check out fi's blog too at zambiaelective.blogspot.com
It really began in HK airport. After my long day I was in plenty of time for the next leg to Johannesburg but still waited in the queue for 1’30” – in spite of there only being 6 people ahead of me in my line!! Partly the B team but mainly an overloaded flight and much weighing and reweighing of luggage. Eventually I was asked to transfer to Cathay Pacific – only another 30 mins wait to be ticketed. Thankfully I had a good book!
On arrival in Jo’burg I had another 6 hrs wait for the flight to Lusaka which wouldn’t have been so bad if 3 of them hadn’t been spent in transit where I was firmly told to stay until my onward flight appeared on the board. It turned out I didn’t need to be there at all but chatting to a chap from Botswana who worked for the Min of Ed helped pass the time. Overall Sth African Airlines staff members were terse and unhelpful.
In Lusaka I was met by Bruce the Pilot who took me to the head of the queue for my visa so that saved another long and tedious wait! However the star treatment was in vain because a combination of the flight being late and my pack taking forever to appear meant that we missed our window of opportunity to leave immediately for Kalene and had to spend the night at the Mission Guesthouse in Lusaka. I was in bed by 6.30pm!
After waiting for days for the powers-that-be to let Fiona know how she was going to get to Solwezi (ca 300km away) to organise her work permit (long story behind this) we were informed at midday on Sat 20th that a ride was leaving for Mwinilunga now. As in NOW. I was working with Kirrilee and Fi was in theatre – we got ready in 15 mins then – you guessed it – waited! Not for too long though before a ridiculously fast trip to Mwinilunga, given the state of the road. The next day Charlie dropped us off in Solwezi with the expectation that, all going well, we would bus back to Mwinilunga the next day and stay at his place again. We really thought that we might have to stay another night in the rather awful Solwezi but amazingly, the permit was ready in 3 hrs and we were in plenty of time to catch the 11am bus - which left at 1.20…..
A journey that took us ca 3’30” the day before lasted just over twice as long. It was classic – there was a huge outburst of cheering when it finally arrived at the depot - much reasonably good natured pushing and shoving to get on - it was totally overcrowded with people sitting on 10 gallon plastic containers down the aisle – luggage included a swivel office chair and a TV (there were mighty cheers from the “lucky” village kids when that was unloaded into the darkness several hours later) – and the obligatory livestock (one soon-to-be-dinner chook peering resignedly out of a plastic bag) – the interior had been reconfigured to accommodate 2 seats on one side and 3 on the other of a very narrow aisle so the seats were very small but actually quite comfortable which was just as well as we didn’t shift from them – the windscreen was cracked and the wipers barely adequate when we went through the inevitable thunderstorm – the lights weren’t much better – in fact when it first got dark the driver didn’t use them for quite some while – there were crying babies, shouted conversations from one end of the bus to the other and complicated manoeuvres every time we stopped (which was often!) as the alighting passengers were inevitably at the back of the bus and the aisle wasn’t exactly clear :-)And then of course there were the breakdowns….the first on the good section of road which wasn’t encouraging but they all turned out to be the same problem – something to do with the compression and it kept overheating. Finally after one particularly long stop someone produced a piece of rubber that seemed to do the trick! All very mysterious although by then it also wasn’t so hot. At one stage, as we ground to yet another halt, thick smoke was pouring out of the engine. There was an immediate panicked stampede for the only door – and I’m sorry to say it was the young men trampling over the women and children – not a very chivalrous lot. They were sent back with some very sharp words from the front although how he knew it was ok I don’t know.
All in all it was quite an experience – we wouldn’t have missed it but don’t feel the need to repeat it in a hurry! And it was magic to be met by Shayne, one of Charlie’s volunteers, at the bus stop. He was pretty pleased to see us too – having been waiting for 90 minutes!! He produced a great supper (what they call the evening meal here) and was up cooking brekkie at 6.45am because we were being collected by Davison from the Mission at 7am. Ha! He forgot us and we WAITED until 2.20pm!! – finally arriving back at Kalene at teatime. It was pretty frustrating but I can think of worse places to be stranded than a house full of fascinating books – and we had a very nice nshima dinner which we even ate traditionally – ie with our hands. :-)