It’s been nearly two weeks since my last post. Partly the delay is due to me getting sick, getting my bike serviced, trying to catch up on email, process and archive some photos, etc etc — but the truth is that sometimes my perfectionism causes me to procrastinate. I’ve experienced and learned a lot — but before I can write it all down, a whole new set of things happens. Then I feel like I have to write it all up in nice prose with great pictures. Silly huh?
So here is the short version. (Perhaps this is the true utility of Twitter, but I don’t have a phone — or data plan — here that allows me to do Twitter updates.) Z is for the only two countries whose names begin with Z — Zambia and Zimbabwe (formerly Northern Rhodesia and Rhodesia, respectively, in colonial times).
These two countries not only share a border, they share one of the 7 natural wonders of the world — Victoria Falls. There is a city on either side of the falls, Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. Each side has park with an entrance to the falls — $30 on the Zim side and $20 on the Zambia side (locals are charged much less). The Zim side allows you to see about 2/3 of the falls, and the Zam side the other third — although the Zambia side includes a small bridge in front of the falls called the Knife-Edge bridge.
The officials on the Zim side would not allow me take my unicycle into the park, but I pleaded with the Zambians on their side, promising not to ride it in the park, and managed to get it in and did do one little ride across the Knife-Edge bridge — see the video above — while getting soaked.
The unicycle has been an off-the-hook hit, almost too much so. People at the little shops in Livingstone waved me to come by, then would make room and applaud as I would ride past; then hit the skids, ride in circles, stop; ride backwards 10 meters, hop like a Massai warrior (their favorite move), then continue on. This same scene repeated itself several times in Livingstone and Vic Falls.
I didn’t do any of the typical tourist stuff (other than visit the falls), e.g., bungee jump, zip line, white-water rafting, or ultra-lite over the falls. Many of those things would definitely be a rush, but they aren’t my priority. I did take an elephant ride, since that was something that seemed reasonably likely to be done by Africans, and it was also pretty thrilling. We were out in the bush, so we had a guy following us with a gun just in case …
It turns out that the bungee cable broke when an Australian women bungee jumped from the Vic Falls bridge on New Years Eve. First, let me clarify, there is a big bridge from the Zim side to the Zam side which carries trains, cars, motorcycles, and yes unicycles. That is where they bungee jump off of–which is a different bridge from the Knife-Edge bridge, which is a very short, narrow bridge (video above).
Anyway, this woman fell into the crocodile infested Zambezi River, broke her collar bone and wound up in the hospital for something like 12 days. Amazing that she survived; big shock and major downerill to the tourism industry here. So, as I was leaving the Zambian side of the falls, after doing a little uni demo for the various artisans selling crafts there, a guy with a big video camera starts to interview me for Zambian news (http://www.muvitv.com/). He videoed me on the unicycle but asked me questions about my “confidence” in bungee jumping (they started allowing bungee jumping that same day). I didn’t think much of it, until a few days later when I was in Lusaka the maid at the house where I was staying excitedly told me that she had seen me on TV! (I did go to the station to see about getting a copy of the video, but they told me a) it was in the Livingstone office and b) it would cost me 500,000 kwacha (which isn’t as bad as it sounds, it’s $100 US, but it’s still bad!)
Moving on in no particular order:
Within 30 minutes of arriving in Livingstone and getting settled in my rented tent, I heard music and followed it to the Zambezi Boat Club. I rode up on my uni and met several people including a rasta motorcycle mechanic named Luka. We became fast friends, and played some pool while listening to some SpinCycle tunes. There was a big sound system blaring and I convinced the senior member of the club (an older gentlemen who had spent some years in New York) to let me put on some tunes. He really liked my mix and invited me to return.
After playing some pool, I told Luka I wanted to eat local food (nchima/nsima/mealy-meal/pap). We went to Limpo’s which was just hopping! But this was not typical for a Sunday night — it turns out that my first night in Zambia they were playing Equatorial Guinea in the Africa Cup of Nations soccer/football tournament. The place was packed. There was a big outdoor bar that was an island with people being served on 3 sides of it as well as another bar opposite it up several steps.
There was also a separate building that had a bar, tables, and a separate room with more tables and another TV. Sound from the game was inaudible and irrelevant. We could all see what was happening and provided our own commentary. The music was blaring at the outdoor bar–it was all rhumba. Rhumba is not the Cuban “rumba”; nor is it the watered-down US ballroom dance of the 20s and 30s. Rhumba how Zambians refer to Congolese music. In Kenya, I heard it referred to as Ndombolo (the dance style) or Lingala (the language that much of it is sung in); in the US it is generally referred to as Soukous (or its newest cousin, Coup de Cale). By whatever name, I LOVE the music and I LOVE the dance style.
As I write this, I am realizing that it is getting late and that I have so much more to tell you (you see, this is why I procrastinate writing these things, let alone getting to the photos and video).
Long story short, the Chipolopolo (the Copper Bullets) of Zambia won the game 1-0. When they scored the only goal of the game well into the second half, the bar went nuts. Luka and I found each other and jumped up and down. We then did something crazy — we jumped on our motorcycles and went bar hopping. There is no experience like being in an African country when it wins a soccer match! It has happened twice more since I’ve been here, and Zambia is now in the finals against the Ivory Coast on Sunday night. http://www.postzambia.com/post-read_article.php?articleId=25023
I’ve also been making some traveler friends from all over the place–a Korean guy who played American football in college, an Israeli woman who did the bungee jump the first day they re-opened it, a Japanese motorcyclist who has been on the road THREE YEARS, an American woman doing a three-week whirlwind tour of Africa via air, a couple of South African bikers that just rode from London on down, and a guy Berkeley — so nice to meet someone from home!
I’ve also made some nice friends here in Lusaka–I attended a party during the Zambia v. Sudan match (3-0) where again, you really couldn’t hear the match. After the win, we played the stereo to its limit where Chester Zulu (yes, that’s his name) and I shared DJing duties. (Someone has posted some pictures from this party on Facebook 🙂
Tomorrow I’m heading north to Kitwe in the copper belt. Despite being told by some that it is not such a good idea, I am going to the DRC, specifically to Lubumbashi. I can’t make it to Kinshasha on this trip, but I must get to the Congo (with my unicycle) on this trip — I’m too close not to make the effort. I love the music and dance of the region, and the deeper I get into Africa I get, the more amazed and enthused people are for the unicycle.
Wish me luck! I do get homesick now and then.
P.S. I forgot to mention that driving in Lusaka is no picnic–lots of dust and smog!
P.P.S. Yes, I know I’m not a very good photographer 🙂