Beyond the Bike 2015/16 - Bamboo with a View.
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Stage 4: The Heart of Everything - Following the Zambezi from source to Victoria Falls.
Africa House, ‘jumpstarting’ planes, Sable darting, meeting chiefs, elephants, waterfalls, beatiful campsites, schools and plenty of cycling. Our six weeks in Zambia have certainly been exciting.
As we headed South towards the Copperbelt we took a (45km) detour down a rough dirt track to Kapishya Hot Springs. Camping there for a few night was brilliant experience especially as the hot springs themselves were just what we needed after several tough days cycling. The owners, Mark and Mell Harvey were great fun, very generous. helpful and with great food and a well stocked bar! We do hope they will join us in China next year (the back seat of the tandem is free still…). The history of Mark’s family is incredibly interesting and deserves a little aside here:
About 20km from Kapishya is the ‘big house’ at Shiwa Ngandu (the famous ‘Africa House’ from the book by Christina Lamb which Mark’s elder brother, Charlie, runs. Their grandfather Sir Stewart Gore-Browne walked from Ndola in 1914, and having fallen in love with this area he finally found the money to build his dream house - an English country mansion - in the middle of the African bush. He was a fascinating man and although not without flaws (the locals called him Chipembele meaning Rhinocerous) he did an enormous amount for his local area, establishing ‘a miniature welfare state’ and helping Zambia become one of the only African countries to achieve peaceful independence. He is the only white man to have had a state funeral at which President Kenneth Kaunda spoke. His eldest daughter, Lorna, married John Harvey and they brought up their family in the same house. Tragically in 1992 Lorna and John Harvey were murdered during a robbery. The Harveys have done and continue to do a huge amount for the local community, setting up the primary school, organising the hydro power plant, helping whenever anyone is ill or injured and they are very proud to be Zambian, even if it does mean travelling to other parts of the world is difficult! However, they are a little worried about what the future will hold…Kapishya and Shiwa Ngandu are idyllic places but very remote (30km to the nearest proper road and 100km to the nearest town), Mark and Charlie cannot keep them going forever. We really hope something will work out as this much history should not be forgotten.
Cycling along the dirt track to Kapishya through a 'small town' - northern Zambia is pretty remote.
We were also lucky to meet Gordon a Zimbabwean/South African drilling engineer who was prospecting a site for a new potash/rare earth mine. Stu went with Gordon to see the site (I stayed by the pool - there was only room of one of us in the car…). The mine theme is integral to our educational resources as we follow the route from African mine to Asian factory and Gordon explained to us that rare earths are used for computer and iPhone screens. The Chinese have the main market for this and this brings me onto our second big theme - the ‘Chinafication’ of Africa. We saw evidence for this everywhere including at Kapishya where we met two Chinese men and their interpreter. Zhou Yuan was a very kind and larger than life character who decided Stuart should become his drinking partner for the evening (Stuart didn’t have to be asked twice). He lives in Shanghai and seemed to be involved in many different things (meat import/export, road building, furniture making) and we still didn’t completely understand what he was doing in Kapishya. What we could gather was that he was the client of a quieter man who lived in Lusaka and dealt in timber (again we were not really sure what he did). The mine theme continued when we were able to visit the Munali nickel mine, (100km south of Lusaka) this mine is very impressive despite it not functioning at the moment at - they are waiting for the nickel price to go up again - and also very impressive for its CSR and resettlement programme. There is/will be much more on mining/‘Chinafication’ in the Economic Cycle blogs.
Stu and his new Chinese friends
En route to the Copperbelt we received some lovely hospitality; staying two nights with Mick Selby on his farm and two nights at Chengelo School with the Andrew and Naomi Cowling. We only managed to speak to Andrew (the Principle) a few hours before we arrived and in return for their very generous hospitality we threw ourselves into school life for 24 hours; we spoke at senior and primary assemblies, let the cycling club ride the bikes, Stu taught an Business lesson, I did some invigilating and scribing…it was great to be back in school life albeit just for a day.
Lesson on the econmics of the bamboo bike and with the cycling club at Chengelo School
After our 10 days with Beyond Ourselves (see previous blog) we headed to Lusaka where we were hosted by Dan Rea and his parents, Harold and Mary. The Reas are a very interesting family having come to Zambia over 100 years ago as missionaries. We spent the weekend with Dan and any weekend which starts with the question ‘can you jump start a plane?’ is going to be interesting! After a wee stop on the runway of Lusaka International Airport we did jump start the tiny Cessna and set off to the North West corner of Zambia nestled between the DRC and Angola. When we arrived we were lucky enough to join a trip into the local game park to dart some sable (antelope) so they could be transported to another park. Getting so close to these beautiful animals was awe-inspiring especially when one had not received enough of the drug and fought back, narrowly missing goring a man, we heard his shirt rip open as he was missed by an inch by the huge horns. Then we went with Dan to meet Chieftainess Ikelenge and followed tradition kneeling and clapping at her gate and waiting to be introduced and asked to sit. Later we spent time at Dan’s rock crushing plant, hydro power station and pineapple dryer - Stuart writes more about all of this in his blog. We finished this weekend by visiting the source of the Zambezi where our guide told us the the local name of the river - Yambezhi meaning ‘heart of everything’ which seems a very fitting description of this river and the country named for it. There was little water at the source and it seemed bizarre that this would turn into the awesome Victoria falls we would see two weeks later.
Too many amazing photos; on the plane, sable darting, with the chieftainess, at the source of the Zambezi.
We had a few days ’off’ in Lusaka where we spoke at the American School. Their grade 3s are working on ‘Ordinary People Making a Difference’ and Melanie the grade 3 teacher was granted a day off to cycle out of Lusaka with us the following week. Our day out of Lusaka towards Kafue National Park was great fun with Melanie, Dan, Harold and us taking it in turns to drive/cycle for 110km until we met the truck sent to drive us safely though the park to their camp, We were very pleased to be in the truck and not cycling through the park when we saw two buffalo, a huge bull elephant and a herd of while dogs by the road!
Setting out from (half) London on the outskirts of Lusaka with the Reas.
The reason why we had a truck sent to pick us up came about originally through our friendship with Max Graham and his Space for Giants charity in Kenya, we were introduced to Sport Beattie, CEO of Game Rangers International who invited us to his camp in Kafue and suggested an alternative (twice as long but a more interesting route to Livingstone, following the Zambezi). We first visited their elephant orphanage at Lilayi and then headed to the park. GRI is a very impressive set up with so many great people such as Jeni their education and outreach officer. We found their focus on the human element of anti poaching very inspiring. More about this in Stu’s blog on the ivory trade. They also work with the local communities and schools and we took Thandie up to speak at one of the schools. That afternoon we even managed to sneak in a game drive.
Incredible elephants at the orphanage and in the wild at Kafue NP
After lift out of the park we made it to Mongu, the Western capital, in one day having cycled about 70km, got on a bus which broke down and then a Cassava/Maize truck! For the next 500km to Livingstone, it was just Stu, me and Thandie on the road. (Dan looked after Bambi until we met him 10 days later). The flood plains and Zambezi getting bigger and bigger made for amazing and we had several great nights camping right on the river bank. Luckily we didn’t see any crocs although the hippo noises took some getting used to! We spent two night by the stunning Ngonye Falls (wonderful waterfalls which would be a tourist site if it were not for their bigger sister Victoria 300km away) which were a great ‘warm up’ for our weekend in Livingstone where we did treat ourselves to a few touristy things such as swimming in the devil's pool at the top of the falls and white water rafting, before heading into Zimbabwe.
Sunset over Zambezi from out tent and lying on top of Victoria Falls, yes the double rainbow is real!