Elephants, Mangoes, Video Games… Zambia and Botswana Have It All

Though the Fran’s Lands journey is nearly over, my wild African experience lives on in my heart. Here’s a taste of my most recent Zambian and Botswanan adventures. 

Sadly, I have only 1 month left before returning to the states, which means my blog is almost finished! As I spend my final 5 weeks in India, this blog is a reflection of last week’s memories in Zambia and Botswana.

Botswana had never peaked my interest until about a month ago when someone told me that the the country’s wildlife and safaris are Africa’s best! During my brief stay there, here’s some facts I learned about the country:

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    Elephants getting a drink at Chobe National Park in Botswana.

    Chobe National Park is an elephant’s dream home- When I did my extended journalism project in South Africa, I learned that Botswana had banned trophy hunting in 2014. This legislation proved beneficial for many Botswanan wildlife populations, particularly elephants, who now number 120,000 within Chobe’s 11,700 km² park.

  • The Zambezi River borders 4 countries- To cross from Zambia to Botswana, I boarded a shipping ferry at the Kazungula border. The cool thing about Kazungula is that it’s on the Zambezi River, where Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Namibia’s borders meet.
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The baobab prison tree in Kasane, Botswana.
  • Baobab trees can live thousands of years- I’m not a huge plant fan, but when I see baobab trees, I go nuts! Baobabs, found intermittently throughout Africa, are known to withstand immense drought conditions. In some African cultures it’s even worshipped. In Kasane, Botswana, I came across a famous baobab tree that formerly served as a prison.
  • Botswana’s political figures deserve kudos- Did you know that since the 1990s, Botswana has had the lowest corruption rating in Africa? It’s at the same level as South Korea and Portugal!

After my Botswanan excursion, I took a long 7-hour bus trip from Livingstone, Zambia’s tourist capital, to Lusaka, its political capital. I came to Lusaka mostly to catch up with old friends I had made when I researched there last year.

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A look at Lusaka from me and my friend Fernando’s favorite city hideaway.

Many things have changed in the country since I was last there, like:

  • My neighbor’s baby had grown- Last year I drove my host mom’s neighbor to the hospital when she was in labor, so it was a proud moment to meet the little munchkin I helped bring to life.
  • Lusaka is vastly updating its airportAnd surprise, surprise! The Chinese are building it. If you want to learn about something the average person has no idea about, look up Chinese development in Africa. It’s quite a conundrum!
  • Zambian technology is moving forward- my friend Fernando took me to a slum in Lusaka’s outskirts called California. While there, we played video games in a little room where there were 10 TVs with Xboxes. Some smart fellow is making money off little boys who spend their weeknight and weekend hours playing video games there. One game costs only 1 kwacha (less than 10 cents)! As I looked around the room, I wondered: Is this all these kids spend their money on?
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My friend Toby and I spent an evening at Lusaka National Park, where we saw one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen. Just imagine nothing but trees for as far as you can see.

Despite surprises, many things remained the same in Lusaka, reminding me of why I fell in love with Zambia in the first place:

  • Hungry Lion if there was a readers’ choice award for top restaurant chain, Zambia’s vote would unquestionably be Hungry Lion. I don’t know what makes it so good—is it the spice in which they marinate their fried chicken? Or their French fries’ perfect size, shape, flexibility, and potato-to-crunch ratio?
  • Minibuses I’m laughably pathetic at navigation, which is why Google Maps and I are particularly tight. Thankfully in Lusaka, Google Maps posts the minibus’ routes! Although I’m always smushed next to other passengers in these vehicles, it’s much cheaper than taxi fares… and makes for a local experience.
  • Sprawling informal markets- I love shopping at informal markets, where I can buy fruits, veggies, and other miscellaneous goodies. Especially mangoes…they are in season here now!
  • 2 annoying words – Whites in Zambia are called muzungus. It’s easy to learn that here because people say it as soon as they see me. As I meander through town, taxi drivers also shout “taxi,” and since 99.99% of the time I don’t need a taxi, the word has become my least favorite word in the English language.

Zambia and Botswana were my last taste of Africa for who knows how long and as I now bid adieu to the continent, its exquisite wildlife, and the people I’ve met here, I venture on to where the wind takes me next. Next stop: Hyderabad, India.

***

Here’s some bonus pictures, first from Botswana:

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A hippo grazing. I’m not sure whether it’s an ugly creature or not!
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A crocodile lazily snoozing under the sun at the Chobe River.
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A bushbuck on the Namibian side of Chobe.
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A troop of baboons.
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A young impala buck. There were literally thousands of these in the park!
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In the distance is a large herd of Cape Buffalo, one of the Big Five.
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I spent an afternoon at The Chobe Crocodile Farm. Did you know that crocodile meat is one of the healthiest meats, especially for people with poor immune systems?
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Some pap (mushy white maize) with a salad and “Botswanan steak.” I made sure that the steak was actually Botswana-sourced before ordering it.

Now from Zambia:

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Me with my good friend, Herbert, at Hungry Lion. Herbert is the spokesperson for Zambia’s Ministry of Home Affairs, and I’m very proud of his hard work.
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Fernando and I have been close friends since we first met in Zambia last year. I love how he makes itineraries for places to go and things to see.
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Vitumbuwa, or fritters, are one of my favorite Zambian treats. But I only ordered them once this time because they’re not an artery pleaser!
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At most Zambian restaurants, the foods available are usually traditional cuisine and this: chicken shawarma. It’s actually one of the most popular street foods on the planet.
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One of my favorite snacks of all time: cassava with ground nuts (peanuts).
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Lusaka National Park’s winning sunset.
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A look at the slum California in Lusaka. Fernando and I spent an afternoon adventuring around here.
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One afternoon, my friend Toby drove me around Lusaka so that I could find all the city’s sites for the Southern African Freedom Trail. Pictured above is the home of Oliver Tambo, the president of the ANC party in South Africa while the apartheid government had banned it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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