Day 308: I’m On The Truck

Mon. 17th June 2013

Impromptu Bureau de Change set up in SabieIt took three attempts to find my phone to silence the alarm at 5:30 this morning. Even after I have lifted my eye mask, it is still dark outside and the phone is not as close as I thought and all the while it is getting louder and more insistent. This is going to be our routine for the next few days – get the tents down and packed before breakfast at 6 and then be rolling by 7am. At least we are getting more proficient at striking the tent even in the dark and cold.

Today, we are heading east to Chipata some 620km away near the border with Malawi. Chipata is the gateway town used to access South Luangwa National Park (which seems to be the most famous NP in Zambia). Our only quibble with the itinerary on this Acacia trip is that we are bypassing the park and this is a shame as there are a few days (like today) on this trip where the whole time is spent getting from A to B. Leanne from Acacia says that South Luangwa is very seasonal – great for 5 months of the year but not so good for the other 7. We don’t have the courage to ask whether now is in the ‘great’ time or not – but we later hear that the Nomad truck (which we had hoped to be on) saw 2 leopards whilst they were there.

School kids waiting at the bus stop in Lusaka We head off through the centre of Lusaka and seem to have hit the morning rush hour. For a time, we are not in Africa anymore, just another big city complete with stationary traffic, police blowing whistles and waving directions, schoolchildren waiting at bus stops. There is even another big shopping mall advertising a Mug & Bean coffee shop inside – sadly, they aren’t open yet, so no point in trying to plead with Duncan to let us stop.

We’ve got so used to having clear blue skies in Africa, that when the day lightens and the sky stays grey we’re a bit confused. What’s happening? Even more so when it starts drizzling with rain. It is cool and grey and wet – just like a November day back home. There is nothing to do but to settle down and try and get comfortable in Sabie. This takes us back to some of our bus journeys in South America. Long hardcore travel days, just driving, driving, driving. Every so often, someone rings the bell which rings in the drivers cab and Dom, our driver, finds somewhere to stop so we can go and water the bushes and then we are off again. Even lunch is taken on the move as we made our own packed lunches at breakfast time.

Crossing the Luanga RiverOn the drive we cross the bridge over the Luangwa river. There are police checkpoints on either side of the bridge and Duncan warns us beforehand that they are quite sensitive about people taking photos of the bridge. Leanne explains that if the bridge were to be destroyed it would cause major disruption to east west traffic and essentially people would have to divert through Mozambique adding a day or two to their journey time. I sneak a couple of photos of the river as we cross on the bridge and nobody seems to worry.

Selling charcoal at the roadsideAfter we cross the bridge the scenery changes again and the hills seem to be covered with something more akin to jungle than forest. It all seems greener than we have seen for a while in Africa. We also start to see fields that are dotted with white blooms of cotton – they look like little balls of cotton wool on stick but, then again, that is exactly what they are. We also see signs for the company that provided the seeds – the first time I’ve really been aware of branding for commercial seeds. I wonder if they are GM? There’s no stopping Sabie to take photos or investigate further.

Sabie and the competition!We arrive at Mama Rula’s camp in Chipata at 5pm, almost exactly 10 hours after setting off and pretty much as predicted. We’re tired and a little bit grumpy. The only surprise is that there are two other overland trucks already parked up here. At first there is a worry that we will be in a race with them for the border in the morning but it turns out that one of them is southbound and the other is headed into South Luangwa National Park.

Nicole considering a new career as a currency trader!The routine is predictable now – there are chores to be done as soon as we arrive. They tend not to take too long but they do need doing. We are still working on our plan for the last outstanding segment of our trip between our arrival in Dar (Es Salaam) and Arusha where our Kili and Serengeti trips will leave from. We’ve now heard back from Leanne’s contact and they are putting an itinerary together for us. As we will be crossing over into Malawi tomorrow we also need to sort out some currency. Back in Bali we used some quite dodgy looking currency traders in little kiosks in side streets. Here the currency trader came to us and set himself up in the back of Sabie with his piles of notes. Truly, today has been a day that we have spent on the truck!

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