Tuesday 1 July 2008 - Tuesday 1 July 2008
Halo from Namibia!
Access to internet has been rare, so I'm just now getting a chance to catch up on my experiences so far.
After viewing Victoria Falls we headed back to our hostel, The Fawlty Towers, to rest and prepare for our journey to Namibia the next morning. Because we had a long way to travel, we needed to begin early the next morning. There are multiple options for budget travel here. The most common and practical way is to arrange for rides with taxis, who will sometimes drive long distances between cities and across borders, or in a combi (small van or mini-bus). We had arranged for a taxi driver to take us to the border crossing to Namibia, but this morning he did not show up. However, we were able to find another taxi while waiting to agreed to drive us the 3-4 hours to Katima.
On our way out of town, our driver stopped to buy petrol from some guys hanging by the side of the road who filled up the car with a funnel and a milk jug of fuel. The fuel here is more expensive than what can be bought in Namibia, so there is a strong black market for goods such as this. Just a little glimpse of how goods are bought and sold in Zambia, where illegal trading is the norm for many local residents. A bit further down the road we were stopped at a check point, which are pretty routine when entering and leaving larger towns and cities in Africa (I think because of illegal immigration or smuggling?). In Zamibia, the police are known for being some of the most corrupt in southern africa, and it is commonplace to bribe officers at the checkpoints and border posts so that they allow you to pass. In this particular case, the officer said that we could not pass because our driver's vehicle was the wrong color to transport passengers. It took about an hour for our driver to negotiate a bribe that the officer would accept but would allow our driver to still make a profit from the trip. Finally we made it through and were on our way.
One of the most interesting parts of the trip this far has been talking with the drivers and local people that we have met. In most cases, the drivers have been shy at first, but quick to open up when we attempt to start conversation. This particular driver, a young male named Likhali, was born and raised in Zambia. He told us he was engaged to be married this September, and he and his fiance had just taken in his brothers 3 small children to raise because their mother had died and the father was unable to care for them. He was clearly very intelligent and fiercely proud of being Zambian. He talked to us at length about his dream to begin a small tourist business where he can show tourists the "real Zambia" - the women, elderly, villages, farmers, poverty, HIV/Aids, culture, etc. - rather than shuttling them around from national park to national park. For a moment I felt very privileged to be seeing Africa on a budget, where I have a chance to interact, at least a small bit, with the people, and to travel like they do (at least in to a small extent).
We arrived at the border to Namibia around 2pm that afternoon. Crossing the border was not at all difficult, although we definitely stood out as we were the only white people amongst crowds of black Africans carrying babies on their backs loads of luggage, and many women carrying bags and produce on their heads. As we drove into town the children running along the roads were shouting "makuwa! makuwa!" which means, "white people! white people!".
After receiving our exit stamps from Zamibia we walked the short ways to the Namibian post and stood in line to enter Namibia...