Shakespeare wrote: "Parting is such sweet sorrow". I do not disagree...
Perhaps I'm slowly becoming African? I've certainly been here long enough!! It's been far more than a year since I planted my feet in Morocco thinking that Africa's 54 countries would take me only a little more than a year. But look at me now?
While in Iceland I met an American woman effectively called "Twinkle". She was the first person to critic the Saga. With frowning eyebrows she asked: "I wonder how all of this will go down in Africa?" Good on you Twinkle...good on you...
Today I can answer that question. Most people think I'm crazy in the original sense of the word. Others ask if I'm being punished for something? However that is only at first. Because most people I meet slowly begin to understand what all this "madness" is about. Yet some might never get it... Africa is a very large continent. Much larger than what it appears to be on a map. Take a look at a globe instead and you might find yourself scratching the back of your head.
I have honestly been going as fast as I could! I had malaria for a while which held me back a bit. But really that was only the least of it. Being stuck on islands or trying to get to them...along with the struggle for visas and the heavy bureaucracy of Central Africa (not all of Africa) has taken its toll. Mentally I feel the weight as well.
This is what a supermarket looks like in a country where 4 million people go hungry to bed due to the drought. Food for thought.
So yes, perhaps I'm becoming slightly more African than I intended? Perhaps I'm starting to see the madness...the punishment...and perhaps I'm also starting to ask: What is it all for? Why not just marry my girlfriend, start a family and watch the Sunday sports in the comfort of my home?
...a problem I'm trying to solve with this project is that the media refuses to focus on the good...of which there is most. The outcome of, nearly all media, having a negative angle is that people start to believe that the world is worse off than what it is.
I believe that perception is reality and I have so far observed that most people's perception is rated below the actual reality. So I'm trying to adjust that.
I do not close my eyes to corruption, decease, poverty, terror or any other harmfulness to our societies. I merely do not promote it within this project.
As a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross I do in fact deal quite a lot with the unfavorable side of life for many. I observe, read, listen and try to understand it. After that I write a story about the Red Cross in each country, describing how the Red Cross is combating this and improving life for millions of people.
The reality for me is that society is improving almost everywhere. More girls attend school than ever, natural disasters claim fewer lives, new cures for deceases are being invented and released, the middle class economy is growing globally and no matter where I have gone (110 countries), I have met friendly and helpful people.
Any balanced person must be able to contain information of both good and bad and not only focus on one side. It is strictly within this project that the positive is promoted one sided. And frankly I believe it is needed.
World media is taking care of the other side....you should know that. You probably do. Just as you should know that looking at a rectangular map is also a manipulation of the state of our world ;)
I was carried through Zimbabwe along with my girlfriend. It could not have been much easier! When I first arrived I was staying with Stu...he found me through the Saga's social media (which has now reached more than 22,000 active followers). Then my girlfriend arrived and after a few days in Zimbabwe's capital Harare, we continued to the city of Kings and Queens: Bulawayo. In Bulawayo we stayed with Tina who is a friend of Stu's family.
Tina is a real power-woman who juggles all sorts of activities while taking care of her family. Her husband Reinhard is a funny man of German origin who speaks like a waterfall. I was willing to listen and he said a lot of wise things. I think most people who have lived and survived the economic rollercoaster of Zim has something wise to share.
Tina and I enjoy a beer at Matobo national park.
Dayne and Baye were also home. They are Tina's children and they were equally impressive to meet. Dayne is an outstanding chef and Baye managed to create a very impressive wildlife sanctuary at the age of 22!! She's 24 now and it's truly impressive. We had a chance to visit and it's beyond me how someone that young can do something so impressive. I'm trying to remember what I was doing at 22? Probably eating dirt and chasing cars...woof :)
Our home for three nights at Hwenge National Park.
After a few days of royal treatment at Tina's place we continued on a safari (organized by Tina) at Hwenge safari park. True luxury!! Relatively low cost. Totally worth it! On arrival at the safari lodge we were straight away able to see elephants, baboons, kudos, impalas, birds and warthogs only a hundred meters from where we were going to sleep. And that was with no fence between us and the wildlife! Welcome to the real world :)
You know, long ago someone observed that we used to build fences around our settlements to protect us from the wildlife. Now we build fences around the wildlife to protect it from us.
In fact I have been shaking my head for a while. Because as mentioned, I have been in Africa for more than a year, and the majority of the animals I have seen have been: Cows, horses, chicken, sheep, cats, dogs and birds. No giraffes, no lions etc... If you want to see the elephants, gorillas, lions, giraffes, zebras and so on - then you need to go to where they are. Typically in wildlife sanctuaries and national parks.
Having said that, I have already had my fair share of stories in Zimbabwe regarding traffic interrupted by elephants, workouts interrupted by elephants - and Stu was once chased by a hippopotamus (at lake Kariba). Seriously! It's 2016 now. Who gets chased by a hippo? ;)
Tina's son Dayne had a friend while we were staying in Bulawayo. Her name is Sandi and she is the daughter of Muffy who lives in Victoria Falls - at Victoria Falls (I didn't know that the town was called Victoria Falls until we went). Sandi called her mother, passed the phone to Tina and said "Talk to her" :) Later on Tina sent me Muffy's phone number and informed me that Muffy would host us when we got that far.
Muffy on the far left - the Zambezi River down below :)
Muffy came to pick us up at the bus terminal in Victoria Falls. She is a petit woman who I would first describe as a fragile flower with very deep roots. She is amazingly spirited and showed us no lack of hospitality during our short stay. So there you have it: Carried through Zimbabwe's hospitality. Hosted by Stu in Harare, by Tina in Bulawayo and by Muffy in Victoria Falls. Big love everyone! :)
I originally had the impression that Victoria Falls was a tourist trap. But it isn't at all. It certainly caters to tourists, but it's a really special place at the same time with lots to do and see. It's even inside a national park so you have monkeys and elephants among other animals walking freely about. Something which is sort of strange in an otherwise modern town? But fun!
Visiting the Victoria Falls can be a wet experience! The spray from the waterfall can be seen 50km away!
After a night in Victoria Falls we crossed the impressive Victoria Falls Bridge which was built in 1905. It connects Zimbabwe with Zambia and is 128 meter high! It used to connect Cape Town in South Africa with Cairo in Egypt. What an impressive train ride that would have been?!? But those days are gone although I could easily imagine it rivaling the Trans Siberian Railroad!! Maybe some day...
WELCOME TO ZAMBIA!!
Across the border from Victoria Falls we easily made our way into Zambia and were greeted with smiles. This part of the world is truly a pleasure to visit. Muffy's friend Sue was waiting in her 4WD to pick us up. After a short drive we found ourselves in Livingstone, which is a former capital of Zambia. Today it's what I would describe as a tourist trap ;) Sue dropped us off and told us to call her if we needed anything - then she left again and we were on our own. Easy though...everything comes easy for a tourist in Livingstone. Just bring money. We had some Indian curry that night and decided to head straight for Lusaka, Zambia's capital, the next day. With only a few more days left together before my girlfriends flight, we simply wanted to rest and be together for a few days.
The Zambians are lovely people as far as I can tell. Everyone has been really easy to deal with and conversations come easy.
We wanted to go by train to Lusaka...but we were told there were too many accidents.
The next morning we made our way to the bus terminal and found 2 seats on the "FM bus" which advertised itself having free wifi. It was a 22 seat bus so nothing big. I'm 193cm (6'4) tall so I struggled with legroom as we put Livingstone and the Zambezi River behind us. The landscape opened up and when the roadsides weren't facing trees, we could enjoy beautiful fields on both sides of the bus. 7 hours later we reached Lusaka...
What is a grown man to do with his legs?!? :)
Walking around Lusaka isn't exactly super interesting. But there is plenty to see for a first time visitor. It's ironic that a country with so much wildlife and nature hasn't really left any parks inside the city. When asking the locals what there is to see they often refer to one of the malls as an attraction. But being in a mall isn't like being in Zambia. The inside of a top modern mall could be equal to being anywhere in the world. So we walked about for several hours and eventually found a college campus which was shielded somewhat from the busy traffic. Inside the campus students were walking about as students do...we spoke to a few of them and enjoyed the much calmer ambiance of that environment compared to the busy streets.
A massive amount of construction was going on all over Lusaka - here at the college campus.
From the campus we walked out past the endlessly long cargo wagons of Zambia Railway (downtown). They are fit to transport coal, but weren't moving anywhere when we crossed the tracks. Again everyone we met were friendly and accommodating. We weren't supposed to be on the tracks, but people made it possible for us anyway and we met nothing but smiles. Finally we reached Kafue road which is definitely an attraction to a visitor. It's a very long road which is packed with stores on each side and lots and lots of people...on the road in between the traffic buzzes on. Looking at traffic you can tell something about a countries economy. Is there much traffic? Are there many modern cars? Is it well organized?...in fact I can't remember the last time I visited a country were 99% of the road vehicles weren't roadworthy in Europe...it must have been somewhere in rural Central Africa...
Eventually we ended up in a mall anyway... ;)
My girlfriend booked us into a Best Western Plus hotel called "Lusaka Grand" so there was no lack of luxury. We had a few good meals and spent the last of our 12 days together savoring each moment together. We met each other about 3.5 years ago and I've been out on this project for 2.5 years now. She has been out to visit 9 times already.
Coming back to my room I pulled out the magnetic key card and open the door. I walked into the room and looked at the bed. Her side of the bed was empty and her bags were gone. That's when it dawned on me...I'm alone again...
To all of you who constantly write me about how "AWESOME" it must be to travel the world and ask for tips on how you can do it too...just know that EVERY COUNTRY in the world is a lot! It's not always fun. It's a lot of hard work. No really: A LOT of hard work!! But it certainly comes with its perks as well.
I feel myself changing. I know so much more, about so much more, then when I left home. I am more confident having overcome many obstacles and I have more friends than when I left. And I will never look at the world in the same way again.
Trust me when I say: While the world is not by any means picture perfect, it is certainly a much better place than you can ever imagine. Let's keep on keeping on.
(My good friend Lasse Pedersen put his genius into it)
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - still moving forward
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga