I was up before sunrise again. The opportunity to for an early morning sun rising in this remote location was too good to be missed. While the frogs in the swamp continued their concert, I moved a bit closer to the community.
The cattle were still in their stable as the open fire smoke was clearly seen. Claudio was up at my return and had started our campfire already. ‘Ben, today there is no water. You can drive ahead if you want to’ he said straight after our morning ‘Bon journo’ greeting. He couldn’t be further off the truth as the day unfolded.
Emanuela just got up and climbed out of her tent. The curious local kids meanwhile stood not too far away from our camp, wondering what is going on in Mzungu camp. I had some more oranges and bread rolls and waved them over for a handout. It didn’t take too much persuasion this time. Those happy faces are an everlasting memory.
A short while later, just before leaving, I collected some money and walked over to the community and thanked Chief and all others for their hospitality. He personally introduced me to each member to shake hands. A moving gesture. A group photo was included. Claudio took the lead again as he announced another easy day. Some Italians cheekily asked him to look up to the trees as well.
22-year-old Jasmine, who speaks perfect English, asked if she could join me and Zimba. Of course, she could. We were the last of the tail again and it didn’t take long for our first water crossing.
Easy pickings so far.
The long grass was almost as tall as the longhorn cattle, as Claudio turned around to use another track.
Jasmine, shy and cautious towards me at the beginning, enjoyed a non-family atmosphere whilst passing communities, happily waving along the way to more excited kids and adults. Whilst slowing down, a few kids jumped on the back off Zimba for a wee roller coaster ride through the bushland. Those happy faces were just priceless. The convoy stopped at another water crossing, this one was tricky. A tight narrow runway through a knee-high, muddy weed channel with a sharp turn at the end. I wasn’t keen as I walked through the waters, Claudio was. Locals advised not to cross. The inevitable happened, the Landrover and trailer got stuck. Discussing the situation, there was a slight opportunity for me and Zimba to pass on the left but left us a with a tighter turn at the end. That stopped us right next to Claudio’s Landrover.
No matter what, Claudio and I stuck together, Liuwa Plains National Park, Zambia
Double boggle double trouble. Guido arrived with his Toyota winch and after careful proceedings, Claudio was back on dry land. His reputation within convoy Italy is ‘di coccio’, a real stubborn ‘iron head’. And this is why. Instead of admitting defeat, he had another go at this swampy crossing, with exactly the same result. I asked Giudo and Giancarlo to pull Zimba out first, before recovering the Landrover.
Meanwhile, the plentiful crowd of locals looked on our proceedings. There has to be another, drier path to continue our journey. And there was. One young male agreed to show us the way, great news for all. We still had to pull Claudio out and reverse car and trailer through a very small dry patch. This proved just as time-consuming as pulling him out of the mud, the trailer ‘jack-knifed’ numerous times. Convoy Italiano reassessed our situation at the town square, which gave me a great opportunity to interact with locals.
Zimba again was the center of attention, Jasmine right in her element.
The chief of this community came over to greet me. We didn’t exactly understand each other, but I read his cheeky content smile to something like ‘you’re not invincible and you should have listened to us not to cross’. With my guide and lots of other kids on Zimba’s back, we took the guiding lead again, much to Jasmine‘s amusement. We hadn’t been speaking much before, but she really enjoyed the karma around Zimba. Just magic. Other communities we passed were perplexed to see a zebra with a group of kids on his tail driving through. Just priceless.
It wasn’t long before our next hurdle. A roadblock in terms of longhorns in dry dusty conditions. I saw a gap to slip by on the left-hand side to pass, the Italians didn’t make it.
A fantastic photo opportunity, much to their annoyance and our amusement. A nearby campsite gave a perfect was perfect for a coffee break in the shade. Many relieved happy faces were all around, a real family affair like we had known each other for decades.
Claudio was impressed by the tread-step powered water supply.
Riccardo and Pietro showed off some football skills.
Even Guido needed some exercise.
Eduardo was surprisingly self-contained, usually being the driving force of the teenage kids.
Chiara was miles away as well,
whilst mud covered Zimba dried off in the shade.
We were back on track and Claudio took over the lead once more. We passed a few lagoons to see a few waterbirds and a single wilderbeast roaming.
At a different, deeper lagoon, locals were hunting catfish with spears.
Walking through waist-deep waters,
A 3 piece combined spear was thrown to any movement in the waters.
Nets were laid before to narrow the escape channel or detect movement.
Calm waters gave superb reflections, another great photo opportunity.
The smaller ones checked the muddy edges of the lagoon. A simple, ancient, but successful technique.
Giancarlo surely was either hungry or impressed.
The grass around this billabong was incredibly high, Zimba almost camouflaged.
Rapunzel waited patiently for me to return. From here, driving conditions changed to the opposite extreme.
Meanwhile hot soft sand gave everyone a work-out. The after midday sun heated the soft sand, placing more air in between, making it even softer and harder to drive on.
Other parts were filled with fine dust. Relieved faces were obvious as we arrived at the ‘Luanginga River’.
We all needed a breather, I needed a swim to cool off. As did Giancarlo.
This is not a motorized ferry system. A thick long rope was used to pull vehicles from one side to the other.
Passengers were in banana boats transported. The Italian ladies preferred this option.
Giancarlo’s Landrover and Zimba were the last to cross.
As we were ready to pull ourselves over, a banana boat carrying passengers left at the same time.
The race was on. We didn’t lose by much but celebrated nevertheless.
Ok, I did.
To keep the weight balance on this floating subject steady, one needs to proceed with caution.
Jasmine didn’t. If the first vehicle leaves without the other on its tail, a tipping effect could be costly. After yet another ‘easy’ exciting day we were happy to set up camp in Kalabo.
The sun was setting low as we walked out to the markets. A lively gathering as expected, even more at this time of day.
This little girl helped to clean for a quicker return home,
looking incredibly cute.
Market girl Karin happily posed in front of our lenses like a pro.
Such a great friendly vibe all around. The fire was blazing as we had a well deserved ‘Spritzer’.