We had been travelling for two days straight. Our destination? Zambia’s famously beautiful South Luangwa National Park.
But in just two seconds our hopes were destroyed – along with two goats that had wandered merrily into the middle of the road. I shed a silent tear for the dead goats, but soon wished I hadn’t. A red light began flash on the dashboard of the Landy, the vehicle gave a choke and the engine cut out. A crescendo of swear words erupted from the driver’s seat – my dad’s fear was confirmed – there was a huge hole in our radiator. Damn those goats!
Further groans of disbelief came from the underside of the vehicle as the men surveyed the extent of the damage. A local in a rusty old bakkie, claiming to be a mechanic, got our hopes up a little. But after a weak attempt at helping us patch up the hole, he faked an encouraging smile and sped off. Nonetheless, we persevered, making use of every possible sealant that could be found in the car emergency kit – not to mention two raw eggs – which are meant to coagulate in the heat and seal the opening from the inside.
Secretly, I found the scenario rather exciting. I had heard stories like this … people stuck for days in the middle of the bush, living off the land and narrowly escaping the pursuit of fearsome predators. But the novelty wore off quickly. Then, satisfied that we had done all that we could, we ventured forth with our patched-up radiator, but soon found that we had to stop every five kilometres or so and pour water into the engine to prevent it from overheating. Our precious remaining drinking water! When the water ran out, we filled up a big plastic barrels with the help of willing villagers. But we kept going, hoping to make it to the next town before dark.
And what a surprise when we did! Hungry, tired and with unpredictable degrees of grumpiness, we got out of the Landy to stretch our legs. One could hardly call it a town … perhaps a village would be more accurate. But this dazzling colorful village lifted our spirits instantly – a welcome surprise to our weary dispositions. We bought drinks and answered cheery greetings. It wasn’t long before I was off – a happy explorer with camera in hand. What I saw continued to delight my senses…
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We never made it to South Luangwa in the end … we retraced our journey, driving the 445 kilometres back from Kachembele village to Lusaka. It was a long night on a dusty, pot-holed road, and again we had to stop and buy water from the locals every few kilometres. But our memories of that lively little village made it all worthwhile. Besides, isn’t that the beauty of travelling in Africa? Those unexpected moments in the wild unknown, those challenges that get you on all fours in the dirt and give you the satisfaction of working it out on your own, as they did in the ‘old days’ or before the likes of cellphones and GPS’systems. And, once tuned into ‘African time’, experiencing the pleasures that come in everyday little happenings – the unique and contrasting rhythms of our continent. Out of these little misadventures can come the fondest memories, greatest surprises and all time favorite campfire stories…
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