Victoria Falls, Zambia/Zimbabwe

One of the original Seven Natural Wonders of the World and deservedly so, Victoria Falls straddles the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, and can be visited from both sides.

Coming in from the Zambian city of Livingstone, 10 km away and named after the British missionary-doctor-explorer who was the first European to discover the falls, you can hear the telltale thunder as you approach — no wonder it’s called Mosi-oa-Tunya (“the smoke that thunders”) in the local Tonga language. (For reference, Zambia’s largest indigenous language is Bemba, and Zimbabwe’s are Ndebele and Shona. Formerly the British colonies of Northern and Southern Rhodesia respectively, they both have English as their official language.) It’s the end of the wet season now, which means the falls are at their fullest. Though I chose not to visit the Zambian side of the falls, I did visit some hotels lining the Zambezi River (which gives Zambia its name) just before the falls. On the Zimbabwean side, there’s a colonial-era hotel that has views of the border bridge.
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 Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to Lusaka, Zambia

Running off the Zanzibar ferry as fast as I could, piki-piki to the nearest bus stand, bus leaving immediately for the Tazara station… oh great, traffic. With little time to spare for my 1:50 pm departure time, I made it to the station!…only to find that the train was delayed to 10:00 pm. Lovely. “Arrive at the station at 7 pm,” said the lady at the counter.

Well, now what am I going to do for the rest of the day, carrying my bags, 6 km away from the city centre, in the middle of an industrial area? Back on the bus through traffic, I guess…

Six hours later, I return to the station. 7 pm. 8 pm. 9 pm. 10 pm! 11 pm… No announcements. Not allowed out of the station after they check our tickets, and it’s awfully stuffy. Only food available is cake. Huh, no one’s complaining, everyone’s just sleeping on the floor and the station is packed the the gills. Despite all of this, people still seem in good spirits — many people, some who didn’t speak any English at all, tapped me on the shoulder and wanted to chat. Sarah, a high schooler from Dar, told me that delays were just a part of life. Some of her friends commute three or more hours each way in heavy traffic just to go to school, and they still have to find time to do homework, eat, have a social life of some sort, and sleep!

Train arrives at 11:30 to cheers and applause, and also a crush of people sprinting onto the platform, trying to get a seat in third-class. As for us…first class, reserved beds. We board last, and we’re off at midnight, whoo!
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