Saturday, 18 September, 2021

Exhilarating Voyage from Central to Southern Tip of Africa

Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman Niaz

Exhilarating Voyage from Central to Southern Tip of Africa
Mountain and Robben Island.

Flying over the dense smoke of active volcano Nyiragongo of Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) was really thrilling. One hour and 10 minutes is the average flight time from Goma to Kalemie. Coastline of Lake Tanganyika added beauty to this city. After another 1 hour 15 minutes air journey I along with my trip mates landed in Lubumbashi. So, our thrilling journey began with a short air trip from this central African country. Surely we are about to start a hectic tour which will span for next one week. Lubumbashi is the mining capital of the country. The colonial structures, parks and crafts of this city attracted us.

The next morning we reached Kasumbalesa border post by taxi. It is a One Stop Border Post (OSBP) between Zambia and DRC and it deals with high volume of traffic. The OSBP system aims to ensure that the movement of goods, people and services are facilitated without hindrance, to exit one state and enter an adjoining state. Commercial vehicles are cleared here travelling from and destined to South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique and few other neighbouring countries. Zambia’s main exports to the DRC are sugar, cement, timber, mattresses, acid, mealie-meal, agricultural products, and cooking oil, among others. On the other hand, Zambia mainly imports mineral ores and concentrates from the DRC. I came to know that they are providing unique end-to-end border solution in order to deliver optimized Border Operations.

After completing formalities we entered Zambia. The first image that hit me when we finally get to the border post is that of massive trucks waiting in long queues, a few kilometres to be precise. These trucks are carrying every kind of product that one can imagine. We hired a taxi and our destination was Ndola City located 200 kilometres South East. We had small break in Chingola and had our lunch. The road was in good condition.

Travelling by the afternoon bus we left for Lusaka. On way Levy Mwanawasa Stadium caught my eye. At evening the bus dropped us at Lusaka, the capital. It is a sprawling, metropolis with many multi-storey buildings, high-walled suburbs and busy shanty towns. After light refreshment we took another bus and started for Livingstone city. We had a nap in journey. It was almost late night when we reached our destination. We spent the night in a cottage. In morning hiring a car for full day we reached the site of Victoria Falls. We enjoyed beauty of world's largest sheet of falling water from almost all viewpoints. After lunch we travelled to Kazungula Border. Here the borders of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia all meet at the middle of the Zambezi River. For this reason it is also known as the only quadripoint on earth. We reached Botswana immigration post crossing the river. Our plan was to enter South Africa through Botswana. But due to some immigration problems we had to change our plan and return to Livingstone city. Taking early dinner we reached Victoria Falls border crossing and entered Zimbabwe.

From Victoria Falls bus station we departed for Bulawayo. The bus was quite comfortable to enjoy a sound sleep. We reached early morning and it was very cold. After taking breakfast and little rest in a hotel we started city tour. We saw few parks along the wide tree-lined boulevards. Here famous public transport is minibuses locally called "kombis". Bulawayo cricket stadium is known as Queens Sports Club Ground. It is well known to many Bangladeshi as our cricket team played several matches here.  At afternoon hiring a taxi we started for border town Beitbridge. This bridge over River Limpopo connected South Africa and Zimbabwe. We got on arrival visa as we were UN employee. I was astounded hearing that few people here knows name of many Bangladeshi Cricketers. This is a main corridor for trade flows to and from South Africa and its sea ports to the northerly neighbors. The queue of vehicles reaches miles after miles. Drivers nap in or under their trucks.

Our next destination was Musina city located just 14 km south from here. The town centre is filled with Bulk, wholesale and retail trade. Trucks, taxis and trailers are loaded way more than one would have thought possible with anything from furniture, fridges, bicycles, buckets, old rusty chicken mesh to modern vehicles. A big Bangladeshi community can be traced here. I could meet with one of my school friends here who is doing business here. We spend the night in a luxurious cottage. Another long journey awaits us from morning.

Our first stop was Johannesburg. It is the largest city in South Africa and known as "The City of Gold". Johannesburg has a reputation of a lawless city and very high crime levels. So long our journey was south wards. From here we travelled towards south west by a luxurious double deck bus and our destination was Cape Town. We were in business class where amenities like sleeping seat, snacks, toilet and entertainment facilities were there. So the 17 hour long journey was not that boring. It gave break in most major cities where passengers can stretch and refresh themselves. A lady with bandage on forehead was sitting in front of us. She was stabbed last night in Johannesburg by hooligans. On way we passed Bloemfontein, capital city of the Free State Province. South Africa has three capital cities.  Pretoria is executive, Bloemfontein is judicial and Cape Town is legislative capital. Here highways are wide and well maintained. Flyovers, pedestrian facilities, interchanges contribute to ease traffic congestion and promote road safety.

Next day morning we reached Cape Town. Since the Dutch East India Company established their first settlement in 1652 in this town, the influence of the Dutch culture is still noticeable. Most White South Africans belong to either the Afrikaans-speaking descendants of the Dutch East India Company's original settlers or the Anglophone descendants of predominantly British colonists. We exchanged currency and at present 1US Dollar equals around 13.8 South African Rand. Cape Town has one of the highest levels of biodiversity of an equivalent area in the world. At noon we visited Cape Agulhas located around 220 km southeast.  It is the southern tip of Africa. Here cold waters of the Atlantic Ocean from the west meet warmer Indian Ocean water. We could identify a distinct line at the confluence. We stayed the night in a hotel located at Long Street. Next day morning we enjoyed morning roaming at water front and city center. After lunch we visited the Table Mountain. This 260 million year old flat topped mountain is one of the official New Seven Wonders of Nature and also boasts of the UNESCO heritage status. Roben Island, another UNESCO heritage site can be seen from its top. This closeness is very unique. Besides sightseeing tourists enjoy hiking, para sailing, trekking, mountain biking and rock climbing here. We had early dinner returning to city.

We started our return journey and first destination was Pretoria. The Grehound Double deck bus dropped us next day morning. Pretoria is renowned for its pristine national parks, beautiful nature, interesting history and friendly local people. We strolled across many historic buildings, monuments, museums, and a beautiful botanical garden. By afternoon bus we left for Masvingo city of Zimbabwe. The national monument Great Zimbabwe and Lake Mutirikwi are located here. Construction on the Great Zimbabwe city began in the 11th century and it was abandoned in the 15th century. Main artifacts found here was soapstone sculpture of Zimbabwe Bird which was used later in national emblem. From Masvingo we traveled towards Zambia border following Harare, the capital. Clearly, border traffic flow has an exponential effect on the revenue performance of these countries. That’s why it is considered as a "Life Line" to the regional economies.We crossed border and was heading towards Kasumbalesa border.

Our taxi passed busy capital Lusaka.  We had a break in Lusaka for refreshment and having food. The city is known for its bustling street markets, spiny brutalist-style architecture and traditional foods. Zambia's staple food is maize. Our around 16 hours journey ended as we reached Kasumbalesa at evening. We checked in a border hotel. The tiring journey abetted us to have a long and sound sleep. Next day morning we saw long queue of trucks loaded with minerals, construction material, mining equipment, agricultural produce and food waiting for days to cross the border. We returned to Lubumbashi city. Till returning to point of origin we travelled around 1100 km and most areas were covered by street journey. It was quite unorthodox. On journey sometimes we passed through thick jungles, mountains, dry lands, open spaces, modern cities and wild ocean coast. Here I mostly describe the journey. The journey did not become tedious as the vehicles were luxurious and could provide amenities. The visiting places surely demand separate and detail write up.

Though I missed but African Safari with sheer richness, wilderness, variety and grandeur is bound to amaze anyone. Africa abounds with incredible sights, soaring sand dunes, savannas and wildlife. This continent still has a magical allure for most wanderers. Our experiences were also unique and to be cherish for long. This well-known quote by US singer Richard Mullin is so very true, ‘The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa, for he has so much to look forward to’.


The writer is a civil Engineer and a serving Military Officer