Long bus trips are part and parcel with travel, but we were looking forward to the “freedoms” i.e. ability to stand up, and go to the restroom when you have to, that train travel offered. With this in mind we boarded our bus in Kigali, bound for Dodoma, the sleepy capital of Tanzania from where – supposedly – a train runs to Lusaka. So started a fairly tortuous journey towards South Africa, where a ‘no train situation’, border crossing issues, surprisingly good coffee, and a chance to catch up with friends coalesced to an interesting journey southward.
Mark had been trying to use his British passport to get around the extortionate visa for his NZ passport to South Africa. Unfortunately, this isn’t easy at land crossings in Africa, but seemingly the lovely customs guys didn’t question it and went ahead writing the visa out for the UK passport. When he came to stamp the passport however, a concerned look grew on his face, talking with superiors before hauling us into the office, where we begged for them to just put a teeny weeny little stamp on it. With them saying we weren’t going to be let in to Zambia, Mark could be a spy, and BREXIT might change everything, although one assumes Zambian passport rules are pretty far from Downing Street’s agenda at the moment (unfortunately there were far too many officers present to bribe them all with our dwindling USD stash). Oddly enough, 2 hours later they flouted their own rule that apparently the visa written for the British one wasn’t valid for the NZ, and let him in on the NZ one, it was confusing to everyone, presumably just to get us cheapskates out of their office. But the clusterf8*&ery didn’t end there, as upon exiting customs we were pounced on by seemingly every man in Nakonde, the Zambian border town.
Being ‘helped’ to the bus stop by roughly 15 guys offering services from money changing and bus tickets, phone cards to, rather strangely commercial freight import services, didn’t endear Zambians to us right away. Nothing was simple, even the money changer didn’t actually change money, with people grabbing money out of our hands to ‘help’ us pay for snacks for on the bus. We were looking forward to just getting our seats on one of the so called luxury Zambian buses. It was a complete circus, the isles were completely full of sacks of any number of foodstuffs, slabs of soft drinks, and auto parts, it was perhaps most surprising it wasn’t loaded with humans. Despite this and a short delay due to a container that had “slipped” (see, not secured at all) off a truck in front us, the journey wasn’t punishing as it could have been given the 1300km we had to cover. It was great to get to spend time in Lusaka with family friends of Mark, spending time with the kids in the pool and having some amazing home cooked meals, courtesy of our wonderful hosts, it really did feel like a small pit stop at home for a couple of days. (Thank you, again!)
In light of the drama surrounding Mark and his passport issues, we decided to defer heading through Zimbabwe at the risk of being turned back at the South African frontier, and instead fly from Lusaka to Johannesburg. Not ones to do anything the easy way however, we opted for our flight to leave at 2am, and rather than go straight to Jo’burg, to bounce through Nairobi, just for fun. 9 hours later though, we had arrived in South Africa, a little tired and pensive, thinking we might not get our rental car due to debit card issues, but in the end, as it tends to with travelling, all has worked out.
We hope you’ll join us for our trip through the rainbow nation, where our first port of call is the fabulous Kruger Nation Park! Until then..
..@catchustravelling in South Africa on Instagram