Africa, Part III-Zambia, Zimbabwe and This Is Not Victory

Africa, Part III-Zambia, Zimbabwe and This Is Not Victory


Leonard Zwelling

The small planes banked in tandem over Livingstone in Zambia. They land and we go through yet another customs line to enter another country. We are fortunate. This day they were allowing a multi-pass visa to both Zambia and Zimbabwe for only $50 a head.

We are climbing into yet another bus and driving past the Jewish Museum of Zambia (we couldn’t stop) and on to the border with Zimbabwe and another stop
and another line for passport stamping. All of this is using pre-digital era technology. There are no computers and there is constant traffic across the single lane bridge from Zambia to Zimbabwe making the border station busy and crowded. Goods are being transported by bicycle across the international bridge to trade. In addition, lines of large trucks wait clearance loaded with copper from Zambia.

We are also being accosted by street vendors of all kinds selling wares and trinkets. One has to resort to telling them “I have no money” and even then they are willing to barter for your shoes. They are also selling the local Zimbabwe currency at 20 billion units per dollar. The US dollar is the real currency of both Z countries, but you can become a billionaire for a day for the price of a McDonald’s hamburger.

On the bridge across the Zambezi River the roar can be heard. It is Mosi-oa-Tunya, the Smoke That Thunders which is an apt name for Victoria Falls. It was originally sighted by David Livingstone in 1855. It is neither the highest nor widest waterfall in the world, but it is the most voluminous and the mist flying high above the ground makes viewing the falls impossible in certain places. The mist serves as a veil of wet “smoke” that seems to thunder as the river crashes down the rocks into the valley below.

We are on to the Victoria Falls Hotel, vintage 1904 British Empire, British Colonial, British British. It looks like a movie set or the Cairo hotel to which Lawrence repaired in Lawrence of Arabia the 1962 classic film by David Lean.

The following day we walk along the path to the falls, but have to turn back at the tenth of fifteen or so promontories. There is nothing to see as the smoke that thunders covers everything and all that one derives from going forward is getting wetter despite the distributed panchos. The Falls are best viewed from afar. The Falls are indeed powerful and gorgeous, a true wonder of the world, but there was a limit to the degree to which we would get soaked in service of no better view of nature.

That evening we take a cruise on the Zambezi above the Falls. We can see the smoke that thunders many kilometers away and giraffes grazing on the banks of the river as well. As the sun sets, the boat docks and our time in Africa is coming to a close with a farewell dinner, sleep under mosquito netting, and a lengthy trip home to Houston, forty-one hours. The first plane takes us back to Johannesburg. The next one was nine or so hours from Johannesburg to Istanbul. There we have an eight-hour layover in the immense Turkish Airlines lounge with every kind of food imaginable prior to going to our gate two hours ahead of time as instructed on the flight board.


We have to show our passports at least three more times on various lines prior to going on another line if you have an electronic device bigger than a cell phone in your possession. Genie does. Her noise suppression headphones. Who knew? No litium battery but if you can buy it at Best Buy and it is bigger than a cell phone, it’s gone.

The Turkish Airlines personnel don’t quite have the new Homeland Security system down, but they are trying to confiscate the electronics, bubble wrap them and place them in huge trunks to be stuffed in the hold in the plane’s belly. So the noise reduction head phones you brought to use on the plane. Forget about it. A laptop—gone. And this ban may well be expanded from the ten Middle Eastern and African cities currently on the list to every site outside the US. Business passengers will get no work done on twelve-hour flights like the one we were about to board. Viewing movies on an iPad? No longer on these flights. Blogging-off limits.

Lines, pushing, shoving, confiscations and endless passport checks. Does this look like victory over Islamic terrorism to you? Not to me.

The flight back to Houston is without incident but it was a full eight hours and many lines between landing in Istanbul and taking off again for home. Then only twelve hours longer.

If our government and those of the other western alliance countries think they are victorious they are wrong. The terrorists have disrupted our way of life and we seem to be incapable of regaining our independence in the face of trying to secure our safety.

The take home from the forty-one hour trek from Zimbabwe to Houston was real concern that freedom’s march has been temporarily stalled by the forces of evil and we, the supposed forces of good, are scrambling to try to create a safe world. And struggling at that!

The African experience, limited though it was, brings home what foreign travel always does. Many countries do things differently than we in the US do. In some cases, it may be better, but not usually. Western Europe is deep in the throes of overt socialism and taxing people to the gills. I am not sure that’s a good idea. Africa is still emerging as it fully transitions to a world without colonial rule and struggles with all that entails. We in the US are blessed with many freedoms that are not taken for granted in other places. Nonetheless, foreign travel is good for you. You learn about how other people are different and how they are not. That alone makes the trip worthwhile.

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