On the road again. Visiting Lake Tanganyika

It was a cool rainy season morning, fluffy white clouds striated across the sky, an ominous cluster of dark, brooding rain clouds on the horizon. The sun had just begun to peak over the edge of the world. The light was a wash of sanguine pink, deep ochre and beautiful orange. A morning of light and beauty. A mixture of twighlight, haze, and red gold arrows streaking away from Apollo’s bow as he began to pull the sun across the sky. We were packed up, three travelers setting out on the road, my Osprey pack filled with the essentials. I’d planned well, a couple packets of Ramen, my small clothes, my IPod, Rockout speakers, Goal Zero solar panel and Sherpa battery, camera and a couple extra shirts. I was ready for the adventure. Luckily I was thinking ahead and I’d stuffed my umbrella into the side straps of my pack. As we walked up the moist sandy hard packed washboard of a town road I knew it’d be needed.

A photo of the sunrise as we walked to the paved road:
A photo of the sunrise as we walked to the paved central road in Mansa Town, Zambia

The first waves of heat started to roll across the hills. The African sun is something else, it’s both unbearably hot, but also refreshing, even on the coldest day, as soon as the light hits you, it’s as if you’ve been pierced by an arrow from heaven. Standing in it brings everything to life – most especially your body’s cooling systems! The Zambian sun provides a different kind of light. It’s yellow, strong, true… a kind of light free and direct. I’d never experienced anything like it. The Sunlight in Europe and the U.S. has a lighter, whiter wash to it, making colours seem… less. I think it’s one of the simple joys of an equatorial/tropical climate. The closest I’d ever come to seeing similar light was those years spent down on the beaches in Mexico, living life free as a boy without responsibilities and full of joy. Memories of a perfect childhood. Walking up to the primary thoroughfare we turned the corner and settled our bags, waiting for the first transport to start passing as the day came to life. Zambians streamed from their homes and the surrounding bush and began the trek into town for their daily business, the first vehicle traffic began screaming by – the rush of sound and air startling. We were hunting transport, on our way to a beautiful vacation.

The junction at Musaila: The Junction at Musaila, headed south to meet up with the Great North Road

The minutes slipped by as excitement and heat built in our surrounds. A half hour, an hour, and then lady luck graced us. We were picked up by a young gentleman in a well maintained pickup – and he started us off on our journey. We reached Musaila, the T junction that would lead us south to the great north road. Waving our thanks and hopping out of the truck bed, we walked down to a lay by, and began searching for our next form of transport. We skipped a few 18 wheeler trucks, a frightening mini-bus, and finally managed to hop in the back of a flat bed canter. It’d be 30 Kwacha Rebased to Mpika, which was perfect.

View from the back of our canter:
View from the back of our Canter truck

An aged U.S. Freightliner imported through Tanzania and parked behind us as we stopped at a junction:
An aged U.S. Freightliner imported through Tanzania and parked behind us as we stopped at a junction in Central Province, Zambia

The next eight and a half hours (475KM) laying in that same African sun, bundled tight in protective clothing despite the heat to protect our sensitive skin was brutal, but the sense of adventure and excitement for our destination brought us through it with a smile and a warm heart. We dropped at the Mpika junction, our first three legs of the journey completed. We’d made it from Mansa to Musaila, then to Mukando (Tute Junctin) and from Mukando to Mpika. An excellent day, but we’d only begun.

Mother and child in the truck bed, suffering through the heat as we journeyed to Mpika.
Mother and child in the truck bed, suffering through the heat as we journeyed to Mpika Junction, Northern Province

At the Mpika/Kasama turn off we flagged down another well maintained Canter with good tires, and a reasonable spot in the bed where we could safely sit. We started off on our way north, the next leg a gorgeous stretch of low rolling hills, brush forest, and dambo (Grassland Marsh). The Central part of the northern spit of Zambia.

View from the Canter as we passed a village headed north to Kasama: View from the Canter bed as we passed a village headed north to Kasama

We slipped from village to village, dropping other passengers and bundles of goods. Lifting the cab and refilling the radiator every few hundred KM, trudging north, clunking our way to paradise. 289KM later we pulled into Kasama, the sun setting behind us, it’s sweet cool reds lulling us into a sense of peace and relief after traveling for over 13 hours.

Sunset as we pulled into Kasama: Sunset from the back of our canter as we pulled into Kasama, Northern Province, Zambia

We grabbed some food, and found the Provincial resource center (Peace Corps bunk house) and settled in as the full darkness of the African night surrounded us. We cooked a quick meal, grabbed some much needed cold water, took hot showers and settled in for the night. The next morning held the last two legs of our journey.


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