Chipata, Zambia: (Day 2) Dec-12-2013

Wow, did I have an interesting night last night!  I went to bed pretty much as soon as my head touched the pillow.  We had put our flies up because we thought it might rain.  Around 11:30 I was woken by an EXTREME storm.  My tent was not staked into the ground and my fly was acting like a kite...I felt at times I was going to lift off.  I had forgotten to roll down the windows on 2 sides of the tent, though the fly covered them up well.  However, the door was left open and the fly did not do a great job covering up the opening.  I was enjoying the breeze too much that I had forgotten to prepare for rain prior to going to bed.  The other campers went to shower prior to going to bed, though I just washed my face, hands, and brushed my teeth outside the tent.  I'll set a goal of showering every other day...we'll see if I can stick to it.

THE STORM HITS HARD:  I made sure to push all my belonging towards the middle of the tent...also made sure my mattress and sleeping bag were not touching the sides.  I didn't mind the booming thunder, heavy winds, or sounds of the occasional hail--however I wasn't too keen on getting flooded.  I knew that the vast majority of water coming into my tent was coming straight through the exposed front mesh door.  When I first discovered my tent was getting wet I considered going outside and closing the front door.  However I knew this meant I would have to get up and open the front door flap--thus leaving my tent fully exposed to the elements.  I would also get wet in the process.  I figured it was just best to wait it out and protect my belongings.  I MEAN HOW LONG COULD THIS KEEP UP?  Answer:  longer than expected.  It probably stormed for 1.5 hours.  I haven't been in a thunder storm this bad in a long time.  However, I would say that at least 4 of the last 5 times that I've gone camping it had stormed.  I made sure to have a drop sheet, a staked-down tent, and tightly applied fly.  So for those times I was 100% dry.

I was tired and kept drifting off to sleep every 3-5 minutes.  I was so comfortable on my heavy-weight provided mattress and inflatable foam pillow--though I would jerk myself awake, using some type of untapped self-discipline and re-check the water level in my tent periodically.  I moved my belongings around accordingly.  I had all my things with me in my day sack, overnight sack, and a bunch of clothing/gear that was unpacked from my bags.  As the night progressed  I was unable to keep all my things dry so I had make some decisions.  I felt like I was playing a very non-fun version of Tetris--trying to arrange all my oddly shaped things into areas that were not flooded.  Eventually I had to abandon all hopes of the storm stopping and just accept the fact that the entire surface of my tent could/would fill with a cm of water.  I had light weight items in bags, my camera and other tech equipment in my sea-to-summit wet sack.  My rain poncho, Monkey Man Grid fleece jacket, and hat were placed in my semi-waterproof packing sack.  I thought about putting my waterproof covers on both my bags and just flipping them over so that the covers were laying in the water.  However I doubt that they would prevent all water from getting in.  Eventually I started curling up into a progressively shrinking ball on my mattress.  Where I made extra room on my mattress went my stuff.  The rain stopped and I felt comfortable with how my things were I went to bed again.

Woke up at 4:30am and I packed up my bags and got dressed for the day--all this while keeping myself and all my stuff on my small mat.  I was happy to finally get out of that soaked tent.  My bags got fairly soaked, but luckily all my important stuff/clothing remained dry.  I'll attribute that to my superior packing skills.

Breakfast included a couple types of wheat cereals (w/o flavoring/sweetener) and milk that didn't have to be refrigerated.  I also had bananas and sliced bread.  I packed a banana along with a Pb&J sandwich for the road after trying a bit of the cereal.  By the time I packed up my tent, fly, mattress, and bags in the truck it was time to leave.  We hit the road by 6:00am.  I slept for ~3 hours and when I woke up I listened to more of my book, "Starship Trooper".  I have also been talking to Paul, the Aussie.  We talked about corporate tax evasion and, of course, Apple was top subject.

Ann Marie, Sonia, and Paul Stretching their Legs in a Local Village
We made a stop in a very small village by the side along the road long with two 'bush' toilet stops.  The village we stopped at was named after the river that was nearby, The Gwangwa River.  We broke for lunch at 12:30 and had leftovers from last night + some mangos.  I've also played Yahtzee with Vincent for a bit as well.  I'm still sitting in the front of the bus as we're rotating seats clockwise every day.  Looks like I'll be ok for the first week of our trip, which is great since that's when we do a lot of driving.  Today is supposed to be 10-14 hours of driving and we've already been on the road for ~7 hours.  We should be making good time, but our guide said things will slow up once we get closer to Chipata.

Some of the others, who had stayed in rooms, were complaining about having spiders in their showers/beds.  Two others said they woke up and found snakes in their rooms.  At least with the tents I know that I will be sleeping alone.

Africa is a very very 3rd-world region.  For example, in Cambodia, India, and Loa internet was prolific.  Here it's incredibly slow and that's only when it's at a nice hotel or very touristy area.  Even the poorest cities in Asia had restaurants and cafes, etc.  They were not just holes in the walls.  I think some of it is due to the African lifestyle but a larger part may be that the types of tourists that come by here are only here for a short period of time--a quick in and out safari.  There really isn't anything to see other than the natural world so why would a backpacker stay in the cities?  I guess in other portions of the world the cities have more to offer?

Hair Salon by the side of the Road
It's about 2:00 now and we have several more hours left on our journey.  Some are sleeping, others are playing games on their phones, and a few are listening to music.

I'm happy to be here, but I have to be honest...I'm a bit disappointed about the people who are on the trip.  Much of the group is comprised of older married couples with young children (17-21).  And these are the type of kids who stick w/ Mommy and Daddy the entire trip.  There is one girl from the US (Washington DC)--she was the one I thought was from South Africa.  Not sure of her name, but she has an accent, so something tells me she is from South America but is just currently living in DC.  She's also here by herself.  I'll try getting to know her more as I can't keep talking to Paul about Sci-Fi books.

...just a few more hours till Chipata, Zambia

Our 2nd Campsite in Chipata, Zambia
We arrived at our Chipata campsite at 5:00.  This place was packed.  There were multiple tour groups passing through here tonight.  There was a large motorcycle group of maybe a dozen...kind of a weird sight.  There was also another tour group that was traveling overland that was at our camp site last night.  All in all, there must have been no less than 50 people staying at this campsite tonight.

I finally talked with the other girl that I thought was from South America that is living in Washington DC.  Her name is Catalina.  She's from Chile and got her medical degree from there as well.  She came to NYC for her residency and fellowship.  She's a forensic psychiatrist.  She was so kind and offered the 4 of us that were camping if we wanted to crash in her hotel room.  She said it was huge and that she didn't mind.  The others said no, but I took her up on the offer.  Right now I'm sleeping on the floor in my sleeping bag on a rug.  The room is pretty clean and I don't see any bugs crawling around yet.  I did put a towel in between the door and the frame to prevent any snakes from coming in.

Dinner tonight was at 7:15 so I had a few hours to kill.  Phone reception was poor so I was not able to call anyone, but I was able to take my first shower since joining the tour.  It felt very nice to be clean.  Dinner started with tomato soup served with bread and for the main entree we had rice and chicken w/ vegetables.  It tasted like Chinese stir-fry.  I washed it down with some hot tea.

After dinner Catalina, the D-3, and myself played a Dutch copy of the game Yahtzee, called Topscore.  Tabby, our truck driver, joined in after the first round.  The score cards were in Dutch so it was difficult to understand, especially for Cat and Tabby as they were just learning.  I kept trying to pronounce the Dutch words on the scorecard and the D-3 just laughed.  We were playing at a table at a covered (but open) bar.  We were drinking local beers and ciders.  As we played we spoke with some other travelers.  One of the guys had stopped me on my way to the showers and asked if I had gone rafting in a large group on Dec-8 at Vic Falls.  I told him it was weird because I went rafting on Dec-10.

Some other people showed us videos they had taken using their phones while on a game drive--footage of an elephant taking down a tree.  They were just 4m from the action.  Tabby was teaching us some words in his language.  He taught us how "Mamma" and "Babba" are used as ways to show respect and not the age of a person.

Tabby, has had different driving jobs with various traveling companies other than Nomad.  He drives 8 weeks in a row and gets 10 days off.  He has 3 children that live at home.  I think he said he has someone watch them while he's away.  His youngest is just 3 years old.  I can't imagine how hard it would be to have to be away from my own children for that long.  He sends his oldest daughter away to boarding school.

Tabby was telling us how people in Africa don't smoke or drink much...somewhat because it's expensive and also because of their strong Christian beliefs.  I have noticed that everyone drinks Coke...many bottles a day.  This is one stock I may need to invest in.

It was so nice of Catalina to let me crash in her room, as my tent is still probably very wet inside.  The bathroom is connected to the room and provides no privacy.  I told her whenever she needed to use the restroom that I would go outside for 15 minutes and knock on the door to see if she was done.  I showered and used the restrooms in another facility, the ones meant for the campers.  I'm not sure why the other's didn't take Catalina up on her offer...I don't think they realized how much room there was.  Also, it was raining when we checked in to our camp site so setting up a tent in the rain, when the ground is already wet, just sucks.

After we finished playing Yahtzee, Tabby, Cat, and myself discussed traveling along with other things.  After a bit we decided to go to bed.  I let Catalina go first and told her I would follow in 10 her time to use the restroom and change.  I just slept in whatever I wore that day so it didn't matter for me.
The Largest Slug in the Universe

On my way back to Cat's room I found the largest slug in the universe....PLEASE remind me to show you the picture when I get home (see image on right).  The slug itself was the size of my face.  It must have weighed a pound.   GROSS!  I honestly had NO clue they could grow that large.

Anyways, it's 11:20 now and I should be going to bed.  We get to sleep in tomorrow and meet for breakfast at 7:00.  I cleaned the dishes this evening/morning so I may not help out too much for the breakfast prep.  Tomorrow is a short drive of 120kms to the National Park in Zambia--we will be taking our first game drive through the park.  The rains have started coming in, which means the grass has begun to grow and fill in, making some animals harder to spot.