Homeward Bound

What a crazy two days! I just made it home to my wonderful hut of awesomeness after two long exhausting days of travel. Let’s get some narrative goin’ here shall we? Sooooo, Sunday night, I receive medical clearance, pack my bags, and finish the last of my file sorting. Not shabby right? I felt ready to brave the arduous 12 hour journey of 530 miles back to Mansa. Slurping down a midnight packet of pro-biotics, I snuggle down into my sheets strategically placed in front of the dorms radial fan.

Lusaka’s funny like that. Hotter’n hell and humid until about 3 am. Then that humidity turns into bone chilling cold. 5 am rolls around and I’m up and ready. A last minute scalding hot, wonderful, spectacular shower and we’re off. At 7:30 we board our trusty land cruiser after fixin’ a flat in the yard (a good start I know) and leave the compound. Three naps and four hours (ok ok so more like two and a half) later we roll into the big bad gas station of Kapiri. Some heated debate and negotiation by our pro-team yields us some superbly tasty shwarma with pickles, sauce, chicken, fries, onions and tomatoes! Mmmmmn mmmmn.

We’re back on the road and the scenery is a changin’. I’m rockin’ out to some Isley Brothers as we roll out of the plains into the rocky mountainous areas of central province. It’s been just 10 days since I’ve passed through these lands but the rains have really gone to work. The land looks like a whole different world … long open rolling plains punctuated by dambo’s. The rocky spurs call out desperately for a well-placed European castle (what can I say, tall defensible rock spurs surrounded by fertile open African land… You know you’d think it too!!). Another nap and my playlist hits an old time favorite – Standin in the Station by Jo B. We’re in Serenje. We drop half of our passengers and most of our cargo, switch cruisers, and zoom off to the north. We’re really headed home now. Our familiar provincial driver knows every pothole, every roadblock, every inch of the road. He also happens to be an awesome DJ. I’m lulled asleep as we race into Luapula. Two naps and four or five hours later my body kicks me awake. It’s late afternoon and I smell and feel something familiar. Finding my glasses and rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I know I’m almost home. We’ve made it… Mansa.

We pull into the sanctity of the fortified peace corps house as the sun is setting. There’s no way I’ll be making it home tonight. I set up, grab another hot shower, teach a salsa lesson, cook ‘n gab, then retire for the night. Tomorrow’s a new day and I’m headed home. I wake up early, roll over and go straight back to sleep. Around 8 I’m up for real. I enter the main lobby, grab my mail, and squeak out a delight … the boys at CD3WD have sent me the most recent and updated DVDs!!! I hurriedly acquire a laptop with a DVD player and start unpacking the 22gigs of appropriate tech resources …. Four hours and 16 gigs later ZESCO cuts the power. A rolling blackout for low-density Mansa…. Damn

It’s two hours before the power’s back on. I start again, get to 21.5 which is sooo close. then a second power flux hits. I wait another hour but I’m running out of time. It’s getting later in the afternoon and this is rainy season, the storms are brewing, the clouds rumbling and the thirsty earth is hungering for its afternoon delight. The power’s back on. I finish the unpack and start the transfer process to my hard drive. Damn!!! Three hours! That’ll put me leaving at 5pm … It’s too late. Maybe it’ll transfer faster. I wait 12 gigs transferred and the power’s out again. Damn ZESCO!! This is terrible timing mates. I figure I’ll just finish it up on the 18th when I’ve gotta come back in for immigration. I pack up and call my friends. They pick me up and drop me on the outskirts of town. If it was out of context I’d say I was bein’ run outta town… Lucky for me I couldn’t want anything else more. My hut was waitin!!

I caught a ride in what looked like a good vehicle. We went for petrol and waited for another hour. Damn I thought to myself, 16:45, I’m gonna scrape by on this one. We start off. About 10km outside of Mansa the trouble starts. We lose the left rear shock, the driver’s baby is in the car and he wants to go faster, but the roads are all torn up. The rains washed out long sections and it’s riddled with potholes. It’s 6:15 by the time we get to my turn off. The sky is pink and I’ve got another 8km to bike. I walk the 500m to the village headman and pick up my bike. I do my usual inspection, tie my gear in, and start off.

It’s damn near seven and I’m running out of twilight. The evening rains are starting and the dark clouds and cool drizzle aren’t helping the tightness in my gut. I breathe slowly, focus on the road, and ride on carefully. Now is not the time to rush and make a mistake.

I don’t know if I’m just nervous or imagining it, but the ride’s getting harder, my rear wheel slips and I fishtail. Cursing I gain my balance and come to a stop. Back tire is flat! Inch long thorn right through it. Darkness falls. I’m four km from home. It’s black, raining, I’ve got my patch kit and my cell. Huddled on the side of the road I get to work. Strip the tire, pull the tube, use my knife to rough the rubber, hide the tire under my shirt and apply the glue. Slap a patch on, when I hear a message from the Universe. A few seconds later the headlights of Chisunka’s Chief’s landrover wash over me. Five minutes later my bike’s on the roof and I’m safe, warm, and drying in the back seat. We make short work of the trip home and in less than ten minutes I’m dropped at the drive to my hut. I grab my gear just as the clouds break and I’m washed in 3/4 of a full African moon’s glow. Then the beauty starts … moon surrounded by the studded diamonds of the sky illuminating my path, and soft warm rain falling all around me. Inspired by the gods, fireflies sparkle and glimmer lighting my way over to my hut. I take a moment to give thanks, then fumble for my keys and get inside… I’ll leave you to imagine what two weeks in a sub-tropical climate and heavy monsoon rains will do to an empty mud and grass hut… Let’s just say it wasn’t till 11pm that I snuggled my way into bed and slept soundly.






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