25 Oct 2013

Lake Tranquillity v. City Gridlock

Zambia: Lake Kariba & Lusaka

En route to Lusaka we made a detour to the western shores of Lake Kariba.  Straddling the Zambian / Zimbabwean border this immense lake was created artificially by the construction of a dam.  Sitting in the lodge pool beside the choppy lakeshore, we had the impression of being next to the sea, rather than a lake – waves lapped the rocky beach and stretched far into the horizon.  Zimbabwe is only visible as a hazy outline far in the distance.  One attraction is a large island a few kilometres into the water.  This is uninhabited save for a herd of elephants who were stranded when the whole area was flooded by the dam.  The lake’s relaxing properties are marred however by the knowledge that its waters team with hippos and crocodiles.  So the pool remained our respite from the afternoon heat.  The temperatures are steadily climbing each day now – while only a fortnight ago we had been huddling in the tent under blankets during the cool desert nights, at *Lake View Lodge* we lay in a suffocating humidity unable to sleep.  Even with the tent fly sheet folded back, we could only gasp like fish out of water and wait for the dawn.

Our plan had been to drive a remote 4x4 trek to the eastern end of the lake, but having just spoken to some South Africans who had driven it from the other direction, we decided to head back to the main road.  It had taken them 2 days and involved many river crossings due to washed out bridges.  We had scheduled a meeting with the Beit Cure Hospital for the next day in order to drop off (for a few months) the boxes of supplies we had been carrying for our sponsored charity (BCT) and we could not afford to miss it.  So on to Lusaka we pressed.

Lusaka is a highly developed city – towering office blocks overlook multilane highways and shopping districts.  As we weaved our way through the centre, stuck in gridlock traffic, hawkers selling an eclectic mix of goods buzzed like mosquitos from one car to the next.  Everything from toilet plungers to trousers and mangoes to magazines are thrust against the windscreen – “Yes, boss! Good price! Good price!”  Finding no immediate need for a toilet plunger, we pressed on to our campsite – the fabulous *Pioneer Camp*.  This British managed lodge is an oasis of tranquillity about 10km from the city centre.  Having no particular sights that we felt obliged to see, this was a good opportunity to veg out at the Manda Hills Shopping Centre.  After BBQ ribs and fries at the “Chicago Diner” we went to see “Gravity” in 3D at the cinema.  Later that night, as we lay gazing through the mosquito net of our tent, an immense clap of thunder announced the first rains of the wet season.  Moments later huge drops of rain started pelting us, quickly turning into a deluge.  John leapt out to pull over the fly sheet and returned looking like the proverbial drowned rat.  And so it continued all through the night.  By 7am the camp ground had turned into something of a quagmire and for the next 2 hours we smugly watched an overland tour trying to get their truck 20 metres across the grass on to terra firma.  Its occupants scurried like hyenas around its floundering carcass – its wheels spinning helplessly as it dug itself deeper into the mud.  By 10am both man and machine were exhausted and the former gave up and took their positions in the bar, the latter lying forlornly in the continuing rains.   By nightfall it was still there and its less than happy campers were loitering morosely around the camp.

Tonka had no such problems getting back on the main road but it was at that point that we heard a crack from the front passenger wheel and noticed that a leaf spring had snapped.  Although not crippling, this was something we needed to sort out before leaving town.  

After shopping around at a limited selection of auto spare shops (this was the end of the independence day celebrations, we had 2 options – to buy a genuine (but expensive) replacement spring from Toyota or a cheap (but "repaired") second hand one from a back street breakers yard.  The latter, we were told, had been not only repainted but also blessed by a local shaman before hitting the shelf.  The choice was made and we left Tonka at Toyota while we visited the Kabweta Cultural Village.  This was slightly disappointing, being an array of stalls selling many variants of the same thing, all aimed at a very commercial tourist market.  But we did find one man with an interesting selection of masks from the remote North-western Congo border.  After some serious haggling we secured a nice Makishi mask.

Back at Toyota, Tonka was reading to hit the road again – his broken spring testament to the bashing his suspension has been taking.  Setting off with a new spring in our step, we entered our next destination into the sat nav.  The instructions were blissfully simple – “In 554km, turn left.”
Malawi beckoned.

Days in Africa: 47
Km driven: 1,258km

Km total:  6,790km

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