Monthly Archives: October 2014

HITCH HIKING IN ZAMBIA – PART IV

IMG_5532“You want a beer?” asked the passenger from the truck’s cabin crawling behind a line of slow-moving cars.

It was just past zero eight thirty. Marius had dropped me off outside the new stadium and although it was about 25 degrees and I normally wouldn’t say ‘no’ to the offer of a cold brew, I just really wanted to hit the road and get out of Lusaka.

“Oh, you want a ride?” he said after I declined his beer offer. “Then come on.”

Kennedy was riding with his uncle driving and another guy lying in the bunk.

“How far are you going?” I asked.

“Serenje,” he said.

“Sweet,” I grinned, pleased with the 500 K ride on this very slow-moving truck (I could run faster. Just not in the fast approaching 30 degrees).

We reached Kapwe, about 300 Ks north of Lusaka when Kennedy asked, “You want to get off here?”

I was confused. “Aren’t you able to take me to Serenje?”

“Uncle is worried you won’t pay,” Kennedy lit the fuse.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” I said as the fuse sped along its line of fire. I explained my way of moneyless traveling. “I play music or work for food and bed.”

Kennedy was not happy. Neither was his uncle. In my rush to get out of Lusaka I had forgotten to explain my ways.

“You will have to get off here then,” he said.

“Not a problem,” I said, apologising for the miscommunication. We parted on friendly grounds, Kennedy even wanting my email.

I began to hike through the town of Kapwe trying to flag down a ride. After a 2-K hike Harry picked me up (after I first explained of my bartering lifestyle) and drove me to a place where I could easily hitch and there, within ten minutes, George picked me up and, learning of my Aussie background, demanded I help him get an Australian woman to be his wife.

“I want to have coloured kids,” he said.

“Sure,” I laughed. “I’ll help ya.”

He took me halfway to Kapiri, my turnoff to what’s known as The Great North Road that heads north-east to Tanzania (there’s also The Great East Road that’ll take me to Malawi in a few weeks).  Within another ten minutes I was picked up by Albert.

“I am from the Copper Belt,” he said proudly. “I am the local fire chief.” To prove it he showed me his ID.

He had a stuffed monkey hanging from his mirror.

“Cute,” I commented.

“Yes,” he grinned. “In my village we eat monkeys.”

“You eat monkeys?” I gasped. How could anyone eat something so human-like?

As I was heading towards Bemba land he taught me some useful words to get by with.

“Moolishani means ‘how are you’,” he explained as I wrote the phrases down. “‘Twatotella’ means ‘thank you'” – sounds Italian – “and ‘Mkwai’ (pronounced: Em-Kwai) is good to use to almost everything.”

He took me all the way to the truck stop in Kapiri and asked a local waiting for the bus to look after me. Not that I needed it but the gesture was appreciated. It was here that I hitched a ride on a petrol tanker heading to Tanzania with Adbi, a Tanzanian who took on two fellow country men who conversed in Swahili for the next eight hours.

A lot of African dialects are spoken loud. What may seem like a heated argument is in fact, just the way they speak it. Swahili was no exception. Rain began to splatter the windshield as we passed three over-turned trucks on the road surrounded by green bush land.

At about seventeen we stopped for dinner of nshima (the maize pap they eat three times a day).

“What is this?” I asked, regarding a strange looking side dish that resembled tongue yet was hollow.

“Goat’s intestines,” grinned Adbi, slurping down a mouthful.

I shuddered. “You can have the intestines,” I said, pulling a face that had the men laughing. “I don’t eat the insides of animals.” Just doesn’t seem right.

IMG_5658200 Ks later I was dropped off at the Mpika truck stop. Thanking Abdi I wished him a safe journey to Tanzania. Now I needed to find somewhere to pitch a tent and hope that it won’t continue to rain as my tent lacks water proofing. I approached Emmanuel, the security guard of the truck stop, and he kindly showed me where I could safely pitch my portable dwelling.

Right in front of a truck.

I was in my sleeping bag by twenty-two, awaking every few hours by truck engines sounding dangerously close to my tent. I could also feel that I was coming down with a cold due to the sudden temperature changes between hot, wet and cold. The next morning I packed my gear and hit the road, deciding to hike until a ride might come by. 10 Ks later, as the threat of rain loomed above me in large dark grey clouds, a truck pulled over.

“Kasama?” I asked.

“Yes,” said the driver and took me on.

A few villages later he pulled by the side of the road to buy a stick full of fish and lay them on plastic bags between us. Thankfully, he opened my window.

A few hours later I was dropped off at the maize mill about 10 K’s outside of Kasama. As I hiked a taxi stopped for me but I explained that, “I don’t have money.”

Surprisingly, the driver took me for free, dropping me off in the center of town. I decided to look for a lodge where I could barter for the night. I needed to extend the last 30 days on my 3-month visa and then head up to Lake Tanganyika, the longest freshwater lake in the world and the second deepest, sharing borders with Tanzania, Burundi and Malawi.

And it was there that Henry Morton Stanley (the first European to explore the Congo River back in the late 1880’s) found Dr Livingstone after he had disappeared for some years, uttering the famous line, “Dr Livingstone, I presume?” (Livingstone would succumb to Malaria a few years later at the lake).

Walking around I bumped into Justin, a former Peace Corps volunteer. He and his partner Claire were building a house by the Lukupa River (www.lovenlightlukupa.com). Her brother Trey was visiting and helping them out.

After explaining my bartering ways I was invited to crash at their host family’s place in the village of Kapata.

“About 10 Ks outside of town,” Justin said.

“Sounds great,” I said, accepting the offer.

I was welcomed into the family with hugs from Beatrice and her husband Chris, a hug from the grandmother and handshakes with the small kids.

Thandi, a family friend and his mate, Blessings, brought out the whiskey while Trey supplied the vodka. I had a bucket shower and after dinner jammed with Justin by the fire. He even whipped out a mandolin. We drank and sang and made merry until the rains cut our party short. As there is no electricity in the village there was nothing left to do besides crashing. Sharing a room with Trey, the rain pounded like machine-gun fire on the tin roof.

I was still feeling sick and the next morning felt worse. Still, I hit the road to Mbala to extend my visa (at Claire’s suggestion) and then find a ride to Mpulungu to catch the ferry to Nsumbu. I began to hike and after about 2 K’s I was picked up by a local teacher who took me 30 kilometers down the road.

Mbala was still 130 Ks away.

I then hiked about 7 Ks until a convey of over-sized trucks roared by. The rear car escorting them picked me up and I rode with Nicholas to Mbala. I was feeling pretty shit as the customs officer suggested I speak with, “Mr Chowa at the power tools shop. He is going to Mpulungu.”

“I will only be leaving at seventeen thirty,” he said when I caught up with him.

It was just passed fifteen. “I can wait if you can take me,” I said.

I sat around and he disappeared across the road. Then one of his workers instructed me to go across where I saw Mr Chowa standing by a Kombi.

He didn’t…

“I bought for you a ticket to Mpulungu,” he said.

Damn it. One of my main reasons for hitch hiking was to avoid the Kombis. They’re always overloaded with people spilling from every opening and the drivers seemed to all be auditioning to be stunt drivers. That and I don’t want people paying for me.

“Mr Chowa you shouldn’t have,” I said, shaking his hand in thanks. I couldn’t refuse for fear of offending him in front of all these people so I hopped on.IMG_5699

The Kombi ride was pretty smooth and the driver took me all the way to St Georges harbour where a capinte fish market was on. Hundreds of sacks of capinte were poured out onto the concrete floor by women, some with babies strapped to there backs, as they squabbled and haggled over prices while young kids ran around, stealing handfuls of fish from each piles before being slapped away angrily by the women.

“You can put your tent here after the market ends,” offered Goodwill, the harbour master.

By eighteen, the market was wrapped up but the lingering stench of fish hovered around like… well, like a bad smell. Still, it was shelter from the coming rains and as my nose was clogging up nicely by the cold that was unleashing an army of germs raiding my immune system, I didn’t really smell it all too bad.

IMG_5713Somewhere during the night the rains came pounding on the tin roof. By zero five I was up, feeling worse. I got my ticket for the ferry and took a closer look at the timetable posted on the wall: Mpulungu to Nsumbu – Departure: 09:00 Arrival 15:00.

 

I saw Goodwill and approached him. “How long is the ferry ride?” I asked.

“Six hours,” he said with a smile.

Shit, that’s half a day already. And that’s if they leave on time. I was permitted to take my place on board the rickety looking ferry. I started to read Irvine Welsh’s, The Acid House, while battling the cold that was threatening to take me out. As I read, a gut instinct began to linger about like the fish smell of the market.

Don’t go, it seemed to say.

I continued to read, ignoring all signs until I realised I was at page 200. I looked at the time on my phone – 11:11. I looked to the dock.

Still tied up and yes, the boat was still being loaded. Grabbing my pack and guitar I climbed through the throng of people that had collected around me without my noticing (it’s a good book) and found Goodwill.

“The boat is just going now,” he smiled.

“Just now?” I raised an eyebrow.

I was feeling like shit, could barely breath through a very stuffed nose and now this guy, with all of his good will, is telling me that the boat is going ‘just now’? (in true African fashion, just now can mean anywhere from five minutes to five hours).

“You still have three tonnes of goods to hand load on to the boat,” I said suppressing with all my might my anger (I hate when people waste my time). “I’ve been sitting here for five hours – since zero six – and this boat will be leaving at thirteen putting me in Nsumbu at nineteen in the evening wasting my entire day. So no, the boat is not going just now.”

I was being an arse but I was sick. It’s not a valid reason but I was not feeling well at all.

Reluctantly, they refunded my ticket and I slowly hiked through town for a bite to eat and then hitch back to Kapata to rest and recover. Over the horizon black clouds were coming in fast, rain spilling from them like someone carrying an overloaded bucket.

Shit.

I need to get a ride and I need it now. I spotted a bukky pulling out of a drive and flagged it down. He took me 15 K’s outside Mpulungu towards the road to Kasama. I began to hike – uphill – and after about 7 K’s I was practically done. Low on water I contemplated continuing or opt to pass out on the road.

“Hey!” someone called from a thatched roof by the side of the road. “Come and eat Nshima!”

I wasn’t hungry (a first) but I was damn thirsty so I plodded over and was promptly provided with a stool to sit on. I politely declined the offer of food,

“But do you have water?”

They filled up my bottle as I drank two cups full, rested for a bit chatting before gathering the strength to continue. 200 meters up the road a car with three locals pulled over and took me to the Kasama junction. An hour later I found myself in the backseat of a blue Ford Ranger bukky with Zizwani in the passenger seat and Moses driving.

Both were civil engineers. Zizwani had travelled to Europe and had lived and studied in Russia for seven years. I spoke a bit of broken Russian with him and told them of my philosophical bartering ways which blew their mind.

“Do you believe in God?” asked Moses.

This happens a lot in Africa and especially in Zambia which has been the most religious Christian country I’ve ever encountered.

“I believe in Karma,” I say each time and explain the meaning of doing good and good things happen. “Project good energy and you’ll attract good energy.”

“I’m disappointed in you,” Moses said. “I was impressed with everything you said until you told me you don’t believe in God.”

Still, by the time I was dropped off in Kapata Moses had invited me to his May wedding. “I’ll be in Tanzania but thank you,” I said, wishing him all the best.

I hiked through the village and took a wrong turn trying to find Chris and Beatrice’s house. A teenager came chasing and escorted me in the right direction.

“Tatotwela,” I thanked him and found my home-away-from-home where I rested, drank tea with ginger, diced up some garlic cloves swallowing them like pills and recovered a few days later to join in the celebrations of Zambia’s 50th year of independence from British colonial rule (back when it was called Northern Rhodesia).

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking, Zambia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

MISSING IN ACTION

Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 8.46.30 AM

Categories: Africa, Conservation, Zambia | Tags: , | Leave a comment

ODE TO ANIMAL

IMG_4770When I was visiting my brother in New York back in 2002, he took me to the Six Flags amusement park in New Jersey. After we rode every roller coaster in the park (about nine) we decided we’d go to the game stalls and try to win some stuffed toys.

After my brother made all the stalls re-order stock from winning everything that was on display, my eye caught Animal hanging alongside Kermit and Miss Piggy at a lonely looking stall on the outskirts of the stall boulevard. He was looking longingly at the exit gates behind us, the want of freedom plastered on his stuffed face (and he was probably over Miss Piggy’s tyrannical Kung Fu Hustle). We made eye-contact and I could see that he saw in me his last hope of ever playing the drums again.

“Whatta I gotta do to get Animal?” I asked the vendor in a perfect New Jerseyian accent (why raise suspicions?).

“Knock over at least three cans,” he replied with his ‘don’t-give-a-fuck’ attitude.

“Gimme da ball, Chief,” says I. “And stand back.”

I knocked four cans down with my first shot.

“Release Animal,” I demanded politely.

Animal is my favourite of the Muppets. Not only cause he’s a talented musician (his character is based on Led Zeppelin’s drummer, John ‘Bono’ Bonhom who passed in 1980) who is wild and does whatever he wants, but because Animal just doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him and does his own thing. He simply lives in the moment.
Something I aspire to.
Yeah, I aspire to be like Animal.
A Muppet.P1050441
When I decided to barter and hitch hike around the world almost 11 years later, I decided I’d need a mascot and Animal was the only choice.
But the events of Zambia’s Oktoberfest weekend will change both our lives forever (or until the Jim Henson Company or Six Flags might be persuaded to help me out).
After 12 years together, Animal was taken by a heartless, ruthless, son of an Ebola affected mother who had no idea the world of pain he or she has now entered.
This is what I remember from a blurry, beer-fueled weekend in Fringilla, Chisamba, 60 K’s north-west of Lusaka:
I awoke to sounds of voices outside of my tent.
What is that pounding? I thought, squinting my eyes. And why is it in my head?
Wait a minute… No.
No.
It can’t be.
Oh but it is, my subconscious said.
No, no, no, I argued. I don’t suffer from these.
Welcome to Oktoberfest, Subby grinned. And welcome to your first ever hangover.
Jesus, the thumping in my head pounded like Vervet monkeys mining for copper but only finding iron. People live through this?
Yup, Subby was enjoying my torture.
I need a drink, I figured, of water, I added before Subby could protest.
I reached out for my backpack but all I found was air.
Huh.
I sat up.
What a mistake.
I could hear the blood rush to my head like the rapids of the Zambezi.
I looked around my small tent. Guitar, check. Sleeping bag, check. Backpack.
Backpack?
Maybe it’s in Maruis’ trailer.
I unzipped my tent.
Holy shit that zipper is loud. Since when are zippers so loud?
I found my phone and looked at the time.
Zero six and forty-four.
The sun was a torturous investigative light as I scrounged about for my sunnies. Relieving my eyes and brain I crawled out, my calf muscles screaming.
I recalled dancing for what seemed like forever.
“Morning dancing machine” said Jeremy, the technician manager for Paratus, the company providing free wifi at the event and who Maruis, my host in Lusaka, is the head of (and who sponsored my ticket to the festival).

“Morning,” I grumbled, trying to recall if I had only danced all night.

Presentation1

I’m circled in red

“Have you got a hangover?” Jeremy asked in surprise.
“It appears so,” I groaned.
“I thought you don’t get hangovers.”
“Seems my powers are fading.”
I opened Marius’ trailer and peered inside. There was the cooler box, a few packs but mine wasn’t there.
“Someone stole my shoes last night,” said Andrew, the sales rep. joining us. “I was asleep in the chair and woke up and my shoes were gone and the table was cleared of my cigarettes and lighter.”100_0008
I looked to my bare feet.
Hmm. I remember taking my Source-sponsored sandals off at the company’s gazebo to go dancing.
My memory card was an almost blank from last night. I remember drinking with some guys. Then sitting with some other folk and cracking jokes, then being the first to hit the empty dance floor in front of the main stage. And dancing for about seven hours straight.
IMG_1My Source sandals must still be under the gazebo by the dance floor.
I headed over, waving at people who were calling out, “Hey Jesus!”, some coming up to shake my hand.
“Man, you looked like you were having the best time last night.”
I grinned, thanked the crowd, feeling like a rock star.
Under the gazebo a punter was asleep on top of the sacks of maize that made for seating.
“Sorry, mate,” I said to him, gently disturbing his sleep. “I just wanna check for my sandals under you.”
“Nothing here,” he groaned. “Someone stole my shoes and wallet.” And he returned to sleep.
Fuck, I thought as realisation settled in. Some schmuck stole my backpack.
I mentally listed the items that were in it:
– My 13-year-old multi-tool Leatherman my brother gave me 13 years ago.
Shit.
– A headlamp that Lillian, a Belgium volunteer with The Book Bus gave me in Livingstone.
Damn it.
– The hand-carved chopsticks Ash had made for me in the Malaysian jungle when I volunteered for MYCAT tiger conservation.
I really liked those.
– My 3-liter hydration system sponsored by Source.
So thirsty right now.
– My red hoodie that Mari gave me in South Africa.
Ach, that was a good hoodie.
– Two crocodile teeth Munandi gave me at Lake Kariba.P1140294
It took forever to get them out of the dinosaur.
– Two gem stones Veejay gave me as a gift from his family’s mine in Sri Lanka.
There goes my mother’s gift.
– My beard comb.
Shits gonna get messy.
Sigh. The upside is I now have one less pack to carry.
As I walked back to the campsite I felt like I was forgetting something. Hmm, passport and wallet are all at Mauris’ house along with my laptop and hard drive. My phone is with me. What am I forgetting?
IMG_5540I scrolled through the photos on my phone thinking maybe some clue might come up. I smiled at the photos I had taken with Animal around the venue –
Animal.
Oh no.
Oh fuck no.
Oh fucking fuck no.
He was in the backpack.
“Mother-fucking fuckers!” I groaned, returning to the camp site.
“What happened?” Marius asked.
“Some fucking arsehole stole my backpack and sandals. Animal was in my backpack.”
“That’s kacked,” he said as the guys tried to console me.
Puton de merde.Animal
There was nothing I could do (R & G Events tried with this poster →). I was saddened and even though complete strangers were slapping me on the back for my dancing skills, it wouldn’t bring Animal back.
No point in dwelling on it. What’s done is done. I just hope who ever ends up with my Muppet treats him like he deserves.
And I hope Karma unleashes her fury on the heartless bastard. With all her bitchiness.
We had some good times together, the most traveled of the Muppets.
Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Zambia | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

INSPIRATION

I think it’s fitting that my 100th post would be by a fellow traveller, who, for some reason, sees me as an inspiration to humanity (I know, that’s what I thought too). Having met in South Africa, Johanna traversed most of the planet in 12 months, ticking many must-do things off her personal bucket list.

Check out her adventures here at http://visionsofjohanna.org and for my inspired piece read it up here.

Thanks, Johanna. Hope you don’t get sucked up into the 9-5 for too long.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Reviews, South Africa | Tags: , | Leave a comment

HITCH HIKING AROUND ZAMBIA – PART III

IMG_5375“I’m heading to Lusaka on Tuesday,” Dian (pronounced, Dee-ann) said as we passed the evening at the bar of the Kariba Bush Club.

It was Sunday night and I had one other option of riding with Jordan, director of the Zongwe Crocodile Farm, on Monday but Jordan couldn’t guarantee that he’ll be leaving on Monday.

“Might be Tuesday,” he said on Saturday night. “Who knows.”

With Dian it was a sure shot which left me Monday to volunteer with the Canadian and American doctors, dentist, nurse and pharmacist who were volunteering themselves through MMI (Medical Ministry International). In exchange for a dental and medical check-up, I’d help out with crowd control at the local village clinic.

Folks walked from as far as over a hundred K’s away when these guys show up once a year for two weeks.

After attending to 133 patients from 07:00 that morning until just after 18:00, we packed up the clinic and headed back the hour’s drive to the Bush Club.

Tuesday morning I said my ‘goodbyes’ thanking Chenney and Marina for having me, proud of my sanding of the restaurant’s deck and hit the road with Dian.

“I just need to collect some samples for the client,” he said, referring to his geology job.

He drove over the flattened sand dune disguised as a road, took a left towards Maambo and guided the bukky off-road to a small river where I helped him collect three bags of rock samples to take back to Lusaka. Back on the tar road, we zigged and zagged around the potholes, handing out packets of biscuits to the police at the road blocks and check points. One of them looked at me.

“You look like the guys from the Bee Gees,” he said, grinning.

“I’m just tryin’ to stay alive,” I responded, cracking him up as he waved us on.

The road to Lusaka on the T1 and T2 highway is heavy with trucks, construction work and potholes. Only few sections are brand new and pothole-free. The single-lane highway had a spew of broken down trucks on non-existent shoulder lanes. The bushland area was drier than dried fruit which had me wondering what might it all look like once the rains hit (usually November but in the past few years they’ve only arrived in January).

Lusaka is home to about 4.5 million people and serves as the capital of Zambia, based in the south close to the border with Zimbabwe. Unlike most capital cities I’ve been to or seen in magazine or movies, Lusaka offers absolutely nothing for the foreigner. The streets are dirty and dusty, the buildings are drab and grey and just appear sad. Wealth appears to be measured on how green your grass is and traffic is a free-for-all. There are street peddlers peddling everything from sim cards and airtime (phone credit) to poster maps and blow-up toys (not those ones. For the bath). There are few mosques hinting to a strong Muslim community among the ever-believing Christians.

But the people are nice and friendly and are everywhere on the street.

Dian pulled into the Protea Hotel adjacent to the Arcade mall. He invited me for lunch and at about 17:00 my couch surfing host, Jonathan (who has hosted more than 500 couch surfers and within 20 years I predict him to be the President), picked me up and took me to one of his Techzone (mobile phones) shops.

Seven years ago he started a business travel magazine called, Partner’s Guide Zambia Business Travel Magazine after studying business in Dublin. He has direct lines to MPs, ministers and even the President of Zambia who, on October 24, will lead the nation in celebrations of 50 years of independence from the British.
“I studied editing if you need a hand with some articles,” I offered, hoping to make it worth his while for hosting me.
He went to church with his wife for a couple of hours so I was left with a worker who suggested we go to the bar down the road.
A cold beer on a hot night? Who am I to deprive my body of such a luxury?
“The bitches come after nine,” says Belinda, the waitress, answering my question as to,
“When does it get busy?”
Almost spitting my beer mid-sip, I said, “I’m sorry, what?”
“The bitches come after nine,” she repeats.
“What do you mean bitches?” I ask innocently.
“Girls who sell themselves,” she says.
“Ah,” the coin dropping. “Prostitutes.”
“Yes,” says she. “They line the street here,” she indicates towards the road.
Zambia. Never a dull moment.
Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking, Zambia | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

HITCH HIKING AROUND ZAMBIA – PART II

In Zambia you’re granted a 90-day visa for $50 USD at 30-day intervals meaning, every 30 days – actually, the day before the expiry date – you need to find an immigration office and extend your visa for as long as you want up to 30 days at a time.

It makes it a little more challenging when you’re in the middle of nowhere (Kariba Bush Club) and the nearest office is a 3-4 hour drive away in the town of Chome.

Also, time is read in 24-hours but as the digits meaning, if it were nine in the morning then a Zambian would say, “It’s zero nine.” If it were nine in the evening then a Zambian would say, “It’s twenty-one.”

THE DAY BEFORE

“I’m going to Monze (about 70 K’s south of Lusaka) for my daughter’s graduation ceremony,” says Marina, the receptionist of Kariba Bush Club.

“Cool,” says I. “What time?”

“Zero five.”

“See ya then,” I try to sound chirpy about the early time.

ZERO FIVE

30 K’s separate between the Kariba Bush Club and the tar road. 30 K’s of a flattened sand dune they dare describe as a ‘way’. It takes 90 minutes to traverse this ‘way’. Between the bumps, ditches, trenches, dug outs, cattle and the hiding places for WMDs, I tried to nod off – a slight impossibility when the ‘way’ throws everything it has to separate your head from your body.

You’d think hitting the tar road would make things smoother. The tar road resembled a firing range for mortars. Marina had to conduct evasive maneuvers to avoid tire-imploding potholes. The same maneuvers you’d use to escape a charging croc (not the shoe). The road was Swiss cheese.

ZERO EIGHT

I was dropped off at Petoka junction to hitch a ride to Choma, another half-hour down the road. A truck pulled over and took me en route. Then we came by a road block. The police officer didn’t appreciate the driver wanting to help a foreigner and fined him 50 Kwacha (about $10 AUD) cause I wasn’t covered by the driver’s insurance (the currency, ‘Kwacha’, means ‘sun rise’).

Fuckin’ 5-0.

“No pressure,” said the driver as I apologised profusely.

From where he dropped me off in Choma I began to head over to the immigration office when a guy ran up to me.

“Livingstone, yes? Come with me.”

“I’m not going to Livingstone,” says I.

“Lusaka? OK,” he summons another guy over as he escorts me for about a hundred meters down the main street.

“I’m not going to Lusaka,” says I.

“Kitwe? OK, go with him,” he points to another guy.

“I’m not going to Kitwe,” says I, keeping my cool.

“Then where are you going?” asks he.

“Nowhere. I’m staying here,” and he stood in shock as I continued down the street where I entered the complex for government buildings.

“Hi,” I smile at a guy in the agriculture office. “I’m looking for the immigration office?”

“That yellowish building over,” he points to it.

I walk over.

“Hello sir,” says an elderly gentleman at the door.

“Hi,” says I. “I’m looking for immigration.”

“That pink building behind you,” he points to it. “Second door from the right.”

“Right. Thanks,” says I hoping that this would be the right building.

I walk into a tiny office. “Hi,” I greet the guy at the desk. “Immigration?”

“Yes,” says he, enlightening me. “Take a seat.”

Within two minutes (a full minute was dedicated to looking for the stamp) I was stamped with a 30-day extension and then I hit the road again to get back to Kariba.

ZERO NINE AND THIRTY

As I walked the 4 K’s to get out of town, I passed by a green-cabined truck and waved a ‘hello’ and, “How are you?”at the guys loading the vehicle in the local dialect of Nyanji.

They smiled and waved back and I knew that instant that they were my ride to Petoka (I have this ability, a super power if you will, to know these things. Like the truck in Rundu that took me to Katima, Namibia. I saw it at the service station for an hour but I knew it was my ride. I can’t explain it).

At the side of the road I passed a dude just standing around. He figured I was in want of a combi (local van-sized bus services) so he signals for one to pull over, pointing at me.

“Lusaka?” the guy hanging out of the door asks as he tells the people squashed in the car to move and empty a seat for me.

“I’m not going to Lusaka,” says I.

“Kitwe?”

“I’m not going to Kitwe,” says I, keeping my cool as potential rides drive by.

“Then where are you going?” asks he.

“Petoka but I don’t have money.”

“No money?” he looked confused.

“I don’t use money.”

“No money?” he still looked confused.

“It’s cool, man,” I say, trying to get him to go.

And then the green truck appeared on the road’s horizon just as the van drove off. It pulled over and picked me up. I shared an orange I had just peeled with the guys in the front seat. Noticing the sticker on the dashboard I turn to the passenger by the window (I was squeezed in the middle),

“You like Liverpool?”

“Yes,” smiles he. “But the driver, him like Chelsea.”

“Chelsea?” I turned to the driver. “Get outta here. I’ll drive. Pfft, Chelsea,” I grinned, acting as though I knew anything about the world of sports in this day and age.

Charles, the driver, laughed and then named Chelsea’s entire lineup. I recognised the names only because I had watched the World Cup back in Namibia.

“That’s a heck of a team,” says I, almost sheepishly.

ELEVEN

They dropped me off at the junction I had just left that morning. The same drunk from last time came up to me.

“You remember my name?” asks he.

“Nope,” says I.

“Isaac,” says he, almost hurt.

“Ah,” says I. “Do you remember mine?”

“Yes.”

“What is it?”

“Er…” He looked to the ground. “Um…” He looked to the sky. “Ah…” He looked to the road. “Wait…”

He looked at me. “Some assistance please?”

I grinned.

We shook hands and he went off to hassle the other hitch hikers at the junction. He claims to be a transport officer – as in the guy who flags down cars for hitchers. Nobody really paid any attention to him.

After a few minutes a huge purple American Kenworth truck rolled up. On its door was an official looking sign saying, ‘No unauthorised passengers and cargo’. I explained my moneyless mode of travel to Timmy, the driver, who said, “OK, get in.”

In the truck were three other hitchers. The driver stopped to negotiate with every hitcher on the road, picking up just two more out of the 53 he talked to, making a 2-hour drive into a 3-hour potholed massage.

I was losing the light and figured I’d have to hike the 30 K’s to the lodge cause the chances of hitching a ride along that flattened sand dune were about as great as a chance of the Zambian Road Authority fixing the roads.

FOURTEEN

The driver dropped me off at the 30 K mark and I began to hike with just 2 liters of water and my last orange. The sun was beating down on me like an abusive step-father. I calculated that if I walked at a top speed of 6 K’s an hour I’d reach the lodge by sunset.

After about five minutes a truck pulled up behind me and took me to the 15 K mark. I continued to hike, waving at the locals and the kids who yelled out, “How are you?”

“I’m fine,” I’d respond and then ask to their well-being in Nyanji.

“How are you?” they’d repeat in English.

“Yeah, I’m fine but how are you?” I’d ask as they followed me.

“How are you?” they’d continue, sounding like a stuck CD.

I heard a car behind me.

It stopped and I peered in to see five gentlemen seated in the minivan. Explaining my situation they took me on. As soon as I sat in the car I had a feeling that these guys were, “Teachers?” I asked them.

“Yes,” one answered on behalf of the group. “Are you a scientist?”

“Yeah,” grins I. “A scientist of life.”

They laughed.

“I’m a writer.”

“Ah,” said the representative. “An artist.”

“Of sorts,” says I as we bounced along the flattened sand dune.

“I’m right here,” I said, pointing at the lodge’s gate.

“Ah, we are going here too,” they said and drove in.

FIFTEEN AND TWENTY FIVE

I headed to the bar to order an ice cold Mosi beer to wash down the dust that had gathered in my throat, calculating the 10.5 hours it took me to extend my visa within 2 minutes.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking, Zambia | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

THE HITCH HIKER’S GUIDE TO AFRICA

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I was asked by the awesome blog site The HitchHikers Handbook to create a guide of sorts for hitching around Africa. More will be added as I make my way across this vast continent. Check out my contribution here.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking | Tags: , | Leave a comment

CROCS – NOT THE SHOES

IMG_5333“No Stevie!” I scorned the goat as it tried to jump on me.

“He likes you,” Marina said, laughing from the window of the reception of the Kariba Bush Club.

“Yeah, I have a way with animals,” I replied, calming Stevie down.

 

 

 

 

 

Since arriving at Lake Kariba my ‘way with animals’ has involved the following incidents:

  • Being charged by an ostrich
  • Being sized up for charging by a large, muscular, tuskular warthog
  • Having a frog surprise me as I rolled out toilet paper, jumping onto my lap to immediately jump off again
  • Being jumped on by jumping spiders, usually three at a time

And then there’s the Zongwe Crocodile Farm.P1140274

I’ve seen my fair share of the Nile crocodile since arriving in Africa. I’ve seen small ones and I’ve seen big ones. But if you visit the Zongwe farm (open to the public for tours. Book through Kariba Bush Club ) then you’ll see massive ones. The kind of size that makes you rethink going just ankle-deep into the water, just to cool off from the blistering heat of the day.

 
“It’s breeding season now,” Munandi, our guide explains. “The females will lay eggs in the sand and our workers will collect them for the incubators. The males are distinguished by the short and wide snout, darker colour and larger size while the females are lighter in colour, have a longer and narrower snout and are smaller.”

The farm has about 87,000 crocodiles. The big ones, the breeders, are kept in huge dams built to replicate their natural habitat. Water monitors, birds such as fish eagle, ibis, storks and vultures share the dams with the crocs. The water itself is stocked with bream.

Before the 2008 recession kicked in, it boasted to be the largest crocodile farm in the world with up to 250,000 dinosaurs which are mainly farmed for their skins and meat.

“And crocodile oil,” Munandi adds.

“Crocodile oil? What’s that used for?” someone in the group beat me to the question.

“Crocodiles are only vulnerable to disease in their first year of life,” Munandi explains. “After that, almost nothing can harm their immune system. Crocodile oil is used to boost our immune system. You can put it on burns, mosquito bites. In some places, people will take a teaspoon a day of it.”

I shuddered as childhood memories of cod oil being forced down my throat came back like the floods soon to raise the Zambezi.

P1140294“The farm contributes to the conservation of crocodiles,” Munandi says. “Before there were crocodile farms, poachers would hunt and kill crocodiles in the wild to the verge of extinction. When this farm started, poachers no longer needed to poach and croc numbers in the wild are in safe numbers. If the numbers ever go down to a threatening level, the farm is obligated to release 5% of its population into the wild to balance it back.

Something that has yet to happen.”

And hopefully, never will.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Conservation, Zambia | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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