Zambia

I made a bit of a late start, leaving at around 8. Since neither of the town’s ATMs would accept my card, I wanted to try converting some USD at the bank. When I saw the literally hundreds of people “queueing” outside, I changed my mind. Who needs money anyway?

The road through the town was dirt, and it had an interesting sort of bike path. Part of the road was strewn with rocks, and a narrow path had been cleared through it.

This dirt road only extended a couple kilometres from the end of the road to the Mozambique border, before reaching the main road, the “Great East Road” which I’d be riding to Lusaka, the capital. This was the best road I’ve seen in months. Signs state that it’s been repaired with EU money, and it was perfectly smooth tarmac.

I didn’t pass any towns with a bank, and I only had about £2 of local currency with me. There was one that I’d be able to reach by the end of banking hours if I didn’t stop, so that’s what I did. The first bank I passed had a slight issue with their ATM, so I went on to the next.

I couldn’t insert my card

When I got there, the ATM was empty. I went inside and apparently their forex section closes earlier than the rest of the bank. Luckily they refilled the ATM while I was there, though, so I was able to withdraw some money.

I went to find a lodge nearby, and stopped at one called Dali Dali lodge. It’s name on iOverlander was Big Dreams lodge; I don’t know if this was ever it’s actual name but it’s a good description. The outside was designed like a relatively upmarket lodge, with painted safari animals everywhere and buildings like the “Presidential block” and “Executive block.” At some point this dream met with the reality of a guesthouse in a small nondescript Zambian town, and inside the rooms it’s just like any other. But for 150 Kwacha (£6) I got a fan and hot water, so I was happy. I ended up staying a couple days for a break.

When I set off again I had a day of mostly riding through forest. There were occasionally people selling mushrooms at the side of the road, and I saw some baboons.

This road led me gradually downhill over the course of the morning, down to the river Luangwa which had an unusually impressive bridge by regional standards.

Just past this bridge across the Luangwa was a village, imaginatively named Luangwa bridge. There was a sign to “flashing toilets and showers” – hopefully they meant flushing.

The road was a bit worse here

Down at around 300m with high humidity and a tailwind, and workint hard to climb back up out of the valley,I was feeling very warm and was soaked in sweat. My buff, which I use as a sweatband, was soon saturated and sweat ran into my eyes. My right eye became very irritated. I was worried there was something in there but I couldn’t find anything. I removed my contact lens and cycled on for another couple hours with just one working eye. By the time I reached a lodge my eye was horribly bloodshot. I closed my eyes and went to sleep.

Thankfully my eye was better by morning. I put in a fresh pair of contact lenses and set off cycling. It was exceptionally humid. Although I was at a reasonably high elevation, so it wasn’t hot, I was nonetheless drenched in sweat.

The hours passed uneventfully, over rolling hills through the Zambian countryside. As has been the case throughout the country, people shout at me more than in the last couple places. The usual shouts of Mzungu are in there but most common is “how are you?” It doesn’t seem to really be meant as an actual question, just a greeting. I replied “fine, how are you?” to many people, which has usually been the only understood response in Africa. Here no-one answered, most just being silent and a few asking for money. Special mention to the guy cycling the other way who called out to me “Welcome to Zambia, the land of peace.”

As I approached Lusaka, the road got busier. Dark clouds started gathering too, and I could hear a storm approaching.

It began to rain when I was about 20km out from the city. It was at a level heavy enough to be unpleasant, but not so heavy that I could be confident it would be short-lived. I continued riding and was glad to reach the city, where wider roads made me feel safer from the typically aggressive drivers.

I got a puncture; luckily the rain had just ended. I stopped to replace the tube before continuing on to a hostel and checking in. The rain has started up again but when it stopped I walked over to a mall to go to the supermarket and get some fast food.

I had a late start as I wanted to get some contact lens solution from an optician’s at the mall. I considered getting some contact lenses too but they were £70 for 3 pairs! The exact same brand would be a third the price in the UK.

The road out of the city was wide with a good shoulder so made for a relaxed cycle. It was somewhat flatter than the last few days had been, but quite hot with barely any clouds.

The road made a long detour, going south, west then back north, seemingly to avoid some sort of marshland. Southern Zambia is particularly prone to flooding.

At the end of the day I reached a town and set about finding a place to stay. The first place I stopped was full; the next two did not have mosquito nets. I rode on, and it started getting dark – just as the road which had been so smooth since Lusaka became potholed. Finally I found another place, which also didn’t have much mosquito nets. After three places in a row like this I had a look online, and it seems I’ve made it out of the Malaria area! Southern Zambia has an incidence rate of <0.1% compared to up to 30% in parts of the north.

I was considering taking a rest day here and since it was raining when I woke up, I did so. When I set off again I made fast progress along a flat, mostly smooth road. It was unexciting but pleasant.

I passed a couple of towns but there was a lot of empty countryside. Apart from in those larger towns, living conditions were pretty basic.

I reached the town of Chomo and checked into a lodge. When I arrived, the owner greeted me a little strangely – “welcome back,” “how long will you be staying this time? Finally he asked “without the madam this time?” It turned out that some other touring cyclists had stayed a couple days before, and they don’t get enough white people here to be able to tell us apart!

The next day was pretty similar, quick riding on good roads. I rode to Livingstone, and checked into a lodge on the edge of town.

Jan 24: 151 km

Jan 27: 162 km

Jan 28: 171 km

Jan 29: 131 km

Jan 31: 155 km

Feb 1: 188 km

2 thoughts on “Zambia

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