Livingstone and the Zambezi

On Wednesday we drove an hour and a half to Livingstone, which is on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. Named after David Livingstone, the famous missionary and explorer who traversed much of Southern and Central Africa, the town of Livingstone is also the site of Victoria Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. More about Victoria Falls on another day.

Because of its proximity to Victoria Falls, Livingstone is very much a tourist town. So we spent our first few hours there supporting the local ‘curio’ artists.

the main curio market in Livingstone

the main curio market in Livingstone

one of the curio vendors. of course, I didn't write his name down, so I've already forgotten it.

one of the curio vendors. of course, I didn’t write his name down, so I’ve already forgotten it.

We then drove out to the Overland Mission base, where we stayed while in Livingstone. Our ride there took us about 30 minutes, most of which was on a bumpy dirt road through the ‘bush’, as we call it. What an incredible place!

on our drive out to Overland Mission, I snapped a photo of these cell towers disguised in various renditions of tree.

on our drive out to Overland Mission, I snapped a photo of these cell towers disguised in various renditions of tree.

The base sits at the top of the Zambezi River gorge, so the view is magnificent. In addition to the houses for the permanent missionaries, there are a number of large tents spread out on the base, which are used to host teams for mission training and short-term missions trips. We stayed in one of these, right on the edge of the gorge.

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the view from our tent

the view from our tent

The permanent houses and the community buildings are built with cement block and traditional grass-thatched roofs, many of which take advantage of the breathtaking views.

the view from the main community building

the main community building

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the classroom on the base.

the classroom on the base.

looking out from the classroom. (if I had class there, I wouldn't be able to pay attention for the view.)

looking out from the classroom. (if I had class there, I wouldn’t be able to pay attention.)

We spent some time exploring the base and its various lookout points as the sun was setting.

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The main community building includes the kitchen and dining area where everyone gathers to eat meals together. The groceries are trucked in once a week, and people take turns cooking and cleaning up. We joined them for dinner the first night we were there and enjoyed getting to know a little bit more about their work in the area.

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I’m so grateful for the opportunity we had to stay at this base. Our time was so much richer because we were able to spend our nights as part of a community instead of in a hotel. We were also able to take an impromptu hike down the gorge that never would have happened if we were on our own. But that story and its photos will also have to wait for another day.

Lusaka to Kalomo

Our flight arrived pretty late into Lusaka, the capital of Zambia, so we spent the first night there and then took the bus down to Kalomo the next day.

Lusaka, with a population of 1.7 million, is a bit smaller than Nairobi (3.3 million in 2009). I took a photo of at least part of Lusaka from our hotel room, and you can see the skyline is pretty minimal. You can also see how many trees there are, which is wonderful.

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Despite its size, in some ways it is more developed than Nairobi – better roads, drinkable tap water, greater variety of produce. It is so interesting to see a little of what life is like in some other African countries.

My friend Sheri met us on Saturday morning in Lusaka and took us to an ATM to withdraw some local money. The currency of Zambia is the Kwacha, which currently stands at around 5,000 ZMK to the US Dollar. Starting this coming year, however, the government will be cutting 3 zero’s out of the currency and printing new money to reflect this change. According to Wikipedia, this change doesn’t really affect the exchange value of the currency, but just makes commercial calculations easier. Makes sense – increments of 5 are much more simple to calculate than increments of 5,000. But until then, we are millionaires.

Our trip to Kalomo began at the Lusaka Inter-City Bus Terminus, which was especially busy on Saturday, since it was the beginning of most people’s Christmas/New Years holiday.

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Our bus was also completely full (although there was no one sitting in the aisle – the traffic police check for these kinds of things now), and there was more traffic than usual on the road down, but despite this, it was a pleasant enough ride.

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Katie Ryder, if you're reading this, this photo's for you - to add to your sign collection.

Katie Ryder, if you’re reading this, this photo’s for you – to add to your sign collection.

On Sunday we went to the church Sheri is helping her Zambian friend start up. I’ll be posting a brief video of the service there in the next couple of days. But I did also take a few photos.

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And finally, we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner with Sheri’s family this evening. We are so grateful for the hospitality of people we have only just met!

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After Christmas, we will start our touristing down here – taking a day trip into Botswana and Zimbabwe, checking out Victoria Falls, maybe riding on some elephants, hopefully seeing the area where Sheri will be directing a new orphanage, and going white water rafting on the Zambezi river!

The epic journey begins

I’m typing this while sitting in the Kilimanjaro International Airport, taking advantage of the free WiFi, while waiting for the ticketing desk to open. Three hours early is too early, I guess. We are starting on our epic journey today. OK, it’s not that epic in terms of number of countries visited, but I did realize that we will be taking virtually every form of transport during our journey.

Below is a rough diagram giving a general idea of our trip and its various modes of transport. We are flying to Zambia to visit one of my high school friends from RVA, taking the train back to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, staying a couple of days in Zanzibar, and then taking a bus back to Moshi.

I was going to write more, but the ticket desk just opened, so we’ve gotta run.

As they say in Tanzania, “Safari njema!” (Good travels!)

Nairobi to Moshi

On Tuesday we drove down from Nairobi to Moshi, which was about a 7 hour drive in total. We left Nairobi at 6:30 am to avoid its horrendous traffic. On the outskirts of the city we passed a group of cement factories. In the early morning light, the scene looked like something out of a Science Fiction film. I was reminded of the complexity of development and environmental conservation.

The landscape quickly turned to savannah, much like what you would see in the Maasai Mara or Serengeti game reserves. We didn’t see any exciting animals, however. Just some cows mingling on the highway at one point, and a disoriented sheep at another.

Good thing they have signs for that.

Apparently they also have signs to indicate that land is NOT for sale. I saw more than one of these.

Once in Tanzania, we were surprised by how many police checkpoints there were along the highway (and also by how many female police officers there were!). Every half an hour or so we would come upon a small sign in the road, or a piece of metal barrier set across the road, indicating a police checkpoint. A vehicle only has to stop if a police officer flags them down. We were stopped two or three times, I guess to check the driver’s paperwork. They never asked to see our Passports/Visas, although one officer did comment on our pile of luggage in the back.

Aside from that, our trip was uneventful, and we made excellent time, thanks to the highway upgrades paid for by the African Development Bank and constructed by the Chinese contracting companies! “China Offers Sincere, Unconditional Help to Continent” More complexity‚Ķ

Safely across the Atlantic

After packing, weighing, re-packing, shopping (forgot about those last minute items!), packing, weighing, re-packing, driving to the airport, weighing, re-packing, and shedding a few pounds (from our bags, that is), we and our 6 checked bags have made it safely to Nairobi, Kenya! My mom likes to say that our belongings propagate when we’re not looking. After this experience, I’m convinced she’s right.

Tomorrow we do some shopping around Nairobi, and on Tuesday, will drive the 7 or 8 hours down to Moshi, where we will be for the next 7.5 months. Steve will be carrying out a research project related to motorcycle crash prevention, which he developed when we were there last year. During that time we also put together a video introducing the issues surrounding road traffic injuries in this area.

Motorcycle Injury Research : Tanzania from Steve Sumner on Vimeo.

It is my plan to update this blog semi-regularly in order to update you on life in Moshi, as well as hopefully give you a glimpse (albeit limited) into this part of the world. Please email or comment with things you would like to know more about – that will no doubt make for more interesting posts!

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