Day 1-3: Goodbye Lusaka, Livingstone and Victoria Falls

"Into Africa" More than a Motorcycle Adventure
Howard Fairbank
Fri 7 Feb 2014 11:12

17:51.29S 25:51.69E


5,6, and 7th February, 2014


Leaving Lusaka 5th Feb:


Heavy rains in the night, made me wonder what the day would bring? I peep outside showed grey skies, but it felt like the rains had stopped for the night…..! I now do know what they mean by raining season, when it rains here now it really buckets down, and for quite a time.


It really felt right leaving Lusaka today……


Up early, ready for the Country Lodge breakfast at 7am, it’s always a bit of a mystery as to what will be on the menu, and whether it will even be ready at 7am….! I’m the only one there again, today the ‘chef’ meets me at the entrance, and I ask him what’s for breakfast today?  “Boiled ‘eggee’, ‘sausagee’, and ‘potatoee’ pieces….” Sound inviting????  The TV blares out load, with Zambian morning TV, and appropriately the show on is about how to breakfast! The iconic glamorous TV chef, showing the viewers the basics of making egg and bacon breakfast. ‘My chef’ is enamoured, and is locked onto the TV watching every detail of how it’s done. I sat there thinking about this colonialism and how deep things have really come. The 1st world would never be showing a show about egg and bacon, as this is not seen as healthy anymore, and not to be encouraged, here complete with the oiliest eggs and bacon I have ever seen, the viewers are being encouraged to follow where the colonists have been! I had to remind myself I was only having breakfast and not to take things too seriously……


I said my goodbyes and was on the bike by 8h15. Straight into morning rush hour traffic. Interestingly all the traffic light intersections were manned by directing policemen and women. Not because the lights were out of order, just because of the chaotic traffic. Riding down Cairo Rd, the main road through Lusaka, I was forced to stop at many intersections, and at each one guys on delivery motorcycles would come up to me for a chat: ‘Where was I going, how long had I been travelling, etc”… such friendly guys, the one even commented that I should have more protective clothes on…


I was soon out of the big, bad city, and cruising the rural Zambian highland. So lush green bushveld, and I was surprised how little traffic there was. There were threatening purple tinged, grey clouds in the distance, so I stopped on the side of the road to put my rain paints on.  Shortly one of my delivery bike ‘friends’ pulled up in front of me, just to make sure I was OK? Such nice people these Zambians.


I saw a sign for Livingstone, 415km, and in true Howard Fairbank style, I thought to myself, gee, I thought it was only 250-300km away! Yes, in my pursuit of freedom I don’t set out each day with the exact distance know, or even the day’s end destination fixed. This 415km was further than I thought, and with my friend Rob’s delays, I had some days in hand, so I concluded that I’d just ride along, and see if I find a place along the way that tickles my fancy. Short of that, I’d make it a longish day’s ride all the way to Livingstone.

As I got further away from Lusaka I started feeling the freedom of being out on the bike and wandering again. It all felt real good, even surprising me, as in some ways I hadn’t really been looking forward to being back on the motorcycle again…  I had concluded that this would be my last motorcycle trip, and I’d be back to the soulful bicycle in future. But for now it all felt good… I think it’s the huge feeling of freedom, being out there on one’s own, self-sufficient, with ‘the whole of Africa’ ahead, and in my time frame. The rural familiarities of Africa came back: the guys cycling along the road, bikes laden with huge bags of charcoal…the kids on the side of the road, that stop what they are doing, stare in amazement at my approach, wave, and shout “umzungu” (white man)….the guys standing on the side of the road, three live, upside down, chickens in one hand, offering them for sale to passing trade….. the sad, stray dogs, that threaten to cross the road, just as I reach them, maybe planning their final escape from their endless misery….. I saw two sizeable snakes, risking their lives crossing the warm road, I wonder if they knew what a road was? They definitely were moving with purpose across directly across it… There was even a guy walking along the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, carrying an impala carcass, like a backpack over his back, with its front legs over his shoulders like straps. Where did he hunt it, and how far is he walking…??


Lots of police road blocks, but they never seem interested in me, but also never thoughtful enough to beckon me on as I wait behind, sometimes three or four, large trucks, who are clearly the target of their officialdom pursuit.


I had travelled this exact road on my 2007 Cairo to Cape Town bicycle expedition, and it surprised me what came back as vivid memories, and yet how much I didn’t recognise.

On the bicycle one gets into this amazing trance, where somehow, there is no external noise, just the taste and feel of Africa escaping the trance filter…. As I rode by I re-connected to feeling of those pure inputs and longed to be back there in the simple world of bicycle touring!


Skirting the Kafue Flats, seeing tempting signs to Lake Kariba, I passed through the towns of Buzambuka, Monze, and Chome.….. All typical African rural towns, none very inspiring, albeit clearly growing and noticeably improved since 2007, just varying in their size and level of basic offering. I did notice how since 2007, the shops had more brand and advertising livery, and lots to do will mobile phone companies.


I stopped for lunch at The Golden Pillow Lodge…! The names I see here, one has to admire the spirit and intent….! Well, this place had a swimming pool, large conference facilities, a bar, restaurant, etc. I was clearly the only guest, and I had everyone from the gardener, to the barman, and manager trying to make me feel welcome. I wanted a coffee to perk me up, and then I asked whether they could do me a sandwich? “Yes, a vegetable one, or how about a tomato and onion one?”  Hmmm, we (the manager and I!) eventually agreed on a egg, tomato and onion one….! I prepared myself for a rich, African experience, the details of which would slowly evolve, and I should not be expectant. I settled into reading my Kindle next to the pool, and after about 10 minutes the manager arrived back to say, it will be a while as they had to boil the water for the coffee, and that takes time! Yeah, well, imagine how long producing and cooking an egg will take! I was all relaxed, just enjoying the fact that our expectations were aligned and I had a good book to read.  Eventually. the ‘assigned’ waitress arrived, a cute teenage girl, almost dressed in school uniform, with a tray and my coffee. She was very sweet, one of those ‘says it all’, polite African smiles, as she very nervously, ‘off loaded’ each item of her tray onto my table. The normal African coffee serving: A nice ‘china’ cup, stainless steel pot of hot water, stainless jug of hot milk, stainless sugar pot, and then the off the shelf, mega size tin of Ricory Coffee, with a tea spoon to help myself. (This a blend of rickory and coffee) Just before she left, she asked me how I would like the egg done for my sandwich? Best choose medium here, a safe, in between!


The coffee tastes good, but as I look down at the tin, I see it’s ‘Decaf’…. Hmmm, I really did need the caffeine boost to help with the long ride, and here I’m not going to get it…. Oh well, I’m not going to complain to these nice people, just point it out in case they weren’t even aware that they were serving ‘Decaf’… They weren’t! African’s aren’t big on coffee, yet as I motorcycled past the rural farming areas, I saw a few huge Zambian coffee plantations, amongst the maize and banana ones, but I guess there are for export, and came with the colonists.


The sandwich arrived, and was very nicely done, with the freshest, most refined white bread, complete with crusts removed. I had to say, it hit the spot, and I concluded the whole package had been memorable. I asked for the bill, and my cute waitress, soon arrived with an A4 size invoice, and to my horror, a stamp and ink stamp pad. The bill was less than I expected, and after adding a generous ‘trainee, you are on the right path’, comment and tip, the waitress proceeded to ink her stamp, then stamp “PAID” on the invoice and handed it to me to complete my simple, yet rich lunch experience. As I bade my farewells, I sensed all were with this strange customer, dressed in yachting oilskins, and with strange culinary requests, but they had delivered, and I was leaving with a smile! The simple things in life hey…? Imagine the testosterone, stress, and lack of shared human feeling, involved in the rat race of the big city experience.


As I continued into the afternoon, the threatening sky grew more angry, but clearly it wasn’t just Mother Nature’s one personality side in control, as off to the west high above me there was a confusing large patch of bright blue sky, but within it I could see a wispy vortex of cirrus clouds, evidence of the conflict within the sky. I sensed the angry side would win, and stopped to don my rain jacket. Within half an hour of being back on the bike, with 30km to Livingstone, I was caught in the product of Mother Nature’s wrath: A huge down pour, complete with low, rumbling thunder.


With 10km to Livingstone, the skies cleared, and the air was hot and humid, with the road providing the source of heat for pumping the humidity into the thick afternoon air. It did feel like I deserved a nice campsite and a cold welcoming beer. As I started the decline into Livingstone, memories of biking down the hill came vivid……


Livingstone stands out as different from the ‘average’ African town, probably due to tourism it’s colonial heritage and layout is still in evidence. I was surprised at the growth in guest house / lodge accommodation, but it’s off season now, and most tourism businesses will be struggling, looking forward to early April again.


I let my gut feel take me through the town, and towards Vic Falls, where I was hoping to find the rustic camping / bungalow accommodation I used back in 2007. My memory lost a few turns, but I ended up following signs to Jolly Boys, camping. They had bungalows, the staff were friendly and the setting was very rural, out of the main town congestion, perfect! So that’s where I am now…. Just one other young couple here, they also on a motorbike! I met them in Lusaka a few days back, but was surprised to find them here.  They are from Portugal, decided to ship their motorcycle out to Maputo, and were planning a trans-continental trip, but ended up taking a job in Tete province in Mozambique. They are just on a one week trip Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and then back. They had horror stories from Customs and Excise people in Maputo, trying to get their motorcycle cleared into Mozambique! Corruption, corruption, corruption…..!


After going to bed early, I woke up 4am on 6th February, and did some of this writing till it got light and then headed out for a long walk to somewhere… exploring and exercise. It was 6h30am and I was soon on dirt roads full of puddles of water from the rains. Both sides of the road there were continuous streams of school kids walking to school… Each one greeting me politely, and they all in their colonial school uniforms, just like I used to wear back in my school days in Durban, ‘The Last Outpost of the British Empire’, in South Africa. This tie and long pants and long sleeves makes no sense in this hot sticky climate…...


As I walk past schools and some business premises, it is apparent that Zambia has clearly gone through the corporatisation process: No doubt using many consultants to find out what each organisations Mission and Purpose is! All the schools, and many businesses have their Mission Statements proudly displayed on large boards outside the premises. HIV Aids is also a big focus, with very basic bill boards like: Don’t Fornicate it’s not worth losing your life”, another one:  “Apparently we only Life is only valued in Death, we don’t take HIV seriously”. Harvey Tiles’s adverts around Zambia, always make me laugh: “A roof without Harvey tiles, is like Buzumbuka without sugar”, or “…like a school without teachers”…!  I do find all the direct advertising quite amusing, there are no subtleties, the message is given in straightforward everyday language, but linked to a valued home / family truth for personal impact.




My circular walking route takes me back into Livingstone central, and on an unlikely narrow muddy footpath, I pass a blind beggar looking for his fellow Zambians to have pity on him, and drop a coin or two in his cupped hands. Being the only non-local on this off the beaten track path, had he been sighted, I would have come in for a special plea, but as he stared vacantly ahead, I was just like any other passer-by, and spared the special treatment.  Almost on the main street, I passed a pub called, ‘The Old Trafford Bar, The home of Manchester United’. It still astounds me how The UK, football money machine has locked in the world, and how many people in unlikely locations around the globe have found a surprising level of belonging in Manchester United or other brands.



On the main road I find the Livingstone Hotel and Casino, and yes they serve breakfast for non-residents….Perfect! Quite an upmarket place, but it seems totally unoccupied, and I’m the only guest for breakfast. All the staff greet me with welcoming smiles, and seem happy to be able to serve me a breakfast. Full on, from coffee, orange juice, croissants, muffins, and then the farmhouse lot, complete with boerwors, sausage. The waitress confirms that it’s not fun working off season, and she can’t wait for the beginning of April when the tourist season starts up again…..


I head off on the last half of the circle back, and pass the curio vendors just opening up their shops. They start touting to me, but I give them my story that I don’t have a home, nor a house, so buying anything is of no use…..! This weirdness attracts their attention, and the questions start flowing….! I can see the pattern of thought they are on, and how my answers challenge their life beliefs…… They eventually ask me about money and how I am able to live the life I do?  I always use this moment as a teaching moment, trying as best I can to put myself in their position and provide inspiration that is relevant for them. I sit down and now there are four guys sitting around and we are having a good discussion about life and what it’s all about, how the Ubuntu system is so different from the western culture and how Africa is dealing with the conflict….. I share with them that Livingstone has a special place in my life: I celebrated my 50th birthday here back in 2007, when I cycled through…. The one guy quickly, correctly concluded: “So you must be 57 now?” We spoke about Mandela, and the lack of real leaders in Africa, and then the subject of corruption came up as usual….. Eventually it was time to say goodbye and move on, and I could see that our time together had changed their perception of ‘umzungus’ and tourists, or at least there was one who was different….

Back at the Jolly Boys, Moses, the gate keeper seemed quite relieved that I was finally back! I’d been gone two and a half hours and seemed genuinely worried that something had happened to me!     


Time for the tourist must do’s……..



It was time to don my full on tourist regalia, and head to one of the world’s most amazing natural sights: Victoria Falls. A 9km ride out to the falls, was so different from the last time I was there: There were just no crowds, and it turned out that there were maybe 10-12 people on the falls circuit, and most times I was the only person at the view point. Yes, we all know the falls, seen so many photos of them, read so much about them, but they STILL are quite amazing, and I was once again viewing the falls was hugely uplifting and awe inspiring. Connecting it all back to Dr Livingstone, and where I’d been crossing his paths last year, I felt like a real wimp doing it on nice stone paved paths with a rented rain poncho! It hit me that Livingstone only discovered the falls just over 150 years ago…..!


Once again the pace of our development came to the forefront of my mind…. Just look where the world has gone in a mere 150 years… Where is it heading was my focus last year, but now, in the last 3 months, having made the life decisions I have I feel free that the world and where it is going is not my responsibility anymore, I am just a mere mortal who must find my own, ‘soul spot’ in its ever increasing, changing-ness. I can’t change its course, and so back to the pure version of ‘Simply Adventure’, connected to the sea, and sharing my journey is the best I can do for the world……



Moving towards the Africa road ahead:


My friend Rob, in Durban is still struggling with our Angolan visas, and it looks like our weekend scheduled meet up could be delayed, and I will have to adjust my motorcycling plans to accommodate that. The plan is that we meet at Katimo Mulilo on the Zambian / Namibian border, and then motorcycle together, him on his bike, to Luanda. I look forward to the varied dimension of having his company along that part of the journey.  


Tomorrow, I’ll be leaving Livingstone for a yet to be defined destination somewhere along the Zambezi river…… See you then!