Isn’t it fun to show the place where you live, or places that you have visited, to others? You may have mentioned or described a place over the phone, or even written about it and sent photographs. But actually going there together is like boasting of something you own. If not the actual place, then at least the experience.
One of the downsides of living in Zambia (at least for us) is that our kids are so far away, in Europe and in Hong Kong.
In the more than seven years that we have lived here, two of our sons and their partners had visited, and we were pretty anxious to complete the trifecta. Plans were made (twice) and disrupted by covid-19 (twice) but finally, Quintin and Tessa came out to Zambia in April.
They spent the first week or so doing their own thing, visiting the very large Kafue National Park, staying at Mayukuyuku and also at beautiful Kasabushi. From there they drove down to Livingstone to see the magnificent Victoria Falls from above and below.
But these are their own stories to tell, let me rather focus on our experiences together, during the days after their return.
Immediately after Easter, we managed to fit all four of us, with our gear, into the Toyota Landcruiser Prado and took off from Lusaka towards the northeastern parts of this beautiful country.
Now that the ‘kids’ are grown up, traveling with them is very different from years gone by, when they were on the backseat of the car or camper, frequently asking us “are we there yet?”. These days, they take turns driving the car.
Driving out of Lusaka is always a slow affair, with lots of traffic on increasingly bad roads. As you exit town to the North, the traffic slowly gets lighter, while the quality of the road gets steadily worse.
This road, with a single lane in each direction, carries all the copper exported from the Copperbelt mines in the North to the borders with Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia in the South. As well as low-beds carrying massive mining trucks and other equipment in the other direction. And a motley collection of minibus taxis and old trucks with poor wheel alignment, unmatched tires and missing brake lights. Oh, and not to forget lots of tankers that bring in fuel from Tanzania in the Northeast. Everybody trying to overtake where they really should not.
Built many decades ago, with lighter loads in mind, the road is literally collapsing under the heavy use. Deep ruts in the tarmac are a clear indication of axle loads that are too high, and together with the crumbling edges of the road, and the rather dramatic potholes, are proof that there is just not enough foundation underneath, and no proper drainage.
If you have ever traveled in Africa, then you will understand the type of predictable chaos on the roads that I’m trying to describe.
We stopped at a few police roadblocks, where neatly dressed officers with aviator sunglasses inspected our vehicle registration and insurance disks and waved us through. A stop at the tollgate required us to part with 20 kwacha (little more than a dollar) and made us wonder how that trifling amount is supposed to contribute to a better road.
Just before Kabwe (previously known as Broken Hill, and infamous for the pollution from an old lead mine), we stopped at the very popular Fig Tree Cafe for a fantastic cappuccino, a snack and a bathroom visit.
Suitably refueled, depleted and refreshed, we took a deep breath and hit the road again, through bustling Kabwe and dusty Kapiri Mposhi, where we branched off to the Northeast, still on the Great North Road, but now thankfully without any copper trucks.
Before too long, we’d passed through the farming town of Mkushi and found the turnoff towards Tembusha Forest Camp. We’d stayed here before, a couple of years ago. But that was only for one, memorable and rain-soaked night. This time, we were staying for a couple of nights, we had Quintin and Tessa for company, and the weather was much better!
Tembusha has only three campsites, each nestled against the rocks, with its own bathroom. Luxury! We erected the ground tent and our own rooftop tent in no time, ready for a cold beer and dinner.
The next day, upholding a family tradition, we celebrated recent birthdays with candles on a cake. We hadn’t been together over the Easter weekend, and so we hid and hunted for chocolate eggs around the campsite. We found most of them, the others must by now have been consumed by ants.
Stay tuned for my next installment: Exploring the surroundings of Tembusha, and on to Mutinondo Wilderness!