The 5 days I will cover from Livingstone all the way to the Zim border I hope will demonstrate the huge kindness and generosity of the African people, especially after last week’s journal extract! (I would again like to emphasize how that lady and her opinions are absolutely not representative of the other white people I have met down here, and only hope that the friends of mine that I have made here that are reading this understand that I am trying my hardest to give a balanced account of something totally new to me! All I have come across is kindness from you all!). Also, another apology. To anyone who has sponsored me or written to me in the last few weeks. I am going to write and thank you, I promise. Sorry that I haven’t yet! I am EXTREMELY grateful, and you will receive a thank you or a reply. But maybe in a few weeks time….
Obviously my grandparents and parents are reading this so I would have to censor out all the wild parties and copious amounts of illicit substances I am sampling, however fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your perspective) I have not yet kissed a girl, got drunk or done anything remotely censorable so you have the whole truth and nothing but! (I have had a couple of strange tasting cigarettes, but they I think they may have been the reason I was so afraid of the coughing cow so I am going to stay away from whatever that stuff was from now on…)
Day 1 Vic Falls – Livingstone
This was my day off and I have already told you about how breathtaking Victoria Falls was, but in the evening I met up with Barry a South African/Zambian and his extended family (12 people!) who were all in Livingstone for a nieces’ wedding. I happily crashed their evening family meal (I am SO SO good at accepting offers now, bye bye British politeness! - E.g. Campsite overlander neighbor: “Hey, Ivan. Would you like to share this steak that we have all saved up to buy, we feel so sorry for you on your bike. There isn’t a huge amount but we are happy to share.” Ivan: “Yes.”).
After a delicious meal, and great company chatting to all these family members, Barry, who had a wine store house in Livingstone gave me the key and I had a roof over my head and a plug socket. Such great kindness, especially considering the way we had met was the day before in Botswana when they pulled over on the road and gave me bananas and nuts!
Day 2 Livingstone – Fairford Farm
My first day proper in Zambia. I set off late today as I had spent the morning blogging, and the first thing I noticed about Zambia was the bicycles! For weeks, I had barely seen a single one, none in SA, Namibia or Botswana –but in Zambia they were everywhere! Suddenly cycling into the wind wasn’t so tough, as all these local men were struggling away next to me carrying loads bigger than mine. I had people to share the pain! The other thing I noticed was life! What a remarkable change. The roads were full of smiling people, waving at me with huge genuine smiles. Men and Women alike. Unbelievably uplifting. Without realizing it I had been holding in a huge amount of boredom, I think. From the north of Namibia all the way through Botswana, I had passed through about two towns, and when I did pass life I was snubbed and ignored. Here in Zambia, the roads were lined with people, wearing beautiful colours, singing and waving at me, welcoming me.
It put me on such a high, a high that has continued into Zimbabwe. I didn’t realize I was bored or low before, as I had nothing to compare it to. But with this kindness and human population, comes character, life and culture. Sadly though it is pretty much a direct trade off with the wildlife. A fascinating change and one that I think as I shift further East and further North will only continue. I did love the wilderness in Namibia but I have to say, in Botswana, all I saw was green bushes lining the roads, for miles and miles – and only one Elephant! Another interesting change is, that although the white Zambians and Zimbabweans I have met are all extremely friendly, they NEVER wave at me. A direct switch from west to east.
I was waiting for an unpopulated spot with short grass to spend the night, and I had just found the perfect place; under a tree, mown grass at the end of a farm drive way. Perfect. Pretty much as soon as I was off my bike I saw two white ladies walking down the drive way with 4 or 5 excited looking dogs. I thought I ought to go over and ask permission to sleep on their drive way. Immediately, so friendly, they asked me up to the house. “Are you sure?? (Whilst thinking: YES YES YES!), that is so kind, I’d love to, thank you!!” Don’t give them a second to change their minds.
Marius and Rochelle Wessel and Kirsty their daughter, took me in on Easter Saturday, they fed me, washed my clothes, provided more fascinating cultural stories for me to slowly digest and on Easter Sunday morning sent me off packed up with Easter eggs, Biltong and Future Life (my new favorite breakfast). Such kind, wonderful people. Yet another family to join the growing list of friends I have made. Along with Becky, Lizzie and James, the Shwart Family, Barry and his family, and many others.
Also, their farm was just stunning, and as we were having a beer in the evening, swifts and swallows drinking from their swimming pool. African bliss.
Day 3. Easter Day. Fairford- Tiny Thatched Village Church.
Good progress today, happily going along smiling and waving my poor little hand off. (The Zambian wave is all in the wrist: straight arm, hand wave. Exhausting.) Mainly agricultural land, maize growing almost everywhere. With humans comes farmland. The other thing that comes with humans is roadside food. I had my first bit of street food of the trip (38 days in!!! That is how bare it has been! I love street food!), it is called Nshima, which is, well – I’m not exactly sure actually, but a sort of pounded up porridge with chicken and gravy, eat with your hands, delicious.
A good moment to talk about food and water I think. So far I have drunk only tap water, just refilling my bottles at taps, petrol stations etc. I haven’t yet had a single runny tummy and have been completely healthy, I haven’t used any of the millions of water purification tablets I so nervously packed. My advice to anyone heading this way, is, take the hit early and drink only tap water and your stomach will a harden up in no time.
I eat a huge amount.
Morning: Porridge, now Future Life (high protein vitamin packed powder cereal first created for those suffering from HIV and who needed as much protein and vitamins as possible.
Lunch: noodles, biscuits, ‘Nshima, bread, street food. Supper: pasta, Soya mince- Ideal really, Mo Farah ain’t lying. First bought it because one South African backpacker rather bluntly put it : “Soya mince isn’t for health freaks in SA, it’s for poor people who can’t afford meat.” I know which category I fall into.
I camped beside this beautiful tiny thatched church, that the ladies on the road side selling pumpkins or gauds (??) (are gauds something??) showed me to, they wanted me to sleep inside the church, the alter made of sticks, the pews made of sticks. So pretty. But I was happy just beside it.
I woke up to the sunrise through a thick mist over beautiful rolling hills. STUNNING. That is the other thing with Zambia and Zimbabwe. Hills. I would happily trade the slight extra difficulty for the views I now get, really a big and better change from the vast flat expanses of Namibia and Botswana.
Day 4 Wee thatched church – Dallas Farm
A beautiful day, riding along, soaking up the life and atmosphere.
Unfortunately I fell off for the first time today, quite badly. There I was cycling away, thinking about what I usually think about: the party JBH is organizing for me in Nairobi for my arrival - Hundreds of bikini clad babes who all specifically love mullets and are all permanently holding ice cold lagers. (Sorry Jacko- Henry told me all about it; don’t worry if there are only 50 of them, 100 is really unnecessary. You’re the best.) My back wheel dropped down off the main road onto the hard shoulder which is about 2 inches lower than the main road level, whilst my front stayed high and I couldn’t keep control. I went sprawling across the road and quite badly hurt my knee and grazed my hand. Really very lucky (now I should really have censored this- cue email from Mum, “ARE YOU OK, WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME. BE CAREFUL!!!!!!) not to have had any traffic behind me.
My legs were a wee bit shaky (‘top of a cliff looking down wobbles’) but I figured if I hung around I would seize up etc. so got immediately back on my bike and my confidence was back in no time. Sore knee (still) though, but on the mend. In reality 1 fall in 45 days ain’t bad at all. Lucky if anything.
My back wheel was completely bent so was going very slow, pulled into another farm drive way early – 5ish, so I could use the remaining day light to try and fix it. The gate man who said it was OK to camp there had clearly called the manager, because next thing I know, Awie (pronounced R-V or ‘arvie) a great big Afrikaner man, whose wife was away was driving me 5ks down the drive to the farm house.
Awie was a classic Afrikaner, by which I mean, straight talking, honest, generous and no messing around. We said grace and ate freshly slaughtered pig together in his farm house which was full of chutneys and food from the garden (I ate an entire pot of the homemade savoury Green Mango, chilli, garlic Chutney. Unbelievably delicious. 4 fresh giant Avos. Basically all the food in the house. Never full.), then we watched Afrikaans TV, whilst Awie translated what the fishermen were saying. “I’ve caught one, I’ve caught one!” Didn’t really need the translation to be honest…. Another surreal evening. Just me and Awie in a Zambian farmhouse. Sometimes I just laugh my head off at these images!
I cleaned up my cuts and felt right as rain. Yet more generosity. Awie, had to move to Zambia from SA after 3 seasons without rains meant he lost his entire cotton crops and therefore lost his farms. Wealthy farmer – to farm manager in a foreign country. The weather means so much to the people down here, as Willhem told me back in Swakopmund, “our lives are spiritual, we go to church and pray for rain, when the rain comes and doesn’t stop, we go back to church, say thank you God, we are grateful- but cool off a little bit!”
Day 5 Dallas – Kariba
Very aware about how much I have written so will now wrap it up, but Awie packed me off with a pot of chutney (I had eaten the entire pot by lunch on biscuits, I can’t express how tasty), and I had a massive, beautiful mountainous day where I covered 179KMs (impressive over the flat, but over the mountains- Bloody chuffed, and extremely tired), crossed the border over the Kariba dam – the second incredible Zim-Zam border crossing, where I spent the night by the lake listening to hippos and elephants crashing around the cam,psite. I am now convinced the coughing cow, was in fact a hippo and a coughing cow….!
I wanted to take you all the way to Harare, wher I am now. But am rambling - 2 more incredible nights. Zim is beautiful and the people are kind. Will have to update you next time. Big love – below is a 45 day update. P.s. Thank you Teresa and Scott for your donation!!!