Erin's Tour d'Afrique Bike of a Blog!
An 8,000 mile personal and philanthropic adventure across Africa…

Zambia’s Great East Road

For the past five days, the Tour d’Afrique has cycled from the Malawi/Zambia border town of Chipata deep into the heart of Zambia, following what Zambians call “the Great East Road.” We cycled westward on the Great East Road, and I’m pretty sure there’s a metaphor somewhere in there about going against the grain and taking the road less traveled by. My ipod and third bike computer broke, so I now spend my rides deriving profound metaphors from my surroundings. Not really- I spent four hours this morning contemplating whether there would be cheese at lunch. There wasn’t.

In just five days, Zambia’s sporadic thatched huts, football-loving children and lush, green horizons have left us more speechless than our longest distance yet, 197 kilometers, and consecutive days with 1-2,000 meters of ascent. The most noticeable quality has been silence as we bike along a peaceful road lined with tall green grasses, swaying in the (so far) gentle breeze. From a distance, Zambia’s mountains remind me of my home in the Adirondacks- old, round, green, deciduous and gorgeous. Up close, the African trees are more scraggly and I have run over darting snakes and lizards on the Great East Road. My favorite vistas are the periodic homemade signs that announce a village, including the name and cellphone number of the Chief or Headman. Old meets new and the unfamiliar meets the familiar in funny ways in Zambia.

Zambia is not the only character on this tour with a sense of humor. Three months into the tour, our 65-person band of cyclists has become a true dysfunctional family, complete with love/hate relationships and a propensity for hilarious and nefarious practical jokes. In Tanzania, American Jason and German Ruben bought a large pink stuffed bunny, which has a tendency to crawl into the sleeping bags of unsuspecting riders at night. In Malawi, Australians Wayne and Patrick convinced a gullible local that blonde, Australian Annalise was actually Madonna, and was in town to take another baby. The person bowed before Annalise, who quickly and properly apprised him of their prank. The award for the most aggressive practical joke goes to French Girald, who bought a pack of dead, dried fish and spread them out in Tony’s tent. After a long day and a few beers, Tony crawled into his tent and fell asleep, wondering what the god awful smell was. I believe he found out in the morning. Canadian Steph and German Ruben have their own war of the worlds going- which has alternatively involved putting bugs or locks in or on each others tents. Except for the time I convinced Cat that the Zambian visa fee was $150 (it’s much less) and that she should pay via me, I have so far played the role of Switzerland in the practical joke warfare.

These and other laughs have helped us survive the inflated mileage, temperature and currency in Zambia. At a school camp, we celebrated British Tony and Australian Juliana’s birthdays with cold beer, dessert and optional local homestays. Extra culinary treats and local or environmental encounters are usually reserved for rest days. At a very warm bush camp, we all took the best showers of the Tour (since the garden hose at the Dongola zoo that is) under a “mysterious, magical water pump.” In the middle of nowhere, we found a water pump in the forest and literally pumped a shower every hour or so to cool off. Annalise, Cat and I jumped around the pump throwing water at each other like five year olds, and even contemplated a makeshift slip n slide before retiring to our hot, sweaty tents. Lusaka’s air conditioned malls will be a welcome respite.


One Response to “Zambia’s Great East Road”

  1. Safe and happy travelling! I’m here in Lusaka where you’re heading. The scenery will get even more stunning before you start to see the city skyline that will herald your imminent arrival at Lusaka – not known for its beauty except as seen in the people.

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