Zambia: A Crash, Otters, Child-Loaded Showers, and a Fish Feast.


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Africa » Zambia » North-Western
November 29th 2013
Published: August 8th 2014
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Zambia, our ninth African country, and my first crash. The 20kms from the Tanzanian border to Mbala was tricky mud. Just when you'd build a bit of confidence and pick up the speed, you'd lose control momentarily, and the jolt of adrenaline would raise your heart-rate, and lower your confidence. Often tentative riding is counter-productive as you don't have the drive from the back wheel to keep a bike under control, and mud tends to clog up the tread turning it into a smooth donut with zero traction. But when your front wheel is wandering off by itself, or you begin to awkwardly fishtail, it's easier said than done to keep the power on. However, at one particularly greasy section the bike started to squiggle uncomfortably, and in a moment of bravado and frustration I wound on the power and fish-tailed through the section towards an area ahead that looked firmer. The only problem was that the road ahead did not firm up, and by that point I was going too quick, and before I knew it I completely lost control and was shot towards the side of the road. I thought the rut at the side of the road might assist in a recovery, but no, over I went.

The hand-guards, crash-bars, pannier, and the elbow of my jacket bore the brunt of the slide, but apart from blowing my unblemished record of keeping the rubber side down, I came out unscathed. Considering the friendly ribbing I had given Jaap for his prangs, he was very restrained, asking if I was OK as he reached for his camera while trying to hide a smile. But I was too quick, getting the bike upright before the adrenalin wore off and a photo was taken!

A bureaucratic quirk meant we had to head 80km out of our way to sort out temporary importation of the bikes with Zambian customs in Mpulungu on the southern shore of Lake Tanganyika. We decided to stay in Mpulungu, and left the town to find the "Tanganyika Science Lodge" 3km out of town. It was a pretty gnarly 3km, with a small track covered in large loose rocks. We also couldn't find the lodge for a while, so ended up doing the hardest part of the track three times, before heading down an unlikely vegetation-dominated walking track on the advice of a local. We weren't convinced. I felt a bit sheepish, as I hadn't felt like staying in town and had encouraged Jaap to head "just a couple of kms" out of town to the lodge. But then the track linked up with a larger track, and before we knew it we arrived at a crazy little collection of stone huts right by the lake. I found out later that the Tanganyika Science Lodge is used as a base to study the unique cichlid fish here, but no researchers were present so the whole set up was a bit of a mystery for us.

The local family who were responsible for the lodge were very friendly, and offered hot showers and freshly caught fish! We erected our tents, and then I headed for the shower. But there was no water so I looked outside and realised that the source of the shower was a 44 gallon drum that a fire could be lit under. Brilliant. The local kids had just started ferrying buckets of water from the lake up to the drum. The older kids helped the younger ones to lift the bucket above their heads to tip the water into the drum, everyone getting pretty wet in the process. To speed up the process and have some fun with the kids, I lifted the smaller guys up as they held the bucket of water. One of those wonderful African moments!

After my shower, Jaap and I pulled up a couple of wooden chairs to the lake shore. While watching some of the locals coming back in canoes from fishing, I caught a glimpse of an otter (Spotted-necked Otter?). We were then treated to a massive and very tastily cooked fish which we ate by torch-light. It was a satisfying last evening on a lake that we had first seen 11 days previously, and 650km north of us in Burundi.

Rather than heading down the main roads to Lusaka, I wanted to take a short-cut through the Congo Pedicle, so after reaching Kasama we cut west towards the DRC and the Zambian town of Manza. The road out here was remote, and if it had been slightly wetter, it would have been a bit of a nightmare. As it was Jaap was going to run out of fuel, so we stopped at the village Mwenda, and tracked down a guy who was selling petrol from containers. The motto of his shop was "Work like a slave to live like a king".

We made it to Mansa, and had a good chat with a couple of truck drivers at our guesthouse who regaled us with stories of how corrupt the DRC officials were. They suggested it would be less hassle and less money to ride an extra 200km and avoid the DRC. Jaap couldn't really understand my desire to go to the DRC, and was keen to avoid the hassle of two border crossings in one day, so we decided to split the next day, and meet up on the other side in Kabwe. As I rode west towards the DRC I felt some apprehension at not having the usual support of riding as a pair, and the unknown of the DRC border, but was also buzzing with the anticipation of adventure!


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The otter!The otter!
The otter!

Really, I promise.





9th August 2014

Tricky Mud
As you say it had to happen. Good friends show restraint! A few jokes are likely to come your way. Love the stories you hear along the road when you come across other travelers who want to talk. Really enjoying your trip.

Tot: 2.007s; Tpl: 0.074s; cc: 34; qc: 129; dbt: 0.0681s; 1; m:saturn w:www (104.131.125.221); sld: 1; ; mem: 1.7mb