Joined: Jun 2005
Location: Eastern Cape, South Africa
Bush camp to Flatdogs
We wanted to do two things in Zambia. The first was to do the northern side of Lake Kariba. We succeeded in that and it was just the most brilliant riding. Highly recommendable. The second is to travel up the bottom of the Rift Valley, skirting South Luangwa National Park and if possible cross the Luangwa river and ride the corridor in between the North and South Parks. Like this.
Today we start this second stretch.
Camping in the road again.
I tried to dry some of my stuff out overnight, but it had little effect.
The early morning cold makes the camera lens mist up. My camera that stopped working after it's swim yesterday, seems to be recouperating, no screen yet, but it is at least switching on. The amount of grass in this place is just mind boggling.
It looks like this hut was built using a tin can.
Again us and the grass. This was a proper road in the dry season. The only reason we can ride here now is that the villagers kept it open with foot traffic.
What makes the Luangwa valley different to the rest of Zambia is that it lies so low, 500m above sea level, and the fact that it consists largely of black cotton soil.
Cotton soil is the thing we fear most. If we are going to fail in our quest, it will most likely be because of black cotton soil in muddy form.
Cotton soil is a bastard. When it is wet it is clay that defies any vehicular travel. ALL vehicular travel. If you want to move, it's on foot only, and even then it is very unpleasant. It has the consistency of.... well I can't think of something. Depending on how wet it is, it can be slush or clay that is soft and deep. I saw some elephant tracks that are easily half a meter deep, when I stand in it the ground level is above knee height. Yet it does not close up like normal mud, it keeps it's shape. When it dries it goes rock hard. It has to be physically hacked apart into fist sized pieces to allow vehicles to travel there again. So it is kak when it's wet and it is kak when it's dry.
Throughout the morning we fight our way through grass on a single track, very little airflow here.
The reason we are able to travel here at all is because this road was constructed of different soil brought in from elsewhere. When you stray off this surface, even just one foot, the cotton soil gets ya. Like so.
The fresh elephant dung isn't helping to lift Hennie's spirits. Towrope time again.
Could this be the end of the road for us?
The surface going in looks good, so we go with the hope that it gets better somewhere out front instead of worse.
We make it but shortly thereafter we come to what looks like the end.
Deep water and a muddy bottom. No visibility through the water to see what's going on below and we cannot see the end either. A friendly local appears from the bush and assures us that this is a good road”. These Zambians, definitely a different frame of reference. He also walks in to prove his point and Hennie is convinced and he is off.
I take a look at this shit and it really looks like a bad idea to me.
Hennie stops somewhere ahead and calls for me to come, so I go.
So we leapfrog and keep going.
Except for one hole where a side stream flows through it is actually not too bad and we make it through to the other side. From here on the road is gone though and the going gets more difficult. We have a track to follow on the GPS but it does not take into account the many places where the road had reverted to large muddy bogs and the various new tracks cut from the bush to go around it.
When we get lost down the wrong track however, you just need to shut down the motor and within minutes you will hear someone shouting to lead you to the right path.
Thick stuff though and sweaty work to get a bike turned around in there. Every time you put a foot out it gets snagged in the underbrush and you have to stop to extract your foot.
It doesn't take long for us to start running low on water.
And then, out of nowhere you run into a teacher on a roadbike with slick tyres.
From here the road starts opening up and we see the first vehicle tracks. Good news, we are going to make it to Mfuwe at least without being turned around.
Also we get to a clear stream where we can fill up on water. Things are looking up.
When we start to get good quality open tracks I start having visions of cold beers at a lodge.
The GPS shows that we should be able to get to Mfuwe by 13h30.Thinking of beers and checking the ETA is of course a mistake. One should never get impatient to get somewhere.
We are in a Game Management Area adjoining the park.
We keep riding and riding and It feels like we are getting nowhere. Because this is an area used for game viewing, there are paths all over and with the rains playing havoc, it is dead end after dead end running into mud bogs and washaways.
On top of this I start feeling not so well. I need to stop to rest every so often and am a little disoriented.
I think our eating regime, which consists of coffee in the morning and one meal at the end of the day, is catching up with us.
We have also now been riding hard for more than a week straight and at some stage you can expect your body to figure out that there is a moron in charge and that it needs to protect itself.
We have some goat and kapenta to try to get some octane into the system again.
Thornycroft giraffe, it is different from what we have in South Africa. These are smaller and have a more defined coat. Should make a killer seat cover.
Then Hennie again opts to ride next to the track to avoid a deep mud hole and gets the exact same result as earlier.
The mud holes may be deep but at least there is some traction if you stay in the track. And that brown muck is pleasantly warm when it fills your boots.
This stuff is not doing your chain, sprocket, bushes, bearings or brake pads any good.
After having bodily ripped that loaded 800 out of the bog, we both suffer from jelly-arms and shortly thereafter Hennie loses the front on a muddy patch and goes down hard. The right footpeg gets bent right back so that it is not usable anymore. Also one of the 5l petrol containers pops it's top and floods a pannier.
We end up having to burn a lot of stuff that is now unusable.
And so 13H30 passes, as does14H30, then 15H30 and 16H30. We finally roll to a stop at Flatdogs Camp just after 17h00.
Man, I am glad to get here and man I am finished. It feels like I am living in someone else's body and that oke is really not well at all.
We agree that we need to take a rest day tomorrow. Hennie needs some time to get his footpeg working again in any event.
The Luangwa river, we are planning to cross it in a couple of days time.
Nice platform tent sites, hippos are in camp every night. You actually have guards walking you from your tent to the restaurant and back. They keep an eye on where the hippos are grazing and make sure that you avoid them.
I sleep like a dead man.
metaljockey screwed with this post 06-02-2010 at 02:59 PM