Monday, September 14, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon

We went for a174km today. The distances are getting harder not physically but mentally. Zambia is filled with the sight of tall grass and dead corn. Every once in a while we’ll pass a tobacco plantation for interest. So the days are spent with thoughts of home, thoughts of stories, and thoughts of Rob. He left me with a few things to worry about on the last email, and small worries become obsessions which travel into a thousand different outcomes. Good outcomes are breezed over, since negative outcomes mean getting to strategize and think out ways to deal with the negatives. It’s all about killing time. And the pedals turn round and round.
The fact that we are right in the middle of the hump is obvious. People are antsy. Talk about home has already started and there are such mixed emotions everywhere. With this much time on our hands, all we can think about is the things we are inspired to do when we return. People talk about how when you return you are quickly reinstated into the hum-drum of the day-to-day, but it’s not entirely true. Trips like these inspire a billion ideas, and generally you wind up following through with at least one or two. So there is excitement at the idea of getting to start on it.
We reached Choma, a little town with a museum dedicated to the Tonga people. It was very small, but I picked up a few souvenirs and learned about the cultural structure of the tribe. I then found internet and found out that all of my worries were for nothing, and that life back home was indeed going on without me.
In the evening I chatted with Henry, the man who started the TDA. He was from the former Tchekoslovakia, and had worked since he was very young, starting out as a sheppard in Isreal. He co-founded CPAR (an aid organization) with another doctor, his own background being in engineering, and then moved on to other NGOs in Africa and the Middle East. At some point he dabbled in film making, and then started on the idea of making cheap, durable bikes for Africans. He partnered with another man who then backed out when he realized that it wasn’t going to mean instant profit. What did remain of that idea was the promotional strategy they had. They were going to have people ride the bikes across Africa in the world’s longest race. In the end, it morphed into the Tour d’Afrique. Our camp that night was a small dirt road that ran parallel to the highway, but fortunately there weren’t many cars driving through the night.
The next morning we had a short 164 km to get to Livingstone, where we would have two rest days in a row. The ride was awful. the morning was uphill with a headwind. I have a rash on the inside of my thighs which is spreading daily, and the pain from that is increasing. I’ve lost feeling in my right hand. It works mainly as a blunt instrument, but I am having a hard time doing things like using pens. Today my head was filled with thoughts of things that annoy me back home.
After lunch was construction, and where everyone else seemed to have been able to dodge back onto the paved road, people kept stopping me and sending me back onto the alternative road – a dodgy, corrugated, dirt road. It was hell. I got back onto the main roads when the lunch truck passed, but it was hot with countless potholes and another 80km to go. They thought there were water stops, but there weren’t.
People were in agony. Many of us ran out of water, myself included. Everyone got pissed off at the staff when we got in. I was glad that I was only one voice in the many. In the evening most left for the booze cruise, but I was far more interested in seeing the moonlight waterfalls at Victoria Falls. It only happens on the full moon, and they open the falls for three evenings. It was amazing. The falls are also fuller than they have been in a long time. all of the South African were amazed at their power – normally they had only seen them at a trickle. Some people were upset because the flooding meant that there would be no rafting. I was originally, but then I opted to go up in an ultralight to see the falls from above.
At first I started off over the nature reserve, seeing hippos, giraffes and elephants from above. the whole valley was filled with water, and entire islands were sunk. Suddenly the river falls off the edge of the world into a snaking canyon that goes on for ever. The Victoria falls need to be seen from above to admire their true magnificence. The nicest thing about an ultra-light is the sheer
exposure. You have the seat you are in, and a few mechanisms around you, but basically it feels like you are out there flying on your own. I would have loved to have been up there for hours, but 15 minutes seemed like an eternity.
The rest of the day was far more normal. I went to a mall, did internet, had lunch, and then a marching band showed up with American-style cheerleaders, which lead into tribal dancers who had the same feel as American Fancy-Dancers, dressed in their loincloths and sparkly plastic beads. It resulted in dancing and drumming in the
parking lot. I partnered up with Peter for day off food (now that we were hitting more westernized area, this was becoming more easy and restaurant food was becoming more expensive). The rest of the day was filled with pool lounging and chatting.

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