Monday, December 29, 2008

World's biggest potholes (Dec. 7/08 - Siavonga, Zambia)

After a lazy day today hanging around the camp, we said goodbye to 15 of our friends who were headed for home. Those who left were Annie, Thomas, Heidi, Walli, Rupesh, Sarah, Frank, Jorunn, Anita, Kristy, Carolin, Marie-Eve, Marc-Andre, Brian, and Matthew. The new group includes Joe Anne and Philippe from Williams Lake, Charlotte from England, Kendra from Conneticut, Lisolette from Sweden, and John from Ontario. The day would be a long day of driving, as we had over 500km to cover and apparently the roads are horrible in places, so it could be a slow ride. Turns out that was true - within a few miles of leaving Livingstone, the two lane paved road became a two lane sort-of-paved road with the world's biggest potholes and virtually a whole car width of a shoulder that has formed on both sides of the road since the rough gravel there is a far better ride than staying on the pavement. Raymond had to slow to a virtual stop every thirty seconds or so to ease the big truck through each bump with minimal damage and injuries to those of us being thrown about inside. We had to laugh at the "SLOW DOWN" sign posted at the start of a construction zone, and at the fact that they were merely refilling the potholes with dirt, which will wash away the next time it rains (probably this afternoon).

The scenery was pretty as we drove across southeastern Zambia - tiny villages of thatched huts and kids playing in the dirt were set amongst big leafy trees and gently rolling land. Small town came and went, each with impromptu markets set up on the side of the road, selling fruits, vegetables, baskets, and wood carvings. I was pleased to see several signs for World Vision funded development projects along the way, as I have sponsored a child through them for years and it was great to see some of their efforts at work. We went into a grocery store at the town of Mazabuka, where we saw yet again that there is a strong dichotomy between the two classes of people we’ve seen in our travels across Africa so far. Most people appear to be modestly dressed in simple clothing, wearing nothing trendy and often not even wearing shoes. These are likely the people who inhabit the smaller villages, living in stick huts without electricity or plumbing. The other half walks around in fancy clothes, sporting brand names and dress clothes, with nice hair dos and usually carrying a cell phone. There really doesn’t seem to be much of an inbetween class as you would expect.

Our attention was drawn to an anomaly on the horizon that we hadn’t seen in weeks - hills! Green forested hills came into view, and we soon turned south to pass between them. On the other side was Lake Kariba, which is really just a wide spot on the Zambezi River that was created when a dam was built in the 1960’s. The centre of the lake (river) is still the border with Zimbabwe, and our destination for the night would be a lakeside campsite at the town of Siavonga. The newcomers were given a lesson on setting up tents while the rest of us tried to set up and clean out the rest of the tents that got soaked the other day and would not be needed for the rest of the trip because of the smaller group. As pork chops sizzled on the coals, we spotted a massive hippo grazing on the grasses beside the lake about 150 feet from our tents! The signs around camp saying “watch for hippos” wasn’t kidding! It just carried on eating as we did the same, eventually waddling back into the lake as the full moon made an appearance.

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