The last several days have been wonderful, relaxing and hectic with little food and a lot of travel. I have come from Bujumbura, Burundi through Lilongwe, Malawi to Senga Bay on Lake Malawi all the way through Lusaka, Zambia to Livingstone, Zambia where I am now. I have ridden busses, dilapidated minibuses, flatbed pickups with 38 people plus luggage at once, motorbikes, airplanes, boats, bicycle taxis, regular taxis and the one thing that I realize once again after all of this nonsense is how much I love Africa. I haven’t had any access to Internet the last several days and have covered about 2000 kilometers or more in that time so I will give a short summary of each country I visited as time is short and I am excited to get to Victoria Falls as day is breaking in Livingstone.
“Buj” is a nice little city with not too much to do but a cool vibe to it. The best thing about Buj is its gorgeous setting on Lake Tanganyika which separates Burundi from Tanzania and gives some nice views. The beaches are not spectacular but certainly worth a look as you see here.
I stayed at a place called Saga Residences which was a cool little place right in the center of town where I based myself to basically find my way down to Malawi. I ended up only spending about 16 hours in Buj because of the way the flights worked out I had to leave at 3am for my three stop flight to Lilongwe in Malawi.
But let it be known that the best parts of Burundi are clearly the landscapes. The hills and cultivated mountains in the north that you pass on the bus from Rwanda are stunning and lead dramatically to the view of the city over the shimmering Lake Tanganyika.
While Buj itself is a pleasant enough place to be, it’s not going to keep you too long. If you are there though, do check out Cercle Nautique for some excellent food along with a ton of flies that love diving into primus beer and maybe you can play bocce with the old French expats.
Much like Buj, there’s not much to Lilongwe. It’s the sleepy and pleasant capital city of Malawi although Blantyre is the commercial hub of the small country. But Lilongwe is a nice place to get settled in and get some errands done before heading out to the lake.
I stayed at the Kiboko Town Hotel right in the center of Old Town which is the most popular place for travelers to stay-and pretty much the only too! It is walking distance to the bus station where you can catch minibuses to the Lake.
I did manage to find some fun with a UN worker whom I met who showed me around town. We had some Indian food for dinner-it was the only restaurant open as it was Sunday. Then I was lucky enough to catch the end of the Arsenal/West Ham FA Cup match where Arsenal came back in dramatic fashion to win-I was pumped.
Senga Bay, Malawi
I took a minibus with 24 of my closest African friends to Salima where I switched to a flatbed pickup along with another 38 Africans to finally arrive on the main road in Senga Bay. I then had the task of finding my guesthouse on the beach. A friendly local helped me out and I arrived at the lovely Cool Runnings guest house which is essentially a hippie resort right on Lake Malawi.
The sunset and sunrise were gorgeous (above main picture) and it may be the most chilled out place I can think of. I really enjoyed my time there and could’ve certainly spent a few more days and wish I could’ve seen more of the Lake.
I also joined a group of people to go snorkeling over at Lizard Island a few kilometers away from Senga Bay where I found that there was crappy snorkeling and Lizard Island was a misnomer as there were no lizards to speak of. Go figure!
Anyway, I went out to eat with some new friends at the Red Zebra where they didn’t have anything on the menu that I actually wanted so I ended up with spaghetti Bolognese. In Africa, what’s listed on the menu is rarely actually available and this time it just happened that the first 5 things I wanted weren’t available-again go figure.
From Senga Bay it was about a 16 hour journey overland to Lusaka-the capital of Zambia. I had to go from Senga Bay to Salima to Lilongwe to Mchinja, cross the border and get the Zambian visa then taxi to the first main town in Zambia where there were no minibuses going to Lusaka that day. I wasn’t having any of that crap, so I stealthily negotiated with some guy to drive me 7 hours to Lusaka. I’m not saying I completely got the best end of the deal we made but I did and eventually did arrive in Lusaka.
Lusaka is a nice, again very pleasant place to be. It was much more modern that most African cities and even had a Subway Restaurant. I ate there and it sucked but I was happy to see something familiar regardless. I stayed at some place called the Golden Bridge Hotel which is one of these new Chinese hotels that are popping up over East Africa. They are incredibly tacky, horrifically decorated and lack any sense of style. But that’s what makes them great!-or at least fun to laugh about.
The Chinese are seriously taking over Africa by the way. They have partnership agreements with many governments in East and Central Africa and have given tons of money to improve infrastructure and there are Chinese signs up everywhere. So as the Chinese Diaspora expands onto the Dark Continent; it will be interesting what comes of this investment as the decades go by.
Lusaka itself is not much to speak of. It has a main drag, Cairo Street, that had some shops and banks and other than that it has the mall with the Subway and a bunch of gas stations. Lusaka is more of a transit place than an actual city but again, if you find yourself there, it is very easy to pass the time pleasantly enough.
From there I made my way 8 hours on the Shalom bus down to Livingstone, Zambia where I sit poolside typing at 6am at the Fawlty Towers hostel. I am getting prepared to visit Victoria Falls almost 6 years to the day since I was last there in 2004 with my friend Mike. I cannot wait and it looks like tomorrow I may do a day trip safari to Chobe National park in Botswana but stay tuned on that one. For now it’s off to the “Smoke that Thunders”!