Livingstone, I presume

De Aar
A train, waiting
3rd class waiting hall
Mealie meal for champions
Vote for presidential elections
Lucky stores LTD
On the streets of Livingstone

The above now immortal words were spoken on November 10, 1871 by Sir Henry Morton Stanley upon meeting Livingstone. Though he was supposed to have said “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” and it’s not at all certain whether these words were actually ever uttered. Also, they didn’t meet close to Victoria Falls, but near Lake Tanganyika in present-day Tanzania.
Livingstone, credited as being the first European to see Victoria Falls, or The Smoke That Thunders, had searched for the sources of the Nile, the Zambezi and the Congo rivers. Livingstone died in May 1873 in Zambia, but much further to the north.

Last time I was in Zambia, I wasn’t too impressed with the country and now I’m pretty sure that Zambia, at least this side of the country, is not much more than a tourist trap.
To get into the country will set you back 50 USD. A shuttle from the airport to town will set you back another 5 to 10. Going for an elephant ride is an abysmal 150 dollars. Rafting costs 130 dollars. Petting lion cubs costs more than 100 dollars. A booze cruise is 40 dollars. A ride to the Botswana border, 90 minutes, in a shared taxi is 5 dollars, where a ride to Lusaka, 450 kilometers is just over double that. Crappy internet costs 2.5 dollars per hour. The exchange rate for dollars at the place I’m staying is 12% lower than the official exchange rate while the exchange rate for euros is an unbelievable 30% less.
Then, in Livingstone, there are seemingly no ATMs connected to the Maestro or MasterCard network and only one place which can give a cash advance on a MasterCard, I’m sure at unreasonably high cost.

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What ticks me off is not so much the unreasonably high prices, one can just choose to not give any tour operators the satisfaction of raking in the money, but the obvious fact that these 10,000s of dollars which get spent here daily do not end up with the local population in any meaningful way. The streets are still potholed, houses are crumbling, the shops are still dirty, quite empty, selling mediocre goods at best and, what’s more, very expensive.
Where petrol in South Africa is currently selling at 5.82 Rand per litre, about 0.60 USD, here, it’s just over 6200 Kwacha, just over 1.20 USD.

Still, business seems to be booming. The hostel, though it’s not the high season, is quite full. I was hoping to upgrade my dorm bed to a single room upon arrival, but at 30 USD, the price of a double room, however many occupants, compared to a bed in a four-bedded dorm, for 12 USD, I refrained. The more so because I’m not so sure I’ll have enough money on me in a few days to get out of the country.

The place I’m staying at is called JollyBoys. Service is as can be expected at a backpackers in the middle of Africa, while prices are not too reasonable. A beer is 2 USD, where most pubs in South Africa will sell beers between 1 and 1.50. A meal goes for 5 USD.
On the plus side, the atmosphere is enjoyable. Lots of relaxed seating areas, a pool and table tennis table a swimming pool with a fountain and even something which resembles a hot tub, but not hot. A pity it’s raining a lot.

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On the plane, coming in from Jo’burg, the presence of lots of Dutchees as well as Hungarians took me by surprise. In the 90 minute queue to obtain a visa, I had ample time to acquaint myself with some of them. Turns out Nutricia is having something of a middle management meeting at Vic Falls to kick off the new year.
Now that is taking care of your employees.