On Tour

Written By: The Lowdown - May• 31•13

logo MITHSo the boy’s father said to me, if I send him out to you can you introduce him to a horse? I didn’t know that he fancied horses; thank goodness, it turned out that he seemed to prefer the young ladies riding upon them!


So here comes an impressionable lad, he has only got a couple of weeks of the Easter holidays before returning to school, we must make the best use of his time. “Now, face the horse, its head to your left, it’s fundament to the right and put your left foot in the stirrup in front of you. No!  Left, as in Army Left!” One youth upon horse, an idiot grin upon his face, mutters something about being way out of his comfort zone. After two or three days he has located his discomfort zone, his backside! Relent a little and let a grandchild teach him how to drive a quad bike. This is more to his liking but we cannot waste his time on trifles. The garden factotum is a far better tutor than I prove to be so he becomes the co-pilot of the vanette which is used to teach the boy to drive along the sundry bush tracks about the place. Emphasis is placed on checking basics such as water and oil levels in the light of his Mother’s proven inabilities in that field. (Well, I ask you, how many times do you have to cook a Pajero before you learn the basics?)


Then it is time to show the lad a bit of the country. We head north for the Copperbelt, stopping off for a good breakfast at the Fig Tree Café just south of Kabwe, then on up to where the smog of Kitwe awaited. The Smelter might be closed but there, with so much dust and charcoal fumes and smoke coming out of local brewery chimneys, it is proven that pollution is alive and well in Chitwe Shitty. Traffic remains bad, parking worse, exacerbated by Kitwe City Council allowing buildings to go up on the last bits of parking space in President Square. A quick visit to Chisekoni market, the explanation of Salaula, all broadens the lad’s economic horizon as does the quantity of second hand Toyota Specio motor cars around, all employed as illegal taxis. A trip to Parklands is made to introduce the lad to George who continues to preside over the production of Pizzas; possibly the best in Africa. Now to a mate who has organized a flying lesson for the lad. He goes off for an hour in a 180 with Brian, sees the Open Pit in Nchanga from the air, lands at Kasompe, takes off again and returns to Stravendale, wide eyed and enthusiastic about flying. All the while my mate and I chew the fat over some beers supped in the shade of an old Russian Biplane that made it this far from the Steppes, bound for the Congo. Its infirmities were such that it came close to collapse at Ndola but managed to wheeze over to Stravendale where the parking fees are negligible, never to fly again (unless someone wants to spend ridiculous amounts of money). The plane is in good company. Two others are there, one that forgot to put its wheels down on landing (I am told that there are two types of pilot, those who have done this and those who are about to do so); the other got blown over and has bent wings, looks forlorn and unloved. A splendid curry dinner, a night’s rest and then on to Chingola via the haunts of his Mother’s youth in Kalulushi. Another mate entertained us, showed us the new Lubambe Mine on the border (used to be Konkola No 2 shaft that worked for a few months back in the 50’s) and then back to have a look at the new No 4 Shaft at Konkola, a huge edifice designed to raise huge quantities of ore to the new huge concentrator designed to process huge quantities of ore into concentrates. As I know what is down below there I have my doubts, but, for sure, KCM has to get rid of an awful lot of water before they can hope to fulfill their ambitions. Now, the lad likes puppies and loves rugby, so sits and watches a match on the box, puppy happily asleep on him, whilst my mate and I examine the contents of a bottle of Green Label. We are given another night of kind hospitality before we move on in the morning to pass through Mufulira and up to Mokambo to go through the Pedicle, “Au Congo”.  So his father has said “He does French at school and is fairly proficient in it, it will be good practice for him.” HA, flipping HA!


Now, we all know that all who live in Zambia are allowed free and unfettered passage along the Pedicle road. Zambia has now built a bridge across the LuapulaRiver and is paying to have the 60 odd kilometres tarred to facilitate that easy passage. The Zambian Customs and Immigration personnel on either side of the Pedicle are a delight to deal with; you arrive, are given a piece of paper which is stamped and away you go. Pas de problem, comme les hommes dites au Congo! Into the dirty little building on the other side you go. You submit your piece of paper. It is ignored at first but then you understand. A few Kwacha is submitted and then your papers for your car are examined. “Passport!!!” ”Mais non, Monsewer, Je suis Resident.” Display my resident’s card. It is rejected out of hand. ”PASSPORT!!!” Luckily I have brought mine and the lads. They are taken away. You are ushered into the back office. “Vous etes etranger” “Come, my lad, time for you to explain yourself!” A stuttering mumble emits from my linguist fellow traveler which no one can understand. The upshot was that I had to pay a visa fee KR 270 (Sir, if you do not like it, go back to Ndola and apply for one) Naturally it was not a visa, just a scruffy piece of paper that said that I can travel across. Surprisingly, they did not charge for the lad, clearly impressed by his inability to speak anything. The next hurdle was the Health Check, yet another excuse to wheedle money. Now, for some reason the lad did not have a Yellow Fever certificate but I had taken both mine and the Madam’s certificate. I submitted mine which was scrutinized minutely; nothing wrong there; now the other one was demanded; I handed it over, again a minute scrutinisation, then he looked searchingly at the lad, uttered the Madams name and handed them back. A few more Kwacha changes hands and we are allowed to tip the gate man to let us go on! The lad varies between hysterical laughter and outrage at the open corruption that he has just witnessed. I neglect to tell him that we may be in but have yet to get out again of the Congo. The journey is uneventful, the road under repair is much like the curates egg; good in parts! Now a newer customs post is found on the other side and through the whole rigmarole we go again. This time they want to charge the boy but, with a bit of slight of hand, my scruffy piece of paper gets transferred to his passport. A few more Kwacha distributed here and there, and then they stamp our passports and demand another KR 250 “Pour Facilitation”. The health check man and the gate man loom next; the health check man does not bother too much, he just wants money for a drink as does the gate man. From the smell emanating from the pair of them I think that they had been at it already! Out into Zambia we go, a wave of relief sweeps over me until we get to Zambian Immigration. There the young man tries to imitate a Congolese. “The lad has got a single entry visa, he has been in the Congo, look, his passport has been stamped, and he must pay another visa fee.” I then had to be stern, firm but resisted the urge to pull the young man’s head off. In the end his cousin needed a lift to Mansa so all was well and away we went. MY ADVICE TO ALL:  GO ROUND; NOT THROUGH!!


The Mansa Hotel has seen better days but is still habitable. Two rooms cost me KR 300, there was a comfortable bed and air con in my room but, as per usual, no plug in the basin or bath. I had forgotten the trick; always take some plugs with you. The afternoon was spent resting from the rigors of the journey but then the lad had more education to go through. A packet of Chibuku was to be served at dinner, along with a beef stew and Nshima. Alas, there was no Chibuku to be had in Mansa, so Lusaka Beer (Whiter, Smoother etc so the advert goes) was substituted. It looked like runny Yoghurt, tastes rather sour, smells worse, and is, without a shadow of doubt, an acquired taste, a pleasure that I will continue to forgo. On the other hand the beef stew and Nshima was an epicurean feast! An early night for the morrow was to be a bit of a journey, North, first to the Musonda Falls, then the Mambalima Falls, the long series of rapids and Falls on the Luapula, then on again to Nchelenge, where, at the Lake Mweru Transport Lodge, I could sit and share a Simba with the lad before he had a paddle in the lake. An abandoned, half sunk, Police boat was being used as a diving board by lads. Onto the road again, back down to turn off, past the Mabel Shaw Church and Mission Hospital towards Kawamba and the Ntumbachushi Falls. The lad was enrapt by its beauty. South again, the road having one long bad stretch which is under repair and back to Mansa. I refuel the vehicle and get a couple of meat pies for the ever hungry lad and head for Samfya, narrowly avoid turning a wandering pig into pork chops and arrive there at dusk. I am beguiled by the sign to the Samfya Beach Resort, “First Class Accommodation and Food” Again KR 300 buys us two rooms. Enquiries are made about food.  Chicken and chips were available. Was Fish available? Alas, there was no fish. The lake lapped on the shore and laughed with me. In the end there was no chicken but eggs were available, so egg sandwiches were ordered. Two things then happened. The lad managed to lock himself in his bathroom and there was a power cut. I was not popular when I sang that old refrain “Oh dear, what can the matter be, two old ladies locked in the Lavatory”. “It is not funny” he said as I sat on the sand outside in the dark with a beer whilst the staff busied themselves extracting him.


The dawn saw us on the road again, this time to see the Livingstone Memorial Site. A 22 km little dirt road wanders off into the bush to get there and it remains as I first saw it, a rather plain, grim memorial in a rather plain, grim site. Whatever his last words were reported to have been, I am sure they were actually “Is that it?” Back to Lusaka we went to regroup before heading out to Mukambi for a spot of game viewing. The lad was lucky, lionesses, leopard, civet, genet, elephant, hippo, vultures, even a rabbit, all made a guest appearance. I had to tell him that he was very lucky, many a time one can go to the Kafue National Park and see nothing but puku for a week. One incredible sight that we did see, however, was a brand new Chinese lorry in a dry river bed. Apparently it had tried to cross the bridge on Christmas Day and had been swept off the bridge. The driver managed to escape though his mate was swept away and drowned. Now the lorry sits, a mute testament to the power of water, abandoned by its owner.


The lad is put back on an aircraft to the UK with a letter to his French tutor; TRY HARDER!

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