Sam Bowker: The Grand Tour Diary (2005 - 2006)

This is the archived journal of a 2005-2006 'Grand Tour' around the Eastern Mediterranean and along East Africa, written by Sam Bowker, whilst in search of his PhD topic.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Zambia - Raining in Chipata

Dedicated to Truckers ('cause they keep this country rollin...)

I'm half an hour away from the Malawi border, at a tiny Zambian town called Chipata. I think it's a town, at least, as the road was the most potholed two-hour stretch the truck has seen in Zambia. Hamlets of thatched circular houses appear mingled amongst cornfields, lush green shrubs, and mist-capped mountains. Small businesses with grandiose titles like the "Chimpaneke World Trade Centre" flash past on the roadside, and local kids always stop to wave at the truck as it passes by. There are many billboards advertising Church services and raising awareness of HIV-AIDS.

It's also looking to remain as wet as it currently is. "Six days of torrential rain" have been forecast for our stay in Malawi. This sucks as the main events planned there focus on the immense lake, which whips up into a rough and dangerous sea during storms. I'm sure we'll work something out, but it's looking like quite a few postcards will get written (if you're lucky!).

The last couple of days have been spent on the road. Today was peppered with roadblocks of an African nature. The first was a three-truck pile-up that was removed after a fourth and fifth truck brutally rammed the whole mess off the road. The second was on a tight bend after a small rural village, where a copious quantity of glass bottles had been shattered along a thirty metre stretch. Local kids appeared immediately with brooms, asking for payment to clean it up. We used our own brooms to clear the road, and have no doubt whatsoever that as soon as we drove through, the kids "restored" to road to it's sparkling condition. (It's simply an extortionate version of a lemonade stand for pocket money...)

Oh, and I forgot to mention anything of Victoria Falls (Mosi o Tunya). They are utterly sublime, meritorious of extraneous superlatives. They fall in great torrents of white and yellow water, tumbling hundreds of metres below you as you lean out over the slippery cliffs barred only by the odd chain or plank. Luxuriant grasses grow over the precipice, inspiring a new variant of the "extreme ironing" phenomenon - "extreme mowing". You can walk for hundreds of metres along the opposite cliff edge, and new falls keep appearing from the fog. It's truly like something from Lord of the Rings.

I have heard that internet is very unreliable in Malawi. Email me by all means, but you may not get a post for a couple of days. After Malawi, we're heading on to Tanzania, and my most anticipated destination of all, the island of Zanzibar.


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