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Different sort of day

Stage 59 (40): soccer field (Mukonka Primary School) to Lusaka

It’s rained during the early portion of the night but had cleared by midnight or so when I ventured out for the usual reason. The stars are providing a brilliant display tonight. The tent repairs held, with only a bit of water getting in by morning, I think primarily from condensation. Everything outside is damp upon waking, but at least prevailing clear skies above. Packing up in the dark, and thinking it all through overnight, I decided to take the day off from cycling and will ride the mother truck straight to camp; I feel that I need a two-day rest to recover somewhat. Even with a decent sleep this past night, I’m tired.


It’s therefore a different sort of morning for me, seeing the others push off by 6:30; in fact, several will do a half day from the lunch stop into camp, while others will ride only so far as that same lunch spot. Listening to the talk all round me, everyone is tired it seems. David will ride the mother truck with me into camp; his back is giving him grief. As it turns out, we’ve gone only 20 km or so before we’re flagged down by M, who hops on board as well; her knee acting up and visibly swollen.


Riding the truck gives me a different view of the countryside, not the least because I’m at least twice as high up as being on a bicycle. The 60 km to lunch takes us up through rolling hills (southern end of the Muchinga escarpment?) up onto the interior plain of Zambia. Once we get into the Chongwe District and especially west from there, much more development, and a significant increase in traffic. It’s still a narrow two lane road, having only a minor shoulder if any over the next 40+ km until the route turns off the Great East into the northeast suburbs of Lusaka. From there, it’s close to 25 km of multiple zig zags through mostly quiet streets, and some busier avenues, to reach the Eureka Camping Park, about 10 kms south of the Lusaka city centre.


I’m able to spend the morning thinking about my ride, overall; I can’t deny that I’m disappointed in being tired enough to feel that I need to be on this truck. Maybe at one point, a few years back, I harboured delusions of achieving an EFI ride. But on the other hand, even sitting here, I can feel that I needed the rest. I reflect on the reasons for this trip - it wasn’t to cycle the continent, it was to see and experience Africa. The goal was and remains to transect, north to south or east to west, Africa. That’s what I’m after. So I’m enjoying the opportunity provided to sit on my butt (without pedalling) for the morning and see what’s out there.


I wonder again why there are so many unfinished buildings, residential and what I take to be small industrial-purposed buildings. Walls up, but nothing else, no roof, and the grounds overgrown . What caused the owner or developer to abandon? I’m talking about hundred of buildings, collectively - literally a normal sight each and every day. And dozens of what have to be unfinished petrol stations - what’s all that about?

There are so many churches and schools, particularly here in Zambia but also in Malawi and Tanzania. Virtually countless numbers of both. So many of the schools have uncompleted buildings, as well. The few schools into which I’ve poked my nose have empty, and I mean empty, rooms. And thousands of kids. So many kids. What’s to become of them.

The commercial area of the various towns and villages seem focussed along the main road; perhaps that’s inevitable as the main road is the only one with a paved surface. But often there’s little or no sign of back streets or alleyways. While having lots of small shops, these settlements still have dozens of street side vendors with their small display of goods; one hardly ever sees anyone obviously purchasing anything.


I see toll booths here in Zambia for ‘sustainable road development’ according to the signage. Potholes are being filled in by hand using crushed aggregate and sand. No sign of even cold asphalt applied over top of what have be really temporary fills.


For tens of kilometres, we’ve seen road side crews cutting back the tall grass along the verge using hand machete. It’s got to be back-breaking work and painfully slow compared to more mechanical methods like a weed wacker or bladed mower. Is it just a public works project? On the other hand, it employs a lot of people, and it certainly does the job. Maybe this is an appropriate technology and use of manpower after all, in this situation.


Well - too many questions, not enough answers.


We arrive at Eureka camp a little after noon; 2-3 of the fast riders are already in as well, and a few more roll in very soon after. Well done to those guys, for sure. I’ve grabbed a 2-bed chalet for the two nights we’ll be here; will share with Jim. The open afternoon allows plenty of time to dry out the tent and all else needing it, and get my laundry organized. Basically get everything needing doing, done, save the bike which I’ll save for tomorrow. I even manage a very short nap before heading out for dinner.

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