Our expectations of Zambia were high. These resulted from our experiences in 2018. At that time, we had come to know the country as very lovely. The people were similarly open-minded and friendly as we had experienced in Zimbabwe. We felt comfortable and we quickly realized that we wanted to explore this country at our leisure. Now, four years later, the time had come. We initially planned two months for the exploration of Zambia and still had the possibility to extend by a third month.
The border experience
Already at the entry via Chirundu everything went wrong that could go wrong. However, we did not know that at that time yet. As we would learn in the course of our trip, tourists are usually charged a fixed amount (usually around 20 USD) regarding road tolls. This allows them to stay in the whole country. We were asked about our route and Guido gave a detailed information. 15 minutes later we were rid of 78 USD in fees and held a certificate about the Road Toll in our hands. There were three routes listed including various districts/regions. One of the main reasons to be in Zambia at this time was to visit Kasanka National Park. When we left this park and followed the road to the north to visit various waterfalls, we experienced at one of the countless police checkpoints our cruel surprise, because after studying our toll certificate, we were suddenly told that we were illegally in this area of the country.
Are we rogues and criminals?
Our view – filmed – would certainly have been a hit on YouTube. Illegal? Eh? It could only be a misunderstanding. Not at all, not at all. We were told that the certificate listed the various areas of the country for which we had paid a fee, and the area in front of Kasanka was not included. Ergo, we were staying there illegally. All questions and explanations fizzled out and even the intervention of an older policeman, who recognized the nonsense, led to nothing. His young colleagues sensed the opportunity to make a name for themselves and so we were fined. 450 Kwacha were due immediately. Guido had to point out to the policeman three times that he still had 50 Kwacha to his credit, as he paid him 500 before he reluctantly received his change. Regularly, one would have to leave the zones for which one had not paid within 24 hours, but since we were tourists, we were allowed to continue our journey for the time being.
Narrowly escaped arrest
Honestly, we had lost the desire by now. The roads were the worst on our trip. That’s Africa and that’s the way it is. However, the fact that we had to pay regular user fees in order to be allowed to use these roads struck us unpleasantly. Obviously, the income had been misused so far, because guaranteed no Kwacha ended up in road construction. During another check, Guido was almost arrested for insurance fraud. Excuse me? Long story, short: The insurance agent at the border mistook a number from the vehicle documents for the license plate number and also made a number mistake in the engine number. On closer inspection, Guido was then fortunately able to find out that the chassis number had been entered correctly. Together with the vehicle’s characteristics, the police officer then had to realize in the end that no offense had been committed here. He turned around and muttered a short “You can proceed” as he walked away.
How are you? Sweeties!
No matter where we came to a supermarket, we were surrounded within seconds by a bunch of children, some of them aggressively demanding money and/or food. We were not used to this from Zambia. This was not the case four years ago and we wondered what had happened in the meantime. To this day, we have not been able to get an answer to the question. Even in completely remote areas, the children ran after us, shouting “How are you? Sweeties!” We also noticed that the country was extremely littered. Regions like the capital city of Lusaka have always been dirty, but we didn’t know the rural areas like this. All in all, we were disappointed. Our (high) expectations were not met and that led to great frustration. That’s our frustration and we can’t blame the country for that, that’s clear.
We quickly agreed that we wanted to leave Zambia again after one month. This was really a flop for us and we had to nibble at it nevertheless very clearly. We decided to drive back to Zimbabwe and surprise Wayne and Louisa in Kariba. This time we used the border crossing at the dam in Kariba. The crossing went smoothly and quickly. Guido did not miss the opportunity to ask the responsible employee on the Zambian side about the certificate. After 45 minutes of waiting time(!) he appeared and after another 20 minutes of studying our certificate and some phone calls, he came to the conclusion that the employee in Chirundu had made a mistake. He classified our vehicle in the wrong category, which then resulted in a domino effect. Guido demanded a refund of the overpaid fee and the (wrongly levied) fine and only collected a laugh. This was impossible and if it was possible, it would take at least six months. We left the border station and were glad to be back in Zimbabwe. Zambia will not see us again so soon.