“Damn it,” comes Mike’s scratchy voice over the radio. “I klapped that one so hard with a flat hand that I’ve cracked the Landy windscreen. The little bastards! We’re under attack!” We try and stop for a Landy tailgate lunch as it’s a bit of a tradition, but even before the cans of Bully Beef have been opened, we are forced to run, like madmen, cursing and slapping as we race for the safety of the Landies. Bzzzz!!
The tsetse war continues. They’ve got inside, which leads to more slapping as we go on our way. Brad comes on the radio: “Be careful,” he warns. “If you pull their head off, be sure to throw it out of the left window, and the wings and torso out of the right. Otherwise the little buggers will re-constitute and then you’ll really be in s#*t.”
And so the humour continues as we cross a dangerously wonky plank bridge that takes us out of the north gate of the Kafue National Park. We might complain about the ‘bloody tsetses’ but truth be told, they are Africa’s best little conservationists as without them, many of the parks across the continent would be full of cattle and people. We finally get to having our Landy tailgate lunch, but take to burning some elephant dung as the smoke helps to keep the ‘little buggers’ at bay.
It’s an exciting moment for the expedition as the mountain bike and Land Rover teams have met up at the source of the Zambezi. For us as a family, this place is always an important yardstick that takes us back to past Zambezi expeditions.
At this beautifully serene place, I can’t but think of my late wife Gill ‘Mashozi’ Holgate, who was certainly the most travelled woman in Africa. We had adventured together for 45 years and she loved this spot. To think that this spongy little puddle of a spring deep in the forests of north-west Zambia, close to the border with the DRC and Angola, marks the start of the great river’s 3,540km, five-country journey to the Indian Ocean. We camp in a nearby forest clearing at beautiful Nchila where we celebrate the successful completion of the Zambian chapter of our Heart of Africa expedition.
Now some of the cycling team will head home, leaving ‘Shovashova’ Mike to peddle on with the rest of us diehards to cross the Jimbe River into a remote part of Angola. I’ve got some really bad memories of this area going back to the days of our Zambezi-Congo expedition in open boats in the footsteps of Livingstone and Stanley. In those days it had been tough; really tough. UNITA rebels had marched me off to their hideout in the bush where I’d been interrogated for hours. But the zen of travel had been with me, especially when later, back at the boat with the rest of the team, the rebel commander proudly told us that the only reason they hadn’t killed me was because I’d been so friendly!
Now it’s time to enter the area again. We’ve been warned that further north in this remote region we could be mistaken for diamond dealers. “So watch your back, don’t get high-jacked, and don’t travel at night!”And…: “Oh yes! Be careful of unexploded landmines, there’s still some knocking about!”
So as we always do, we hire Jonathan Kasongo, a local Lunda speaking man to help us on our way (Lunda is just one of the 72 languages and dialects spoken in Zambia). Jonathan was born in Angola then ran from the war to Zambia so he speaks Portuguese and English as well. He’s got papers and travelled the road last year. He’ll also assist with the humanitarian work.
Someone once asked what the most important thing to have is on an expedition. I responded that it’s an empty seat so as to travel with locals – local knowledge and the local language has at times saved our lives.
As always ‘Shovashova’ Mike rides ahead on his mountain bike leaving ‘Inhlovukazi’ the big 130 Landy Defender loaded up with bales of mosquito nets and the other humanitarian items to lead the Landy convoy.
We will keep you posted.