People of Jollyboys

Words by Simeon Gready - November 2014

Our time in Livingstone, Zambia was spent at Jollyboys Backpackers, a merry and popular hostel only 10 minutes walk away from the bus station at which we were dropped by the meandering bus from Windhoek. It’s abuzz with life through the travellers that make their way through, providing the perfect centre point from which to discover the soulful beat of Livingstone. Square cushioned reading posts and an extensive book-swap shelf are positioned near to the warm pool, while the bar, fully stocked with cold Mosi’s (the local beer), has a great food menu and two large screen TV’s from which to keep up with all the live sporting events. But, as is usually the case when travelling through the backpackers family, the best part of our time there was the people we were able to meet; people from over the world travelling different routes with hundred of stories, tips, and anecdotes. I’d like to give you an overview of the people of Jollyboys here.

We met Kelvin, the Livingstone-local radio host who pops into Jollyboys for beers and conversations. He spoke of the blurred line between culture and religion in Africa, commenting on how, while both are very important in Africa, they often get confused with each other, resulting in divided loyalties and conflicting interests. He was a genuine person with an easy-going personality that reflected in those around them, the type of person you could talk to for hours without wondering where the time went.

We met Adrien, the quiet Frenchmen who had been couchsurfing with Kelvin. He spoke of his 6-month working holiday in Botswana, where he worked odd jobs to earn his food and accommodation. He laughed about getting robbed in Africa, brushing it off as life continues to move along, and was gone from the backpackers all too soon.

We met Andries, the bull-in-a-china-shop Afrikaner who was drunk when we got there and drunk when we left. He spoke utter nonsense most of the time, to be honest, but he was a brash individual who commented on his wish to beat Julius Malema with no care for the consequences, but also reeled off Trevor Noah jokes as if he was his biggest fan. He sadly boasted about how he had drank an entire bottle of rum or brandy every day by himself ever since his father died.

We met Danielle, the East-Londoner with a proper British accent that made me miss the hustle and bustle of English life. She spoke of travel adventures with new friends and old friends, and lamented the bloating of her ankles that always seemed to happen on long trips. She was an idealistic girl with an infectious laugh and undercover wanderlust, someone we planned to have dinner with on both nights but with whom the times just never matched.

We met Mike, the floppy-haired Californian whose sole purpose for being in Livingstone revolved around his kayak and the Zambezi. He spoke with a drawl, a typical American twang, and was up and out by 6am each morning and back in the late afternoon. He seemed a lonely soul, wandering through life from one adrenaline-filled endeavour to the next with his mind firmly in the now.

We met Russell, the New Zealander with whom we watched the Kiwi-England rugby match, who was ever gracious in his side’s victory. He had a mighty beard, and seemed content to lounge on the recliners by the pool all day reading his books with his wife alongside him.

We met Caine, the talkative Malaysian who had the most impressive passport I had seen to date. He spoke of his trip from Cairo to Zambia so far, on which we questioned him endlessly as we prepared to head up North, and his plans to continue onto Cape Town. We heard of all his other travel adventures, from the trans-Siberian railway to backpacking around Latin America, all of which he had travelled by himself with a wide-eyed curiosity and a baby-face that caused everyone to far underestimate his age.

We met a group of 18 Europeans, in Zambia on a university trip, lead by Dutch tourism lecturer and populated by mostly German tourism students. We spoke specifically to the lecturer, who spoke of the benefits of being a teacher of this type of course, mainly centred around the fact that he was able to travel around 3 times a year. He told us of travel stories of his latest trip to Iceland, commenting on the cold and the fact that there isn’t really all that much to do there (not that it put me off wanting to visit the island myself). He also emphasised the importance of local tourism and local cultures when visiting a destination: “Much of the tourism in these kind of places is Western or American. You can come to Africa and not actually experience Africa because you stay in these hostels and you do the beautiful tours and adventures. It will teach you nothing about the culture. So we try to include both: we were at the most beautiful lodge on the Zambezi, and across the road was a township, so we made the effort to properly experience both.”

Finally, we met Adi, the pocket-rocket Israeli girl who was travelling around Africa with whomever she would meet on the way. Upon first meeting her, I thought her to be somewhat fearless and bold; this proved to be true when she candidly informed Benny and I that she would be coming with us to Malawi and beyond to Tanzania, as she had been waiting in Zambia for travelling partners for the next leg of her adventure. As such, after our second night in Jollyboys, a third member was added to our motley crew, as we all headed back to the bus station to make our way to Lusaka as a stop-off on the way to the wonders and promise of Malawi.