20th October 2010
We are asked to get up at 4am, so that we can be on the road by about 5. This means that we have to dismantle our first tent in the dark.As I have missed the briefings the previous evening, I am just asked to watch – even I can manage that at this time of day.
I finally see our truck. It has only arrived yesterday evening after having been brought to Livingstone for a wash and – more importantly! - a brake repair.
The truck is huge. Normal trucks only come up to the bottom of our windows.
There is plenty of storage space inside. The trunks are so deep that we could theoretically store all our bags in it. (To be fair, we would need the outside lockers if the tour was fully booked.)
Anyway, it's nice to be able to put my feet up during the long drive.
It takes us 12 hours to drive the 700km from Livingstone to Luangwa river via the capital Lusaka. We only have one 10 minute toilet break and a 20 minute shopping and toilet break (the men sneak in extra breaks for their needs of course...)
I find shopping at speed stressful. It takes almost 5 mins to walk over to the Eurospar. The shop is comparable in size to large European supermarkets, but of course I don't know its layout.
When we find suitable things, I am unsure whether we can afford them. We have less than US$20 in the local currency, and I find it hard to work with Kwacha (too many zeros at the end!)
There are about 4,700 Kwachas to a Dollar, and a small German-style brown bread costs over 13,000 Kwachas.
I can't imagine that a villager would be able to shop in this outlet, but maybe I just have a too exotic taste...
I sleep a lot on the journey, especially as the scenery only changes gradually. What surprises me is the fresh green everywhere. Yes, there is the dried out grass one has come to associate with Africa, but the trees and bushes already seem to anticipate the rainy season which starts around 24th October.
We also drive past a forrest decked in autumn colours that could stand anywhere in Europe.
I love the jacaranda trees with their lilac flowers and the flame trees decked in bold orange-red flowers.
We drive past many traditional villages. Even in the same village, there can be some more upmarket huts where the walls are built of bricks, but the traditional roofs are maintained. At the top end, you have small one-room houses.
People tend to be friendly and often wave and shout „hello“ as we drive past.
We see kids in neat school uniforms. Some even wear thick woolen green jumpers in the midday heat.
There is a sense that the kids take pride in their school uniform. The precious uniforms are worn with sturdy and therefore long-lasting Bata shoes.
Another common sight are women and girls balancing water canisters on their heads. They look elegant and gracious, as if they don't notice the weight. Many additionally carry babies on their backs.
Men often carry loads on the back of their bicycles. Bicycles seem to be the donkeys of the 21st century.
Another key part of modern life are mobile phones. There are top up booths even in rural areas.
What we see very little of are shanty towns and beggars, even in Lusaka.
The best buildings around are the banks and churches, with church halls sometimes the only brick buildings in some remoter areas.