October 10, 2007

Safari Relay, Leg One: To Chipata

I knew it would be a fun ride to Chipata when Binion, my usually straight-laced colleague, showed up at 9am last Sunday morning with a Castle firmly in hand. "I get excited when I'm leaving the city," he explained. That made two of us.

Of course we got off to a horribly late start, spending the next two hours dilly-dallying around Lusaka making sure we had enough booze and music for the 600km drive. If road trips with friends aren't fun enough, being allowed to drink excessively in the vehicle is the best thing ever.

What was obviously not the best thing ever was eating shitty mayonnaise, again. About 100km and six beers into the journey, the crappy fried food we'd choked down leaving Lusaka was causing some serious distress. Every mountain climb felt steeper, every bowel-shaking pothole more reverberating. After loosening every possible ligature around my guts - seat belt, belt and pants, in that order - I had achieved some sort of gastro-intestinal zen that allowed me to block out the awfulness and enjoy the trip. Innard peace, if you will.

The more Binion drank (pictured above with telltale cider and partial Canadian tuxedo), the more he was a like a schoolteacher in our little portable classroom. Flora, fauna, mountain ranges, river valleys, the sites of gruesome road accidents; he knew them all. We couldn't help but laugh uncontrollably when, whizzing past a seemingly normal-looking cow at 140km/h, he looked back sagely and declared it to be two months pregnant.

The late start proved to be a scenic, if annoying, boon as the sun scorched our backs over the hump of the Central Escarpment, just beginning set as we descended into the Luangwa River Valley. The scraggly leafless landscape of the highlands gave way to the banana and palm trees of the riverine scenery. The only problem, other than the ever-present threat of my bodily fluids spraying everywhere, was that it was dark and we had only made it halfway to Chipata.

Usually, driving at night isn't that big of a deal. It isn't in Zambia either, unless you're driving the last stretch of the Great East Road (actual name) to Malawi. Potholes that were easily spotted in daylight become bone-jarring axle-breakers. The moon and stars become legitimate illumination. Bandits hide in bushes at the side of the road waiting to ambush good Samaritans unlucky enough to help fake vehicle breakdowns.

All that to say when I collapsed in my bed in Chipata, a full 10.5 hours after leaving Lusaka, I was epically exhausted but excited to arrive. Not because I was anticipating a professionally-rewarding training workshop with in-need Zambian journalists; I could finally undo my pants all the way.

2 comments:

Scott said...

"It's not like Sweden - we don't refrigerate our mayonnaise here in Zambia."

B. Scott Currie said...

Haha, yeah I think I should quit mayo - it's given me international food poisoning on at least 3 seperate occasions.