Imagine the following scenario: 8 Italian adults, 4 Italian kids, one nomad off the world driving in 5 4 WD bakkies through Zambia.
When Claudio asked me the first time to join him, his family and friends on a trip through northwestern Zambia, I was somewhat skeptical. First of all, I wasn’t sure if he was serious or just the gin tonic talking. Then there was the fact, that I have never driven in a convoy, certainly not 5 cars all up.
I enjoy independence on my travels, not knowing where exactly I am going, where I am sleeping and who I will be meeting along the way. No big planning or discussions on what to eat, who pays for what or our destination for the following day. But it would also mean a steady social life in remote places. Safety in numbers driving remote tracks is certainly a point to consider, but that has never stopped me and Zimba before.
Claudio and I got along famously at ‘Pioneer Camp’ in Lusaka and his family and friends would be just as happy and easy going. Being Italian, a language barrier could be an issue. Without talking and communicating there isn’t much socializing.
He showed me his well-planned route on the computer. From Lusaka, we would travel via ‘Blue Lagoon National Park’ into ‘Kafue National Park’. We’ll be crossing the Park from south to north, before heading west towards Lukulu.
This is where we cross the mighty Zambezi via ferry over to ‘Liuwa Plains National Park’ and driving further south towards Mongu. From there, we would make our way back leisurely towards Livingstone and ‘Victoria Falls’.
Most of the distance traveled would be on either soft sand, dirt, bone-dry rock hard billabongs, loose or hard gravel, or dust tracks.
We would traverse rivers through or via
African style bridges and ferries,
As well as passing through soggy mud plains in very remote areas. This was a recipe for pure adventure, I and Zimba just couldn’t resist. An exciting prospect, what could go wrong? There’s only one way to find out. And I did.
There was plenty ‘off road’ drama with vehicle failure and human error. Plenty of laughter, plenty of pasta, plenty of ‘spritzer aperitive’, plenty of open fires under a million stars underneath midnight skies, sharing stories of old and new. ‘Spritzer’ is a cocktail made out of tonic water, wine and Aperol and was one of the first things served pretty much every day.
‘Ben, Spritzer time’ yelled Emanuela for me to join the ‘chin chin’ and ‘salute’. A ‘Viva la cuzina’ shouted Guido whilst tucking in, unless he was hungry or angry, probably both. Most touching was meeting and greeting locals in little communities, cut off from the world. Kids, so cute and shy, that they ran off in uncertainty if approached.
I always bought extra bread rolls and oranges to hand out.
Particularly in ‘Liuwa Plains National Park’, it appeared that kids have never seen ‘Mzungu’ before, an alien-like encounter. They loved to go for a ride n Zimba’s back though.
We often stopped to experience the way of life here. Road conditions are difficult in the dry, impossible in the wet season.
Like hunters and gatherers in early years, these small communities had no other choice to survive.
Extremely friendly happy waving kids and adults lined the tracks, even while we stirred of a storm of dust. And there was dust. Lots and lots of dust. In fact, I haven’t swallowed that much dust in my entire life before, neither had Zimba I believe.
It has gotten to the point where it was simply pointless to de-dust ourselves, there was plenty more of it, almost like Talcum powder fine dust trailing our wheel tracks.
We ran into a few roadblocks as well, and there was plenty off stop and go.
Animals were scarce to be seen, but the beauty of this remote land near the Angolan border was stunning.
The birdlife is abundant with lagoons, lakes and rivers dotted all along.
Sunrises and sunsets just as spectacular, combined together.
Lagoons were mostly covered in water lilies.
Human adaptation between the Italians and myself grew each day as we literally pulled or pushed each other out off deep Shite.
It was obvious at first, that most of the Italian crew just didn’t know what to think of me, or in what drawer to sort me into. With only two adults speaking fluent English, a bit of friendly ignorance and arrogance surfaced. Who is this non-Italian speaking dude? And why is he actually joining us? I can’t really blame anyone, as I experienced that in my life often. There were many times when I thought, ‘why am I doing this? It is just so much easier traveling alone’.
Even with language barriers, the friendship loosened up more and more, as people realized, I am not just a tag along. Zimba was a big icebreaker, as always. His appearance and ability to move effortlessly through and track and field still amazes me. Numerous times, we saved the day.
Then there was the fact that I know my way around the kitchen, not only with flour and sugar. In particular, Frederica enjoyed my almost famous carrot salad.
The language of photography was clearly spoken and appreciated by all. Shy at first, but a regular scenario after dinner, the day’s photo show on my iPad was enjoyed by all.
All these factors together and my friendly, happy but honest appearance within and outside the group, made this an unforgettable experience for me and Zimba, and as far as I can tell, for everyone in this close circle off Italian friendship.
The difficult part is on how to put those many many photos and stories together. There are just too many photo opportunities, stories, and angles to consider. Let me start with an introduction off this Italian group with a brief update on their history.
This group of close friends had been traveling Africa for a lifetime. Meeting for 4 weeks in August and for another 2 weeks in December, they have undertaken journeys from Italy right down to the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ in the past decade. Sometimes in a bigger group with up to 15 vehicles or in smaller groups like this one. Most know each other and are friends for a lifetime. It is this close, for Italian easygoing friendship, that draws each one for another adventure every year.
Claudio traveled in his Landrover and trailer with is adventurous wife Frederica and teenage sons Eduardo, Pietro and youngest of the group Vittoria.
Jean Carlo drove in his newer model Landrover with daughter Jasmine and son Riccardo.
Family Guido and wife Emanuela and daughter Chiara travelled in a Toyota Landcruiser HJZ 100.
Last but not least, 72 year old Giovanni took good friend Loredana under his wings in another Landrover. Family and close friends of all ages on yet another adventurous holiday in Africa. Let’s see how this adventure unfolds.