Leaving Zambia

Posted on 14 December 2011

Cycling through Zambia is an unforgettable experience.

Zambia is a cyclist friendly country.  There are far more bicycles on the road than cars.  Bicycles are used not only for the transport of people, but to carry anything and everything from one point to another.  Up to three people are lifted on a bicycle at a time!  Cargo includes furniture, broken bicycles, wood, charcoal, big baskets of vegetables and even livestock!  We saw two cyclists each transporting a cluster of about 40 live chickens hanging upside down from the handlebars of the bicycles. Another cyclist transported an array of red, purple, blue, green and orange buckets in a massive bundle all around his bicycle!

Zambians are also very vocal. They shout greetings at the top of their voices as we cycle past them. They do not stop shouting unless we shout something back. We constantly hear, ‘Mzungu! (white man),  Mzungu! How are you? How are you?  How far?’ The shouting never stops. Sometimes it drives you mad. Your ears hunger for a moment of silence. It seems like there is no correct answer to the question, ‘How are you?’  No matter what answer we give, our spectators merely reply, ‘How are you? How are you? How are you?’

We try to sneak up on villages and pass it in silence before anyone notice us, but usually it doesn’t take very long for our presence to be announced by a loud ‘Mzunguuu!!!’  This announcement always causes a stir.  Women grab their children and run towards the path.  Children stream to the sides of the road in their tenths.  Often kids run so determinedly to the path that they forget to look up before we pass them.

Lunch time on the day we left Marula Lodge, we were looking for a quiet spot in between two villages to have our lunch.  After all the shouting and greeting during the morning cycling, we just wanted to have a few minutes in peace and quietness.  We picked a tree next to the road which looked ideal.  No one was in sight.  Just as we were about to take the first bite from our peanut butter and honey sconce, a child appeared from nowhere.  Seconds later we were surrounded by a crowd of curious little faces watching every move we make. So much for our private lunch! But then a man walked past and scolded the children to go away. It was on the tip of my tongue to say to Hendrik, ‘I almost thanked him for chasing the children away’, when Hendrik said, ‘I almost thanked him for chasing the children away.’ Then, after a few moments of deep thought, Hendrik remarked, ‘I suppose Jesus was in a similar situation, sitting somewhere next to a road, taking a break, when big-eyed children surrounded him.  The disciples chased them away but Jesus said ‘Let the children come to Me, do not hinder them.”

The last 30 kms of the 140-km we cycled that day was extremely tough. We faced very strong head winds. Riki was close to tears. It is hard to keep on peddling when your legs tell you that you cannot possibly cycle another meter further. Late in the afternoon we stopped in front of the Spar in Chipata, where we stocked up on food supplies.

Leon Barnard and his son, Kris, introduced themselves to Hendrik. They were on their way to Zanzibar and also looking for a place to camp that night. Mama Rula’s campsite in Chipata was seven kilometres back the way we came from. Kris offered to ride Riki’s bike back to the camp site while she got a lift with Leon and his daughter, Andrea. We shared a camping spot for the night. Leon kindly paid our camping fees. Kris and Andrea cooked dinner for us. Kris just finished a cycling trip from Windhoek to Cape Town for his matric holiday. He cycled 1500 km in only 10 days! Kris wanted to make a difference in his community. With the help of his dad they raised R350 000 to buy a minibus for the Dagbreek School for handicapped children.  This is an inspirational achievement – well done, Kris!  You are an example to the youth of South Africa!

The next day we cycled to the border and crossed over from Zambia to Malawi but the visits we paid to Zambian parks were an eye opener to the conservation struggle these parks are facing daily. There is a constantly battle to get sufficient funding or sponsorship, a battle to run parks to the benefit of the ever-increasing population size of the local community, a battle to educate communities about sustainable use of resources, a battle to combat poaching, a battle to get different chiefdoms within community parks to cooperate with park management, a battle to maintain existing facilities. We realised that South African parks are in a very favourable position in comparison to some Zambian parks.  We should treasure our parks, support it and fight for the protection thereof.  It is a precious but fragile gift and should be nurtured.

Zambia is a country worth visiting. A great route is to start from Lower Zambezi and head northwards to Kasanka, next to the Bangweulu Wetlands, over to North Luangwa and then down to South Luangwa, for a unique wildlife experience you will not find in any other country.  Zambia host a list of species we have never seen before, including Thornicroft’s giraffe, puku, Moloney’s monkey, black lechwe, shoebill and crowned cranes. The back roads are in mint condition with hardly any traffic.

Experience a five-day South Luangwa safari with Getaway Adventures. Click here to book.

Find more accommodation in South Luangwa National Park with Getaway Accommodation. Click here to book.


Read more about our Zambian adventure on our web page, www.cycleafrica.co.za and don’t miss out on our next blog on Malawi.



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