Monze to Pioneer.
The worst day of my African travels was the day before the Malawian border. By the end of the day I was in bed telling Derek that if it was possible to fold me up and put me in an envelope I would ask to be posted back home and he could carry on without me. I was really feeling desperate.
Two days before we had moved on from Monze and headed for Pioneer camp. We were getting slicker at setting up and packing up camp and we managed to set up camp in 8 mins at Pioneer Camp.
The road had not been easy that day. Derek kept up with someone who seemed to know the roads, driving too fast for my comfort; too many trucks; too many people on the roads and as a result my stomach was sore. Finally we found Pioneer Camp which was very quaint and homely with owners who really enjoyed entertaining. It had a cottage feel and the campsites were very rudimentary: no electricity or water down at the campsites but it had a nice bar/lounge/communal area where all the campers could get together. There we could use Wi-Fi and we fetched our water from a central area.
One of the most enjoyable things about traveling is meeting other travellers on the road. Here we met a man called Albert from Holland; our first real traveller we met on route.
We invited him to join us for supper. I made bacon and eggs with tomatoes and onion and listened to his stories of travel and life. I am interested in what people do. He was a manager at a mental health institute and had started out as a nurse in the psych ward. He told us the story of how he had travelled through Botswana which I will retell for you.
He had bought his vehicle from a South African woman and travelled from Gauteng to Botswana. He was travelling through Botswana on single track sand roads when a vehicle came from the other way so he politely pulled over into the soft sands and asked the other people to wait until he got safely onto the path but they just waved and drove off saying that he would be fine. He then tried to get out of the sand but his wheels dug in and he got stuck in the soft sand. In the process he sheared off the front wheel drive shafts so he was well and truly stuck. He had no one to help him in an area where he had been warned not to get out of the car because here lions roamed freely. He didn’t feel like getting eaten so he waited until somebody came along, hoping that he would not run out of food and water in the interim. Fortunately somebody did come who had a tow hitch and he was helped out.
After that he travelled a similar route to us: Caprivi strip to Zambia, and onto Malawi. He planned to go onto Tanzania, meeting his wife there for 4 weeks before travelling back again. Similar routes were always interesting.
The next day, Pioneer to Chimwemwa.
The next day we left at 8am. The roads were terrible. Dodging potholes – looking like craters, goats, cows, dogs, and chickens bicycles, trucks, people, and buses! watching for road signs when spotted, peering to read them too old and indistinct. potholes and speed bumps without warning.
Derek was trying to keep up with a 4×4 and boat driving faster than comfortable over the bumpy roads. It was always easier to follow a vehicle because then you can see when they break for speed bumps and post holes. I felt like I was in hell. I don’t like roller coasters and this was the same feeling, tapping into memories of being trapped in a car, rolling, tumbling and somersaulting. I feared that we would crash and roll at any minute. The fear was uncontrollable and considerable; I feared for our lives.
Then the worst happened: it was an oncoming oil tanker which drove across onto our side of the road and we had to swerve and went off the side of the road into a ditch to avoid an accident. We were shaken and upset but we were lucky it hadn’t been a ravine. I didn’t want to carry on. It had started raining and we were desperate to find somewhere to stay by now but the towns were so small and most didn’t have petrol stations or shops as we were used to. Basically they were villages of local people: no campsites or lodges. We had to carry on driving.
Presently we were stopped at a police blockade and we asked the policeman where he would recommend. We had just passed Luangwa which was a camp on the riverside. It would have been ideal in retrospect as it was the Wild life haven of South Luangwa National Park but we didn’t know about it so we pressed on. We were aiming for Petauke as I knew of facilities there from the internet; the policeman told us that it was the best place to go to. By now it was raining properly and we needed accommodation to stay in out of the rain.
The place was really rundown and unkempt. We wanted to move on but we were desperate to stop. I think Derek was as stressed as I was. The place in Petauke was called Chimwemwe: It had obviously been very classy in its day but had become rundown, especially the bathrooms. The mosquito net had holes and was dirty, but at least the linen was clean. There was something really indescribably gross in the wash hand basin. Derek took it out with toilet paper. I could see he wanted to vomit and he said, “I don’t ever want to know what that is.” It was the best we could come up with so we had to stay there.
We checked the comments on trip advisor which recommended Chimwemwa as the best restaurant; the comment was “as good as you’ll get for rural Zambia.” Well put. We decided to have dinner there. It had a lovely ambiance with modern African décor and I felt like a celebrity, although I am sure I didn’t look like one in my camping outfit. They only had chicken so I had curried chicken and Derek had traditional stewed chicken with tomato and onion. It was tasty, well presented, but my chicken was a bit like what is referred to in the air force as Chicken Ala Bird Strike: lots of bits of bones! Derek’s was a portion of bird but we couldn’t decide which portion it was. As we ate I kept thinking, of all the chickens we saw on the road; those that had crossed and those that had not made it. I felt like I was eating one of them.
When we got back to the room we phoned the children and I broke down and cried; I couldn’t stop myself. I cried and cried for hours. I didn’t want to go on. I wanted to go home but not by road. I also couldn’t face going back the same way. I told Derek that I felt like it was a day from hell! ‘Put me in an envelope and post me home.’
He wanted to make things better. I told him I definitely didn’t want to come back this way. We decided, that on way back from Malawi we would rather go through Zimbabwe. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves as we changed our mind quite a few times about which route we would take back and that is all part of the story.
Eventually I went to sleep.
This was the lowest point for me on our trip and I am looking forward to telling you about Malawi soon.
If you want to know more about our first part of the journey through the Northern Cape before we left South Africa you can find all the link here:
Here is where you can find all the links for the tip through Namibia
An African Road Trip: Namibia 2013