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The 48 hour train ride from Tanzania to Zambia was fantastically comfortable. All was going well until the train decided to derail. On a bridge. I was lucky though that the train's kitchen was still working throughout this ordeal and I could continue to treat myself to the wide selection on the menu that was effectively chicken and rice, which I had eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the last 3 days.
With the excitement out of the way, I finally caught up with 2 mates from university, currently living in Zambia, and chilled at their place for a week. Lusaka was perhaps one of the most boring capital cities I've ever been to. Entertainment here ranks right up there with re-runs of "You've Been Framed". So I spent my time between lazing by the pool, walking around the only 2 shopping centres in town and renting movies from Blockbusters. Borat is highly recommended as one of the funniest films of all time.
It was good to relax and do nothing for a week, but I decided to head to Livingstone to see the world famous Victoria Falls. I would like to say it was beautiful except that I couldn't really see anything because of the huge water mist that had enveloped the whole valley; it was wet season and the Zambezi River was flooded. We all got absolutely drenched walking by the Falls.
After returning to the capital to welcome the arrival of another friend from uni I was meant to be setting off for the Kuomboka festival in the North-West region of the country. But on the morning I was supposed to get going I had a change of heart and decided to try and get a refund for my bus ticket. Luckily,as I was walking to the bus station, I bumped into an NGO working in Lusaka, Josephine, who convinced me to just come along. So I did.
And it was a lucky coincidence that we met. The 8 hour bus journey went quickly and on our arrival in the tiny Zambian town of Mongu we headed to her friend's house, a local Zambian women. We were greeted whole-heartily and fed copious amounts od delicious food by this amazing woman and her family. I was once again humbled by the kindness of the African, and in this case Zambian, people. I was even more humbled when the 3 young kids greeted us on their knees after they had returned from church.
The next day Jo and I set off early for the first part of the ceremony. The King of the Lozi people was moving from his low-lying palace, now totally surrounded by the flooded plains of the Zambezi (we needed a boat to get there), to his palace on higher ground. The ceremony itself was...okay. I'm not sure it was worth waking up at 630 and then spending one and a half hours on a slow speed-boat to arrive there in time for this 10 minute ceremony.
And so we returned to the village, by boat again, for lunch before setting off again for the King's summer palace, which was about 15 KM away (by road). Since Jo and I were both cheapskates we managed to get on the back of what must have once been a cattle truck at some stage and huddled in the back with scores of other people, all standing crunched up like...well, like cattle.
In contrast to the morning ceremony, there was much more of a party atmosphere now and many more thousands of people had turned up (apparently 100,000 people). People were going crazy, drinking and dancing as the King arrived on his elephant-effigy boat with his entourage and his 100 or so rowers who had been rowing in the scorching sun for 6 hours by now. The King finally came out of his boat and everyone went nuts. He walked to his palace flanked by security on all sides and then the event was over.
I waited around a bit as the crowds made their way to the main road and asked if I could sit in a comfortable looking sofa that was just lying there. As it turned out this was the President of Zambia's chair. In true Abs fashion I asked some servants nearby for a coke but they just laughed at me and said no. And so I walked away, satisfied in the knowledge that I can now tick off "sit in a President's chair" from my list of life goals.
I returned to Lusaka the next day and decided it was time to move on. I had seen the "biggest ceremony in the world" (claims from many of the locals) and now felt it was time to get going. Malawi, and its beautiful lakeside beaches, were a mere 8 hours away.