Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Win a Copy of Safari Jema!

Goodreads and I are giving away one copy of Safari Jema in November. 
Enter to win here!



 
 


    Goodreads Book Giveaway
 



   

        Safari Jema by Teresa O'Kane
   


   

     


          Safari Jema
     


     


          by Teresa O'Kane
     



     

         
            Giveaway ends November 28, 2014.
         

         
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.
         

     

   

   


      Enter to win

Friday, May 23, 2014

Take the Goat…Leave the Cannoli




          Today marks the twelfth month of our journey through Africa. We’ve driven over 30,000 kilometers in ten countries. It has truly been the journey of a lifetime and I find myself thinking about all the things I will miss when we have to leave. Like afternoon clouds that puff up like a slowly baked marshmallow, sunsets that take my breath away, and lyrical chatter. All over Africa, wherever two or more are gathered there is constant conversation punctuated by laughter. I’ll miss the big five, the little five, the ugly five, the beautiful five, the green five, the slimy five, and the high five (giraffe and their kin). I’ll miss thatch roofs – before spiders, lizards, and snakes have moved in. I’ll even miss showering with a frog. But what I will miss most is people. The children especially, but I’ll also miss people like Li, a meat loving anti-poaching patrol policeman.

           We met Li on a hot afternoon when he turned down a lift from the control gate to the Mana Pools Headquarters in Zimbabwe. “I’ll wait for another vehicle,” he said after peering inside and confirming that our 41 year-old Landy lacked air conditioning. Four days later we encountered Li again near our camp along the river. “Are you heading out of the park now?” he asked. “Can you wait five minutes? I want to get my things.” His things turned out to be a small sack of dried meat. Many Africans don’t get a chance to eat meat very often. When he told us what was in the sack he said dried meat in the same way someone I would say dark chocolate, or someone from Europe would say a thousand Euros.

          It was a bit squished for four hours with three adults and an AK47 in the front seat but for the first time in 12 months we were waved through every police check along the way. Police never stopped my grandfather when he delivered beer to San Francisco speakeasies during prohibition either. Why? Nuns. “Would you be needing a ride now, Sister?” he would ask in his thick Irish brogue and off they would go, waved through all police checks along the way.
          “I wish you could come with us all the way to South Africa,” I said to Li enjoying the benefits of driving with an AK47-toting policeman for the first time in my life.

          When we stopped in a biggish town to gas up, I bought a bunch of bananas with the help of Li who told me the local price was just pennies apiece. I offered him a banana. “No. I’m okay,” he said after a slight pause.
          “Would you rather have some juice?” I asked.
          “No. I’m okay,” he repeated. Then quietly so that the banana lady couldn’t hear, “Police are not allowed to eat in public.”
          “Oh! Really? Sorry, I didn’t know!” I said feeling like an entrapper.
          When we were a kilometer from town Li said, “I will have that banana now.” As he ate I noticed how thin he was and offered him another.
          I asked Li about his life and work, eventually working my way to burning questions about stepping on someone’s egg, which means to hit someone’s cow or goat or to be the cause of losing something of great importance. Driving through Africa can be stressful not only for the chassis-busting potholes and time-consuming police checks but also for the number of humans and animals on the road. I fret about hitting a cow or child every time we get behind the wheel.
          “Li, if we were to hit a dog or a goat what should we do? I mean, should we drive to the nearest police station and report it?”
          “No, you don’t have to do anything,” Li answered quickly. “The owner is supposed to keep the animal on a lead at all times. If you report it, he will run away believe me. It is he who will be in trouble.”
          I needed clarification. This was serious. “So, we just leave the dead dog or goat there and carry on? We don’t report to the police station?”
          Li was quiet for a moment. Then, in the exact way the character in The Godfather delivered his line “Leave the gun. Take the Cannoli” Li said, “Yes, come to the police station. But leave the dog. Bring the goat.”




                                                               Camp in Mana Pools

                                                             Tris, Li, and an AK47

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Too Many Rules!




 
Malawi is an itinerary buster. We ate up an entire month camping at various spots along her “calendar lake” so named because Lake Malawi is 365 miles long and 52 miles wide. Every mile is scenic. Across the lake lies Mozambique. The Livingstone Mountains rise sharply up from the shore and remind us of the Napili Coast in Hawaii.
The sand in Malawi is soft and white and the water is clear. The roads are the best we’ve seen – few potholes, scant vehicles, and no spring-busting speed bumps. Even the road up the escarpment to Livingstonia, dubbed by our guide book as “the most exciting road in Africa” for its 20 precariously carved switchbacks, was better maintained than most roads in Uganda or Kenya.
The police are friendly and the children all wave. A woman holds the highest office, President. Billboards proudly proclaim vast areas “Open Defecation Free” and others demand the end to child trafficking. It seems like a country that is doing the right things.


We started thinking there was no good reason to leave Malawi so we extended our visas.

Then the rains that had driven us out of Tanzania caught up to us. Eventually Zambia, South Luangwa in particular, lured us away from Malawi’s pristine beaches and good, cheap gin. But not before our chance meeting with some very cool overlanders, Kirsty and Gareth. I adore them.
Kirsty and Gareth are a year into an expedition from Australia to London in a 1989 Toyota Landcruiser. Not as old as our Landy but charming nonetheless and in much better shape. Kirsty and I discovered we shared the same birthday, happening the very next day. We hugged. We cried. We were home sick. If you are planning an Africa overland trip, their blog is the best of the bunch. Here's Kirsty's post about Malawi and when we met. http://aussieoverlanders.com.au/zambia-malawi/



I had almost forgotten how much I love Zambia. Her charms start at the small border when we ask where we go to pay the road tax and are told, “See the man under the mango tree.” After crossing the border we arrive 15 minutes later in the town of Chipata where there is a Shoprite and a Spar market. So it's Gordon’s Gin and beef stroganoff for dinner. A few hours later we arrive at South Luangwa without a single broken car part, bruise, or speck of dust. The once infamously organ rearranging Chipata-Mfuwe road has been completely paved. The rainy season has just ended. Everything is green and lush. Fluffy clouds make for dramatic photos. It’s not too hot. I am at the Gates of Heaven.



And then we are at Flatdogs, a place we keep coming back to again and again since we first camped on a platform high up in a tree in 2005. Flatdogs has since gone upscale and there is no more camping so we splash out on an en-suite riverside safari tent for 4 nights. Elephants cruise through camp and sometimes stop for a long drink from the pool. Hippos pull up like Colorado River rafts at the shoreline and bellow and wait for dusk – their cue to rise up out of the river and feast on the new shoots of grass that have appeared overnight.
We listen to their rhythmic chomp chomp chomp throughout the night. In the morning I sit on the bank of the Luangwa River, one of my favorite spots on earth, and watch as sunrise turns the colors of the opposite bank from glowing orange to the color of weak hot chocolate. I am in Heaven.




I want my family here. I want them to experience a game drive where they might see the Big Five; lions sleeping the afternoon away on their backs and elephants browsing unhurriedly because after the rains there is plenty to eat and drink.

I want them to see a leopard in the classic pose, draped over a tree limb with full belly and be lucky enough to see one of the few remaining rhino in the wild. I want them to experience the cold hard stare of a Cape Buffalo.

Then I want them to go on a walk in the bush so they can come to know the Little Five – the ant lion, leopard tortoise, elephant shrew, rhinoceros beetle, and buffalo weaver bird. I want them to learn about all the bushes and trees and bark that provide traditional healing.
If they are really lucky, they’ll see a painted dog or spot a chameleon clinging to a leaf.

Hippos will come to us when we sit around the campfire at night. Chomp chomp chomp, closer and closer until the night watchman shines his torch in their eyes encouraging them to dine further down the bank.



There is still time for my family to come and enjoy Africa with me because our tenants on Asbury have extended their lease. I’m very grateful for that. Now we have time to do more of the things we love. There’s time to visit the orphanage in Zimbabwe that is supported by the efforts of a woman in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now I have time to visit the 93 children who live there and I can send her photos of the new home that will be built with the $34000 raised during the recent Run For Zimbabwe Orphans. I feel so privileged to be able to do that.



Scott will continue in his endeavor to fly here in Africa. It hasn’t been as easy as we thought for him to find a plane to fly. It’s not how it used to be. During and just after colonial times," we were told, "every European male seemed to know how to fly and there was access to planes and airfields all over Africa." Such is not the case these days. Now with the extra time, we will be able to return to Dar es Salaam to help a friend finish building her plane in exchange for the chance to fly. I have never seen Scott as happy as he is when he is flying.



These are some of our big picture dreams. The day-to-day in Africa is not so easy. Some days I witness so much struggle that I end up covering my eyes and crying. Young girls carry too-heavy loads of wood or water on their heads. Men push impossibly huge piles of charcoal on bicycles. They aren’t riding the bikes. They are pushing them with all their might while sweat pours off their bodies. Dogs get hit by speeding vehicles and are left to rot on the road. Oxen and donkeys are beaten. “Too much suffering!” I cry regularly.

“You say that almost every day,” says Scott shaking his head. He adds, "In fact, there is a list of 5 or 6 phrases that you say every day."

“You repeat yourself everyday too ya know!” I tell him. Thus we have a weird phrase bingo going.

 According to Scott my list of daily phrases include: 
-"What's that smell?"

-"Don’t park under that tree. Snakes might slither onto the car."

-"Don’t park here. There might be snakes hiding in the tall grass." 

-"If I’m not back in twenty minutes come looking for me. I might be snake-bit."

-"Are there snakes here?" (asked of camp staff.)

-"Look out for that snake (child, goat, chicken, pothole, speed bump, ditch….) in the road!"


And last but not least,

-"Hey! You know the rule. No naked farting!"



Meanwhile I can rely on Scott saying almost every day:

-"Is there a power point available?" (asked of camp staff – Gotta keep that gin cold!)

-"The solar panels are really keeping the fridge nice and cold!"

-"Is the red key on?" (When switched on the red key charges the extra car battery that keeps the fridge cold. This spare battery lives under my seat.)

-"When we get to camp I’m going to charge up the rechargeable batteries for the headlamps (camera, computers, spotlight…)"

And last but not least,

-"Too many rules!" Bemoaned head in hands after I’ve uttered any one of my six bingo phrases.



In a year Scott and I have learned a lot about each other. I’ve learned that he is beyond exceptional at keeping batteries charged and gin cold and that he is untidy.

He has learned that I have too many rules about snakes and farting.



Scott and Tris

South Luangwa, Zambia

                                                  Too many rules, but I love you anyway.
                                                    On the banks of the Luangwa River
                                      Imprint of sleeping elephant seen on a guided bush walk
                                            Sleepy lionesses too tired to move off the road

                                                           Zen lioness. Ohhhhhmmmmm






Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Speed Trap





In Tanzania, there is no speed limit – except in villages or along speed traps, where the speed limit is 50 kilometers per hour. Speed traps are the worst. At the bottom of a long descent policemen and women dressed in miraculously white uniforms and smart looking hats stand and wait like predators on the hunt. When they see our foreign Landy, our foreign plates, and our foreign faces they pounce gleefully on the prey. We meet on the shoulder
“This is a one-zero-niney!” (Series lll 109) “Very strong!” they say. “I learned to drive in this vehicle!”
“It’s 40 years old,” I say.
“Eish! Forty?! But it is STRONG!” Then, “Where do you come from?” and we never know if they are asking our country or where we spent the previous night. We usually answer incorrectly. But because we drive a car that reminds them of their youth, they smile and say, “Safari Jema. Proceed!”

Sometimes just for the heck of it, they ask for a “gifty” and when they do I give them a look that says, you aren’t corrupt, are you? so far, it works. “Proceed!” they say with a laugh as if they weren’t really asking for a bribe at all. Just joshing, ha ha!

Some days we get stopped at every police check along our route – 5 or 6 times a day.  One policeman, after expressing, as they all do, how strong Ndoto is said, “I like this car very much! I think I will come in the night when you aren’t looking and take it!”  “Ha-ha!” we say hoping he is just joshing. Another looked longingly at Ndoto and whispered, “I want. I dream…” Only one policeman in the eleven months we’ve been driving in Africa shook his head in disappointment, “This car is obsolete,” he stated with a tsk. The two policemen with him, loyal to Strong Old Landys, continued to argue the point with their unappreciative, much younger colleague as we drove slowly away.

Sometimes they check the working order of our turn signals, brake lights and such which is why Scott jiggles the fuse box below the steering column before each police check. One policeman asked us to engage the backup lights. “Back-up lights?! Ha-ha!” said Scott looking over at me in a panic. Do we even have back-up lights? “This car is older than your father!” said Scott. “It was made long before back-up lights were invented.”
“Proceed,” said the policeman with a smile – perhaps recalling a time his father, or grandfather, reminisced about the virtues of Old Landys, “…strong vehicles! But you know, they have no back-up lights…”

The first time we were stopped in a speed trap was in Kenya. There was a bevy of trucks, buses, and police clustered at the bottom of a hill. Up went the arms. Halt! As we pulled over a policewoman came to the window saying, “You have been caught over speeding.” Isn’t speeding enough? What is over-speeding? I wanted to ask. “The fine is $120,” she continued, “and I know you can afford it.”
“Speeding? Impossible!” Scott and I said in unison. So she brought the radar gun and showed us a photo of Ndoto doing 64 in a 50.

“Oh. Pole sana.” I said admitting guilt. “We are very sorry. We didn’t see the sign. We didn’t know our car could go that fast. Ha-ha! But isn’t she strong?”

Another Policewoman, Susan, came to my window barely noticing Ndoto fitness. “You have three options. I can arrest you and take you to jail now. Or you can pay the fine for which I will give you a receipt. Then you may appear in court at 8am tomorrow in (town two hours back on heavily potholed road the way we had come), where you will plead guilty, appeal, and have the fine reduced. Or you can pay the fine to me now and you can proceed.”

Naively thinking the options she stated were the only options, I began to plead my case on the spot. “We are stupid muzungu. We just left Uganda; we’ve only been in Kenya 5 hours! We didn’t see the sign. Can’t you let us off with a warning? No? Can’t we appeal in a court in a town in the direction we are heading, like Eldoret or Lamu?”
“No, this is not possible,” said Susan.
As I continued to beg for leniency, even professing, “We are not speeders” in the same way I would say, “We are not heroin addicts,” Susan began to get tears in her eyes.

She tried to find something extraordinary or likeable about us. “What are you doing in Africa?” She said. “Are you doctors?  Missionaries?”
“No,” I answered. “We are nobody.” Desperate to come up with anything that made us remotely worthwhile I added, “but in Uganda we visited a friend who is a doctor,” which was true.
Susan tilted her head, considering this new information. “Is she like me, or is she muzungu, like you.”
“She’s muzungu,” I answered. “But she is a doctor to Ugandans and she dates Ugandans, so she’s practically a Ugandan,” I added.
This made Susan laugh. Fifteen minutes passed while Susan and I played verbal table tennis.

Then Scott, trying out a tactic we had never discussed or agreed on (not that we had ever discussed any police check protocol) joined us at my window. He took out his wallet, pulled out a $100 and a $20, and handed it to Susan. “Here. We’ll just pay the fine and be on our way. This is all the money I have until we visit a bank in Eldoret,” he added.
“What?!” both Susan and I exclaimed. Susan glanced at the bills and got more tears in her eyes.
“Do you mean to say,” said Susan separating the bills and holding them on each side of her ample chest, “that further up the road, if you step on someone’s egg, you will be in trouble?”
Having no idea what it meant to step on someone’s egg but sensing possible victory I locked eyes with Susan. With all the seriousness I could muster I said quietly, “That is exactly what we mean, Susan.”
Susan sighed dramatically. “What if I make my own decision?” Without waiting for an answer she handed the $100 back to Scott and pressed the $20 to her bosom. “I will keep this,” she said.
“Oh thank you Susan!” I said as she strolled away. Then, because we had been through so much together, I leaned out the window and shouted, “Let’s keep in touch!”

“That was half scary, half infuriating,” I said as we drove away. “I couldn’t believe it when you handed her $120! If you had just given me a little more time I think I could have got us out of there without paying a dime.”
Scott looked over at me tearing up just as Susan had. I suddenly realized what had made Susan cry. Pity. Never in Susan’s wildest dreams would anyone actually hand over the usurious fine requested. It brought tears to her eyes that we, the stupidest muzungus she had ever encountered, were so unfamiliar with bribe negotiations that we were willing to hand over a king’s ransom of $120 cash money. No one does that.

“Didn’t you realize what was going on?” Scott asked. “She was waiting for us to offer a bribe! She never intended to arrest us, or to collect the entire $120.”
“Wha..? Huh? But you gave her that hundred dollar bill!”
“I’ve been trying to get rid of that hundred since we left Cape Town. It’s pre 1996. No one in Africa will take it. She saw the date. That’s the only reason she gave it back to me.”

I silently studied Scott seeing him with new eyes. “Clever man,” I said.

We later learned that to step on someone’s egg means to hit someone’s goat or cow or sheep, or to get into some other kind of trouble only money could solve.  I’ve used the phrase often when we are stopped for speeding since meeting Susan.
“Pole sana officer. If we pay you the fine we will have no money. Then if we step on someone’s egg further up the road, we will surely be in big trouble.” I wait.

“Proceed!”





Monday, January 13, 2014

Stairway to Heaven, Ascent to Rwanda



After months of relative smooth sailing in our 1973 Series lll Land Rover, we were suddenly faced with a variety of mechanical issues that needed attention. Serendipity was with us once again. But not for a series of breakdowns, we might well have been in Juba South Sudan at the time of the recent violent outbreak, instead of Kigali Rwanda.
                                              
In Kigoma Tanzania we had all six bushings replaced for the second time in 7 months. Not surprising since Ndoto takes a beating on the roads we choose to take. Sometimes I feel we ask too much of her.

In Bujumbura Burundi our clutch needed repair. Not a big deal. Just some fluid where it shouldn’t be. Désirée used spares and parts we had on hand to rebuild the master and slave cylinders. He did all the work on site, in front of the Botanika Hotel. While working on the clutch, Désirée discovered a crack in Ndoto’s frame causing Scott to exclaim, “Oh my God” So we had some welding done too.

FIRST ATTEMPT

The next day, as we were halfway through our ascent on the one tarred death-defying road that leads to Rwanda, the clutch gave out completely. There was not a gear to be had, but Scott kept trying, pumping his foot on the pedal like Chuck Berry bouncing down the stage while singing Johnny B Good. Inertia did what it should but it was only seconds before we came to a dead stop because this two-lane road bordered by stone-covered deep ravines is practically too steep to believe.  For almost 30 continuously twisty miles it does nothing but gain altitude. Traffic consists of a conga line of trucks, buses, and vans that pass on blind curves. Not to mention the bicycles laden with bundles of charcoal as wide as cars captained by boys who tear down the hill at break-neck speeds. These “charcoal boys” take their lives in their hands several times a day. At the base of the mountain in Bujumbura, they latch on to the back of a passing vehicle, usually a truck, and sitting sidesaddle on the bicycle cross bar, they hitch a ride all the way to the top. Three boys even grabbed on to Ndoto but quickly peeled off when we broke down. They coasted backwards until they could grab hold of the next passing truck.
Once at the top the boys load up on several enormous sacks of charcoal and race back down the road to find a buyer for their load. Burundi is one of the poorest nations in the world so risking your life for even a few pennies, which is what they earn, makes some kind of sense. We couldn’t believe we didn’t witness a fatality.

Guardian angels seem to be working overtime on our behalf too lately. Within 2 minutes a Rwandan man named Justin who works for the World Food Program (one of the many NGOs in Rwanda), pulled over to help. “Thank you for stopping but I’m sure we need a tow. The clutch is totally dead,” Scott said after Justin asked how he could help. Justin used his cell phone to call for a tow truck and drove off wishing us luck. As we waited we watched the charcoal boys (‘boys on a suicide mission’ Scott called them) whiz by. We witnessed countless near misses as mini buses and trucks passed one another on the blind curve just ahead of where we were broken down. With nowhere to pull over, we were parked where we stopped, in the right hand lane. I sat against the mountain with my feet in the ravine, until a sudden downpour caused me to move back into the car. I had to close my eyes against the trucks and bicycles speeding by next to me. Most terrifying.

The tow truck arrived a nerve-racking two hours later and carried us to Azad’s City Motors in Bujumbura. Emile, our rescuer, mechanic, and tow truck driver and his assistant Bongo both proclaimed, as every single African who has encountered Ndoto does, “This car is strong!” If I had a nickel for every time we’ve heard “This Land Rover is strong!” I would have enough money to buy a Toyota Land Cruiser. 

Emile stopped a few times on the way down the hill to buy meat fresh off carcasses hanging from racks alongside the road. “Much cheaper than in town,” Emile explained in French. Except he said “Nyama!” using the Kiswahili word for meat.  Bongo rode in Ndoto’s driver seat saying later he did not like riding backwards One Bit. The owner of the Botanika hotel, Adrien was ever accommodating. When I explained the reason we were on our way back to the Botanika to stay for a few nights Adrien exclaimed, “Oh my God!”

Emile diagnosed the clutch problem as a loose connection between the master and slave cylinder. Maybe something Désirée missed, maybe not. But each time Scott had pressed down on the clutch, fluid had spurted out undetected – until it was all gone. “Très facile! ” An easy fix, Emile said in French.  But now that we had seen the road we would have to conquer to order to visit Rwanda, when Emile dropped us back at the Botanika where we had checked out 9 hours earlier, we handed him a checklist of items for the car, including a few things I had long wanted fixed such as my windshield wiper and my door lock. For months now, we had been locking my door with a piece of wire, attaching it to a loop on the metal box that holds a second battery under my seat. Each time we arrived at our destination, I would get out of the car and Scott would have to lean across the seat to secure the wire and lock my door. Not that our car is or ever will be Fort Knox, but this was a very good thing to finally have fixed. Emile also sourced much needed replacements for the front brake pads. It would take some days to do all the repairs but they weren’t wasted. We spent one day walking around Bujumbura’s markets. Our favorite was the textiles street with its shops bursting at the seams with colorful bolts of cotton. Outside the shops, dozens of women and men sat at old treadle operated Singer Sewing Machines that lined the street and busily turned raw fabric into appetizing apparel. In Bujumbura I could have designed an outfit, bought fabric, had it custom made, and wore it out to dinner that night all within 100 meters. We spent the next afternoon on the rooftop terrace at the ex-pat frequented Gourmet Café where we discussed spending Christmas in Kigali instead of Juba. We enjoyed several good cappuccinos, one quiche and free wifi on a patio situated high enough over the city to catch a welcome breeze above the dusty smog. Bujumbura has a surprising number of wonderful restaurants.

Two days later we picked up the car. We considered it a blessing that we had broken down, met Azad, Emile, and Bongo and had so many items fixed on the car. We decided Kigali for Christmas was a wonderful idea. The tow cost $70 and all the work plus parts came to less than $80.

SECOND ATTEMPT
After one more night at the comfortable Botanika Hotel, our home away from home, off we went on our second attempt at the mountain. Ndoto was running well – better than she had in a long time. Some of the people in the villages we passed upslope seemed to recognize us from our first attempt. “Bonjour Muzungu!” shouted one charcoal boy as he zoomed past. Word gets around. Not one charcoal boy grasped on to Ndoto for a ride up. Then, just 500 meters from the top, I kid you not, the stick shift snapped off. “Nooooo! Not again!” wailed Scott as we slowed to a halt. It was my turn to say, “Oh my God,” as I looked down to see the gear stick lying limp across the floorboard.

                                                    As usual, we drew spectators.
We asked if anyone had a phone we could borrow. “I do,” said a young man. But he had no time left on it (a very common problem) so we gave him a little money to buy time and off he went to buy a mobile phone scratcher card in the nearest village. Twenty minutes later he was back as promised.

“Oh my God,” said Azad when Scott relayed the reason for our need for another tow. Again, Emile was there within 2 hours.  Scott rode in Ndoto’s driver seat because Bongo refused to. Bongo stood out in the rain on the tow truck bed next to Ndoto for the 55-minute ride back to town. Scott got a good look at what we would come to call our Unattainable Summit. “An interesting perspective, being up so high, traveling backwards,” Scott said when we arrived at the repair shop.
Though he lustily eyed the nyama hanging from hooks along the road Emile didn’t stop to shop this time. He did give two women a ride into town. Cozy with the 4 of us across the seat.

Back at the shop Emile, and all the guys employed at City Motors, (“This car is so strong!”) got to work on welding the stick back on to the base. It was tricky but they got it done. Again, we were charged for towing but Emile didn’t charge for the welding, which gave me pause at first but it has held tight and doesn’t look like it could be detached with anything other than a grinder.

It was 7PM by then so off we went back to the Botanika for another great meal and sleep. The next morning we got an early start for our third and last attempt. If we didn’t make it this time, we would leave the car in Bujumbura for a week and travel to Rwanda in one of the many mini busses adorned with names like “Yahoo”, “What God Wishes”, and “Volcano”, which do the Bujumbura to Kigali route daily.

A WRONG TURN

We still don’t know how we did it. We should have known every twist and turn, every banana stand and nyama market along the route by now, but somehow we took a wrong turn. “This doesn’t look right. It’s too flat,” Scott said. “Plus I’ve yet to see a mini bus, truck, or charcoal boy.” For whatever reason we kept going though it made no sense at all. We knew that at some point we would have to climb or turn around but we kept going. “At least it’s different,” we said, “and flatter.” We drove in silence, neither of us wanting to say aloud that the sensible thing to do would be to turn back and start over. We kept going. After 8 kilometers, the tar narrowed and turned to dirt. The hills all around us, no matter how steep were terraced, every square inch under cultivation. What could be called a road came to dead end at a hectic market where hundreds of people and produce tried to find a match. There were a few motorbikes but there was not a single other vehicle in sight. Scott continued to inch forward and the crowd barely made room for us to pass. A little later we drove by a school built on a narrow ridge atop two steep valleys. It was an impossible sight. The crest of the hills came right up to the schoolroom doors. As we drove by, the children starred at us in shocked surprise. What are these crazy muzungus doing here? their expressions seemed to say. That was the moment we really knew we were in deep do-do. But our GPS indicated we were on what was, at one time anyway, a route to a Rwanda border and that if we kept going we would hit tar road in 13 kilometers. So we kept driving.

FEELING VULNERABLE

Shortly after passing the school we were descending a particularly slippery patch when a small child appeared from out of nowhere and motioned that we should STOP! Conveniently, there was a patch of flattened earth (tamped down former slide) where we could pull off the road. “Camion something-something-something,” said the child while pointing downhill and around the bend. Meanwhile some of the children from the village approached to observe events unfold. “I’ll stay with the car,” I said while Scott started down the muddy track to see why we could not pass Go. Ndoto gathered quite a crowd while Scott was gone. No one spoke English though I’m sure some were remarking how strong Ndoto was. To keep things interesting, I took out my Swahili dictionary which I read aloud, the men who knew some Swahili translating some of the phrases such as “Please, thank you, I am stuck in the mud” and “Do you know where I can find a mechanic?” into Kirundi, the language of Burundi. I have to admit I was a little nervous. Burundi is incredible poor. I think it’s the fifth poorest nation in the world. Most of the children were dressed in dirty and torn clothes. All were barefoot. The Burundi school uniform is made from a dull beige fabric that looks scratchy and hot. Every student wore hand me downs. 
One boy climbed on Ndoto’s ladder and toyed with the zipper on the rooftop tent. “Hey! Hands off the vehicle!”  I didn’t want to loose my cool but I couldn’t let the kids climb all over Ndoto. It wasn’t that I was worried about dents or scratches. (HA!) But Ndoto is like a 7-11 on wheels. All that stuff inside…. It doesn’t matter who we encounter while driving; a policeman, a child, a beggar, or someone we ask for directions, they all stick their head in the car and time stands still while they silently window shop. Sometimes they give voice to what their eyes desire. “Give me some shoes,” said a man working a control gate after he noticed one of Scott’s two pair of shoes (the other pair was on his feet) on a shelf in the rear of the car. “I need my shoes,” said Scott, which the man understood completely so off we drove. When we arrived at our campsite on Lake Tanganyika I said to Scott, “I’m going to make some curtains for the back windows. There is no need to tempt people with our shoes or anything else we have on display." Five days later, when we drove back through the same control gate, Scott’s shoes were hidden from view but the man remembered. Again he said, “Give me some shoes,” and he pointed through the window to the exact spot they sat behind the curtain. He even described them! “Yes, I know they are there!” he said with a big grin. “I still need my shoes,” said Scott so off we drove.
Anyway here I was with quite a crowd of people pressing into Ndoto while Scott was out of sight down the hill. “Madam, I am hungry,” said one of the children. Oh dear. I wanted to unlock the car and give them something. Everything. On board we had pasta, rice, lentils, olive oil, spices, a bag of onions and some canned goods. We also had some packets of crackers. But I would have to pull out bins from underneath to get at any of it. Ndoto and her contents would be at their most vulnerable. And there were so many stomachs! If I put the contents of our mini mart on display I couldn’t think about what might happen. When you drive your own vehicle through Africa, you hear stories. Not always good ones.
I stalled. I have a map of Africa taped to an inside window so we had a geography lesson – countries, capital cities, lakes and rivers. I asked to see the workbook of one of the students; I guessed he was in 5th grade. One of his subjects was anatomy. With a dull pencil tip he had drawn incredibly good representations of lungs and of an appendix. His detailed notes were neatly and beautifully written in French. “These drawings are wonderful! Do you want to be a doctor?” No answer. Anything I asked in English sounded like “blah blah blah doctor?” to the children who spoke no English at all. Seeing his workbook gave me pause. This boy was bright and he appeared to be getting a good education. But not for the fact that he was born in an extremely remote part of impoverished Burundi and not in the North America or Europe or Australia, he might indeed become a doctor.(The thing about Africa is, he might still.)
My tension disappeared. I felt disheartened that this bright boy might not have more opportunity in his short life (life expectancy is 56 years in Burundi). I am sometimes accused of wearing rose-colored glasses in Africa but as times like this, hopelessness washes over and clings to me like used motor oil to a kitten.

Just then Scott arrived explaining that the reason we couldn’t proceed was that the road had washed out and that a truck carrying a ton of sand was stuck in the muck at the bottom of the hill. We weren’t going anywhere until the truck was moved. I walked down to take a look at the truck while Scott stayed with the car. Here’s the scene: men dug around the deeply embedded muddy tires, sometimes taking a shovel-load of what seemed to be precious sand from the back and placing it in front of the tires for traction. The driver tried again and again to accelerate out of the bog. Each time the men (around a dozen) pushed the truck from behind shouting encouragement to the truck and driver. This could take days, I thought. One man spoke a little English. He conveyed that since getting the truck un-stuck would help us too we should contribute to the effort. He was right. I walked back up to the car to discuss our options with Scott. “If it starts to rain,” he said looking up at the sky, “we'll need to turn around and go back towards Bujumbura before we get stuck for good. Or maybe we can camp at the school we passed and try again tomorrow.” In any event, the guys needed water so Scott carried a jug of our water back down the hill. About an hour passed. I went on learning Kirundi and tried to think of a way I could get at those crackers. Also, I wanted to make any food donation just as we were leaving and not before. I kept one ear tuned to the sound of the truck at the bottom the hill. The louder and longer the men shouted the greater was the progress up the track. 

I decided if I could get the children to stand away from the vehicle I could get some food out without them clinging to me. I have observed many teachers in Africa and know that children always obey someone who speaks to them in a particular inflection so I put on my best teacher face, clapped my hands twice, threw my arms out as someone herding geese would and gathered the children into a line on the far side of the road. “Stay here.” I said indicating an invisible line at their toes. I think they thought a very important geography lesson was about to begin because they stood stock-still at rapt attention. As I unlocked the back door they began to inch forward. I shut the door and gently gathered them again to the far side of the road. They got it. I was able to open the door, unload two bins from underneath, extract several packets of biscuits and two bags of lentils, and put the bins away, all while the children waited patiently at the do not pass line. I handed two packets of crackers to the eldest girl and indicated that she should take them to the men working down the hill. After a bit more pantomimed explanation on my part, the children moved in a tight cluster down the road. Every mother the world over knows that when children are too quiet, they are probably doing up to something. The silence was deafening. I walked down the slippery road and as I came around the bend I found the children quietly, quickly, and hungrily dividing the crackers fairly amongst themselves. Just then I heard the truck on the move again, this time with more gusto. The men were shouting as if their team had just scored the winning touchdown at the Super Bowl.  I quickly returned to the car and readied the remaining packets of crackers and bags of lentils to give to the men. The truck groaned past me with all the men, including Scott, shouting and pushing and sweating. Once the truck was on somewhat graspable soil I distributed the crackers and beans to the men. They were as eager as the children had been. One man was particularly interested in the zip lock bag that held the beans and he repeatedly checked that the zip was doing its job.

The rest of what turned out to be 7-hour day on the road was anything but uneventful. After we drove through the quagmire where the truck had temporarily taken root, the track became even more narrow and rutted. It there were to be another vehicle coming the other way it would be impossible to pull off the road. But what am I saying. In six hours we saw a total of 2 vehicles. The stuck truck, and a Toyota Prado. I’m getting used to strange coincidences happening here in Africa so it didn’t surprise me that we encountered the Prado just minutes after we put the Landy into a deep crevice. Ndoto had been nicely straddling an eroded ditch (a ditch deep enough to resemble a mechanic’s bay) in the center of the road when one wall suddenly collapsed inward dropping the passenger side of the Landy three feet down into the rut. Ndoto was in a rut so deep that the right front tire was completely up in the air and the back wheel was splayed out at such a weird angle that I thought we were done for good. No tow truck was coming to rescue us here. As we scrabbled our way out of the vehicle to survey the situation people began appearing from the nearby village. They wanted to help but they wanted money first.  Much discussion in French ensued with Scott interjecting, “First dig, then pay, see?” every few minutes. Once again I felt a little nervous. So many people surrounding Ndoto with her skirt up. And I was frustrated. Why all the talking when we were just getting more bogged by the minute? “Okay! I’ll do it myself,” I announced to the crowd and I began carrying stones and chucking them under the car near the tires. Dead silence. Africans can’t stand to see a muzungu woman toiling while they stand idle. Scott said, “Tris if you would just sit on the hood on the driver's side I think we can drive out of here.” It was at this moment that the Prado rambled up and stopped. I tossed another stone under the car and walked over to the occupants – four well-dressed Burundians on their way to Bujumbura. “Bonjour. Ca va? Parlez vous Anglais?” I asked. Their English was perfect. Ever the optimist I asked, “How is the road in the direction you have come?”

“This road is very bad. I advise you to turn back the way you came, to Bujumbura. Your vehicle cannot drive on this road.” He pointed behind him. “500 meters from here the road has mostly disappeared down the mountain. You will not get through.” Africans don't like giving someone bad news so for him to tell me that it was impossible for us to advance on the road meant he was honestly concerned.
“But you have come that way,” I said.
“Yes, but our car is… stronger.” He meant newer but I got the picture. “And it was very difficult for us to pass. I wasn’t sure we would make it.”
As we spoke, I was unaware that the crowd had grown and, perhaps shamed into action by a stone lugging muzungu woman, had taken action. Suddenly, unbelievably, miraculously Ndoto with Scott at the wheel moved past me. With nothing but sheer brute force, men, boys and soldiers from the village had physically lifted Ndoto out of the ditch and carried her forward on to solid land. I’ve never been so stunned. I looked back into the Prado. They too looked surprised. “Maybe you can get people to help you further ahead when you get stuck but we still advise you to turn back to Bujumbura.” They drove off, the wider wheel base on the Prado negotiating the gap without difficulty.
Scott had distributed our few remaining Burundi francs to the men who had lifted Ndoto and only a young teacher named Innocent and a few children remained. Innocent stayed behind to wish us well. “God Bless you,” he said. 

I conveyed to Scott what the people in the Prado had said about our chances of continuing on the road and that 500 meters ahead was “a very bad patch.” Again Scott walked down the road to investigate while I stayed with the Landy. Ten minutes later he was back. “I think we can manage. Our narrow wheel base will work to our advantage up ahead,” he said with a smile. Plus our GPS insisted there was tar road now only 7 kilometers ahead. “If need be we can walk 7 kilometers to the road,” I said thinking ahead to plan B. Actually I think we were up to plan F by this point.
One boy remained with us. I asked in a mixture of French and pantomime if the road ahead was bon, good. “Non!” he said with feeling. But we carried on, the boy running alongside for a kilometer. Three times he alerted us to stop, get out, and survey the road. Some of the time I walked along with the boy. After we surveyed one curve where the side of the road indeed disappeared down the mountain I walked back to the car to get the camera. The boy, thinking I was going to ride inside with Scott said, “No Madam!” and indicated that I should stay safely next to him. Gallantry lives on in remote Africa! Scott drove slowly around the bend and I did film it but evidently I couldn’t bear to watch. Most of the footage is of the muddy road.

“Fini? No more bad road?” I asked the boy. “Non!” He indicated there was one more obstacle ahead. Again we stopped. It was another slippery uphill blind curve. Ndoto made it halfway around before bogging in the squishy mud. Each time Scott inched forward the boy and I threw large stones under the back tires. Ndoto slid back against the rocks, Scott inched forward and so forth until Ndoto was on solid ground.
“Fini?” I asked again.
“Oui! Yes! Fini!”


The last 6 kilometers were sometimes slippery, sometimes rutted, always narrow and steep. Finally after 7 hair-raising unpredictable hours we could glimpse a group of people and goods at the crest of a hill. One last steep upgrade with a hairpin right turn at the top and we joined the illusive tar road. I thought I would ask Scott to stop the car so I could get out and kiss the ground but the road though tarred was still incredibly steep so it was best to carry on. Plus, I’ve been French-kissed by a giraffe, which is as icky as you can imagine but I’m sure kissing a tar road in Africa would be far ickier.

“You’re incredible,” I said to Scott as we chugged uphill. All through the day with every rut, every bend, every bog my admiration for Scott grew.  “Nothing today has fazed you one bit.”
“It was fun!” he said. “What a great day!” Scott exclaimed as we rounded the bend.
I looked at him with wonder. My heart swelled. How did I manage to luck out with such a man? “I’m so turned on right now,” I said reaching over to give him a squeeze. But the road was relentless so eyes ahead, we concentrated on our ascent to Rwanda.
An hour later we arrived at the Burundi-Rwanda Frontier with no other issues other than having to add a quart, or two, of oil halfway there.

That night in Butare we celebrated with a Primus, or two, before bedtime.





Saturday, January 11, 2014

Car Ferry From Entebbe to Ssese Islands is Out of Service Until Feb or Mar 2014

Uganda Africa Traveler Update:

The car ferry from Entebbe to the Ssese Islands on Lake Victoria in Uganda has just gone OUT OF SERVICE for a few months. The Passenger ferry is still running but if you want to take your vehicle, you must take the (very nice and free) passenger and car ferry out of Masaka (Nyendo). The ferry, The Pearl, docks at Bukakata. Journey to Bugala Island takes only 30 minutes. Ship leaves promptly. Don't be late!

A nice place to camp is at the Ssese Island Hotel near Kalangala.

Note that the Hornbill Camp is CLOSED. German ex-pat owner has been imprisoned on the island for the last 5 weeks. He and his wife Tina ran Hornbill Camp for 18 years but a property dispute with the resort next door (The Pearl) resulted in the Hornbill Camp being smashed to bits in December 2013 just as guests rose for breakfast.

If you visit the island any time soon stop in and give Dika your support or just say hi. In any event, a visit to a Ugandan Prison especially the one on Bugala Island where some of the prisoners are free range and ducks quack around the feet of the inmates, can be interesting.

Teresa
Jinja, Uganda

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Rainy Season Red Lagoon Roads of Zambia




The day started out badly with the discovery of a broken spring leaf. Then Scott sneezed and farted at the same time – never a good idea when your drinking water comes from Lake Tanganyika.
We had a long drive ahead of us from Ndole Bay to Kasama on one of the worst roads in Zambia. After two hours of organ rearranging dips and drops at an average speed of 19 kilometers an hour we hadn’t gotten very far. Suddenly we began hearing a swarming mass of cicadas all around us. Only it wasn’t cicadas, it was our vehicle. In the past when the Landy makes “funny” sounds like whirring or grinding or ticking we look at each other and say, “Let’s give it a moment and see if it stops.” Usually the sound disappears without us ever knowing what caused it. But this time the hissing was accompanied by extreme heat coming from below the gear stick – so extreme that when we stopped the Landy at the top of a rise I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the back. We were between sparsely populated villages and nothing was on the road but lagoon size potholes so we began to explore the source of the noise and heat. I started looking through the three Land Rover manuals we have on board while Scott looked under the car. The closest thing to the cicada noise I could find in the manual was “loud whirring”. “It might be the gear box,” I said, “maybe we’re low on fluid.”
“Oh no.” Scott said from beneath the car. “We lost the plug, the bolt that holds the fluid in. It must have been ejected on that really bad pothole back there.”
“Which pothole? The first one, or one of the 193 after?”
We searched through our collection of jiggled off nuts, bolts and screws in the toolbox trying to find a close match. No luck. So we began looking for a bolt we could steal from somewhere else on the vehicle. The ones connecting the bumper were too small. The high lift jack bolt was almost the right size but when Scott tried it, it wouldn’t catch the threads. A while later, two men came along. Once we explained/pantomimed the problem, they wanted to help. At first they just got under the car with Scott and watched what he did. Then they joined me topside in looking for a bolt to poach from somewhere else on the car. They didn’t speak English but hearing Scott ask me for various tools and watching him they quickly saw the advantages of our equipment and they began requesting “vice grip”, “spanner”, and “wrench” as if they were medics on the TV series M.A.S.H. demanding sutures or a scalpel STAT!

Dennis unscrewed the bolt holding the bumper. “See? Too small,” Scott repeated showing them the size we needed. 
Meanwhile three more men toting hoes and machetes came along the road. When Dennis saw them he quickly covered the tools and toolbox with our small tarp and communicated with “no no” hands and a low voice that it wouldn’t be a good idea for these men to see our valuables. But the men stopped and soon Dennis’ desire to find a bolt that would match won out over his concern so the tools came out and the bolt from the high lift jack came off again. I remarked to one of the recent arrivals that I liked his unbelievably shiny lilac colored shoes with a silver orb and cross buckle. Immediately they looked at my shoes, an old pair of Keens. I could tell they were discussing the merits of owning such a pair of shoes. Often Africans we meet ask us to give them our shoes. They all stared at my feet and I knew they would have asked for them if they knew the words. I could tell that one of them said, “Eee! But her feet are too big anyway!” because they all laughed and went back to watching Scott or unscrewing bolts on the car. Scott found a likely replacement in at the bottom of his toolbox but it was too thick and far too long so he got out the saw and began cutting through the metal by hand. Only a man would think of this. He put one foot on top of the bumper, placed the too long bolt under his left foot and sawed. Sweat dripped from his face and his blue t-shirt, covered with red earth from lying under the car became damp. Dennis took over sawing and after ten more minutes we had a shorter length of threads. “Everybody, pray!” I said. But it was too big so out came the saw again to slice a channel at the top. “Maybe I can squeeze it in,” Scott hoped. 
But it was still too big. In the end, he used the bolt off the high lift jack, which was too small, but he fashioned a sleeve from a piece of spare gas hose that gave the bolt enough bite to hold. Meanwhile I had been looking through the manuals for the location of where to add gearbox fluid (miraculously, we had an almost full, never used, jug of gearbox fluid with us). “OK, ‘the filter plug is located at the rear of the transfer box’,” I said reading from the manual, item 37-2.
I dug out the little funnel we use to fill our water bottles and Dennis and the four other men made one end of the gas hose fit into the funnel neck by slicing away the plastic sheath using Scott’s Leatherman knife. There was discussion about the odd looking tool, the knife and it’s sharpness. They poured the really stinky fluid in to the funnel while Scott, under the car again, held the low end of the gas hose to the fill plug opening. 
It took ages for two liters to find it’s way to the gearbox and when the funnel was empty for the last time, Dennis even put his lips on the hose and blew the last dregs of oil down the tube. “Uh, that stuff is toxic,” I said while bent over and fake puking. “It’ll make you sick.” Dennis wiped his lips and another of the men brought me the dust filled top end of a small water bottle, cap in place and asked for a little oil. “Bicycle,” he said. He used his shirt to wipe out the dust but you couldn’t tell afterwards because his shirt, like the shirts of all the men, had long ago took on the rusty red color of the roads of Zambia’s rainy season. Two and a half hours had passed.

“Zicomo! Thank you!" we said. A little money and a box of Eet Sum More biscuits was appreciated, but they squealed with enthusiasm when I said I would take their photo in front of the Landy. 

Off we went, stopping every 5 then 10 then 40 kilometers to make sure the McGiver-ed bolt was holding. “I’ve been waiting for the third bad thing to happen today and now it has,” said Scott.
“Three? I can only think of two, the broken spring and now the gearbox. What’s the third thing?”I asked.
“When I sneeze-farted,” he said.
“Oh, you’re right. That’s the turd thing.”
The road only became worse. Our final destination kept changing, as the day grew longer.
We hoped to make it to the town of Mporokosa, a large, dusty, out in the middle of nowhere town, before dark, and we did. We stopped at the only accommodation listed in our GPS, The Holiday Rest House. It was Friday night and eight men sat on the porch of the hotel drinking beer. The place had a weird vibe but beggars can’t be choosy so Scott went inside to inquire if we could camp there. Meanwhile, I watched the men on the porch and the few women lingering around the men. I began to sense that the Holiday Rest House wasn’t what it seemed. Yep, we had pulled in to the “No-tell Motel.” We had camped on the grounds of a brothel in Addis Ababa Ethiopia once and I wasn’t excited about a repeat. As Scott walked back over to the car, a heavily intoxicated man, with the most blood shot eyes I’ve ever seen, met him at my window and, with all the concentration he could muster said, “I would advise you not to stay here tonight.”
“Oh. Really? Why?”  
“I am a teacher by profession and I have to advise you that it would be better if you do not stay here tonight. It's not...safe” he said coming up with the best word he could think of to convince us to leave and making him our second Good Samaritan of the day. We drove away knowing that now we would have to bush camp. 
At 5:30 we began looking for a good bush camp – secluded, off the road, not close to a village. But we discovered that while there was plenty of seclusion – the bush was like a jungle – the earth was so sticky from the rains that we were sure to get bogged once we pulled off the road. Driving after dark in Africa is never the best idea but we hadn’t seen any wildlife and the route was not heavily populated by people so we were unlikely to hit anything, and in 10 hours we had seen only 5 other vehicle so risk of a head on was minimal, so we kept driving. The road continued to be a backbreaking chain of rusty red lagoon sized potholes inexplicably interspersed with short sections of brand new tarmac. Every time we found ourselves on tarmac our sails filled with wind again and we’d say, “If it’s like this, we might as well drive all the way to Kasama!” Then we would suddenly be on a road so deeply potholed that we felt like a ship being tossed side to side by stormy seas.
  At 10PM, after 15 hours on the road, the thing we have most worried about the entire trip happened. The road suddenly became a ravine that was narrowing to a chasm. The driver side wheels dropped into the abyss and N’doto heaved heavily to the right. “Nooooo! Hang on, we’re going over!” Scott said struggling with the steering wheel and willing N’doto to take flight. I held tight to the window frame and braced my feet against the floor. Just as we could feel the momentum of no return, THUD!, the front right wheel sank deeply into a hole and we came to an abrupt, 30-degree angle, stop. We sat in silence. Scott was trapped, his door up against the ravine wall.  It was decide that I would climb out to see the damage. The tire was stuck in deep. There was no way we were driving forward. “Maybe we can back up.” But the car wouldn’t start. Then, a miracle. After only ten minutes we could see headlights coming towards us. I’m ashamed to say that my first thought was “Will they help us, or hurt us.” Soon a van stopped above us. Four well-dressed Good Samaritan Zambians came over. “We’re stuck,” I said. Scott called, “Hello!” from inside the car and crawled out the passenger side door. One of the men suggested we push the car backwards. I got behind the steering wheel but the the car wouldn’t budge. We were bogged in tight and the angle wasn’t helping any either. “How about a jack?” another man asked. One bolt shy from our earlier repair, it was easy to detach the high lift jack from the rear of the car. Three women appeared from the van and began collecting stones to place under the front wheel. The jack was released and after 10 minutes the car finally started. I put it in reverse and drove backwards along the narrow valley trying to keep the wheels from sliding back down while the driver of the van directed, “Now turn your wheels like this,” he said using his hands. “Now go straight back!” When it felt like N’doto was going over again I whimpered and Mulunga pointed at Scott and said, “Now I think he should drive.” Once Scott was behind the wheel it was decided that climbing the bank and going forward might be better than reversing. I held my breath as Scott revved the engine and the Landy labored up the bank. While Scott drove onto flat road I thanked Mulunga for stopping. “I’m a nurse”, he said, “I had to stop. Your vehicle was at such an angle I thought someone might be hurt.” (We’re completely fine, only had to change our undies.)

Two hours later, around midnight, after 16 hours on the road, exhaust pipe growling, cracked spring leaf shuddering, gearbox kaput, we bush camped just outside the one traffic light size town of Kasama. “Without days like this, it wouldn’t be a true Africa overland adventure,” said Scott with a smile as we climbed into our rooftop tent.
As uncomfortable and sometimes scary the day had been we felt strangely satisfied with the way things had worked out. We had kept our cool, problem solved nicely (I just kept asking myself, What would Martha O’Kane do?), and met a lot of nice people who didn’t ask us for anything. A lot more good than bad had come from the experience. It still is a Safari Jema. And the next morning serendipity – always a theme in our travels – struck big. The one auto shop in town is owned and run by Michael a Zambian who drove, built, owned, and maintained several old Landys just like ours over the years. “I can rebuild a gearbox blindfolded!” he said. He’s a great guy and the parts and labor are more than reasonable so we took a room at the Kasama Lodge (where all the other guests are Zambian Government officials) and we’re getting a laundry list of repairs and delayed maintenance done on the car over the next few days before heading into Tanzania and Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. South Sudan, the newest country in the world, is on the list of “want to go” but we’ll decide that after we get information on the condition of the one road in the entire country. It wouldn’t be hard to get lost but we’re not excited about subjecting the Landy to any more part breaking roads than we have to.

Onward!

Scott and Tris
Kasama, Zambia