In response to this I laugh out loud before thinking that perhaps this is not the nicest response to a stranger. “I’ve been called many things, but never mystical! I’m not mystical, and I’m not brave either!”
“No, no” replies Jaffa “you are very daring…. Would you like a soda”. And so, on my first day in Zambia I met the nicest person I have yet met on my trip. What I remember most about Jaffa was his voice, a mix of hippy and Gollum from Lord of the Rings. He is an English teacher and is full of interesting quotes by interesting people, very inspirational. Jaffa buys me a soda and because I have no money yet and because of his genuine kindness, even buys me lunch, “You must try Nshima!” he tells me.
Zambia it seems is the land of the waterfall! So from here I visit the impressive Kalambo falls, 221m in height! And then onto Kasama to get some money!
I leave the tarmac keeping north, and to my absolute horror I find there are no tea shops in Zambia!! Instead, in their place there are bars and taverns full of drunk, lazy men who come running when they see me demanding money “Give me one-thousand talk-time, I am suffering” they say.
I ask one man in a small and sleepy village about somewhere for tea? He confirms the lack of tea shops but invites me for tea from his wife who is cooking their lunch in open thatch hut. He also brings me fried banana and we have a very nice chat whilst he packs baking powder into bags.
I visit more waterfalls, big and full of water at this time of year and then towards Lake Mweru. A clap of thunder marks the start of the ‘road’, which should have been headed as a warning sign. It begins as a good mud road, but soon I pass the road-workers and find that proceeding these the road is a complete state! It is fairly short though and I am stocked up with supplies, so feel no worries and find myself laughing through the battle falling only a few times in a mix of sand, rocks and tall, tall grass through a forest.
Reaching the other side of the storm in to sunlight I see children who stare in wonderment, raise a hand slowly and subconciously, which turns to a big smile and frantic wave when I wave back; they just can’t believe what they are seeing and shout out to their friends who all come running!
I stop to buy bananas and give a boy my camera to play with, after some instruction he’s taking a million pictures and the whole vilalge goes absolutely crazy when they see the results! I buy five bananas for 6p and push on.
Reaching the lake I am accosted by drunken policeman “We are suspicious of the white man who comes and then leaves”.
The lake road is busy and I struggle to find camp, though losing my bike in the forest in the dark did not help matters!
I get more punctures, I fix two to find it is still going down and so ride to the David Livingstone memorial with a flat tire. Reaching it, I find it a bit of a delapidated disappointment, but no bother, it’s a quiet place to fix my tire, where I am watched by four friendly boys.
I almost run out of fuel before reaching the nearest town and have to resort to using the 250ml from my petrol stove to reach it!
I spend the next day and this whole tank of fuel trying to find “Wonder Gorge”. Aided by two friendly teachers from the rural school I finally have to admit defeat as the sun drops and with it my petrol needle!
Owing to this failre I alter my route, head to Kafue Gorge south Lusaka. I can’t view it however, I need a permit! The disppointments keep coming when I vsit the “Fossil Forest”; trees turning to fossils, quite dull, and then another national monument, name forgotten, that was a site where 40 bodies were found dating back to 850AD, it is now however the site of a waterworks!
I take a track through the mountains back to the main road. It is very rocky, steep and with some big river crossings! I am congratulated by the members of a stuck vehicle on my slick crossing of one river only to fall as I leave on the dirt!!
From here to Namwala and one of the best days of the trip! I am informed that my intended route is flooded, and so is the other. Not willing to give up with at least looking I ask around until at least one person says it’s passable, I have to ask a lot of people until one tells me if I follow the powerlines and take detours here, here and here, I’ll reach Ngoma “maybe even today”. I’m skeptical, this isn’t marked on any map and I know how bad those that are! I cross the footy pitch and few fields and find the powerlines. It is easy to see how many vehicles have used the track; two. It is deep, soft sand, but from prior experience tell myself that ‘things will improve soon’. They don’t, they get worse, the sand is impossible, I fall every 5m, burn my leg badly on the exhaust and I mutter as I ride continuously, breathing heavily “I just can’t ride it…jesus….can’t..ohp, bloody hell.. ride…it!”
I get lost trying to avoid a flood plain, meet Rasford, he smiles wide and talks rapidly. He is going home and will guide me. He is a great chap, thanks God I met him. He leads me straight through the flood plain, through deep, deep water, over my knees as I sit on the bike, I sake my head incredulously as we plow through a never ending puddle with no road beneath it, it is like riding the invisible roller-coaster and on one such descent I fall over -in the flood you understand- the bike almost completely submerged, I laugh heartily, the bike unbeilevably starts and we carry on. Rasfrod asks nothing for his help and I push on alone, finding a great camp spot in the empty plain to conclude a superb day!
The next day I meet Eddie, Eddie lives in Buckley!! A mere stones throw from my own house! and much incredulous swearing is exchanged over a soda! (Will hve to grab beer Eddie?!)
I make the mistake of camping near a village where the men accuse me of coming to steal their cattle.
I ride through Kafue park, seeing more gazzelle, zebra and monkeys but still no elephant!!
Then my toughest test, a sand road to the border of Namibia, 400km. More mutterings of “I just can’t ride it” ensue as the sand sprawls forward endlessly. I am told by an oxfam worker that “it is like this all the way, once you’re in the sand….*look of pity*”. It is exhausting, fighting the balance of the bike, the front wheel in the sand, knowing that it will just continue tomorrow. I want to give up, but I have no choice now. I reach the tarmac, thank God, pat myself on the back and head in to Namibia!
The ardurs of the road have taken thir toll on bike and rider, the forkseals have blown,the pannier strap has snapped and the rear suspension bottoms out at the sight of a stone. On top of this, my matress has ‘delaminated’ and my trousers are full of rips and holes. And some git stole my gloves again.
Sorry if I haven’t replied to emails, that means all of you I’m afraid.