I'm riding in a bus of 20--one being the driver and one our tour guide. Our guide, Godfrey, is from Zimbabwe. The driver's name is Tabby. We just left Livingstone, Zambia. I'll explain about the 'experience' I just had in a bit.
My morning started around 6:00. I spent a bit of time packing up my overnight bag and my day pack. I had several pieces of toast with butter and jam and went in front and waited for our tour group. I met Vincent, Debby, and Stephanie--three Dutch people likely in their early 30s. Vincent and Debby are a couple, Stephanie came by herself. We chatted a bit, and talked about ourselves. We started to get nervous when it was approaching 8:00 and we still haven't met anyone from Nomad. The three dutch people have been waiting since 5:30.
|Our Truck for the Next Three Week|
Finally, we met Godfrey, who instructed us to load the truck and that we had to make a couple stops to pick up the remaining 15 passengers. We picked up 12 passengers at the Elephant Hotel. We crossed the border and stamped out of Zimbabwe, then stamped in in Zambia after we crossed the bridge. We picked up 3 more passengers, whom I am told are from South Africa. They are the only 3 I have not had the chance to introduce myself too as of yet. It's almost noon and we have a 500km truck-ride remaining until we reach our destination tonight.
There seems to be 2 people, other than myself, that are traveling alone. There is a family of 3 from Australia-I've been talking with them the most. The parents are tax attorneys for the government and I haven't really talked to their daughter yet, though she seems to be 18 or so? There is another family of 4 from Australia (Noah -17, Daughter? - 21, and two parents). There is the Swedish family of 3 that I met during my shuttle from Vic Falls Airport to my Hotel. Their names are Hans, Sonia, and Ann Marie.
I think 1 of the South Africans may be by herself, but it's just a guess. The 3 dutch, or D-3, for now on, constantly speak in Dutch and I find it very standoffish. They seem to be the most fun and closest to my age, but even when I'm around them they speak Dutch. Their English isn't as good as my AWESOME friend Kim's. They are all from Holland...the couple live on the German border. It seems that people from Amsterdam tend to have better English than people living in other parts of the Netherlands.
It's very hard to understand Godfrey with his broken English, but I presume it will become easier to comprehend after a few days. In Livingstone, which is just 10km from the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe, we stopped for 25 minutes to get out some local currency and to make a pitstop at ShopRite. I went with the D-3 to the ATM at Barclays Bank. My ATM card was 'retained'. Of course I was less than happy, but I kept calm, went inside the bank and took a number. After a very long 45 minutes I was finally called. The teller told me there wasn't anything he could do and that only certain people had access to the ATM machine. I explained that it was my only way to access money during my travels and that I will be 1000km out of Livingstone in the next two days. He told me he would see if he could get the guy to open it. By this time Godfrey came in to see my progress. I had asked the Debbie to tell Godfrey where I was. By this time I was 20 minutes late and I felt horrible. It is extremely important to me that I respect the others' time. If you know me then you know I never make people wait on me. But I didn't want to loose my ATM card this early in the trip. True, I have redundant means to take out money, but my Ally bank had the lowest foreign transaction fee of all my other cards.
Godfrey went back and talked to the manager. I'm not sure if it was Godfrey's conversation or not but I was able to get my card back within 15 minutes. I was finally back on the road...though I missed the opportunity to pick up any water/supplies for the day. Luckily I have filled my 3L bladder in my AWESOME Osprey Manta 36 Bag with water. Sorry but Osprey makes such awesome bags they deserve the free advert. I have been drinking the water in Zimbabwe without any problems thus far. I have been using chlorine hydroxide to treat it. To treat 1L of water I mix 7mls of part A and 7mls of part B together and wait 5 minutes for them to react. Then I pour the reacting chlorine into the water and wait another 15 minutes.
Of the 18 on our tour 14 have upgraded for the 'accommodated' trip. This means they will be staying in hotel rooms. However Godfrey went to great length to explain the 5-star hotel rating system. He explained these hotels are below 1-star and many don't have furniture or bathrooms. As for the 4 of us that are camping in tents, me and the D-3, the tents usually fit 4 people, but we can pair up 2 to a tent. He also said if we wanted he could have our own tent, but that would just mean we would have to set up and re-pack the tent ourselves.
Our Truck has 24 lockers in the rear--accessible from the inside of the cabin. The lockers fit our entire overnight bags with ample room to spare. I was shocked how large there were. The truck is a simple 8-10 wheeler truck bed with a cabin built on top of it. The cabin has 24 seats--20 of them are facing the front with an aisle in the center and 4 are facing inwards. These 4 seats have a metal table between them. There is a cooler beside the table for us to keep our beverages/food. I'm sitting in the front of the cabin, facing inwards. We have agreed to rotate our seats clockwise every day.
Right now Godfrey is explaining the rules, precautions, and details of the trip. The routine he is describing seems to be pretty much what I expected. Breakfast is at ~5:00, Lunch between 12:00 and 2:00, and dinner is whenever we arrive at camp. Breakfast is a choice of 2 cereals and bread (jam/butter). Lunch is bread and tomato and probably some type of meat (i.e. ham?). Dinner is when we will cook, though it will be simple. I've heard from the Intrepid group that the food they ate was delicious despite its simplicity.
|Our Tents Set Up for the First Time|
I'm laying in bed all ready to sleep, it's 9:30pm and it's still very hot. After a very long drive we arrived at camp at 7:30pm. It sure was a long day of driving...and tomorrow is even longer. The dutch couple wanted to share a tent so the four of us camping have to pitch 3 tents. The good news is now I have my own tent. However I'm not eager to have to pitch a tent and pack it up every day. I may treat myself some days and just pay for the accommodation. It's fairly cheap at some places. Probably 10-20 dollars a night?
|Taking Out Supplies from the Side of the Truck|
I talked to kelly for 6 or 7 minutes and then had to eat dinner with the group. I wish I could have talked to her longer...I really miss her and wished she were here with me. Although I'm sure she is happy that she doesn't have to unpack her bag, sleeping bag, blow up her mattress, rearrange her belongings, brush her teeth with bottled water, and then reverse the process every day for three weeks.
|We Prepare Our Own Lunch|
Our lunch was pretty good. We stopped alongside the road and I helped cut up some veggies and open some lunch meat. We had lettuce, tomato, cucumber, bread, cheese, and lunch meat. There were also a bunch of condiments to use. We pulled out foldable chairs from under the truck and sat in a large circle and ate as a group. Afterwards we cleaned our plates with a tub of soapy water and then rinsed them with a tub of fresh water. This is also how we washed our hands prior to eating. After our 15-20 minute lunch stop we were back on the road. After another several hours we stopped for a bathroom break. The men took the left side of the ride, while the women took the right...separated only by the truck.
|Washing Our Hands Before our First Lunch|
I continued to chat with Paul, the Aussie, about Sci-Fi books and then I tried to take a brief nap. I slept off and on for about 45 minutes. Afterwards I started to listen to my book on tape--Starship Troopers--by Robert Heinlein. Great Author. I had started the book on my trip to Asia, but had never gotten into it....so I decided to give it another chance...this time it's pretty damn good.
It was extremely hot in the bus, but it was bearable when the windows were open and we were moving. The sun was too strong to be able to read my tablet comfortably so I just closed my eyes and listened to my book. I don't think I'll have much time to listen to the books I brought with me, nor to read the ones I have on my tablet.
|We Dine Together for Dinner|
|Our First Dinner|
After we pitched our tents I helped Godfrey wash the dishes and set the table for dinner. Dinner was scheduled for 8:15, but we didn't eat till 8:30. This is when I had Kelly call me. It's great that I am able to keep in communication with her. If I get more time and can set aside more than 5 minutes I will try to call my parents too. Though, I know my parents can go longer without speaking with me and not get too 'sad', for lack of a better term.
Prior to dinner, I washed my face and hands and got a beer at the bar. It was 10 kwacha (their currency). I only had USD so it was $2. I had an authentic Zambian lager...it was OK. Dinner consisted of noodles with a ground beef and some flavoring? It was very good since I was starving, but all-in-all I would say it was average. For getting it together so quickly and for 19-20 people I would say it was a grand success.
I've been wanting to include some colorful commentary in these 'rants', but an trying to hold off until I have enough 'information' to state some of my opinions. For now, that should do. It's 9:55 and it's time for sleep. Tomorrow starts at 4:30--as tents have to be loaded by 5:00. On the road before 6:00. Although we are in Africa, we ourselves, do not get to enjoy "African" Time.
Oh, in case I didn't state it, we're just outside Lusaka right now--the capital city of Zambia. Tomorrow we'll be in Chipata and from what Godfrey said our camp grounds will be VERY basic.