3rd Jan 2018. Issa New Year already.
From Lusaka to Kabwe is a breeze. Zambia has wide open lanes, strict road rules that are enforced such as “Trucks may not operate after 10pm and not before 5am”, this is a clever tactic by the government to ensure the roads remain safe from tired, fatigued truck drivers doing long haul missions.
The road side stalls and kiosks are not allowed near the road. There must, at all times, be a twenty meter distance from the road side and the nearest stall. You quickly notice the importance of such mundane rules as soon as you move from SADC (Southern African Development Community) to EAC (East African Community). I’ll elaborate later. Remember Zambia is a land locked country, so most trade, supply and demand is met through road transportation.
We spend most of this day riding rain free and making up for lost time. Zambia is HUGE! It’s not wide, but it covers a lot of ground lengthwise. There’s three main provinces to note; Southern, Central and Northern Province. As we leave Kabwe in Central province our plan is to head all the way to Mpika in Northern Province. This leg of the journey begins one of our longest rides. The 2017 New Year is now officially over and we need to make it to Nairobi before Sunday 8th January 2017. This date holds a great deal of importance for us. This too, I’ll explain later.
For each full tank of petrol tank our distance calculations work as follows;
– Full tank – 350km
– Roto Spare Tank – 100km
– Total # of KM’s per ride without ANY refueling – 450km.
– Distance from Kabwe to Mpika 505km.
According to google maps there were two petrol stations that would occur between Kabwe and Mpika. However, as we were to find out, those stations were nonexistent. This left us in a peculiar situation…we ran out of gas, 60kms from Mpika but about 100kms from the last town. We had no fuel. It was about 6:30pm and it was getting dark – there was no-one around us, not even a village nearby. The bike ran out of gas and we were literally in the middle of nowhere. As the sun began to set, all I could think to myself was; how did I get my beautiful fiancé here ??♀️
Either way, instinct kicks in. I radio my co-pilot announcing that we have eventually run out of fuel. She didn’t sound impressed, concerned nor amazed. This, I thought to myself…was most concerning. One must always feel some typa way about being stranded in the middle of nowhere. However my partner in life, as the rapper Lloyd Banks once said; “was cooler than the other side of the pillow.” I thank my ancestors for such a strong and confident life partner. Yet again, her sense of calm has me feeling like we could conquer anything.
So I glance into the rear view mirror and wait for a signal. Anything! As soon as a truck coming back from the capital came into view I immediately sized it up. I checked for how much goods were on board and then waved it down. The truck that eventually stopped was a flat bed with nothing on the back, having just come back from Kabwe with a full load of maize and was heading back home for the next shipment in the morning. I spotted them. They spotted me. I flagged them down. They obliged and I stepped up the driver with a sob story;
“Hi boss, are you well?” I asked.
“Good, my brother”, they respond.
“We have run out of petrol and are heading to Mpika, would you able to help us?” I ask very politely.
With no hesitation the driver and his co-pilot immediately disembark and help me lift the bike onto the flatbed.
We are invited aboard. Makgotso and I swiftly jumped on board with the two fellas and we all get to chatting! We speak about African governments, democracy in Africa as well as its many interpretations. We speak about food security, war and liberation.
We speak about road safety and the economics of the of transport industry. We speak about how maize production had moved from Zimbabwe to Zambia when global sanctions were put in place over Zim over their land expropriation policy. We learn about how Zambia’s farming program was driving maize exports across Zim, Mozambique and Malawi. We learn about how this gentleman and his colleague were making serious money from feeding other Africans since ‘the collapse of the Zimbabwean farming industry’. All in all we sat four of us in the front of a truck and we spoke about how much we remain so much the same, but so different as Africans across the diaspora. It reminds me of a famous phrase we used to employ when I lived in Singapore “same same, but different lah”.
The gents happen to live in the same area we were headed too. They dropped us off at our hotel, call the manager and leave us in good hands. We thank them and they ask that we pass the kindness on, as they didn’t want anything from us besides our safety. An extremely humbling moment.
Finally we are in Mpika. We are now just over 100km or so from the Tanzanian border. We can’t wait for the moment we cross the border and change the scene, the excitement is palpable. We live on the best continent in the world, we are governed by UBUNTU ✊?.
This piece is dedicated to those two fine men.