Visa, breakdown and other fun in Zambia

Lusaka Travel Blog

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With today’s bungee excitement over it was the drive up to Lusaka for Paulina’s visa.   The drive was normal by African standards.  Here it seemed different, different from South Africa for sure and also different from the rest of Africa I’d ridden through, same same but different?  Zambia seemed friendlier driving through the towns, it took a while to figure out what it was and then it hit me, the signs are in English, I could read what they were advertising making it more familiar and less unknown.

It was dark before we reached Lusaka, you could feel the heat through the glass of roadside bush fires.  It seemed like a pastime to burn the dry grass in southern Africa making the earth black and also encouraged fresh grass to grow, this done more harm than good in the long run and after a while the grass would stop growing.

  We found the backpackers in Lusaka that night, parked beside some tents and slept nicely in our 5star 2minuet folding roof top tent.

Next day was off the Zimbabwe embassy, the usual paper work plus a 100USD fee then told to come back next week.  There was a holiday in Zimbabwe itself and this is where Paulina’s visa had to be issued from, not from the local embassy. 

We planned a trip to another national park over to the east, got fuelled up and went looking for supplies (meat for the BBQ and beers).  Coming out of a supermarket the clutch started to play up, it was starting to fail as we approached a set of red traffic lights.  I slowed and stalled the engine as I tried to figure out what was happening at the red light.

Lorry loaded with charcoal, he's only half full compared to others!
  With lots of cars around the lights went green again, I had shorted the second leisure battery with the main one to give more power to cranked the engine over, the clutch wasn’t working.  She rolled forward with both batteries driving her and then the engine fired, with the hazard lights on we moved slowly as everyone passed us, there was not far to go.  We swung left off the main road onto a quite side street before the next main lights to turn left, keep those wheels rolling…  A right and left turn brought us back onto a main road again.  Paulina afraid about her first jumping from the landrover in movement, at the end jumped out to stop any traffic as we approached the junctions to keep the Landy moving.  I crossed the road to meet oncoming traffic and flashed the lights (African style), we turned right that lead back to the back packers.
  Drove to the spot I just left and stopped the engine.  We were off the road and securely back were we started that morning

Looking underneath I could see oil leaking just before the transmission box, a fine oil, not the type from the engine.  Popping the hood and a couple of locals, who had come to look started, saying you need clutch oil and they were right, there was no clutch fluid in the reservoir.  The Africans knew how to keep a vehicle running with a hammer and a pray, cars that would have been scrapped long ago in Europe had a second long life here.

We were in luck as Lusaka had a Land Rover dealer, by the time we topped up the clutch fluid from a newly purchased bottle and bleed the air through, the place was closed when we reached it, will  open Monday.

  A couple of days chilling then…  During the next day we realized that someone was eating our food in Paulina’s open suit case?  Who could it be???  Then our suspicions came true, I saw a small mouse inside between some panels. Nooooooooo!!!  We removed all the food and emptied the inside in an effort to catch it, took out fridge and all.  I even unscrewed the siding drawer system in the back.  There are some many places it could hide and I used the metal tent rods to poke into holes.  One of the local boys who worked there told us about these capsules from the chemist to get, put some of the powder on sliced tomatoes inside some paper and leave it.  We had no other plan so tried it. 

Next morning, success, it was eaten.

  There was of course a down side, a poisoned mouse would stink the Land Rover for a while after it died but there was no real alternative...  As I lifted out a strong box from the rear sliding drawer and mouse fell out and ran slowly for cover.  Got it!  Nice one!  But the next day we found out he was not alone, another one was eating stuff.  The same process again with the tomato sliced, another capsule with its deadly powder.  Next morning no mouse jumped out like before but the poison was gone.  We (that is me, myself and I!) started to unload the Landy again, Paulina kept watch from the side fearing the mouse standing on a box.  After a while one of the locals shouted as he saw it fall out the other side of the open door.
  I made sure it wasn’t going anywhere else.  Reckon these pair of mice hitched a ride from our last camping spot in Botswana by the river.  We cleaned and disinfected our things… no more were ever found.

Up at the Land Rover dealer the news was not so good, they had a complete clutch cylinder for sale, I inspected it to see how it was designed and worked.  The asking price was way too much and they were offering some sort of backdoor deal, the whole thing made me feel I didn’t trust them to get the work done, it would be a real rip off.  I only need a couple of seals, o-rings.  So Plan B, off to the other side of town to a place that was recommended by the guy who ran the backpackers.  This was the automotive part of town, a few streets where you could hunt for old spare parts or buy a new one, lots of parts outside on the street.

My place advertised Land Rover paint on the wall, that´s a good start.  They had the correct seals, not genuine parts but they cost almost for free compared to the Landy dealer, the price of a beer.  Once back at the backpackers the guy called his mechanic he recommended.  Turns out he knew Land Rovers very well and rebuilt his own, so he said.  I stayed with him, crawling under beside him to help (to keep an eye on the repair!).  I had already checked my Hanes manual, it was all straight forward  but there was a little trick to it, that meant if I removed it in the wrong way a pin would have fallen inside and the engine would have to be stripped back to locate it again (My Hanes manual did say you had to be careful and a comfortable mechanic to do the job).
  He tried to sell me a second hand spare cylinder he brought with him as mine was rough inside against the seal.  He had nothing to clean mine with but I had, some emery paper I carried on the bike was in my tool box.  It was cleaned up and reassembled as I watched on, filled with clutch oil and bleed the air out.  Sweet! That´s ANOTHER repair successfully completed.

We left for another National Park later the next morning, west from Lusaka.  Lusaka traffic was heavy with everyone pushing forward where they could fit.  The traffic did part for the sound of a siren wailing from a white car, hmmmm?  Police?  Ambulance?  No, it was a funeral car with the person laid to rest for their final journey inside a glass sided trailer, also white pulled behind.

  I did a double take, it looked bizarre with red lights flashing on the roof and siren!! 

By the time we were about to reach road turning south to the National Park we hadn’t managed to find any diesel to top the tank up.  The last two places were closed and some guys tried to sell us the fuel from plastic cans outside a closed fuel station, saying it was the last they had.  Judging the situation, the place and the people I decided this was one fuel stop I wouldn’t use (the little voice in the back of my head warning me).  It is known for the diesel to be cut with paraffin, not good if you wanted to sell your Land Rover in the next month!  This was school boy error on my part being too relaxed and thinking fuel would be easy, fill her up where you can!

We head past a large dirt road south and made or way to another way south via a route on my GPS, was much shorter.

  The single dirt road had grass growing up in the middle but it was smooth and very nice to drive along, then when it came to turn left a tree had been cut to stop people driving down it, a warning.  This type of thing is standard practice in Africa, if you see braches on the road, slow because usually a lorry is broken down ahead.  With no vehicle marks going around the tree I assumed indeed the road was closed for some reason, maybe the road had been washed away or made impassable in some other way, anyways no locals were using it.  A little further on lead to a wide river so we had to turn around.  It was beside this river near the National Park we want to camp that night.  So back up the twin track road and onto the tarred road then doubled back to the other dirt road we saw earlier.
  Driving down the dirt road the conditions got worse and more rutted.  This could take us a while.  Paulina persuaded me to stop and think again. Looking at our distance to travel, the wasted kms on the other dirt road, by my calculations (I always kept a book on fuel used, distance and kms/litre for this reason on different types of route conditions) we probably could make it to refuel after the Park but with little margin for error and we could not travel many kms inside the park.  It would be dark long before we arrived at the camping south so with gritted I turned around we decided we wouldn’t do this National Park.  After all is wasn’t like this was our only park in Africa, and we were using the time until we had work about Paulina’s visa.

We bounced our way back up the track then we got hit by a swarm of insects.  Some got into the Landy through our open windows and started to sting us.  Windows up and I went a little crazy killing the ones inside, because to metal grill in the back meant I couldn’t kill any that were hiding out only to come out as I drove.  Not sure what it was with these large black flying things but the Landy was like a honey pot to them and it was only when I got on a smoother track I could accelerate over 30km/h leaving then behind.  The camping place we saw on the main road was looking for a lot of cash just to stay the night, plus park fees times two, plus 4x4 fee.  We turned and went back into town and managed to find a hotel for a much better price, but they had no rooms left.

Charcoal for sale
  So we persuaded them to let us park in there secure car park round the back and we put the roof tent up. 

After the past busy few days we headed back east to Lusaka deciding to relax and not do much until Paulina’s visa was ready.  We didn’t want to go back to the backpackers and we headed for a different place in the Lonely Planet Africa just outside of town.  After a dusty long corrugated back road there was a lovely secured open banked field with larger trees for camping.  You could also buy wood to BBQ, or eat at the rustic open air bar and restaurant.  Hot shower, cold beers, hammock strung up and free internet, it was perfect. Shame we did not go before.

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Lorry loaded with charcoal, hes o…
Lorry loaded with charcoal, he's …
Charcoal for sale
Charcoal for sale
photo by: pearcetoyou