This is my favourite question both to ask people and to be asked. While recently booking my flight at a travel agency, it was myself and four other agents in the room. I chose to visit midweek during the day, so I was the only customer. To break the silence, I asked the question. New York, said one. The Gold Cost, said another. Hawaii. Las Vegas.
My turn. What was and is still to this day my favourite place I’ve traveled? Zambia.
Most people do the raised eyebrow, followed by “really?” and then “why Zambia”? Why Zambia indeed. A few years ago one of my dear friends was getting married in her home town in South Africa. She asked me to be the emcee for the wedding, as well as a bridesmaid. I accepted happily.
Now, I wasn’t going to fly all that way and not see as much as I could. I turned a two week trip into a six week adventure. I spent the first four weeks on an overland tour of South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique. Overland tours are where they take those big ex-army trucks and refit them to take 14-16 passengers, a kitchen folds out of one side of the truck, and storage for tents and mats on the other. Inside the truck there were lockers at the back to store our bags and our water – yes, we each had to stock up on bottled water at every stop en route.
I’m a planner. I did my research. I read some books on the countries we were going to. I googled destinations like Victoria Falls. The one place that I didn’t do much research on, and quite frankly had little to no expectations of, was Zambia. It’s surprising, because Zambia was more than 1/6th of our trip, almost a week. The highlight of our trip was canoeing down the Zambezi river for three days, camping wild on the side of the river each night.
Here are some of the things I remember about Zambia”
- Canoeing in a line, two people per canoe, and when the guide yells “Hippo!” you paddle your little heart in the opposite direction.
- Making friends with two British girls, who ended up being my evening “bathroom buddies”. In the wild, you don’t go pee in the bushes on your own. That said, even with company, the second we heard a twig break we high tailed it back to the camp.
- Listening to the crackling of the fire, watching the flames dance.
- Waking up to a herd of elephants crossing the river. Tiny white birds sat on the backs of elephants, using them as ferries to cross the water.
- Hearing lions roar at night. You could swear they were close, but the guide promised us that their roars carried for miles.
- The stars. Shock horror, but when you go to a different hemisphere, the stars you see are different. This had never occurred to me before. No big dipper. Instead, the Southern Cross.
- Burning my shins on a cloudy day, but some kind Swedes offered me aloe vera gel at the end of the day.
- Watching the sunset over the river.
- Hearing hippos grunt at night.
- My arms aching, happily, from the work of paddling.
- Deciding we were hungry, and pulling alongside the river when we felt like it for lunch.
- Our tents huddled around the fire, the hub to our temporary community.
- The trees in Zambia. They had stories to tell.
What is your favourite place you’ve traveled to? And why?