Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Zambia; A Peoples Place

The border crossing was intensive.  I only fitted 6 hours sleep in before the 150km journey from Lilongwe (Malawi’s party capital) to Chipata, Zambia.  It was hell but I managed it and made sure I had an early night.  The next evening was also very late as I planned a safari in South Luangwa and did not know the distance or the state of the road. I should have known this was my 6th month in Africa.  The local bus spent 2-hours collecting and fitting everyone and anyone into it before heading back to Chipata.  The bus ended up leaving South Luangwa at 11p.m. so there was no hope of an early night.  This was changed and prolonged as the bus decided to drive over the big stones put in the middle of the road in a line to avoid vehicles to drive in the lanes being constructed.  Funnily enough the bus broke down.  Arrival time was unfortunately 4a.m. and I then cycled another 100km the next day.  I was tired but all ended well… we found our first cyclist, Yves from Belgium who we cycled with for the next four days up and down to Lusaka.  It was great to have more company.  We compared cycling regimes and pumps (only joking conversation never turned too serious!!) 

Steve and Yves my two husbands (the african ladies laughed)
As for safari if you want too much you never get.  After the whole escapade I still did not see lions, leopards or hyenas but I did get to see porcupines, impalas and a hippos fat arse in 50m strong head torchlight.
Impalas fighting
Zambia is once again English speaking.  So much so it is the first language and people in the main towns will speak to each other in Afro-English (English with the funny African twang).  The British colonisation has definitely paid off for travelers like me to understand and enjoy the African way of life.
Having arrived in Lusaka the first item on the itinerary as in most capital cities is to visit the National Museum to understand and learn about the culture.  This made me realise I had cycled past a tribal circumcision celebratory dance (Nyawe dance) going on in one of the villages on the way to Lusaka.  The kid was covered in paints with white striped clothes and had a mask on.  He was stomping his feet and shaking his hips to represent the spiritual foundation.

The capital of Zambia, Lusaka seemed like my hometown.  After 5 nights of hanging out, socialising at the local bar I felt like I knew everyone.  Cycling on I thought about and missed some lively extreme characters that replaced my open empty mind on the road.  People everywhere made political disputes, open debates and friendly conversation.  Guys chatted to me as I nibbled bread sitting on the pavement outside the Internet cafĂ©, in the local restaurant, passers by walking back from town in my direction.  I had a lot of fun chatting.

I had a great opportunity at the campsite in Lusaka.  I watched the killing and joined in to help the kitchen staff with the preparation of a chicken being served for dinner.  This is when I realised I was not and would never be a vegetarian. 

The best bit was definitely the introduction when the locals had to chase, leap and dive across our campsite to catch the chickens and tie them by the feet.  This was the first time I have actually thought for one minute that chickens are cleverer than you think.

The happy faces of the villagers were mentioned in a talk with people from my local bar in Lusaka.  Deep talk went on and people from the bar described the village people were very excited and welcoming because we were tourists visiting their home.  This is not the real village life.  They smile at you but live in a simple world full of irrational dependencies and struggle.  The locals in the cities don’t go to the villages, as people are not smiling, they are working very hard trying to live.  My experience of the villagers has led me to believe they are secret scientists.  The resources they have and use fascinate me.  They use everything they have to the full potential.  Fruit ferments to sugar, maise grows which is then dried crushed and grinded into small pieces.  This is then mixed with water to make the local rice / porridge food eaten across most of East Africa.

Back on the road I soon thought about the most fearsome things when cycling;
  • A flat / blow out of my tyre when I am cruising downhill could cause some serious damage as I would fly at top speed head first off my bike.
  • While my mouth is ajar again speeding downhill a bee could fly into my mouth, sting my throat and suffocate me (many bees have flown into my forehead).
  • Meeting a four-legged predator would be bad news, as the animal will naturally chase you on your bicycle to hunt you down.  So one solution, you must get off your bicycle and be the stronger bigger predator but then you cannot cycle off to save yourself??  All this is concluded with people’s writings and opinions that say the two-legged friend is always worse!!
While cycling I often feel like I am in the Nintendo game Zelda, the Ocarina of Time.  I hear a “Hey” and I have to look everywhere and work out the direction of the sound.  Suddenly I see this kid hidden in the bush with a frantic hand waving so I smile and wave back.
We continued the random adventures staying in villages, churches and a coffee farm.  The difference in lifestyle is outstanding...

Coffee Farm House

When I reached Livingstone (the home of Victoria Falls) I was blown away with the best camping backpackers hostel in East Africa, Jolly Boys.  This is due to the self-catering kitchen; it had a kettle, 2 fridges, 2 electric stoves, and 2 microwaves.  One week back I would have been cooking on our stove sitting on an item made into a seat in the middle of nowhere.  The place was unbelievable,  many activities to be done not to mention the lovely people. 

Booze cruise after party

Victoria Falls

I was shocked at the hospitality of some American guys (USA mates) going around the world in 70 days (travelingmbas.tumblrcom).  When talking about our trip the guys enjoyed buying food and chocolate for us.  As long as Steve didn’t write, “Feed me” one night out on my forehead this was always great, thank you.

A traditional Sunday
Emma; a Sheffield lass who I met at Jolly Boys joined me for my Sunday.  She sat on the rack of my bike as I cycled to the market.  This shocked many of the locals who turned and took photos.
‘A tourist, a girl carrying another girl on the back of a bike surely it is not possible?’
The local African girls are always sitting at the back while the men cycle to get them to their destination.  Equality hasn’t quite reached Africa yet.

Just about to head to the market we heard the church choirs singing. The ratio of reading and singing was really great.  There was much more singing and dancing involved than in an English Catholic Church Service.  We decided to sit in the courtyard of the church and listened to the singing while meeting the local children.  The eldest spoke all of the English words and phrases she knew.  As soon as the doors opened people started flooding out in the most beautiful outfits.
My opinions of religion have definitely changed since I have been in Africa.  From my views and opinions that religion causes war I have found harmony and fun community gatherings.  There are peaceful services to give people time to reflect.  In Africa a country with so many problems people find hope and worship God to have a meaning to life.  The lessons are to cherish and love one another, to believe and have peace in you.  There are so many laws and good teachings.  On my bicycle hearing the gospel singing most Sundays and watching groups gather I feel a comfort in the African society.  I will prioritise to find time to reflect each week on a Sunday, the day of rest.  Whether on my bike, sitting in the courtyard, writing by the pool, there should always be time.

Instrument / dong used to notify people church is about to begin
One of the last villages I stayed at in Zambia on the road to Shesheke (the border town) was amazing.  I washed in a shack with a bucket of hot water (hot water is a real treat, very rare) the lady supplied.  When I went back to my tent I found a table, chair, bowl, towel, saucepan and cutlery all neatly laid out.  They shared their food and I did mine and we sat by the coal burner and sung gospel words with my ukelele.

I will not forget my stay at New Beginnings Farm.  This name was very appropriate, as I had made a big decision to finally cycle a section on my own and split from Steve.
There was a shorter route I wanted to take so I could spend more time with my drawing book.  I felt the need for freedom, for campfires, for ukelele time.

I now trusted Africa and myself and took the road on my own to Namibia.