Mr Brian the taxi driver, and other Zambian Adventures.

Part two in the series on the road trip from Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, through Botswana to Victoria Falls Zimbabwe, then across the bridge to Livingstone, Zambia and back again. If you like that social justice stuff, check back later. If you like travel, stay tuned. Part 1 about Vic Falls is here. 

We knew there was the town of Livingstone on the other side of the bridge. We stood for a while in what we were told was Zim-Zam, the bridge that crosses the Zambezi, the no-man-land (where you don’t need a visa, and you can bungee jump for a mere $150, and you can see glimpses of the 110-year-old Victoria Falls Hotel where we’d had high tea the day before). 

One foot in Zimbabwe, one foot in Zambia
One foot in Zimbabwe, one foot in Zambia

And then we crossed into Zambia, and realized that Livingstone was a good 12km hike away, through wild areas where there are elephants, and yes, we would need a taxi. (It’s really lack of planning, but we like to say “adventure”). Mr. Brian was our taxi driver. He ushered us into taxis, then told us stories on the way into town about how he’s from the village just next to Livingstone, and his grandfather is the chief and it is his great grandfather who met with David Livingstone during the rain festival, because he was curious to see a white man. Stories that were great stories, and were still great stories, even if he was making them up on the spot to impress tourists. Mr. Brian used to be a rafting guide on the Zambezi, but he is taking a break as a taxi driver, because being a river guide was too exhausting. “You’re responsible for all those tourists, you have to get them through alive. And there are two rapids that are the worst. One is called, “Welcome to heaven” on our language. So being a taxi driver is much more peaceful. You just need some peace in your life sometimes,” he explains. 

Mr. Brian pointed out the local market, the Livingstone museum, and was going to drop us in tourist-town, when the group asked to rather be dropped at the local market. When we got to the local market, we decided to take up Mr. Brian’s offer of being our personal taxi driver for the day. I got to be part of the negotiating team for that one. It was fun. I LOVE being somewhere that’s not just a hard, cold bureaucracy, but if you can make a friend, and talk fast, anything can happen. 

And then, as the many independently minded Americans were trying to determine if we should stay as a group, or split up, and who wanted to go where first, Mr. Brian stepped into our huddle and announced, “I can see that you are not from here. You don’t know anything. I am a local. Here is what I will do. I will sacrifice myself for you for this day, and show you around our market and Livingstone.” And he did. (Maybe being a taxi driver isn’t any more peaceful than taking tourists alive down the Zambezi).

The location of the debate about which way we would go first in the market, after which Mr. Brian sacrificed himself for us.
The location of the debate about which way we would go first in the market, after which Mr. Brian sacrificed himself for us.

We walked through the market where ladies waited with piles of dried fish, or beans. We got fried bread dough (called amagwenya in isiZulu, I can’t remember what they called it there), and Ann got a hair wash and dry (and curl!) from a hair dresser, while the boys watched carpenters making furniture. The manager of the market came by to see how we were doing, and tell us to guard our purses. I bought some batik fabric, and then decided to wear it rather than carry it, because I was in my shorts and felt quite keenly that I was the only woman in the entire market with her knees showing. This delighted the ladies, who helped me tie it on, and said I looked like a real Zambian now. I got several compliments on it throughout the day (and I caught one lady taking photo of me with her phone, haha, nothing like a white person trying to hide out as a Zambian). Mr. Brian gave me a name in his home language when we left the market, which I can no longer remember, but it meant “the social one”. 

We then went to get some Zambian food at a fast food place in Livingstone. It was fun being in another African country and seeing what is similar and what is different. There, they eat corn meal like we do in South Africa, but they eat it from a shared bowl, and form it into balls to dip it in the soup/curry. In South Africa, we usually eat it with spoons. The fast food place had outdoor buckets to wash your hands before eating. 


Then we went to the Livingstone Museum. There was a lot of natural history (stuffed animals), an anthropology section where you could see what a traditional village was like, and then a David Livingstone room where we saw his medicine box, and some original letters. There was a group practicing dance for a government educational meeting. Very cool seeing how different Zambian dance is to Zulu dancing.

David’s mom had the name and contact number of a Zambian pastor in Livingstone, and Mr. Brian arranged for him to meet us after the museum. That was a definite highlight. 

When we left to walk back across the bridge, Mr. Brian told us we needed to come back so he could take us on a cultural tour of his village (where all of us ladies could learn how to cook real Zambian food all day), and where we could meet his grandparents. He gave us his number. So if you’re planning a trip to Livingstone and want a great guide, let me know, I’ll set you up with Mr. Brian. 🙂 

The family and Mr. Brian (blue shirt) after a fun day.
The family and Mr. Brian (blue shirt) after a fun day.


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