Monday, December 21, 2009

South Luangwa, Zambia

After finishing up in Liwonde, I headed west to Zambia, with friend, Jason in tow. As I have mentioned, there has been an insane fuel crises in Malawi—and it is still ongoing. Jason had managed to secure a full tank for himself and our friend, Ewa, so we figured we would siphon the fuel out of their tanks and into my car for our journey. This is not as easy as the movies make it look! After pushing tubes, sucking on the ends to pull the fuel out, wiggling cars and trying to seal the air pockets, we were still unsuccessful. We (and when I say we, I mean Jason) had to climb under the car to disconnect the fuel line to drip the fuel out from under the car. This, he did. How ghetto are we? When my tank was near full, we set off. The drive was great. It was a sunny gorgeous day and the road stretched out before us. We were told it was a long drive, but I suspected this was just exaggeration…

Could the dirt road leading to the park really be that bad? Juuust wait for it. We made it to the border—where there was fuel a plenty (!), filled up, spent over an hour getting our visa (oh, you need Zambian insurance, oh you need to pay ‘carbon tax’, oh, sign this book, fill in this (other) form), and headed into Zambia!

After a sandwich and a doughnut (yum! How come they can’t make these in Malawi?) we reached the aforementioned dirt road that leads to South Luangwa National Park. We set off happily, unaware of the forces of car evils plotting to ruin us. Chatting, singing, taking pictures, eating snacks, we skipped along our little path. But I noticed a strange thing. The steering was getting more and more stiff, the wheel was making a bad noise which got worse and worse, until finally I could stay silent no longer. Jason, I think there’s something wrong with the car. We check the wheel to find it looks as if it will fall from my car momentarily. Aaahh!!! What now? Out of the bush appears a man encouraging us to seek a mechanic, and luckily, he knows just the place. When our mechanic takes the tire off, we find there is one screw completely missing and the other has no nut to hold it on—our whole wheel is being held on by one, sad little nut-less screw. These guys patch us up and after a while we head off again, only for the wheel noise to start again.

I was told that the dirt road lasted 100km, but after 100km, there was no end in sight—we continued on…at a snails pace. The laughing and singing had stopped now. Night was falling, and we were beginning to worry that a) our dinner would be missed b) we would have to sleep in the car c) we would never reach our destination. We tried calling, but couldn’t reach anyone. We asked directions and were told it was another 30 km! I was ready for this to be over now. I was tired, hot, filthy, crabby and worried. Finally, finally, after 10 and ½ hours of driving (which was meant to take 6 – 7) we reached the blessed Track and Trail. Dinner tasted positively gourmet, and a cold shower felt like heaven itself. We hunkered down in our little tent and slept like the dead.

In the morning, we were awakened early—at 5am. The sun was up, and so were the monkeys! We were enjoying some tea and toast when suddenly, a cheeky little one sauntered right up to out breakfast table, walked the length of it and quickly snatched a piece of toast. He was so entitled, I half expected him to spread butter and jam on it. It was as if he knew exactly how much time he had to play with before someone would grab him.

We set off for our safari…we saw everything: elephant, lion (that were so close you could touch them), hippo, zebra, giraffe, impala, warthog, waterbuck, they were all there to meet me.

Night Safari

Fortunately, one of the Kiboko Safari drivers seconds as a mechanic, so he hooked up us by fixing our car. The dirt road took us half the time, and the wheel didn’t misbehave until we sped up on the tarmac road. We took it in for repairs again, and then again. Eventually, we made it home safe and sound. In time for the pouring rain, and a water cut in Lilongwe. Then we met up with friends for a fabulous last supper.

Not kidding--huge inflatable santa in this womans car!

Now, I head out to England to see the parentals for Christmas. Can’t wait. Looking forward to grey, cold, rainy weather (not joking), coffee shops, and a tender turkey dinner (more stuffing please!)

Next week, back to the U.S of A…

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