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Day 20/21/22 – Livingstone Rest Days

Jolly Boys, an aptly named backpackers, was filled with holidaying Northern hemisphere students, school kids and gap year youngsters. This was to be my home away from home for a few days and I had to get used to communal living once again! It has a festive but apprehensive atmosphere filled with young hormones and a large dose of insecurity that comes with being an adolescent.

Livingstone is a town close to Victoria Falls on the Zambian side of the Zambezi river. Wildlife is abundant and elephants, hippopotami and other beautiful creatures wallow and enjoy sanctity in this part of the continent. The Zambezi offers many fish varieties and a particular dish that is distinctly Zambian is fried Bream.

After a long journey from Francistown and what felt like a great deal of hardship, I felt I deserved a bit of a break. Physically I was weak, but my body had started to develop a fast recovery system so after day two days I was back and strong enough again to take on the next leg… Livingstone to Lusaka!

Day 23 – Livingstone to Kalomo

This was a hard day that made me think how one day our lives are comfortable and enjoyable and then the very next day it can be brought down to the ground and we have to struggle. I was proud when I finished, proud that three weeks ago a day such as today would have brought me down, and I would have given up.

The road between Livingstone and a small town called Zimba (about 80 km away) is a “shocker”! It is filled with potholes. Is that possible? It was full of potholes? Anyway, it is better on a bike than in a car, including a 4x4, although it is a bit painful because at the end of the day your backside has taken a hammering.

I met four young men in Zimba and we chatted about life in Zambia and the struggle for survival. We even got into HIV/AIDS and I tried to counsel these young men as best as I could, but the reality is that they are likely to do whatever comes naturally to them. (refer to pic: 1 - The Boys of Zimba (80kms from L-stone))

The rest of the route, 50 km, was a hard but more enjoyable ride on a far better road and I was thankful for small mercies. My bum was given a brief respite from the regular “bump ‘n grind” of the African road. So when I reached Kalomo, I was overjoyed and thought this was a leg to be proud of. (refer to pic: 2 - Coming into Kalomo; 3 - Welcome to Kalomo)

I found a place called “First Choice Guesthouse” (refer to pic: 4 - A glorious bed in Kalomo) and in a few months I think it might be compared to the Kalomo Hotel and a few others I checked out. This “under construction” resting spot is owned by Mr. Henry Kamboni a businessman with whom I had a sense I will be in contact with in the future! (refer to pic: 5 - the builder, the chef and the cleaner, 6 - Sex thrills AIDS kills!)

Day 24 – Kalomo to Choma

This is not a particularly long journey but it was dotted with hills. In the morning I met with Mr. Kamboni, the owner of the First Choice Guest House and after I got the details for the Hon. Sakwiba Sikota (the MP for Livingstone), was on my way to Choma at about 10am. This is a bad time to leave and I was immediately cycling into a headwind. About 12km out of Kaloma I came to a place called McRon’s Take-aways and met Lloyd, a Zambian who owned a truck, and Ron, the owner of McRon’s take-aways (refer to pic: 2 - Mc Ron's), a truck stop with food worth forgetting.

At about 30kms I found myself getting bored and thought that if I raced some trucks it might get a bit more interesting. And then one truck came passed that was old and overloaded - she couldn’t do more than 20 km/hr on the uphills and 60 km/hr on the downhills. So I grabbed onto the undercarriage of one of the trailers – a stupid and dangerous thing to do. If I hit one stone and fell I would be squashed like a banana on the highway. After about 10km of this I gave up - too scared of the consequences and knowing that I didn’t come this far to die or be injured. (refer to pic: 1 - Dangerous hook up under these wheels!)

I took the driver on for 10,000 Zambian Kwacha (20 South African Rand) and won because he blew his “air lock”! I didn’t see my money but was happy to be in my next town; Choma. (refer to pic: 3 - Streets of Choma, 4 - Choma Business Centre, 5 - Choma Markets, 6 - Streets of Choma, 7 - Home at the Riverside Lodge, 8 - Riverside Lodge, 9 - Riverside Lodge (outside), 10 - Messing around)

Coming into Choma was a great feeling. I love coming into towns and particularly towns I am going to sleep in. I stayed at a place called Riverside Lodge. This was one of the better organised lodges I have stayed in and was pleased with the cost and the amenities.
Walking around town was a great experience. (refer to pic: 3 - Streets of Choma, 4 - Choma Business Centre, 5 - Choma Markets, 6 - Streets of Choma, 7 - Home at the Riverside Lodge, 8 - Riverside Lodge, 9 - Riverside Lodge (outside), 10 - Messing around)

Day 25 – Choma to Monze

I woke up at 05:00, was packed and ready to go - but I was scared. I knew it was cold and I knew I didn’t have the mental strength for the day. But somehow, at about 06:00 I got up and dragged myself out of bed and had to force down another egg sandwich, my eighth in the last 24 hours. I pulled out at about 06:30 and was met with one of the most beautiful mornings I have ever seen. Let it be said – beautiful like God’s hand had touched today just for me (refer to pic: 1 - Wonderful sunrise out of Choma) and I realised why I had got up so early.

I reached a few small towns that appear on the map and each little town became a real motivation. As I as approaching a town called “Pemba” I met a guy called Davison Muntanga (refer to pic: 2 - Travel partner into Pemba (Mr Davison Muntanga), 5 - Mr Davison Muntanga) who was cycling into town to get supplies for his family. Cycling with another person, irrespective of language difference is much easier than being on your own and I revelled in the company, bribing him with the promise of a bun and tea if he was my friend until Pemba. At Pemba (refer to pic: 3 – Pemba, 6 - Everjoy Restaurant (lunch with Mr Muntanga)) we enjoyed our tea and buns and shared contact details.

From Pemba I left Mr. Muntanga and journeyed on knowing I still had another 40km to go. I was feeling much better now and caught up to Obvious Moya, about 20km short of Monze (refer to pic: 8 - Travel Partner into Monze (Mr. Obvious Moya), 14 - Mr Obvious Moya). We pushed hard to Monze and he showed me a cheap hotel to crash at (the Monze Hotel). It was dirty but cheap and I took advantage of the half day. Obi and I went up to Tooters Entertainment Complex (refer to pic: 12 - Tooters (where Obvious and I had lunch)) for a drink and some lunch and I got into the hotel at about 5pm. It was a quiet night and as the sun set I was forced to go to sleep because they had no electricity. But that’s a good thing. (refer to pic: 9 - Markets of Monze, 10 - Markets of Monze (2), 11 - Streets of Monze, 13 - Monze Market)

Day 26 – Monze to Mazabuka

It was cold and my fingers were burning from the time I left until about 09:00. (refer to pic: 1 - Just out of Monze (wow sunrise!), 2 - Just out of Monze (wow sunrise!)) I realised there was a huge difference between my position and that of the locals. I was well-clothed while they were riding or walking with tattered clothes and no shoes. It pained me each time I saw a 6 year old to 10 year old hobbling on the cold tarmac in a pair of shorts (with holes) and a shirt on the way to school.

There is a market called Karea about 8 km from Mazabuka and my very young friends Eric and Jonathan pushed me all the way there. It is enjoyable pushing yourself hard to get to a destination and the sense of achievement when you arrive is very gratifying (refer to pic: 3 - Travel Partners into Karea (Jonathan and Eric), 4 - Travel Partners into Karea (Jonathan and Eric), 5 - Travel Partners into Karea (Jonathan and Eric))

Mazabuka was and is the most unfriendly town I have visited in Zambia. It is mainly because the people looked at me as though I was a dirty cyclist. These disapproving looks were confirmed at a lodge called the Royal Laricio Lodge in Mazabuka (refer to pic: 6 - Unwanted treatment at the Royal Laricio in Mazabuka) where the woman suggested I wait OUTSIDE, till a room was ready! They clearly didn’t want my money.

Day 27 – Mazabuka to Lusaka

A great day, and one that held many challenges. I had grown accustomed to long legs but this was still going to be tough with the Munali Hills and the uphill from Kafue to Lusaka.

Straight out of Mazabuka: hills, 20 km of hills, and 700 metres of climbing! It was a great feeling going down into the valley from the first set of hills and I realised I must be stronger now than when I started.

When I got to Munali (the home of the famous Zambian Munali coffee), I was ready to take her on… The Munali Hills! It turned out to be a disappointment and these hills only had 500 meters of climbing over a distance of 10 km! This is a lot compared to most cycle climbs but I was buoyed at the prospect of getting to my rest stop, and nothing was going to stop me now.

I reached Kafue River and really started to feel that sense of achievement that comes with doing something that few people have done or will ever do in their lifetimes. I had cycled 2,189 kilometres to the doorstep of the capital of Zambia, Lusaka!

Hope, a soon-to-be mother and an orphan from the age of 11, was a survivor and her story and character will stay with me for a long time. She is a qualified bookkeeper, working in Kafue for a South African who takes advantage of the cheap labour. I “hope” that Hope gets a break in life because if anyone deserves it, it’s Hope.

From Kafue to Lusaka it is uphill all the way and I sweated and struggled until eventually I saw the Lusaka skyline, a sight that brought me to tears, and this very physical day was one that became my most emotional as I rolled into the Capital.

A little bit about Zambia…

What a beautiful country with so much, yet so little. I am so impressed with the little that people have and how they can survive and be happy without committing crime and or engaging in trickery to get more. Zambia is an example of a country that embraces what is African and tries to be “the Real Africa” with dignity and an air of confidence.

For the tourist, Zambia is a Safari/Wildlife heaven with Victoria Falls, great rivers, lush forests and an array of bird, wildlife and fauna to please every and any outdoor enthusiast. There is the traditional split of experiences from the Eco-tourist (another word for 5-star travel), to the backpacker and even the “local” tourist (which is a term for sub-standard accommodation and facilities to “accommodate” the African wallet!).

I was disappointed to see that the Zambian government brags about economic prosperity when on the ground, the man on the street is suffering. Fuel prices are at Zambian Kwacha 7,000 (approximately South African Rand 14) and rising! Vehicle costs are astronomical and cheap Eastern dumping is becoming the norm on the streets.

All in all I am proud to be associated with so many Zambians who were kind and generous. They are a people who enjoy interacting with other Africans and people from all over the world, and I would suggest that you visit Zambia to experience its wealth of experiences.

Day 28 – 29 – Lusaka (Rest Days)

I stayed at Adrian Barichevy’s (MD of EXPMomentum Zambia) house in Lusaka. Adrian had a very bad bout of flu and this could easily be mistaken for malaria. He rushed to the nearest hospital for a malaria test, which luckily came back negative, but he was still man-down and I was concerned that I was not giving him time to recover! He was still a real gentleman and made me feel very at home and I took advantage of the use of his car while he recovered in bed!

Friday 27th July and it was packed with all the media money could buy. Cordelia Johnston, the legs behind EXPMomentum Zambia, was running the show and boy did she show us how you connect in Lusaka - radio, TV and print. It was fantastic and I had paparazzi snapping away all day, admittedly my looks and general appearance were not as flattering as I could’ve hoped, but hey, who said cycling 2,200km was going to make me look good? After I had set aside my vanity, I enjoyed the time with my sister Tebogo and friend Thatha who both flew out of Johannesburg to see me in Lusaka - how awesome to have my family and friends to hang out with for a short while.

I am finding that my body is recovering quickly now and a two day rest results in a full body recovery. However, I question these rest stops as they bring into doubt my emotional stability and I am finding it harder to concentrate on the task at hand at the beginning of each new leg.

Day 30 – Lusaka to Camp Stop

This was a hard day to get up and get going. My sister Tebogo and Thatha had flown out to visit me and my heart was re-invigorated with the faith that I was going to make it, and when they left I was alone and my challenge had begun again.

From the outset there were problems. About 50km from Lusaka I had a double puncture and one was a tear in the tube! This meant that I had to replace the tube but had only one tube left! I replaced it and the tube split while fixing it! Without a working tube I had to keep going and started to push the bike.

After 30km I came across a small town called Chinteze and a kid offered to get me a tube from the general dealer who was closed but who would open for him! The kid was smart and he knew I was desperate so he haggled me into ZM KW 50 000 (ZAR 100 for a second rate tube, well – guess who had no options? With tube and hope restored I still had a way to go and it was late in the day. I pushed hard hill after hill after hil - they just wouldn’t stop coming but I didn’t give up.

Eventually I saw a rest-camp site and veered into it gleefully, only to find (like everywhere else in Zambia) it was still under construction and was only due to open in 2008!

Dismayed I pushed on and after about 10km found Ebrahim and Saddam, truck drivers transporting kerosene to Katete. We sat and chatted for a while. It was a good feeling to sit and talk to working men and not have them judge you a “larney” or anything like that. They showed me a camp about 5km up the road and even though it was also ‘under construction’ it was guarded by Mr John and his friends Alex (who left us soon after) and Toneus.

That night Mr. John, Toneus and I dined on Cassava and protein crunch bars with an orange that I had from Mazabuka. I was absolutely exhausted, dirty like Oliver Twist, sunburnt like a marooned sailor and hardly able to keep my eyes open. I got to learn just how hard life could be in Zambia. Mr. John killed a snake right next to my tent and I was again overjoyed at small mercies like Mr. John who was a simple man but one who taught me much about Zambia in such a short space of time.

Day 31 – Camp Stop (before Rufunza) to Camp Stop (after Luangwa Bridge)

I woke up relatively early at 6am and found Mr John and Toneus already cracking twigs and collecting firewood for the morning fire. We had braaied (barbequed) meat on Saturday and I had brought some with me. When I revealed it to Mr. John and Toneus they could hardly believe their good fortune as they hadn’t eaten meat in over 2 months! We sat down and ate Nshima and cold meat and I was moved greatly by the generosity of these sincerely humble people.

I was fortunate to find a well dressed and presentable young man by the name of Allen Chakufyali (actually Jones) but he found it difficult to use his real name in Zambia. He works for the Christian Children’s Fund and they do a lot of work for OVC’s in Zambia and across the continent. He showed me to a borehole which had very refreshing, metallic tasting water, but who cares when you’re thirsty, right?

I left Allen and took a shortcut through some rather awkward roads. Today was hills but I mean big ones, kind of like Lions Head in Cape Town, but over and over again. I attacked them like Xerxes against Sparta, but unlike Xerxes I eventually won.

Luangwa Bridge is not really a town but a settlement that had developed with the bus and truck route through it. I stopped at a place that just said ‘fresh food’, but short of money I opted for K2000 (R4) worth of biscuits and two cans of Fanta.

I wanted to stay there, but knew I had to keep moving on so, weary and reluctant, I got onto the saddle that caused me so much pain and headed towards the actual Luangwa bridge, a great construction, that is a testament to what is possible in Africa.

I found a spot about 20 km on next to a noisy mobile phone network tower. My host was the guard, Mr. David!

Day 32 – Camp Stop (After Luangwa Bridge) to Petauke

This was another hard day with more than a few ups and downs. It also came with some new friends – I intended to break this monster 150km route into 3 parts and did so successfully until Kachalola, about 50km from my campsite.

I met businessman Charles Phiri who was full of advice, somehow I knew our paths would cross again. So more hills and another 50kms down, I was exhausted, my muscles hurt, they were burning like steaming hot towels were wrapped around my thighs.

I eventually made it to Nyimba, I had been warned about road conditions and they were right -potholes maningi! (which means TOO many potholes in Nyanja). So on I went and at times I was bouncing up and down so much that it felt like there was a sledge hammer under my seat. Trucks were zooming past, most were recklessly driven and I started to get scared, really scared. There was no shoulder and even then the buses and trucks were using what was left of the dirt shoulder anyway.

About 30km outside of Petauke my fears became a reality and I was knocked off the road into a ditch. Shaken up and a bit bruised, the driver immediately stopped and was visibly concerned for my wellbeing. In his rush to stop his vehicle he had burnt his brakes and was now stuck on the side of the road!

Philip Mwanza, the driver, was a true gentlemen and he found his friend – guess who? Charles, in a taxi comes into Petauke. They loaded me and my bike onto the taxi and I got to Petauke very shaken and only slightly stirred.

Charles and his wife joined me at the lodge (my first in three days!) for dinner and it was a great feeling to be with new friends and enjoy people’s company in a relaxed setting after such a harrowing day!

Day 33 – Petauke to Katete

I woke up feeling exhausted, severely depleted and wanting to give up. Is this all worth it? Why am I doing this? Are the people involved going to meet us half way? Are people just paying lip service to the initiative? Ultimately, are we really going to make a difference? These questions can only be answered by actions and in time we will see if these actions are genuine.

This turned out to be a ride I needed. This was a cool, easy spin with a few potholes. Ziya and Michael were my generous hosts and we enjoyed an afternoon together in Katete.

So while Ziya did her hair, I went for drinks with Doctors Phiri and Mbambiko (both registrars at St. Francis Hospital in Katete). I enjoyed myself thoroughly and met Mitwa, who is involved in the broadcast industry. A few beers down and a little tipsy we made it home and prepared whatever food we could find in the house (I think it’s called the munchies?).

Day 34 – Katete to Chipata

Not too much to say here. I am tired and sore. I realise now that I pushed myself too hard through the mountains and have depleted the strength in my legs. Chipata is one of those growing border towns, not just on one border but three - Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia are all near Chipata with sprawling game reserves.

I settled down to get some rest and write my notes when the electricity went off and I was stuck in the pitch blackness of a town-wide power failure at 7pm. I couldn’t do anything so I went to sleep and five hours later all of my luxuries (incl. the TV) came back on again and I found myself awake at 00:00 watching CNN and BBC news all night, soaking up any news I could consume. With almost no sleep, I blinked and it was 6am and time to go.


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