was watching the crystal like droplets of water come back up and splash us, it was surreal.  After we soaked it in for a while we started walking along it (it’s about 1 mile long), and took a billion pictures and videos.

That's me again - words can't describe what we saw that day.

We were all soaked.

My dad loved it!

The different sides that we saw of Victoria Falls were equally beautiful. We were able to see both and I’m glad we were able to because it makes up for other things (like scary baboons) that we have experienced in Zambia. And I’m sure the next couple things that we do will not disappoint.


Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Zambia