Sunday, November 27, 2005

A long journey to flatdogs camp

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

We first had a delay of 22 hours before our train, the Tazara Express left Dar Es Salaam, giving us time to go to the fish market in Dar, to provide the highlight of our visit there.

Then it was a 44 hour journey to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia. Very comfortable with good company, clean beds, plenty of room, good food, plenty of beer and beautiful countryside outside. Highhlights were the stops we made where children would come up to the windows and pose, while their mothers tried to sell bananas, mangoes or potatoes.

Ther was quite a bit of cross border traffic, with potatoes, plastic bags, eggs (with white yolks) being bought in Tanzania fior sale at twice the price in Zambia. We mat up with a couple of traders, Israel and Richard, who were good fun. Israel was a Pentecostalist and showed us in the Gideon Bible which was left in our compartment why he didn't drink... St Paul's Letter to teh Galatians Chapter 5 verse 19 and also explained that St Paul was not actually against circumcision but thought it was irrelevant!

Another friend we made was Evans who suggested I might like a job with one of the mining companies in Zambia.. mmmmm... maybe.... later....

Further, we travelled with Michael, who was just down the corridor, Melissa, a Canadian girl next door, sharing with a couple of young Irish with impossible names, two Germans and Beverley and Lucien, further on who got off to go to Malawi. Everyone was on LONG travels in Africa, and mostly heading one way or other to Cape Town.

We disembarked at New Kapiri Mposhi station, whereupon we all joined a minibus to Lusaka, capital of Zambia. We travelled along a very good and very straight road which leads from the Copper Belt in the north to Lusaka, going thgrough mining towns (very smart) and travelling through falt and often wooded countryside. Here we saw enormous differences in the methods of agriculture. One minute there would be a large estate, most probably owned by white people, with large tractors and combine harvesters and massive irrigation sprayers, presumably for the genetically modified crops they are undoubtedly growing. The next minute we would see small farmholdings with men and women hacking the heavy soil with their hoes.

Many people would seem to live in small huts of wood and brick, with thatched roofs. Picturesque.

Also immediately noticeable was how Christian the country is. Everywhere many many churches of all sorts of denominations.... Baptist, Pentecostalist, Jehovah's Witness, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican and many many more. We were welcomed to one town calling itself Salvation City. Even commercial firms were using God, Heaven and Hell in their advertising slogans, even in the most blasphemous ways.

Coming into Lusaka, there was more evidence of American black culture in the clothes and advertising.. the N word being used quite a lot. Lusaka was big and sprawling, there is plenty of space in Zambia and not that many people. It was cool and cloudy, so not the best condition to see a new city.

Our first hours were spent trying to find accommodation (we ended up in a dormitory) and changing some money (thieves, the banks here...and not just the banks.. you get about 3,500 kwacha for every dollar you change but when they want to convert a dollar price into kwacha they will use 4,000 or 4,200 or 4,500 or even, at the national p[ark this morning 5,000, making Zambia an expensive destination!!!). After changing money and arranging accommodation here at Flatdogs,we walked over to the bus station to get our tickets for Chipata early next morning. Thiswas going to be our last evening with Michael and Melissa as they were both going on to Livingstone for the Victoria Falls, so we had a few drinks togther (well, Fred did, I didn't as I had caught a cold in the train and needed a rest).

Up at 5 the next morning for our 6 am bus ride. My friend at the station had reserved two good seats for us (I had bought him a drink the previous evening..hehehe!!!), so we had comfortable seats for the 7 hour ride in the blistering heat to Chipata. In Chipata we had one of those bad experiences which occur every now and then.... taxi drivers telling us that the mionibus would not leave until Monday, the minibus drivers saying they would leave in half an hour and that taxi drivers were not to be trusted. Well, we went in for the minibus, but after two hours during which w ewere moved from a safe-ish looking vehicle to one which looked as if it had just been weilded together out of scrap, with no spare tyre and four almost flat tyres, no petrol and which needed to be pushed to start, I finally managed to get Fred to agree to get out and carry on with a taxi. Arguments ensued and tempers rose, as we tried to get our money back, and amazingly Fred succeeded. It wasn't a nice experience at all but must be one which ocurs frequently as bewildered tourists turn up on their way to the park, about 140 kms away.

We ended up with Brian and Paul and Monica, from the Wildlife Camp and Brian got us here in less than three hours down a dirt-track road, partially in the rain. My goodness were we happy to be here, at Flatdogs and even happier when we saw our chalet. Beautiful, in a mixed Zambian and Marrakech style, with a large room under a massive thatched roof, comfortable beds and furniture, a large bathroom with hot and plentiful water. At was 8 pm on Saturday, the end of a journey, which was due to have started on the Tuesday morning. A mostly pleasurable journey and its always a good thing to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.

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