Ryan was up and uber awake at 7.30 am on Tuesday, the day we left for our camping trip. I think this is the first time Ryan has woken up at that time and felt alert since he was 9 years old. After a farm fresh egg breakfast we all packed the truck for camping. Bernard the Guard and Danny the Gardener were going to spend the nights at the homestead to take care of the dogs, so I set them up with sleeping bags and pillows and we moved the dog beds into the cottage. I also got them some breakfast meal (ground cornmeal), oil, salt, and kapenta (a tiny dried sardine).
Kapenta is a staple protein source for the locals and when they’re reconstituting it in boiling water it smells like a dockside fish cleaning station . Danny and Bernard thought it smelled good; I smiled and swallowed my rising bile. Happy employees = happy dogs = happy me.
Ryan warned me that they were going to get very, very hungry on the way, so I packed Doritos, peanuts, fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cheese and granola bars. He still thought he might not make it through the three hour drive without fainting but I said, no problem, we’ll stop at McDonalds on the way. This seemed to appease him.
Given the photo to the left was a typical roadside scene, Ryan must not have gotten hungry and/or he realized that the chance of coming across a McDonalds was about as probable as seeing Dodger Stadium.
There were the usual obstacles along the road — potholes, broken-down semis on blind curves…
…overloaded slow-moving vehicles…
…three police checkpoints, and, of course, the requisite police supplemental income scheme stop. About 10 km before the turn off for Livingstone in Kafue, there appeared a police officer doing his heil Hitler stiff arm wave to pull us over. He said Thom had crossed a solid white line some time back and that a motorist had called the police and reported the violation. Yeah, right. Thom denied it but the officer was adamant. He said Thom had to pay a fine of 270,000 kwatcha right now. Thom gave his normal response, we have no money, just give me the ticket and I’ll go downtown and take care of it. No, said the police officer, you must pay now. Can’t, said Thom, we have no money, just give me the ticket. This time the police officer played tough. He said, if you don’t step out of the car and give me the money you will be arrested and your car will be impounded until you pay. This was a new strategy. Thom said, I’ll come with you to your car but you need to give me the ticket. So, Thom jumped out and went to the police car. The boys and I wondered what would happen if the car were impounded. Would we be arrested too? Just left at the side of the road here in the middle of nowhere?
Before we knew it Thom was jogging back to us from the police car. I managed to take this photo before he reached us. He had cut a deal with the officer and given him 20,000 kwatcha — less than 10% of what he originally demanded. And, he still refused to give Thom a written ticket.
Right before the Zimbabwe border we turned and drove about 1/2 hour down a bumpy dirt road to the barge, which crossed the river to where all of the camps were.
Before I go on I have to tell you that Ryan is extraordinarily afraid of crocodiles. He had googled “crocodiles zambezi” before he came and read story after story about people eaten by them — on the very river we were going to be camping on! I had arranged a canoe safari for everyone and he was having none of it.
Well, as you can see, the barge is at the shoreline, which means you have to walk close to the water, which means that crocodiles could lurch out of the water at any moment, grab you and eat you. He was really freaked out by the woman washing clothes at the water’s edge.
I laughed and said, there are no crocodiles here. The locals know where it’s safe to do things like that. He didn’t believe me so I asked the boat operator, when was the last time someone was eaten by a crocodile here? Oh, just last month, he said, right where that woman is washing her clothes. Oops. This was not going well. Hoping to save a little face (and change the subject) I said, any other recent accidents? Oh yes, said the operator, last week someone’s brakes failed when they were driving onto this barge and they went straight off the end into the water and they all drowned right in the middle there (three men who had gone into town for supplies for a camp). Well, I know when to fold so I stopped asking questions.
We survived the crossing and saw nary a crocodile or any other sign of danger. By this point Ryan was questioning the wisdom of camping out in a tent on the lower Zambezi. We assured him that this was a really safe campground, surrounded by a barbed protective fence, and that the campsites were way up on a bluff, there was no way crocodiles could get up the bluff. (All this time Eric kept a stoic poker face.) Plus, we said, we camped there last year and didn’t see a single crocodile near the camp. However, given the hit to my credibility by the boat operator, Ryan wasn’t believing anything we said.
Fifteen minutes later we arrived at Kiambi Safari. Ryan started to relax when he saw the electric fence around the whole property. We were shown to the campground and indeed, it was at the top of a sheer bluff that no crocodile could climb.
My credibility was slowly returning and I myself was beginning to question the safety of a canoe safari. I had already told Ryan that we wouldn’t do anything he wasn’t comfortable with and that dad and I could always do the canoe safari on another trip, and had changed the canoe safari to a boat safari. But, by the time the boys left I had heard enough crocodile horror stories from Africans who had personally known someone eaten by a crocodile that I don’t think I’ll ever get around to that canoe safari, as appealing as it looks on the Kiambi website. It would have been too much work anyways.
Tomorrow — camping at Kiambi.