Posts Tagged With: Zambia

LION ABOUT IN ZAMBIA

A few months overdue but that’s how it works in the publication world. My piece on Zambia’s ALERT lion conservation program from when I volunteered back in September, 2014. Thanks to Current Conservation magazine for the platform:

http://www.currentconservation.org/?q=content/lion-about-livingstone

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

HITCHING HIKING AROUND ZAMBIA – PART VI

“Samson!”

“Huh?” I snorted to wake.

“Are you awake?” Max asked.

“I am now,” I yawned, not bothering to correct him on his mistaking my name while peeking at the time:

Zero-two-thirty.

“I am dozing,” he attempted focus as we bounced along the dirt road (an unfinished highway was not in the brochure). “You need to talk to me so I don’t have an accident.”

Max had picked me up about 12 hours before from the outskirts of Zambia’s capital. I was dropped off via taxi provided by Mojo New Media at a junction where I met Kelvin who, along with three other guys, were loading his truck with about a hundred 25-kilo bags of industrial lime (the powder, not the fruit).

“Are you going to Chipata?” I asked, referring to the border town 20 K’s from Malawi.

“Yes,” he said.

I gave him my spiel of moneyless travel and offered to, “Help load the bags in exchange for a ride.”

“Wait,” he said.

I did.

For about three seconds.

IMG_6273Then I took the initiative and helped load. And, like the other guys, got covered with lime powder. The guys were impressed (not by my getting-covered-in-lime. For helping. I think…). Apparently, they’d never seen a muzuhungu  do physical labour.

“So can I ride with you?” I asked, dusting myself off.

“I’m not sure if I have the room,” he said. “And I’m only leaving at seventeen. I’ll arrive in Chipata at zero-four tomorrow.”

I looked at my phone.

12:30.

“Shit,” I was hoping to reach Malawi by the end of the day but that wasn’t going to happen. “That’s late.

IMG_6279And that’s when Max rolled up in a Volvo truck carrying another, identical Volvo truck in his tray. He was practically cornered by ten guys persuading him to take me to Chipata, his final destination.

“He’s a good man,” they kept repeating (a little bag-handling goes a long way).

Max was worried about the police demanding bribes having a muzhungu passenger.

“You don’t’ have to take me if you don’t want to,” I said. “Someone else will help. Don’t feel forced.” I stepped back a bit as the guys drew in a little uncomfortably close. “Really, I’ll be fine.”

Max was cornered like a mouse and in the end agreed to cheers and backslaps from the crowd. One guy bought us sausage rolls and two drinks – a water and a soft drink – which I gave the driver as I don’t really drink softies (unless mixed with whiskey or brandy).

His other passengers were a grandmother with her 3-year-old grand-daughter (whom I offered one of the sausage rolls to) and Alec, a 32-year-old local. We had 574 kilometres to cover, according to Google’s map app and we were averaging 60 K’s an hour.

574 K’s.

We reached the first roadblock where the police pulled us over. Max was asked to present his papers at the station. He left for about 25 minutes returning a little flustered.

“How’d it go?” I managed to cough out nervously.

“Paid,” he said, clambering back on board.

Was that a bribe demanded because of…(insert dramatic music) because of…(slow zoom in, chokes back tears) me? “So is it OK?” I asked.

“No worries.”

I was getting weird vibes off Max. Nothing heavy but he began to open up and ask me the regular, “How do you survive without money? Why aren’t you married? How come you don’t have any kids? Have you never fucked a woman? (seriously) How come you aren’t married? (they tend to repeat) Are you gay?”

“What?” I tsk-tsk-tsk-ed to myself. “No, I like women I’m just not married.”

I was tired of explaining myself. Besides, it could cause tensions in the cabin. Sometimes I know when to shut up and sometimes I try my best to hold my opinion in.

I fail.

On both accounts, I fail.

“It’s not easy the way I travel,” I hoped to finish it.

He blinked at me and returned to focus on the road.

Great. It just got weird.

Just before reaching the Luangwa River, bordering Mozambique, we dropped off the grandmother and the toddler.

The police at the roadblock before the bridge fined Max for not having a red flag at the end of the truck as his load was sticking out (alright, alright. Don’t make it dirty). Once we crossed the bridge (where a soldier also demanded a bribe) the road went from sealed tar to a dirt track that had me bouncing all over the cabin.

IMG_6292As the sun set we stopped in a village where Max bought three packets of biscuits and two Miranda softies.

“Open one for me,” he said, “the other two are for you and friend over there to share.”

I took a couple of sips as I needed a sugar boost and knew that if I ate more than two biscuits my stomach would reject the contents via the back door (processed foods and I don’t mix well). Still, I was hungry and ate four.

As we drove through the last police roadblock (cop didn’t even see me and still demanded a bribe) my stomach began to growl.

Shit. I knew this would happen. Whatever possessed me to go for those last two?

Growl.

Shit.

Not now.

I clenched.

As we plodded along I noticed Max kept covering the gauges on his dashboard with a cloth.

“I want to focus on my driving,” he explained. “So I cover the petrol gauge so I don’t get distracted and worry about fuel.”

Huh. That’s… er… logical? He seems to know what he was doing.

I mean… at least playing the part.

We stopped to pick up a madala (term of respect for an elder man) who had cut branches at 6-9 feet lengths to take home.

On his push bike.

We happened to stop right in the middle of a swarm of white-winged ants that were aiming for every sleeve opening and wherever there was light. I was slapping about like a mad man. Nevertheless (he said with boasting chest), I helped pile the branches under the undercarriage of the truck Max was carrying. Then we heaved up the madala’s push bike to the tray of the truck where he positioned himself for the ride.

Ten minutes later we dropped him up the road then an hour later we dropped off Alec.

My stomach was slowly churning.

***

We were plodding along the unfinished road, eating dust from buses and trucks that were overtaking us [to close or open my window we needed to hook up two wires – the red to the metal on the door, the blue to the fuse in the fuse box.

“You do opposite to close,” Max demonstrated.

Or was it the opposite..?

I was too tired to focus on electrically pulsating wires on a bumpy road in a stranger’s truck so I chowed on dust and attempted sleep. My eyes were already closed, squinting against the thick, red cloud. Might as well try to get some shut-eye (while slapping at the flying ants that still flappered about in the cabin).

***

“I want to sleep with a white woman,” Max said after waking me at zero-two thirty.

Aaand I’m awake.

“For any specific reason?” I asked.

“I want to taste,” he said. “Maybe you can help. Ask one of your friends to travel with you and sleep with me.”

I stared at him as he tried to keep his eyes open. He was dead-pan serious.

Uh-huh. “Sure.” Not a weird thing to ask anyone. At. All. “Let me get back to you on that one.”

After an hour, when Max was no longer responding to my conversation. I suggested to, “Pull over so we can rest.”

40 Ks outside of Chipata, at zero-four, we parked and slept. As in, Max conked out. I tossed, assuming different positions failing to re-discover that one-and-only comfortable position which can never be replicated after being woken.

40 minutes later Max’s wife called, storing him back to life. Refreshed, he fired up the truck and we chugged off as the African sun rose on a new day. Kelvin, the lime-bag truck, over-took us with beeping horns.

Max and I waved.

90 minutes later, the announcement that, “We’ve run out of diesel,” didn’t surprise me as the truck rolled to a stop, the engine silently passing on. We debarked and broke off some green-leafed branches as was custom to place behind and in front of a broken down vehicle.

Parking on the side of the dusty road I sussed out my options:

Wait to get refuelled (which could be in the next five minutes or five hours) or hitch a ride to Chipata and make some head way.

As I contemplated my options I spied a ripe mango on the side of the dirt road.

Max declined my offer to share. The clock was ticking on the day. I was really hoping to reach Lilongwe, Malawi’s capital, by lunchtime.

I decided to thank Max and, “I’ll continue hitching,” I said.

“Yes, it’s better,” he concurred. “It might be in fifteen minutes, maybe five hours. You know how it is.”

“Oh I know,” I grinned, grabbing my gear with his help.

Within 20 minutes Simba, a magistrate in a very old bakkie with massive cracks in the windshield pulled over and happily took me, squeezing me in the front seat with his daughter. He wished me well as he dropped me off at a corner where I began to walk, fending off taxi drivers when Kelvin, the lime-bag truck driver came after me on the street.

A taxi pulled up beside us.

“I don’t have money,” I said, explaining my chosen life style.

“I’ll take you to where you can hitch,” said the driver. “I’m happy to help.”

I grinned, hopping in. A few K’s later Samson dropped me off opposite Shoprite so I could hitch. I, “Zikhomo-”ed, thanking him and began walking past the taxis already parked, each driver trying to hustle me in.

“No money,” I said, pointing to my guitar. “I play music for food and bed.”

“I’ll take you,” said Gift (appropriately named), offering me a free ride as I squeezed in the front with him and another passenger, three more in the back and two bikes in the boot to the border post at Mwami some 20 K’s away.

I shook hands with Gift, “Zikhom-”ing him and fending off the money exchangers who rushed up to seek Zambian Kwachas in exchange for Malawian Kwacha. I was back in the mix of higher domination that made everything sound absurdly out of proportion (“5,000 Kwacha?” I’d laugh at an offer I’d later receive in Malawi for a 300 K ride.

“That’s about $10 USD,” Englebert would later convert for me off the top of his head on a hitch right after declining said offer).

My stomach reminded me that an impending force needed to be set free in the next ten minutes or Malawi would be the first country (and indeed, the first time since I was in diapers) that I might shit my pants.

A border post is not the place you want to look like you’re about to explode (in more ways than one). I breathed in deeply and calmly got my passport stamped out on the Zambian side and walked across the border, noticing that all the trucks were facing Zambia.

Huh.

Continued in post: HITCH HIKING IN MALAWI – PART I

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Hitch Hiking, Zambia | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

GOT MY MOJO WORKING

IMG_6255Since entering the land of Zambia some three months ago, I’ve been rechristened ‘Jesus’ on the streets (see what I did there?). From Livingstone to Lake Kariba to Lusaka to Kasama and everywhere in between. I’d grin, respond with the occasional, “Yes, my son?” and play along with it.

I never thought it would get me walking with cheetahs, playing tennis, going on a game drive (all at Chaminuka Lodge, 40K’s outside of Lusaka), two weeks accommodation, food, partying, recording a track, voicing a radio advert and playing the man himself in a music video and an advert.

I had met John, owner of Mojo New Media, through his sister, Janet, who works in the sales department for Paratus whose manager, Marius (and one night at Jeremy’s), graciously hosted me for two weeks in exchange for assisting his installation team on installations (I know as much about installing IT services as I do about splitting an atom.

I cannot split an atom).

As soon as John met me at the Chit Chat bar (the night I helped our team win the trivia) he said, “I want to use your Jesus look. Let’s talk tomorrow.”

Initially, he had offered to pay for my talent.

“I don’t do money,” I said, giving him my philosophical spiel. “But if you provide me with food and bed I’ll do what you need.”

“How about also something off your list?” he added.

“Er,” I really needed a new guitar bag. I gave mine until the end of the month before completely falling apart (it’s not me, it’s weak material. I don’t wanna judge a certain country, China, but you could have put a little more effort in), “Would you happen to have an extra guitar bag lying around?” I pushed.

“We can manage something,” and then he offered me some gin.

***

A week in and I happened to offhandedly mention it to John that I’d completed a voice-over course and, “I can do some voices if you like.”

“Give me a cockney accent,” he requested.

I could only hope that my, “Oh-right ‘en guv’nah?”, would pass the impromptu audition.

“OK,” John grinned. “If you can produce it, as in, write it and get it recorded I’ll speak with Josh we can tick something else off your list”.

“A small backpack to replace my stolen one?” I put forward. “I’ll write it up tonight, get it done by the weekend. Monday the latest.”

“Done,” we shook on it.

I was housed with Stan (one of the photographers) who I shared his room with for the two weeks along with his two room-mates, Eddie and Evan. Eddie also works at Mojo and together with Evan is part of an a capella group called, 14.

Their neighbour, Daniel (whose welcoming me too the neighbourhood resulted in the consumption of four bottles of brandy and a blacked out memory) publishes Agriculture, a free magazine about – you guessed it – agriculture.

“I’m a writer if you need some articles or editing done,” I offered and then declined his offer to pay me. “I don’t do money. Happy for the exposure. Or a waterproof tent.”

“Lemme talk to my partner and I’ll let you know,” he said.

The next day we made borscht soup as both our mothers are from the Soviet persuasion (I’d never once thought that I’d end up make a traditional Russian soup in Africa). By mid-week Daniel returned with a better barter.

“My partner had an idea. We’ll provide you with a hat with our logo on it,” he said. “You take photos of it around the world and we’ll throw $200 your way.”

“Like I said,” I countered. “I don’t do money. But I would need a camera to take the photos with. My waterproof one just died and they go for about $200.”

“Lemme get back to you,” Daniel said.

The next day he came back to me with an incredible barter that I couldn’t say ‘no’ to.

“We’ll sponsor your visa fees for the African countries you’ll visit. In exchange, you do the photos with the hat and send us a story for each edition,” he stuck his hand out.

It would appear that my mojo was working over time.

Categories: Adventure Travel, Africa, Zambia | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

CHISHIMBA FALLS

AG

Last time I came across waterfalls was in Thailand, around this time last year. Here’s my adventure in Zambia’s north:

http://africageographic.com/blog/an-adventure-at-chishimba-falls/

Enjoy.

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

HITCH HIKING AROUND ZAMBIA – PART V

IMG_5735“We thank you for your music, your presence and know that we will never forget you,” said Chris as he drove me to Chazara, the entrance to Kasama on the morning of my departure back to Lusuka.

“Aww,” I grinned, “you guys are my Zambian family. Thank you for having me and helping me get healthy again.”

We hugged by the side of the road and Chris drove off to work.

It was just on zero seven thirty and the sun was beating down as though the world were missing some heat.

Jesus. Not even zero eight and it’s gotta be at least 30 degrees. Kids running by to school stopped to stare at me as I set up by the side of the road and stuck my thumb out.

When I first arrived in Zambia, I didn’t mind the stares. I figured the locals were contemplating whether I was in fact the Second Coming or just a crazy muzhungo (‘white man’ in Bemba) with long hair and an almost as long beard. But after two months in Zambia I was getting a little over the whole staring thing.

Sure, my caveman looks have made toddlers burst into tears – not of joy, mind you. Sheer fear. The mothers would laugh as would I. And then, to completely blow their minds, I’d greet them in Bemba or Nyanji (depending on the province).

The best reaction I got was that very morning on the side of the road in Chazara. A girl of maybe 13 years walked by carrying either her baby sibling or, quite possibly, her very own child. She was behind me and as she passed by she turned to look at me and stopped, her jaw hittin’ the ground runnin’.

A local that had decided to hang out with me even though he didn’t really speak English (I think he was enjoying the expression on the people’s faces) was looking at me looking at her looking at me.

“Moolishani?” I asked to her well being.

She gasped, as though I had just turned water into wine. She turned to walk away and then looked back at me, hand to forehead in absolute astonishment.

“Bwino?” I asked if she was good.

She nearly dropped the baby as she spun around, almost collapsing. She decided the best thing for her would be to walk off, muttering incomprehensibly. I shook my head, trying to grasp as to what had just happened, the local hanging out with me laughing.

I grinned at him as out of nowhere a road works crew pulled up, jumped out of the back of a truck and began to set up signs of road work. The traffic control girl with the red flag (who had the power to stop cars) decided, out of her own goodwill, to ask the passing drivers if they could take me to either Mpika (211 K’s south) or Lusaka (850 K’s south-west).

After two hours I finally managed to pull up a bukky.

“You don’t have money?” asked the driver after I explained my bartering ways.

“I play music for food and bed and ask good-hearted people if they can help me get to where I’m going,” I said. I could see the wheels in his head turning. I needed just one more line to make him laugh and I was in. “I have good stories.”

He cracked up, almost choking on the sip of water he had just taken. “OK,” he said, “let’s go.” My three favourite words in Africa.

He colelcted another hitcher, a local who sat in the passenger side. Since I barely slept a wink the previous night for reasons unknown, they conversed in Bemba while I dozed off for almost two hours. An hour later I was dropped off in Mpika. I was aiming to reach Lusaka by sundown.IMG_5662

It was just on 11:30 when I set up by the side of the road, sticking my thumb out. I said my ‘moolishani’s’ to the locals hitching rides and waved on the kombi buses that seemed to purposefully attempt to run me over. After two hours I knew my chances of reaching Lusaka by evening were out the window.

It was hot but clouds began to roll in, relieving me of the sun’s harsh African heat. Finally, just before fourteen, almost two and a half hours of sun-baking by the road, a truck pulled up.

“Moolishani,” I greeted the driver, “are you going to Lusaka?”

“Yes,” he said. “How much can you pay?”

“Here’s the thing,” and I explained my travel methods.

The driver stared at me then to the horizon. “Get your bags,” he finally said.

“What’s your name?” I asked him after climbing in.

“Everest,” he said, pulling onto the road.

“Everest?” I repeated. “Like the mountain?”

He laughed. His brother-in-law, Thomas, sat on the bunk, squeezed in between my guitar and North Ridge backpack and two huge sub-woofers that thankfully, Everest didn’t utilise at the ear drum ripping decibel that Africans have a tendency to play their radios. He had a great collection of reggae which I tapped along too.

As usual, Everest and Thomas struggled with my choice of lifestyle.

“You’re not married?”

“Nope.”

“No kids?”

“Nope.”

“When will you go back to your country?”

“Dunno.”

It’s as though its the most alien thing they’ve ever heard. And it just might be.

Along the way we passed through several police checkpoints. Just after the sun set, we reached one before Serenje. The officer climbed up to the cab and when he saw me asked, “Are you a Jew?”

I cracked up laughing. “No.”

“What country are you from?”

“Australia.”

“Are you sure? You look like a Jew.”

Stereotypes aside, I shrugged him off with a laugh and he let us ride through. When we reached Kapiri, the town where the Great North Road ends and we turn directly south to Lusaka, Everest asked me to run the paperwork to the window of the weighbridge station.

Approaching the nearest window, the girl behind the screen did a double-take at me and then started giggling that turned into laughter, mumbling something in Bemba.

“What is it?” I grinned, knowing it was my beard.

“She thinks you look like Jesus,” said her co-worker, smiling broadly.

“I am Jesus,” I said, winking. After the small exchange, getting the paperwork done was a breeze (maybe even a blessing).

200 K’s later, we reached Kapwe. It was twenty-thirty, still three hours outside of Lusaka when Everset stopped to chat with group of drivers from his company. He offered to buy me a sausage roll but I politely declined. I wasn’t hungry and didn’t feel like eating crappy food. He did insist on buying me a drink so I opted for a ginger beer substituting one crap for another (I love ginger beer. It’s the only soda pop I’ll drink by choice).

As we plodded along sirens flashed behind us. “What are you carrying?” I asked.

“Cigarettes,” Everest casually said.

A few hours before we had stopped in Mkushi, an out of the way town to collect some goods. I didn’t think about much of it until now, when the Tax Corruption Investigation unit pulled us over and attached a soldier to ride shotgun with his AK-47, forcing me to squeeze in with Thomas in the bunk.

I was quite tired by this point and had been dozing off peacefully, awakened only by the few bumps in the road. Even with a loaded soldier onboard, I dozed off, using his shoulder as a pillow (he didn’t seem to mind). We were lead to a parking area a half hour outside of Lusaka and it was here that we waited for the paper work to clear through, have the cargo checked and verified by calling in Everest’s boss.

Three hours later, at zero one in the morning, I was dropped off at the first police roadblock on the outskirts of Lusaka, just before the stadium from where I had first started my hitch hiking journey just over two weeks prior.

“Is there somewhere safe I can pitch my tent for the night?” I asked the police officer.

He kindly escorted me to the cop-shop, a tiny little building and, pointing at a slab of concrete that acted as a porch and said, “Here is OK.”

I pitched, slept four hours, awoke at zero five twenty (exactly 24-hours after I had woken up in Kapata the previous day) and somehow managed to hitch a free ride on a kombi that took me to the Lima Tower bus station from where I walked the 4 K’s to the offices of Paratus from where I am now finishing up this post.

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

LUKUPA RIVER

“A nomad can’t travel without a headlamp,” said Claire by the fire after our last dinner byLukupa River, the property the young American couple Justin and Claire had purchased to start their organic WOOFING farm (http://www.lovenlightlukupa.com/).

“I know,” I said, remembering how my backpack was stolen with my headlamp in it.

“So here’s one for you to say thanks for all your hard work,” Claire and Justin presented me with a blinding headlamp that his mother had sent over in a pack of two as part of his birthday package.

I was speechless. I didn’t know how to react other than stuttering out, “Thank you, guys!”

And to think, this all started about two weeks ago when I bumped into Justin on the streets of Kasama.

“We run an NGO called Kasama Micro Grants which provides scholarships for young Zambian women from rural areas for education and empowering them for gender equality,” explained Justin.

“If you feel like it,” he said later that evening over the fire in Kapata village, “you’re more than welcome to come to Lukupa and help us build our guest house and draw water from the well.”

“Can you swim in the river?” I had asked.

“Sure.”

“There’s no crocs or hippos?”

“No crocs or hippos,” Justin grinned.

Sold.

IMG_5739Feeling healthy enough to embark on a 3-day bender with Trey (Claire’s brother), Thandi and Henry, we celebrated 50 years of Zambia’s independence (don’t ask what happened because I don’t recall much).

In between bar hopping we were invited to Claire’s former village where she had lived for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer. We were honoured with a slaughtered goat, some home-made wine that had a distinct, sour milk taste, a home-brewed beer that after one sip was impossible to drink (smokiest beer ever made) and dancing.

After the beer-loaded weekend, I headed out with Trey to Lukupa where I was to spend a week helping out with what was needed.

“There’s no electricity,” saidJustin. “And no running water. We use water from our neighbour’s well as ours isn’t clear yet. Or you can drink boiled river water. And the outhouse is just a hole in the ground.”

“But you can swim in the river, right?” I haven’t swam since… hell, I can’t even remember. Was it in South Africa? That would’ve been around May…

“Yeah, it’s awesome,” Trey confirmed.

We hiked from the road through a small local village, all the kids calling out, “How are you?” and even though we answered, “Wino. Moolishani?” in the local Bemba, they’d just keep repeating it.IMG_5779

IMG_5778After about a half-hour the newly thatched roof of the main house came into view.

To it’s right, above the freshly dug well on a deserted ant colony the size of a small hill, stood what would soon be the open-air kitchen. Across the ways, the guest house, still missing its last few rows of brick stood proud amongst the trees. To the left of it all flowed the gentle Lukupa River.

“Let’s go for a dip,” Trey suggested.

 

Not needing to be told twice I hit the clear water, exploring the underwater grasses and rotting leaves. The current was strong enough that you could swim against it and then be carried back down.

IMG_5856“This is amazing!” I called out.

We splashed about for an hour and then headed up to the neighbour’s for dinner of nshima. Justin had told them about my bartering ways and they were curious to meet me. No one spoke English but having been in Zambia for three years, Justin (as well as Claire) speaks fluent Bemba and conversed freely with them, translating for me.

That night, after setting up my hammock, I lay in it, lightly swinging, gazing up at the stars. A cold chill swept through, the coldest time just before sunrise at zero five. It was good to sleep out among the trees, being stirred awake to the sounds of the African wild – insect wild that is. IMG_5820

There’s some freaky things out there that make even freakier noises.

My first job of the morning was to draw out water from the 10-meter deep well.

“To help clear up the silt that’s collected,” explained Justin. “Once you tire of that you can try to make bundles of thatching for the roof.”

Justin had hired the best roof thatcher in the village who was meticulous with putting in the thatch. Justin showed me how to bundle up the thatches.

“Grab about a double handful of thatch,” he explained, “then stack it so it evens out. Then you place one end across these nails – ” he demonstrated – “and run it back and forth to catch out all the overhangs. Once you’ve done that, wrap up the bundles with the rope.”

IMG_5806It was easy enough and passed the first few hours of the morning in the much needed shade (it cracks 30 degrees by zero eight). A call for a dip was quickly answered with a cannonball off a tree.

Resuming work, I suggested too help with the brick laying. I became the runner, mixing the cement in the wheel barrow, then handing up the cement to both Justin and Trey – Justin would lay the brick while Trey would come up behind, filling in the spaces. Within a day and a half the brickwork for the guest house was done.

 

On day two some local kids had arrived with two field mice they had caught and killed (‘kupanga’ in Bemba). As we brewed some tea they threw the mice on the fire – fur and all. Then they offered us a bite.

How does one refuse? I munched on a tiny hind leg, crushing the soft bone.

“Hmm,” I contemplated, “not really my thing.”

On the third and fourth day Justin and I planned and constructed a bath house made entirely of branches as posts and dry grass as walls.

As we applied the grass Trey was drawing water from the well when he called out, “Snake!”

We peered down the well and 10 meters below, swimming around in desperation to find somewhere to rest, a small black snake was trying to stay above water. Trey and Justin attempted to catch it with sticks but coming from Oz, the great land of serpents and all things deadly, I had to step in to show them how it’s done – Crocodile Dundee style. I threw in the bucket and hoisted out the drowned snake.

“Is it a mamba?” I asked, secretly hoping that I had just fished up Africa’s most dangerous snake (and one of the planet’s most aggressive ones).

“It’s definitely not a mamba,” confirmed Justin. The snake was clinically dead. “We have to kill it as I don’t know what it is and I’m not willing to take a risk.”

I was a little bummed about the quick sentencing of the reptile but being out bush,

“Can we eat it?” Trey asked.

“Sure,” Justin said and, cutting off the head, peeled its skin back and gutted it within a minute. “That was easier than gutting a fish,” he said, losing his snake gutting virginity right before us.

Trey spiced up the reptile with red curry powder, salt and, after roasting it for about seven minutes on the fire, added a dash of lime.

“Tastes like chicken,” I commented, the others munching in agreement.

The roof thatcher was not impressed, though. The locals hate snakes and will kill them without a second thought but they won’t eat them and found it a little disturbing that we did (it was only a week ago that I had slaughtered my first chicken, cutting off the head.

“If you’re gonna eat it,” Trey philosophised, “then you should be able to kill it.”

He’s right, in a sense. I don’t think I could slaughter a cow or goat but the chicken was easy. And nothing beats fresh chicken).

Friday morning, frustrated that the water in the well wasn’t getting any clearer, a professional well-digger was brought in. He climbed down the 10 meter shaft and within two and a half hours had not only widened the base of the well, but had dug it four feet deeper with Trey, Justin and myself rotating to bail out the water and silt.

“Monday it should be clear,” I presumed is what the well-digger said to Justin in Bemba.

In the afternoon, I helped Justin build a rack for the planks of wood and branches to be used to make the roof for the guest house before taking a final dip in the river and bike riding back to Kapata through green fields, villages, past a prison and furrowed waterways for an hour and a half.IMG_5889

If anyone’s interested in experiencing life off the grid and helping out with organic farming, you can contact Justin and Claire through the following website: http://www.lovenlightlukupa.com/.

To help with their NGO project, look them up here: http://www.kasamamicrogrants.org/

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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

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.

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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.

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