“There is a time for departure even when you are not certain the place you are going to go.”
As I packed my panniers and loaded them onto my bike I had mixed feelings. Lusaka had been kind to me, new friends, great hospitality, great food, fancy shopping malls and a well needed week of rest. But a city is a city and I’m not a fan of cities, it was time to move on before getting too comfortable, or overstaying my welcome at my hosts house.
My first morning in Lusaka I took a walk up to Manda hills shopping mall thinking I’d just grab a nice coffee and do a little window shopping and hoped to find a cheap external hard drive. Within minutes of walking into the mall I became a little dizzy and overwhelmed by the amount of people, the huge choice of shops, a food court, cinema etc etc All normal things to find in a mall but after months on deserted roads and small villages it was all a bit much, I had to sit down for a coffee and watch the world go by for an hour to allow a sort of vertigo feeling to subside. Weird what a little culture shock can do.
Friends and hospitality
After seven nights in their house and eating a dozens of expensive restaurant meals it only seemed right to pay my hosts for the meals and beer I’d had in their restaurant while staying with them. But as I suspected Siri and Gerrit wouldn’t have any of it insisting on taking nothing from me. Such wonderful people but I always find these situations difficult such over the top kindness just doesn’t sit well with me and my self sufficient nature but of course I’m deeply thankful for their support and friendship, once again an awkward situation for me but business as usual for such unusually kind people.
After about 2 months of travelling east and north, leaving Lusaka I started heading south for my detour into Zimbabwe via Victoria falls. This change in direction also brought welcome relief from the wind, making it now more of a side wind and sometimes a tailwind. Heading to Southern Zambia also brought a welcome change in scenery, though the hills are small they are refreshing after months of flat featureless roads. I’d arranged to meet Ken McCallum at the Munali coffee farm 90km south of Lusaka and from there we’d cycle as far as Livingstone together.
My first impression of Ken was “did this scruffy fat git really cycle here from Egypt?” Despite his grungy bearded backpacker look by the time we’d sank an afternoons worth of beer in an Irish bar in Lusaka we were great pals.
Ken is a quiet I.T nerd type and has spent the last 2 years cycling and volunteering at various orphanages and street children projects through Better Life Cycle from Cairo to Lusaka and will continue on to Cape town. He is a great example of someone who just bought a good bike and gear and jumped on a plane a month later with no experience of cycle touring and is doing a great job of it. We had a couple of days at the Munali coffee farm to get to know each other better while he helped them out with geeky I.T stuff that I don’t pretend to understand, then we cycled the 300km to Livingstone together having a good laugh, drinking beer and talking crap and insulting each other as much as possible. Can’t beat British gutter humour to pass time on a long road. Despite his appearance he’s actually fitter than me so I spent a lot of time trying to slipstream his well made windbreaker torso.
Travelling with another cyclist not only means company, cheaper hotel rooms (shame about the farts) but also often gives a great opportunity to learn new tricks, compare gear and see how someone has solved the same problems differently, always very informative.
Apart from weekends away with friends in the Netherlands this is the first time I’ve cycled with another cycle tourist, Ken has given me faith that cycling with a partner for a couple of days isn’t as bad as I thought and opened my mind to the possibility of doing it again during this trip.
Half way up the 4km drive to the Munali coffee farm I bumped into Jesper (owner), Graeme (who’d come to harvest the soya) and Nick a friend of the family (handyman and talker of much shit). We chatted for a while until someone mentioned that it would be great to have a cold drink right there and then to start the weekend. Not being one to disappoint my new hosts I reached into my rear pannier quicker than John Wayne and produced 6 cold beers and was instantly welcomed into the family like a long lost brother.
It took Ken a couple of days to do his I.T, nerd thing and I had the job of I.T. nerd’s assistant which involved sitting at the pool looking handsome, using the free wifi and drinking gallons of freshly roasted and ground coffee, only meters away from where it is grown. Munali coffee, possibly the best coffee in Africa.
Jespers parents moved to Zambia in the late 60’s from the Netherlands and in the last decades have built up a huge business, lost it then built it up again as well as many many more mishaps and troubles over the years. Jesper has had a busy life, helping with the business, commonwealth level cycling, crashing a micro-lites and now running the family business and being a family man, all that at the age of 37. The family are warm, welcoming and full of laughs and stories, and despite his huge workload Jesper often made time to have a beer with us in the evening. I left thinking I could write a whole book about the family and there ups, downs and eccentric moments, and I’d only heard the tip of the iceberg so to speak. Once again the Zambian hospitality and cooking where second to non. It was tough to hit the road after so much luxury, but I needed to get to Livingstone to renew my visa.
Coming soon……Livingstone and Victoria falls……