Day 7: Dear Commissioner of tourism, Zambia

“Dear sir

This is a letter of complaint. I have crossed 3 border crossing this far on my trip through Africa and your Zambia crossing from Kasani is by far the worst boarder crossing in the world. Not only did I have a military personal put their gun in my face while trying to confiscate my passport, my life and that of my travel partner were threatened on multiple occasions by Zambian citizens trying to sell forex on the black market.”

That is how my letter is going to start to the commissioner when I get round to writing it.

The truth is – day 7 was my least fun day of our trip thus far. We experienced a 6 hour border delay due to only 1 pontoon in working order to carry vehicles across the Zambezi river, bribery and corruption. Word had it that you should not use one of the ‘porters’ to help get you across the river as they rip you off. Another international team ended up paying $400 for a border crossing which should cost $100 max. The main reason for this fee is that the ‘porters’ / officials confiscate your passport and then the passport carrier needs to bribe the official to get their passports back.

We went against this route, but then also had to deal with the most disorganized border control offices in the world. Any traveller travelling up through that border should know that you need to find 5 different buildings:
1. Passport check – members of team “Better the Globe” needed to get visas at the border and this process was seemingly uneventful. As a South African I was happy to be holding a green mamba – which just needed a stamp and I was through.
2. Vehicle customs – registration and insurance checked
3. Road tax
4. Third-party insurance
5. Police clearance tax (I’m still wondering why this $20 tax is charged)

The pontoon charge needs to be paid before getting off at the other side. What they don’t tell you is that they only accept Kwatcha (Zambian currency) and the local forex sharks sit on the boat and try screw you over with the rate. Botswana side had claimed that you can pay in Dollars so I had a little fight with the pontoon owner. This fight then led to the military personal getting involved (I’m pretty sure they’re all in cahoots just to screw over the tourist). I have never thrown out so many F-bombs in all my life. When I got back into the bakkie, Luke’s (team “Better the Globe”) comment was that he had never seen a woman take on a millitary man with a gun like I had, and that at that point he probably would have handed over his passport – but there was NO chance I was giving them my passport. I think team “Better the Globe” were happy to be team “Better half” at this point.

I got into the bakkie and drove it onto land so that we could try sort this forex bull up. Ange was already on land with 2 other members of team “Better the globe”. I shouted to her to get local currency quick. She ran to try find the bureau which ended up being closed. While running, one of the forex sharks shouted at her that she should run for her life, and at this point it was no longer funny. Ange from this point forward even scared me. VERY LUCKILY a South African was about to make a crossing over and Ange was able to get just enough Kwatcha to get the military personal and boat owner off our backs.

The hassle continued as the border gate turned us around two more times to go get the police clearance tax certificate and then road toll tax proof of payment. Ange walking back to our bakkie window, which was swarmed with forex sharks, lost her temper completely – saying “the next person that stops you now – you drive over”.

We finally made it to Livingston – but had missed the joint group white river rafting. Not a prob though – the plan was to make it up on day 9.

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