First Impressions: Livingstone

LOVE.

Zambia is beautiful. It is greener, lush-er, colourful-er than anything we’ve seen in the past nine weeks in Africa, the humid opposite of Namibia, and the Africa that we had come to see.

From the unorthodox air of formality at the border post –

an unclear order of a multitude of counters where we paid unexplained and unnamed fees, incorrectly entered information dismissed with the wave of a hand, breastfeeding with half the community present at the insurance window, and a suggestion box in the corner to let them know how best to run their border control

– to the fullness on the streets:

tall trees and bushes, semis swerving along potholed roads, children in tattered clothes running barefoot on the dirt, women in colourful patterns carrying something – everything – on their heads, and everyone on bicycles…

This is what we were waiting for.

bridge to zambia
Bridge over Zambezi into Zambia

Immediately Livingstone, the base town for Victoria Falls, felt familiar. It reminded me of Southeast Asia, a backpacker haunt, where the air is humid, the nights are hot, the music is on, and the chair is always in the lounge position if not actually a mattress. And I loved it.

vic falls
En route to Devil’s Pool on top of Victoria Falls.

But we entered after sunset, a bad idea for any town, and any camp: it is dark, it’s hard to get your bearings straight, you can’t see what anything really looks like, and inevitably the lights won’t work, the wifi will be broken, the water will be cold, and a dog around the corner won’t stop yapping. And being far away from the center, on an unlit road in a compound can only build on fear of what’s out there.

sesheke
Dusty colourful towns on the edges of roads is just what we wanted.

But the muezzin call woke me up at 4:45am and I loved it. And we moved camps to a backpacker haunt that’s off the main strip right where women in colourful patterns carry groceries home, children in white and brown uniforms walk to school, and silver taxis with a purple stripe carry business men to work, and it is exactly what we wanted.

Love love love.

Except the mosquitos. Damn they’re vicious.

First Impressions: Lüderitz

A gaudy hollywood sign with the word “Lüderitz” welcomes us from a nearby hill. The rest of the scenery we pass is less inviting – a land of flat mud, sand, monotone gray.

Luderitz beckons. Namibia - Anywhere Bound
Luderitz beckons…

The town is almost charming, if kitschy. It spans eight blocks of roads wider than necessary for the lack of traffic, eight blocks of banks and houses and shops decked in yellow and pink providing the German architecture the guidebooks obsess over.

Luderitz is 'known' for its quaint German architecture
Luderitz is ‘known’ for its quaint German architecture

Healthy palms line the sidewalks, and somewhere in the distance there is the cry of seagulls, a hint of water.

Luderitz bay, between mainland and Shark Island peninsula. Namibia - Anywhere Bound
Luderitz bay, between mainland and Shark Island peninsula

It is almost enough to trick us into thinking we are in some deserted charming neighborhood in Miami, but the cold harbor wind quickly snaps us back to reality.

We head straight for the Shark Island campsite passing signs for various backpacker hostels on the way. The small peninsula looks like what I imagine Newfoundland to be: rocky, gray, with colourful fishing villages perched atop the scrags…but with palm trees.

View out to Luderitz from Shark Island. Namibia - Anywhere Bound
View out to Luderitz from Shark Island

We dig out the socks and tights and fleeces and wind breakers that we so adamantly packed away just the day before and huddle with our campsite neighbors by the braai until it is too cold to sit outside.

The morning’s sun pierces our eyes. Our sunglasses only slightly shield us from the sand, which also inevitably makes it into our ears, our noses, our mouths, our hair. The road signs warn “WIND” and “SAND” as the tar is layered with yet another thin carpet of yellow and the irony eats away at the metal.

Wind. Luderitz, Namibia - Anywhere Bound
Wind? No way…

Everywhere we turn, wind and sand, together, as one inseparable entity.