Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Good Folk of Lusaka

In Mbala just before leaving for Tanzania

I sat in traffic jam as time crawled by.  If you think Johannesburg is gridlocked with traffic jams, wait until you get to Lusaka.  I was very thirsty, hungry and was beginning to feel very hot.  Cities can be intimidating, even though I live in one of the biggest on the continent, I felt uneasy in Lusaka.  Where do I spend the night was the question that was beleaguering my mind?  I could sense eyes peering at me from the windows of the cars around me.  I could also sense the respect from the drivers, for every time I moved or tried to change lanes, even taxi drivers let me pass.  It was humbling to know that there was lots of goodness around me.  It was as though they were telling me: we know you are tired.  How enlivening!

Scorpion Always attract People in Mbala

I went around central Lusaka for a while. My purpose was either to locate a place to pitch my tent or find some cheap place to lodge.  What was immediately noticeable was that there were massive construction projects in Lusaka.  I could also see from the well manicured lawns, modern houses, high walls with electric fences and well groomed guards.  I knew I was riding through the posh suburbs of Lusaka.  It was entirely accidental.  If there was any resemblance with the city I live in, it had to do with shopping malls. 

I recall denouncing the words of an Australian Jesuit priest who unashamedly told me that Johannesburg was like Brisbane or any large city in Australia.  I asked him why it was not the other way round.  In other words Australian cities set the standard.  It is common to find folks who insensitively make themselves or their issues reference point.  It is extremely irritating. 

To return to our story, I could feel the pangs of hunger urging me to find something to eat.  I had drunk lots of water but had not a morsel of bread since Livingstone.   First I found an internet cafĂ© and sent a few emails and posted on my web-blog.  Eventually, I turned into a mall and what do I see: Debonair’s Pizza.  The world was indeed a small Place.  If you remember the comedy "The God's Must be Crazy 1" and the Coca-Cola bottle dropping from the sky, you know what I mean.  I ordered a medium size Pizza. In the interim, as is my custom, I approached a man who introduced himself as Lukas.  He said “you are unusually dressed”.

“Thank you Lukas,” said I.  “I am a rider, just arrived from Livingstone.  Would you know of a place I can pitch my tent or find some decent but cheap lodging?”
“There are plenty of places but you’ll have to look around” said he.
“And what is the security situation like,” I asked?
He spent the several minutes painting a bleak picture of Lusaka’s security problems which I listened to half-heartedly.  Don’t forget I live in J’burg.  It seem like security was his favourite topic.

I collected my pizza and was on my way out, when  I met two white men having a beer.  I introduced myself with the intention of asking them if I could pitch my tent on their grounds.  Once I said I was from Jozi (Johannesburg), it was all smiles. They even offered a beer which I declined.  The older man, Mr. Van Niekerk man was from Jozi and the younger one Mr. Smith was from Zimbabwe.  Both offered to help.  Van Niekerk made a few phone calls and said there was a place I could lodge if I so desired.  Mr. Smith offered to drive me to a campsite.  In the end, a woman sitting on an adjacent table drew my attention and introduced herself as Maria. She said she overheard our conversation and wanted to help.  She called a number and said the proprietor had said there was a place called the Goldengate down the road for 97,000 kwacha (19$).  Some of these numbers can be huge, but with very little monetary value.

Meanwhile, I thanked the white gentlemen.  Just before I departed, they asked me why I trusted “mzungu” (Whiteman).  I said sometimes I trust them, sometimes I don’t and left it at that.  I was tired and part of my mind had shut down to even consider such an idealistic subject.  The active part of my mind was thinking about tucking me in a warm bed.

Maria gave directions.  After giving her my card, I thanked her and arranged with a taxi driver to guide me to the lodge for 15000kwacha.  Goldengate was co-owned by a German married to a Congolese lady.  He was a soft spoken man who was also very polite.  It was a short drive from the mall.  I was so excited to have a room for the night, a hot bath and my pizza.  How everyday things can bring so much joy.  I recalled Alistair, back in the 1990s, an English  tourist driving across African in a 1970 Landrover, to whom I offered some tea, with bread and jam.  He said he had not tasted jam in since he left the UK.  The joy in him was simply total.  It was of such purity that you could not doubt its sincerity. 

Well, just before I slept, I used the night guard’s phone to send couple of text messages. Every time I used someone’s phone I gave them 5$ worth of airtime. I had my phone on roaming but the last time it worked was in Gaborone.  All I remember was thanking the good Lord for being my protector. Sleep so sweet, and sweeter than the sweetest thing was the only thing on my mind.  Sleep beckoned; I yielded drifted off yonder into the unconscious.


  1. Yes Mzee, happy to read how the trip has been unfolding. it's a very wonderful experience seeing uncertainties turned into certainties. You had a wonderful time really. Send us more pictures of things you saw and encountered. You have been a dream of many and that dream has become a reality. God is with you!

  2. Hi Mzee. Great following your progress. It's Christmas eve and I just want to wish you Blessed Travels wherever you are.

  3. Thanks Fidele and Bradely. The camera lost its ghost as some point and so pictures were hard to come by. I am in Soroti which is about 501km northeast of Kampala. Leaving for Nairobi on the 4th. Thank you for the best wishes.

  4. Greetings from the United States. This is the greatest blog ever!.

  5. Thanks Peter! Keep reading much more to come. Greetings from Johannesburg.


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