Going To Lusaka

After three days of waiting for sunshine and my DHL package from Windhoek, I was committed to just push on. Africa is a big continent. I’ve got Malawi, Tanzania, Madagascar, Uganda and more to look forward to. True, I feel slighly ripped off that I didn’t have better weather here and the incentive to cross into Zimbabwe to check out the falls from another persepctive. But somethings you need to save for a return trip. Right?

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At Jolly Boys Backpackers in Livingstone I idled the time while watching the rain, writing and editing photographs. The internet connection was painfully slow so not much updating could happen. And below the guests eagerly watch Zambia get slammed 5-1 by Cameroon in the Africa Cup of Nations Football Championship.

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There was a slight issue that had been a bit of a problem at Jolly Boys Backpackers in Livingtone. Since Ronnie left a few days ago I’ve been room jockeying. And when moving my things from one “dorm” room to antoerh I neglected to move my “Pack-it” Microfiber towel. At these hostel style accomodation it’s no frills. No sheets or blankets for the bed and no towels, soap, body wash or hand lotion. But for ten bucks what do you expect. So I’d been using my camp towel, but after yesterday’s shower, I had hung it from the curtain rod in my room. When moving all my gear I neglected to see and move the towel. To make matters worse, the girl who had cleaned that room the day I moved out wasn’t working yesterday. And the 4 kivwi girls sharing that dorm room said my towel was not there wehn they arrived. THey let me poke in the room and take a quick gander. Nothing hung from the curtain rod.

So gearing up to leave today I was almost resolved to bidding my towel good bye. A sad thing because it packs extremely small, dries fast and serves the purpose. Finding another in Africa would be impossible. And I’m not about to carry a cotton towel through the serengett and the Nile. But this morning the “maid” told me she had folded the towel and placed it on the rattan shelving unit in the room. Even thought the Kiwi girls caught an early morning transfer tfor a white water rafting trip, I got into the room and found the towel. Relief.

And given the amount of showers I had today, I coulda used it.

Yeah. Memories of Ecuador, Brazil and South Africa flashed back today as I rode the nearly 300 miles to Zambia’s capital Lusaka. The first 100km could be a solid entry in the Guiness Book’s worst pot=holed road in teh world, if there were such a thing. Making matters worse wsa the fact that it rained heavily the night before and continued to rain. The pot holes were filled with muddy water.And those potholes that had been half-ass repaired with dirt, clay and sand turned into muddy land mines. Carefully navigation and slow speeds were required to get through those first 100km. Yet while the road improved dramatically afterwords, the weather deteriorated. By the time I rolled into Choma for petrol the rain pelted violently on the corrugated room of the gas station making more noise than the annoying morning rooster.

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For the next 3 hours to Lusaka I was teased with small packets of sunshine and as the road passed through Zambia’s greenbelt where beyond tobacco, corn, tomatoes, cabbage, peppers, coffee and sugar cane are harvested. I rode through tiny yet scenic villages sitting among the tall green grass and surrounded by corn and other plants, and with the traditional thatched round huts. And everyone was walking or riding their bikes. Carrying bundles of wood or balancing water on their heads, it was just another typical sunday for them, but it was a challenging yet exciting day riding for me. I’m in Africa. The real Africa, as Zambians like to refer to their country. Though national pride took a hit last night as in the Africa Cup of Nations Zambia’s soccer team got slammed 5-1 by Camaroon. And I continued to get slammed by rain.

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I took refuge from the rain at this gas station in Choma.

When the sun peaked out for one of its teasing moments I took the opportunity to pull over and talk to one of the boys riding with massive cargo on dilapidated bicycles. Every day these kids, and I saw dozens, stuff as much charcoal wood into burlap sacks and ride more than 2 hours on their bikes to a local market where the going rate for a bundle is KW25,000 – or about $7. They collect wood, let it dry in the sun, then dig a hole for the wood and light it on fire until it’s ripe and ready to be packed into the sack and taken to market. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old. His brown head was beaded with perspiration and his heart raced. After given the nod of approval to snap a few photos he politely asked me if “it was alright to go, now?” Even here in the Zambian heartland these boys have a delivery schedule to keep.

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Charcoal production, transportation and distribution is big business. Most transport is done on these bicycles.

It took just over 6 1/2 hours with various stops to get to Lusaka from Livingstone. Arriving at ChaChaCha Backpackers Lodge I was lucky they had one bed left. Good god. Another night in a dorm room. And after a cold shower and cold beer, I was ready for food and bed. I’m in Zambia. The real Africa.

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