The Lucky Streak

A man in a yellow reflective jacket steps out on the road and waves me down. Police. We have a chat. His final question is if I could help him find a white wife. Generally not a field of special expertise of mine, there is most definitely nothing I can do on the spot in the middle of Malawi. I have to disappoint him & the Husky and I charge towards the Zambian border.

The Chipata crossing should be a piece of cake. I’m exchanging Malawian Kwacha (MKW) for Zambian Kwacha (ZMW) on the road with a gent for a surprisingly good rate. An old customized Rover Overland-Tourist truck pulls up. A group of Italian tourists. Very friendly & chatty, but they have no clue what they’re doing & clogging everything up in the immigration office. It’s loud. I’ve become quick in filling in all the forms and overtake the group. A little bit of pragmatism & creativity accelerates the process.

We have a head-start, shoot towards Zambia & are greeted by a group of begging children. Although often for a reason, in this case the begging is clearly orchestrated & overly dramatized. I leave the Husky back and enter the bureaucracy. A polite little boy selling hand-picked peanuts comes up to me. He’s not offensive and doing something for the money. I buy 5 bags & take 1. Probably his deal of the day.

Visa within 10min. Customs theoretically as well. Although the visa is to be paid in USD, the emissions tax is to be paid in ZMW. I’m lacking the amount I had paid the little boy for the peanuts. No alternative; back to the streets to exchange USD for ZMW.

Only one currency-exchanger around. Baseball cap, gold chains & a golden tooth. He has a bit of a monopoly in this instance. Moreover, I’m in a bit of a rush, not wanting to be overtaken again by the Italians. I exchange the bare minimum, but he utterly rips me off. He totally disapproves of being a gangster, which I tell him that he is. Upon asking why he then has a golden tooth, he laughs and commits to being a gangster. At least we now have that clarified, however, the Italians have overtaken me again.

Shouting, shouting & more shouting. No way of getting through to the customs desk. One of the friendly Italians manages to shout louder than the others to let me through, as they don’t need to go through customs. CdP stamped; the Husky and I enter the country of Zambia.

Shoprite, Choppies, Pick n Pay, Spar. It’s all here. I’m slurping a cappucino & munching a warm scone sitting on the entry steps of Spar in Chipata. Two peanut-selling boys, an elderly man in a wheelchair & trucker join me. I’m stocked up on peanuts, will not hand out any money, however, we have a pleasant conversation going.

It’s Sunday, nonetheless, Henry the trucker can tell me where to get a SIM card. “Pre-registered” sounds excellent. Last time I had spent over 1h registering for a SIM card (passport copy, pictures & filling in forms) to then receive a greeting message “Welcome Selina Maganga”. This chap gets it sorted in 5min. Worth a good tip, although I don’t yet know my new alias.

Wildlife Camp along the Mfuwe river below South Luangwa National Park. Elephants, Hippos, Antelopes & plenty of monkeys below, around & in the campsite. Two nights we stay. Simply enjoyable to sit & have the game come up to you.

South Luangwa Wildlife Camp

To my pleasant surprise Jacques & Lisha (SA couple I had met in Malawi) show up on the second night & we spend an evening sharing Overlander stories. It turns out you can actually be fined in Malawi for not having enough window wiping fluid. And it turns out the Husky & I have crossed their path 3 times. Moreover, we’ve crossed paths with their Defender 90 (with > 400’000km on it) 5 times; in Kenya, Uganda, Malawi (2x) & now Zambia. Quite a coincidence.

I’m woken by partying monkeys around my tent in the early morning. Finally, a baboon playing with my cooking pot gets me out of my tent. Jacques hands me some fresh press-coffee and Lisha cooks some French-toast with honey. This is next level camping cooking & way above the cuisine I have to offer. Incredible how friendly these two are.

My bush-kitchen
Ricoffy is not what I expected it to be

Time to head towards Lusaka. As so often, we take the back-road along the river called Old-Petauke Road. This road to Petauke is a kind of track & only passable during dry season. There should be plenty of game. There actually is plenty of game. I see herds of elephants on fields next to the track. On a tight & windy stretch I hear one trumpeting right next to me in the bush. I gun it & the Husky & I charge out of elephant territory. Elephants very much dislike motorcycles.

Across sandy tracks, through dried riverbeds, up rocky climbs & past little mud-hut villages we cruise. Not all that challenging riding but definitely more time consuming & tiring than the main road. The people I meet in villages are friendly but more distant. The children curious but also more skeptical. Interesting how these things change when crossing regions.

A hotel room it shall be tonight. I’ve been camping several nights. 300 ZMW (= CHF 23.-). I’m tired; I don’t negotiate. The manager & the night guard join me at my table in the evening. I’m curious about the education system and ask many questions. The night guard tells me that it is very expensive & that most struggle to come up for the 250 ZMW (= CHF 19.-) tuition per semester. This gives another perspective on the price I’m paying for my room.

Lusaka is different than expected. Pretty good roads, relatively clean, tidy neighborhoods & shopping malls. I stock up on what’s needed & target the bush again. My spare parts are still in SA & there is little sense in spending too many days in town. We’re heading back North.

There are plenty of dams around this area. Lake Mulungushi is one of them and I camp there for the night. It’s incredibly dry across Zambia and water levels are extremely low. Across Lake Mulungushi there are trees standing out of the water. These trees were flooded in 1925. Usually far below the surface, they now offer a unique view. All but ideal though. Due to the lack of hydro energy, electricity is rationed (called power shedding), creating major issues for farmers, industry & private individuals.

Lake Mulungushi at low water levels

On my map I spot a place called “Wonder Gorge”. Only 1 blog of someone who had gone there 3y ago. It makes me curious. I wonder what I’d find at Wonder Gorge. I pack up. The Husky & I hit the tracks further into the bush.

Fully fueling-up before leaving the road, the day before yesterday, would have been smart. I still have 12-15L, but depending on the tracks ahead, I might be burning above average amounts of petrol. In deep sand fuel consumption rises considerably, especially with the weight the Husky is carrying. Her range can easily sink from 600km to 450km. I believe it’s better to mix in some potentially bad fuel with the good stuff.

Following instructions of locals, I circle a village 2 times on the lookout for the local fuel-seller. Finally, a man comes cycling up the hill, trenched in sweat & gasping for air. He has watched the Husky & me circling the village in a disoriented manner. He has come to give me directions. I appreciate his help. To be fair the fuel-seller is ½ km off the directions I had received & not that easy to identify as a fuel-seller.

I’ve found the fuel-seller

Humbly I ask for 5L. They can only give me 2.5L. Better than nothing & I thank them. We continue towards a village called Bell Point over gravel & sand. From Bell Point on it will be 40km w/o guidance of the GPS. I take a break & decide to find out if I can buy anything to enrich my dinner; instant noodles.

I enter the shop. A little hut; dark & gloomy. To my surprise there are 5 men sitting in this little hut drinking. There’s a strong odor of alcoholic breath & it’s quite cramped. The assortment encompasses lemon cookies, pineapple liquor & cigarettes. We have a friendly chat, but the product range won’t help me enrich my dinner.

Bell Point shopping district
Stocking water with the cattle

All are interested in what I’m doing here & keen to help in any way they can. Strangely enough one of the lads keeps calling me “father”. “What do you need father?”. “Thank you father!”. “May god bless you father”. I am not the father of anyone, nor am I a pastor. Nonetheless, to make things somehow add up I start calling him “son”.

Tricky tracks, a bit of a labyrinth & most definitely a place only few overlanders go to. No water in Wonder Gorge, but truly a peaceful place. I pitch the tent & cook up the noodles. Tse tse flies everywhere. These critters will go into your ears, nose, mouth & eyes. This must be the most annoying insect I’ve ever encountered. It darkens at 6:00 p.m.. I don’t light a fire as everything is too dry around. I hit the tent. A night in the middle of nowhere with sounds of animals I’ve never heard before.

On-route to Wonder Gorge
On-route to Wonder Gorge
Camping @ Wonder Gorge

At sunrise I target civilization again. 40km before tarmac I take a last break. In this village it is again possible to buy refrigerated drinks. While sipping my cold Coke, I chat with a local elderly man. Upon hearing what I’ve been up to in recent months he replies: “You must really trust your Honda!” (= Local term used for motorcycle). Yes, I do trust my Husky.

Start at sunrise
Heading back in the direction of Lusaka

My parts are still in SA. I’ll settle at Fringilla Farm, about 50km outside of Lusaka. Farm, butchery, restaurant, cottages & campsite in one. I’m served a delicious beef pie and a cold beer as I arrive. In the evening, when entering the restaurant, I’m immediately asked to join the table with Andrew (the farmer @ Fringilla) & Alan (Neighbor). There is a party planned in a few days but I don’t intend on staying that long. Braam & Lynn, a SA couple living in Zambia, show up & offer great company. I end up staying for the party.

Fringilla Farm

There’s a Poike (SA type of stew) competition, fundraising-betting for the junior cricket team & a great community of wonderful, welcoming people. I’d heard that one or the other person had settled her. I now understand why. However, the journey will continue. The Husky & I still have a few places to discover.

One more extra day @ Fringilla. Andrew shows me around the farm & I learn about wheat farming. Something I don’t have any understanding of whatsoever. Fascinating it is. Even more fascinating is Andrews passion for what he does. It seems his passions are farming, good company & flying. So, towards the evening, we push his Cessna 182 out on the strip & fly over the farmlands. I’ve learnt a lot & experienced a kind of welcome one experiences seldomly. Unforgettable.

Andrews wheat
Flying over farmlands
Flying over farmlands

Gordon’s father-in-law (Sonny) has flown in my spare parts from JHB. Time to hit the road again.

A man in a yellow reflective jacket steps out on the road and waves me down. Police. There are numerous trucks & cars on-route to Lusaka & frankly on a motorcycle you overtake wherever you can in a safe manner. It’s a thing of seconds & I could see far ahead. Nonetheless the law is on their side in this case.

A police car is parked in the bushes with three little stools in the shade. I’m told to park the Husky and join the 3 officers.

The procedure goes as follows:
Officer 1: “You have overtaken across a straight line!”
Response: “Yes, I admit having crossed the straight line 2-3m before it ended”
Officer 1: “Not 2-3m! You will be fined 450 Kwacha for ignoring the road sign!”
Response: “450 Kwacha???”
Officer 2: “He’s a serious officer!”
Response: “I’m sure he is! I’ve ridden down from Cairo & he’s the first one in Africa who wants to fine me…”
All officers: #loud laughter!# (They don’t believe me…)
Response: “Yes, you are the first officer who wants to fine me!”
Officer 1: “Well you haven’t paid yet have you?”
Response: “No I haven’t”
Officer 1: “Then have a safe journey”

It is a bit of miracle. But all true. The lucky streak continuous.

4 thoughts on “The Lucky Streak

  1. WOW! Wieder eimol meh suuuper spannend zum Läsä 🙂 Wiiterhin vil Spass und ich hoff uf no vili witeri Blogiträg vo dir! Liäbi Grüäss us de Schwiiz, Andrea

    Like

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