Monday – Seasonal struggles
Learning to ride a motorbike is a process. The basics, the riding itself, is easy and picked up in a few hours. The second part is the part that can only be learned by hours and hours of doing it and, unfortunately, fucking up and trying to control the damage. The Liuwa humps and bumps, sand, tall grass, holes, dens, approaching animals, manoeuvring around all of it or shaking through. It’s all learned by kilometres of riding, getting stuck for hours and of course… Falling and getting up again, like I did in quite an extreme way last August.
And now there is a new challenge. A new thing to learn to conquer. Water.
Riding in water is difficult and that’s not only because it’s everywhere. Go too fast and you’ll get wet, go too slow and you risk falling over. Shallow water is ok, shallow water for long causes more wear and tear. Waterbodies that look shallow but turn out to be deep can potentially drown your bike: if water enters the air-intake, it’ll get into the engine, causing a lot of (often irreversible) damage. When encountering a stream, you must find a crossing point where it is safe, and be sure about that. In the rare case of finding muddy- instead of sandy soil, the only way to get out is to step into the water and push. Yes, I’ve already been over-knee deep in water.
The water is a challenge. One not to take lightly. And I hope that just this once, I won’t learn by falling and getting up again.
Tuesday – Getting stuck and out
Yeah… So I wrote the above yesterday and apart from the mentioned over-knee deep incident I had been doing really well so far!
But today I came across a ‘waterbodies that look shallow but turn out to be deep’ kind of situation... The ‘waterbody’ in question was more like a rooting mission result by Bushpig Inc. (rarely seen but oh so present with their business). A small rectangle of ploughed soil, full of water and mud. Little do I know that it’s about 30cm deep. I find out soon enough when I want to ‘slowly drive through’. At the very moment that my front-wheel touches the mud, it gets stuck and the bike abruptly stops as if someone pulls the emergency brake. My body is, of course, still moving forward and with a surprised ‘WOAH’ I slam forward over the handle bar. In a split second my stomach is on the handlebar, my backpack in my neck and some fieldgear 2m in front of me. Because of the abrupt stop, the bike slowly starts falling over to the right and like a cartoon I see the mud come closer and closer until a soft landing right in it is inevitable. Even though I’m alone, I can’t stop laughing. I wish someone had filmed that! The front-wheel has buried itself in mud and with all my strength I eventually manage to pull it out. Thanks Bushpig Inc. for a new blog-story. Much appreciated.
Wednesday – Den found
I really shouldn’t have started writing about motorbike riding issues! What I did today? I got stuck in a den. Yes. Properly. It was an old, abandoned hyena den. Even without GPS I can normally find this one without a problem, I know exactly where it is, even now that I haven’t had the need to be there for a while. Yet, coming from the other side, I guess I found it without a problem, I just didn’t realise I was THAT close. And I was probably up with the fairies, not paying too much attention.
So basically I just found myself stuck in a giant burrow, exactly the length of the bike, all of a sudden. This time I had to dig out the high, steep edges of the burrow and lift the 120kg bike out as there was no way of pushing it out. It took me half an hour and a bucket of sweat to get out (too proud to call for help of course). I have not done any further exercise today, my arms hurt too much.
Friday – The long road
We are in ILA lodge in Kafue National Park, the beautiful park I used to call home for a little while. We left Liuwa yesterday and got a lift from NCS to Mongu (3 hours) where we spent the night. We got on the bus this morning at 5.30 for a 6 hour journey to Kafue and to go from the discomfort of the bus to the sheer luxury and beauty that is ILA lodge is like entering heaven! ILA is a great supporter of ZCP’s work and the place is phenomenal. Their ‘tents’ or small palaces as I’d rather like to call them, are beautiful, overlooking the river, and have everything you could possibly need. The main area is just as gorgeous with a pool, bar and dining all overlooking that same mighty Kafue river where elephants come to drink and hippos chill in the water. ILA’s staff is the best! Friendly and super helpful and some of them became friends immediately. ILA is very nice and generous to us as ZCP and always happy to help in any conservation related initiatives and/or issues. They definitely deserve a shout-out. If you’re planning a visit to one of the coolest parks of Zambia: Kafue, then have a look at ILA’s website! Oh, if you weren’t convinced yet, the food is amazing too!
Unfortunately we will only be here for one night before we move on to Lusaka (4 more hours) where we have to do some work (and have a bit of social life muahaha). Monday we are going to Mfuwe, which is on the other side of the country in the East, right on the edge of South Luangwa NP. It’s another 10 hour journey but unfortunately, again, we will only spend 2 days there. The distance from Liuwa to Mfuwe is about 1500 km. Why all that effort you may wonder? Well… That’s a story for next time!