After a couple of days rest in my $15 hotel room it was time to hit the road again towards the bright light city and capital of Zambia Lusaka. I spent my last evening filtering the filthy tap water while watching The Simpsons on my laptop. Life on the road isn’t always big adventures and crappy roads .
While in Mongu I’d hoped to see the yearly Kuomboka Festival but due to internal conflicts in the local tribes it has been delayed this year. What I did see though was a huge parade of cars and trucks flying huge Chelsea flags so I assume something happened in British football recently.(Still enjoying my 100% news blackout after almost 6 months).
That familiar feeling
The first night I found a great wild camping spot in the woods, 100m from the road so had total privacy so enjoyed a quiet sunset with popcorn and a video on my laptop. Unfortunately at around dawn I felt that rumbling in my guts that spells trouble. By lunch time I was dehydrated, and very tired after only about 30km and all I wanted was to sleep at the side of the road.
I still had enough water for the day and considered just setting up camp and sitting it out but as the temperature approached 35 degrees I started feeling quite sick and dizzy and decided not to play tough guy and just get a lift to the next big town of Kaoma and get a hotel room for a couple of days. Within 10 minutes I was in the back of a truck where I lay among the chickens and smelly dried fish for the 140km which took about 3 hours, a long time to bounce around with clenched cheeks……
Kaoma is a funny little town, just a main street full of shops really. But its almost worth a visit just to see the names of most of the shops and businesses, they seem to be big on God around here.
After about 4 days it was time to hit the road again, though not as recovered as I’d of liked I was sick of just hanging around. The headwind was the worst I’ve encountered so far this trip So I didn’t reach the entry gate to Kafue National park until after dark. So for my own safety the guards insisted that I camp at the gate and continue in the morning, I was pleased and relieved to hear this because wasn’t expecting them to let me cycle in the park at all.
Cycling Kafue National Park
There are many good reasons not to cycle through Kafue, and generally people claim I’m crazy to even consider it. There are hundreds of wild elephants, lions, chetaahs (as I discovered) and many other things that go bump in the night.
But in my constant search for adventure I like to search out the limits of common sense, take a small calculated risk and just have fun. Unlike many of the better known parks where tourists and safari’s a are daily thing and the wildlife is used to or pissed off with all the attention I figured Kafue would be quite the opposite and that most of the wildlife would just do a runner when the spotted me, just like the elephants I saw in the Caprivi. I did draw the line at camping though so instead of wild camping did 11 hours of cycling to get from gate to gate in that damn wind (135km).
About 30km into the park while constantly watching the side of the road in the hope of seeing a lion or Elephant, I saw 3 white tails about 30m away parallel to the road.Due to the strong headwind they hadn’t heard or smelled me so I was able to cycling just ahead of them because of the long grass and get my camera out…….
Naturally soon after that they spotted me and bolted 100m into the bush, what a sight!!! I’d thought they where lions but found them a little small and nimble for lions. My heart was pumping and I was so happy to see them in their element. They watched me at a safe distance for about 2 minutes then bolted another 100m where I was able to finally get a photo without all the bushes and grass.
Was I scared? only scared I wouldn’t get a good photo (of the 15 I took only 1 was usable in the end). It was just such a joy to see these cats in the wild and doing their thing. Later when checking out the photos it became apparent that they where in fact not lions but Cheetahs, which are rarely sighted in Kafue…..happy days…
For the remainder of my journey through the park I had no time to look for wildlife as I was fighting off a swarm of hundreds of Tse-Tse flies. These infamously nasty huge horsefly like things can bite though most clothing and it hurts like hell. Sometimes dozens would be on my back doing their thing, horrible. It seemed the only way to keep them at a safe distance was to ride 25km + but this was an almost impossible task with the wind. By the time I got to the other gate I was itchy, tired and damn sore, so camped at the gate and fell asleep soon after dinner. Now for the next couple of weeks I need to watch out for signs of “sleeping sickness” caused by a nasty parasite that the Tse-tse can carry. Tip for other cyclists, put your waterproof jacket on like I did, its bloody hot but most of them can’t bite through it (its probable full of holes now though).
A bus trip?
The next day wasn’t very productive and when I reached the next main town of Mumbwa (after only 40km of that damn wind) at lunchtime I just had a beer and called it a day. I had planned to meet a friend in Lusaka on Saturday which was now looking almost impossible with 140km to go into the damn wind.
So decided to quit while I still had my sanity and take a bus the next day. Being an African bus I had to wait 2 hours for it to fill up then the journey took 3 hours….reminding me why the bicycle is my preferred means of transport. Naturally I also had to spend 10 minutes negotiating the price, they tried to overcharge me by about $12 just because I’m a Mzungu, and $12 dollars is serious money when you consider its about 50% of my daily budget from here on in.
Once in Lusaka I battled the busy streets from the bus station to my hosts restaurant. The nice people at Gerritz German Restaurant have be spoiling me with great food and cold beer, and I have the luxury of my own room in a quiet suburb of Lusaka.
I think I established long ago that I’m no longer a purist, I don’t have the need or wish to cycle every kilometre of this trip. There are several examples of people who are purists and spend months or years suffering just so they can say they cycled it all, the best example I’ve read in recent years was Riaan Manser’s circumnavigation of Africa.
Despite not being a purist I still look for adventure and will often choose the longest or hardest route I can pure for the fun and adventure of it rather than trying to prove something. Sometimes compensating for this madness when sick or short on time by taking a lift.
I feel sorry for these people who have something to prove to the outside world in whatever way they think is right, measuring themselves against an invisible standard and often making parts of the journey miserable and for what? So they can say they cycled everything? So what, if you want to be a tough guy then try doing it without luxuries like gears, light weight expensive gear or a fancy bike, do it as the locals do or even just walk it barefoot in a thong!
In the end we should all just look for our own challenges and fun and not feel the urge to prove something to the outside world. That is why I consider my bike my primary means of transport in Africa but it’s certainly not my only means of transport
…..End of sermon…
Wondering if any of that will make sense in the sober light of day……:)
Anyway, any day now I’ll leave the luxuries of Lusaka behind me and head to Victoria Falls and onto Zimbabwe. I hate the prices and the busy city and had quite a culture shock the first time in a shopping mall here, but good food, overpriced Illy coffee and cake is a very nice distraction.