(65) Blood, sweat, safaris and tears
Monday 15th July
We all had a good night’s sleep after a long day. It didn’t take long to pack the bikes and put the kettle on. We sat and ate toast looking forward to the ride to South Luangwe National park. The campsite we were in in Chipata was a nice place to relax out of the hustle and bustle of the town. We waved goodbye to the staff and rode down the dirt track to the road. We turned into the garage to pick up fuel before heading into town to pick up extra food for our stay at the park.
The campsite in Chipata
We started our ride up into town climbing the hill to the centre. The next thing we know we hear Sharon shouting and Tim and Andrew turn to see a car pushing her rear pannier and knocking her off her bike. It happened so slowly. The guy wasn’t driving fast but didn’t react very fast either. Sharon hit the ground and the guy pulled over just up the road. Andrew checked Sharon which gave Tim the opportunity to make sure the driver didn’t do a runner. He ran down to Sharon to see blood on her face and on the floor. She was in shock and complaining about seeing flashing lights. Andrew had passed her his red spotted snotty hanky and we checked to see the damaged. It looked like a small cut above her eye that would need stitches. A guy came over and told us he had called the police and an ambulance. We thanked him and very soon an ambulance arrived. It turned around in the road and as it reversed it knocked over Tim’s bike which Andrew grabbed before it hit the ground. It was unbelievable.
Sharon got in the ambulance and Tim and Andrew arranged to see Sharon at the hospital while we dealt with the police. As the ambulance drove off with its lights flashing instead of a siren a man said over a loud speaker “move out of the way, we are going to the hospital” which he then continued to repeat all the way there. The police arrived and flagged down a pickup to take Tim and Andrew to the station with all the bikes. While Andrew looked after the bikes, Tim went with the police to the hospital to see Sharon. She looked pretty dazed and after being stitched up and given headache tablets we had to then find someone who could give Sharon a tetanus injection as the hospital didn’t have any – they also didn’t have any gauze either so we had to get some out of our first aid kit.
The bikes at the police station with the prisoners looking on
The police drove us back to the station where they told us that the driver would now need to assist us in taking us to get Sharon a tetanus injection and as we were in transit it may be easier to sort out any costs for our day with him directly. We left Andrew again and found ourselves in the vehicle that had just hit Sharon complete with the driver. After getting over the shock of sitting in his car, the driver turned to Tim and said –
“Do you have a driver’s licence?’
Tim – “Yes why?”
Driver – “I wondered if you could drive as I’m feeling a bit nervous”
We weren’t surprised he was feeling nervous – Tim declined. There was a problem with his car’s engine and he was shaking from what had happened and he had no fuel. So after a trip to the garage to get fuel with the car shuddering, it was decided to return to the police station and take another vehicle. By this time Andrew had been taken back to the campsite in a pick- up which had now returned and could take us to the clinic. Sharon’s headache was getting worse and all she wanted to do was lie down in a dark room. The next problem was the guy had to get money out to pay for the tetanus so we had to go via the bank. After what felt like an eternity we were taken back to the campsite where we dropped Sharon off to rest and they drove Tim and Andrew into town so we could get food for the day. We couldn’t believe where the day had gone but at least the driver stopped and he was willing to pay for another night at the campsite and a contribution to food. He looked pretty gutted and we weren’t there to take advantage of a bad day.
Andrew and Tim returned to the camp to find Sharon resting still with a headache but feeling ok. We were so thankful she hadn’t broken anything or her bike. We just hoped she would be ok for the morning. With the shopping done we cooked up sausage, mash and beans with fried onions to cheer Sharon up and yoghurt for pudding and felt lucky we had somewhere nice to rest.
Tuesday 16th July
We were woken by the large group of world challenge kids that had turned up the night before. They weren’t noisy; it was just that when you’re in a tent you can hear most things. Sharon was looking a lot more spritly but still had a headache. We packed our things and got the kettle on. We took it easy having breakfast and set off around 9. The road was quieter and with a full bag of food we turned left down the highway for a short distance before turning right towards the park. Within in a mile or so we spotted a great looking stall selling lots of bike stuff. We bought Andrew a noisy hooter for his bike which he used to make passers-by jump! We stopped again shortly after for Tim to help re-position a bag of maize on an old guys bike that must have weighed 50kg
These guys really loaded their bikes!
A great bike ‘stall’
Andy and Shaz
It was 75 miles to the park and although we would take it easy we would try and cover most of it so we would arrive early the next day to make the most of the park. Sharon was struggling as she still had a sore head so we stopped after 25 miles to have dinner outside a church. It was a good spot and with some cheese left and an unopened pot of runner bean chuckney we made sandwiches and soup.
The road had turned to dirt so Sharon rode Snowy for the rest of the day as it was a lighter bike to make it a bit easier. We picked up bananas from the roadside and Sharon practised her Spanish with Andrew in preparation for South America. Shaz and Andrew stopped at the side of the road to fix a puncture with ‘the help’ of a drunk local who asked for money afterwards but he certainly hadn’t earned a tip as he had repeatedly hindered the process!
Riding the dirt road that was under construction
Fixing a puncture in the dirt
They had been so engrossed in their Spanish lesson that they’d lagged behind – Tim was a mile or so ahead and had stopped to chat to some locals while he waited. They had invited us all to stay at their camp – they were anti-poaching guards and we noticed a couple of them looked like they had been drinking all day but they seemed like nice guys. We rode into the dusty yard with a few mud huts scattered around and pitched the tent. There were a load of kids who came out to watch and were very polite. We cooked on our stove until it ran out of fuel so they came over with a charcoal burner and as we cooked our meal. Tim noticed Andrew’s water bottle was very close to the stove and as he moved it one side had melted, now being useless he gave it to the kids who thought it was the best thing ever! A fire was lit for us so once we finished our dinner; we sat around it and chatted until it was time to sleep. With only about 25 miles to cover the following day, we hoped to be there early the following day.
Enjoying an open fire
Wednesday 17th July
We all slept well and woke with the sun on the tent and the sound of women sweeping the ground. We put our bags outside and loaded the bikes. As soon as we were spotted by the guys they came over and sat on little wooden stools to watch us. We cooked our toast and jam and said our thanks. Still looking drunk we said goodbye and one guy asked if we had any money for a drink. We said we were ok thankyou thinking that it wasn’t a great idea having a drunk anti-poaching guard around in charge of a gun.
With 25 miles to cover we got on the road heading west towards the park. We passed loads of really big baobab trees – they are protected in Zambia. The dirt road was hot and dusty and as we passed a small town we spotted a sewing machine to get some clothes fixed and saw it as a good excuse to have a cold drink. A couple cokes later our ruck sack, silk liner, Tim’s shorts, Sharon’s trousers and thermarest bag were all fixed for a matter of £2. We turned onto a tarmacked road and started to climb.
We passed a pub on the way and with only 2 miles to go we stopped for a couple beers. It was great to relax and have a laugh – Sharon was nearly back on form! We stopped at another impressive baobab tree – they were just getting bigger and bigger.
An impressive baobab tree
We rode on and turned off the road towards the camp. Within a few hundred metres Andy shouted excitedly ‘I see an elephant’ and shot off across the road into the bush. Sure enough across the large pond was an elephant and in front of us was a hippo and impala. There was even a eagle in the tree. It was brilliant.
‘I see an elephant!’
We rode on not really knowing what other animals were lurking in the bush and arrived at the camp. There was one tree platform left at the camp so we soon had our tents up there! There were a few monkeys running around so we had to keep our food out of reach and then walked over to the river to check out the hippos and crocodile’s.
2 ‘lesser spotted’ cycle tourists walking to their favourite drinking hole
It was incredible. There were crocs on the riverbank, loads of hippos in the water and a load on the shore basking in the sun, with different birds flying up and down – we hadn’t even entered the park yet. We sat drinking a cold drink while watching from an arm chair. It was possible to walk to the water’s edge, but we decided this wasn’t such a good idea. After a couple of beers, we headed back to our camp, cooked dinner and charged our battery’s when just as Sharon had gone to bed an elephant walked just below us and was feeding on the trees. It was amazing and so close. We had booked a couple of game drives for the next day we headed to bed ready for a day of excitement.
Our tree camp
Thursday 18th July
After being woken by a hippo grazing on the lawn 20 metres from our tree house, we woke at 5 am to have breakfast before heading out into the park. We had booked 2 drives, 1 in the morning and 1 sunset drive. We headed out of our camp, over the river and past many different deer and impala. As the sun rose the colours were amazing spotting loads more hippos.
On the drive – notice Cowburt and Mini-me got the best seats…
Just to the right we saw a few vehicles that were stopped looking at something. We went over to see what all the excitement was about and we were thrilled to see it was a leopard watching some deer. It was stunning but as a few of the drivers kept driving in its line of sight it felt pretty invasive. We sat and watched it for a while before leaving it to its hunt.
A leopard hunting
We stopped for a break next to the river with deer and zebra grazing on a large wide pasture behind us, hippos in the river and loads of crocs on the bank. Sharon refused to swim across the river for 10 Zambian Kwacha (about £1.50) – we figured she was holding out for a few more pounds before her swim. We continued on spotting elephants, giraffes, zebras and impala.
A stunning young giraffe
A herd of Zebra
A stunning blue bird
It was incredible how we were sat in an open top vehicle with so many dangerous animals and they didn’t even seem to notice us. We slowly headed out of the park and back to camp for a drink. It had been great fun and we were looking forward to our night drive. We relaxed for the rest of the day, catching up on sleep, reading and Tim took a short swim in the pool.
We had lunch trying to fend off the monkeys. Suddenly one ran across through where we were sitting and up into the trees. We didn’t think it had got anything but then a label dropped down from the tree and then a few minutes later a nearly empty pot of peanut butter fell to the floor. The little monkey we shouted as it ran to the pot and many more soon joined in as they fought for their turn. We cleared up and with the evening drive starting at 4pm we took our food back into the camp kitchen and met our guide and driver.
Off on a sunset hunt!
We headed back into the park to see even bigger herds of elephants and were told they had been reduced from 80,000 to 36,000 because they were so destructive. Whilst watching them we saw some giraffes in the distance. As we got closer we saw more and more. There were about 20 of them all of different ages. They were amazing. We made our way to a spot to have a break and watch the sun set before turning on the spot light to see all the night animals.
An elephant walking through a tree striped plain
A giraffe at sunset
A stunning sunset over the park
It didn’t take long before a hyena walked towards us. We had heard so many in East Africa whilst inside our tent but we had never seen one – they looked like tough animals. Hyenas are actually scavengers so will fight other animals for their kill. You have to be tough to fight off a lion!
The scavenger of the bush
After that they seemed to be every where. The spotter picked up the reflection of their eyes along with impalas and other deer. We were hoping to see another leopard or maybe a lion and after lots of searching we finally spotted another leopard. It looked so powerful but also so calm. It had just eaten and didn’t seem to mind the vehicles around it.
A leopard digesting its kill
After about 5 minutes, we left it alone and went off to look for lions but with no luck we headed back to camp passing a few hippos on the way. It had been a great day and were all looking forward to having dinner in the lodge with sticky toffee pudding for dessert.
Friday 19th July
We were woken in the night by a herd of elephants tearing the trees apart behind us. It was amazing to see them from our tree house even though our eyes were trying to stay closed. We all got up around 8am and Tim put the kettle on. We sat enjoying toast and chatted about the last few days in the park. We couldn’t believe how fast time had gone and we wished we had more time. Tim backed up our photos on both of our hard drives ready for one to go back with Andrew.
Relaxing in our tree house
Tim and Andrew grabbed a few things to head into the village. It was only a short distance and involved riding a mile out to the main road and into town. Sharon was left to fend off the monkeys! No sooner had they left the gate they were stopped by an elephant crossing in front of them. They let it pass, and then they saw a safari vehicle stopped taking pictures as another elephant came out of the bushes. They waited for the vehicle to cross the bridge and spoke to the driver who said there was a large herd and that it was to dangerous to go out. They waited for a while whilst watching the elephants looking at them before slowly walking on. They had a moment when a large male stood for a long time waving his ears staring but soon got bored and continued on.
Andrew and his new friend
They questioned their decision after seeing a tower of giraffes getting closer to the road. As they were about to turn and return to the camp a local guy on a bike arrived and said to watch out for the giraffes. With no mention of any other animal they left feeling happy with what they had seen and headed into town with the remainder on the giraffes running off in to the bush in front of them. It was fun riding with no panniers looking around stopping for a coke and relaxing. They stopped at a cafe to find it wasn’t a cafe anymore but a place where the local people turn banana plants into paper. It was great seeing how they did it. They headed back to camp with eggs and vegetables for lunch spotting the elephants off inthe distance and the giraffes down by the river. They rode into camp to make lunch and pack up. Sharon had also had a visit from the elephants who nearly walked right under the tree house.
We had arranged a lift back to Chipata on a private minibus and when it arrived; we loaded the 3 bikes and all our kit in making us think what a nightmare it would have been traveling with our bikes on public transport and how easy it was to get around by bike.
Packing our kit
After some careful positioning we had everything in and were off passing the same herd of elephants now walking along by a large green leaf clad pond. The road seemed worse in the minibus and with long sections on corrugations the road felt longer. It took almost 3 hours to cover the 74 miles back to the campsite at Chipata but leaving early had given us enough time to quickly put the tent up and head into town to pick up some money and a few bits ready for the next day.
The minibus was named after Shaz!
We spent the rest of the evening enjoying our last evening with Andrew, eating burger and chips with a couple beers. It had been so great to go on a safari and we realised how addictive they could be! We were so pleased to have shared it with a great friend. It had felt just like we were on a normal holiday having a laugh and we even managed to jump out on Andrew a couple of times. It was going to be sad the following day as we would be heading in opposite directions and hard to say goodbye.
Saturday 20th July
It was a cold night and a cool morning and we got up feeling sad Andrew would be leaving us. We packed our things as he swooped his cycling shoes with Tim’s as Tim’s were falling apart. Tim insisted they would be fine when Andrew tried them on and his toes came out the end. We made the usual toast and jam and seeing as it was our last morning, it was Andrew’s turn to butter and spread the jam on the toast. We had a few thank you letters to write as we had been sent some amazing pressies – chocolate being one of them of-course. Andrew noticed he had picked up a puncture so while he fixed that we packed the rest of our things. We chatted to a lovely English couple who lived in Nairobi called Sue and Colin but it was hard to chat properly as we had to do many small jobs before setting off. We finally rode out of the camp and down the drive to the highway.
Leaving ‘Dean’s place’ campsite
We took a moment to thank Andrew for all he had done and for coming out to ride with us. It had been brilliant fun and we seemed to have done so much in such a short time – we would really miss him. We waved goodbye and watched as he rode off through Chipata to the Malawi border to catch a flight home the following day.
Shaz holding back the tears as Andrew rode off in the other direction
We chatted together about our time as we rode south west towards the capital Lusaka and as the road climbed and fell we thought of all the things we had done and seen.
Shaz on the climb
We stopped after 15 miles for a coke and rode on till 1 and spotted a narrow track off the road to have lunch. We decided to make it brief as we wanted to get past the town of Kasete at a major road junction that leads to Mozambique. We finished our peanut butter sandwiches and got going. The road rose and fell slightly with long straights. We had been told the scenery was bland in Zambia but so far it was really nice and the people were making it better. We stopped late afternoon for another coke and with another 15 miles to go until the junction, we got our heads down. The road was good but we could have done with a hard shoulder as the traffic was busy.
The road with a distinct lack of a hard shoulder!
We finally reached the junction and picked up oranges, bread, water and a drinking yogurt which was delicious and headed out of town to find a camp. The sun was starting to set so after 5 miles we spotted open fields out to our right with hardly anyone on the road. We rode off the road and over the ridges with a few ladies watching from a distance. We went in around 400 metres and found a good spot to pitch and with the moon almost full we didn’t even need our torches. As we packed our things in the tent, Tim got ready to lock the bikes only to find Andrew had still got the lock from the day before. It made us wonder where he was and if he had had a good ride to Lilongwe. We were missing him!
Thanks for reading!