After leaving the lodge we drove back to Livingstone and restocked our food supplies. Then we headed out again. This time we were headed for South Luangwa National Park. This involved driving to the capital Lusaka and breaking our trip overnight and then heading for South Luangwa the next day.
In the morning we happily set the GPS and started driving. After a time we hit the dirt road and it seemed like a pretty good one.
It was graded and large enough for traffic to go both ways. After a few hours, however, the road looked like this.
At this point we stopped and checked the GPS with a paper map – yes, there was definitely a road marked…
A few hours later…
Shortly after this I stopped taking pictures and started hanging on to my seatbelt with both hands. The road deteriorated from here. You know that it’s been slow going when you hit 30 km per hour (18 miles) and comment to each other that “we are making good time.”
The road became large potholes of thick black slippery mud. Every now and then I’d look over at Gorgeous Man and see that his knuckles were white on the steering wheel. Eventually we realised that the GPS had sent us on a 4wd-only track instead of selecting a tarred road route. However, by this time we had come too far to go back. I have discovered that extreme 4-wheel driving is not for me. I am too anxious. I am also in awe of Gorgeous Man’s driving skills because that road was scary. He claims it is all down to the great vehicle (Toyota Hilux) that we were using.
Gorgeous Girl spent most of the time sing “Bumpity Bump!” whenever we hit a particularly rough patch and didn’t really start to get anxious until around dusk. I do need to say that by dusk we had been driving for 10 hours and she had taken the trip like a champion, amusing herself and with very little complaining.
As night was falling we came to a river and our hearts sank. The causeway had been washed away. Gorgeous Man got out and poked it with a stick and discovered that the drop was too steep and there was no way that we were going to be able to cross. He reversed the car up the road (it was a hill leading down to the river) until we found a place where he could safely turn around. By this time it was dark and we did not know what we were going to do. We had passed a village a little while before, so we figured we would go there and ask if there was an alternate river crossing.
After a while we spotted a teenager and his younger brother and so we rolled down the windows and asked how they were. This is the first thing you do in Zambia – no business gets done before a greeting is exchanged. Then we asked about a river crossing, as we were talking, their father arrived to see what was going on. He told us that we should not keep travelling that night as it was too dangerous and there were elephants about.
He told us that we could sleep in the school. He apologised that all the houses in the village were full of people. When Gorgeous Man said that we didn’t need to bother anyone to open the school because we had tents on the cars and could just sleep in them if we could park the car in the school yard, we were invited to set up our tents in the village.
While Gorgeous Man and I set up the tents Gorgeous Girl took off with the village children to play and had a wonderful time running around in the dark with her flashlight.
The village was basically a family group, the parents and then their grown children and grandchildren living in a collection of houses and huts. The village had a well, but there was no running water and Gorgeous Girl was introduced to her first pit toilet. She didn’t want to sleep in her own tent this night, so I slept in one tent and she and Gorgeous Man shared the other. When I say slept I use the term loosely, as I spent most of the night worrying about how we were ever going to reach our destination.
In the morning we were able to see the car.
No longer so clean and white.
This is our benefactor, the older boy is his child and the younger children are his grandchildren. He worked as a court clerk until he retired and was very proud that he had sent all of his 9 children to high school, even the girls (though they only did up to year 9 from what I could understand).
He was very interested in our tents, so I invited him take a look inside. In return I was given a tour of his house. 4 rooms, battery powered light (no electricity) 2 bedrooms, a living room and a store room where their entire harvest of maize is kept. What they harvest has to last them until the next harvest and they grow it themselves.
I would have loved a tour of some of the traditional houses that you can see in the background of the following pictures, but I didn’t like to ask.
The hut on stilts was for storage, not for people to live in.
After taking these photos and expressing our thanks for a safe place to sleep. We took their address so we could send the photos to them once we got to Australia and continued on our way.
Two of the older boys came with us to help us find a new place to cross the river, but that is a story for another day (since this post is overly long already).
I would not have willingly taken that road had I known how hard it would be. But the error of the GPS lead us to an experience that money cannot purchase. We spent the night in a traditional village and got to meet the local people and for that I am grateful.