Post CFSIA: Dar es Salaam to Livingstone by Train and by Bus

The whirlwind adventure continues! Unfortunately some tough things have happened, but mostly really good things. My travel partner Liam and I bid adieu to Lushoto on the 13th and took a bus to Dar, where we got mugged. I think I still need to process the incident a little, but we’re both safe and have learned our lesson. Nevertheless, I was so happy to get on the train the next day and leave Dar behind forever. I know it’s not fair to judge a city by one incident but we’ve heard of so many other people getting robbed or scammed there that I know I would never be able to just relax and have fun while in the city. I think I’m still processing what happened and I’m definitely a lot more wary now.

Our train left Dar around 4 pm. We were in “first class”, which meant four-bed compartments separated by gender and otherwise not much else (I thought wistfully about Via-Rail a lot). I was with an American girl that we had actually seen before briefly at our hostel in Stonetown, and two Israeli girls. We had a lot of fun chatting and also hanging out with some of the guys (Liam, the male friend of the Israeli girls, and two Dutch twin brothers). We spent the night on the train as it drove through Selous National Park (so we couldn’t see any wildlife but the stars were incredible), stopping here and there to let people on and off. I slept surprisingly well in my little bunk. Then the next day not long after noon we got to Mbeya, close to the border, and the American girl and the Israelis got off there. The rest of us had to wait around until another train showed up, which we then switched onto after exchanging Tanzanian shillings for Zambian kwacha. I was now rooming with an older Tanzanian lady and her elderly mother, and a Slovenian girl called Mocja whom Liam had met at his hostel in Arusha and who we found out had taken the train from Dar to Mbeya a few days earlier with three of our friends from the program. It really is a small world.

Mocja and I became friends and spent a lot of time in Liam’s compartment, which now also housed the Dutch brothers and a really cool young Zambian guy who works for an NGO. We all chatted and played cards which was nice, especially because I was getting tired of doing nothing but reading and watching trees (albeit really pretty trees) go by outside. That night we crossed the border into Zambia at around midnight. The immigration officers come right into your compartment to stamp your passport which is pretty great- I got my visa while practically lying in bed. I fell asleep easily after that, and then we spent one more day on the train. We got into Kapiri Mposhi, a tiny little transit town, at around 5 pm. It had been 50 hours on the train. Our new Zambian friend offered to give us (me, Liam, and Mocja) a ride to Lusaka in his car with his mother’s driver so that we wouldn’t have to bus, and we accepted. I was definitely nervous about it but it was totally fine. We drove about two and a half hours, and they dropped us off right at Lusaka Backpackers hostel and wouldn’t accept any money. It was so kind of them and my faith in humanity was restored a little bit.

We pretty much just had dinner and went to bed that night, pleased to not be eating train food and to have not-disgusting bathrooms, then Liam and I found out that our three friends from the program were also staying in Lusaka and we met up with them at the bus station the next morning to head to Livingstone to see the falls. (Mocja was meeting up with her parents at the airport and so had to say goodbye). It was about an eight hour drive, and we arrived around 7 pm and walked a few blocks to the Jollyboys Backpackers hostel. Again, pretty much dinner and then bed. So much travel is exhausting.

The next morning we caught a free ride to Victoria Falls in a bus from the hostel, and spent most of the day walking around the park. There was so much mist and spray and we got pretty soaked and it was awesome. The sheer size and intensity of the falls is awe-inspiring. We walked over the bridge connecting the mainland to the headland and also hiked down to the so-called Boiling Pot, which is like a giant whirlpool and is where you can see people bungee-jumping from the bridge that goes to the Zimbabwe side of the falls. The whole experience was very touristy but also fully enjoyable, and I’m glad we sort of spontaneously decided to make our way there from Tanzania. That night we all went out for dinner to an Italian place and had pizza, wine, and gelato, and it was fantastic.

The following day, yesterday, while the other girls had some adventures, Liam and I just chilled out and relaxed. We had breakfast (real lattes and scones!) at a cafe nearby, swam in the hostel’s pool, and laid around reading on its cushioned sitting area. We also bought our bus tickets for today and some food, got more delicious gelato from a different place, and went out for dinner with the girls to a place with awesome veggie burgers and fries. My conclusions about Livingstone are that it is very touristy, but also just what we needed for a few days.

This morning we said goodbye to our friends, as they’re continuing on to Zimbabwe and then Malawi, and got on a bus back to Lusaka at 8 am. We’re now staying at the Lusaka Backpackers again before we bus to Kapiri Mposhi tomorrow and hopefully get on the train again back to Mbeya. Our plan is to bus from there to Dodoma, then from Dodoma to Arusha, then from Arusha to Nairobi in order to catch my flight on the 26th and Liam’s flight on the 28th. It will be a lot of time spent on buses and sleeping at places for one night before moving on, but we really have no other option. We looked at flights from Livingstone to Nairobi but they’re just too expensive. So by land, slowly, we will go. It should still be an exciting adventure 🙂

Only 6 days left in Africa!

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View from the train.

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Rainbows to welcome us to Zambia.

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Bussing to Livingstone… a very playful little girl sitting behind me.

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Victoria Falls.

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A little backlit and very misty.

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The bridge from the Boiling Pot trail.

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Cafe breakfast on our relaxation day.

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Christie, Laurie, Liam, me, and Lesley.

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