Tuesday, May 12
Chipata - Lusaka, Zambia
I wake up suddenly with a huge gasp, having endured a particularly nasty Larium-induced nightmare. I have also managed to wake Bjorn up, who is unfortunate enough to be sharing the small double bed with me, cocooned from the rest of the hut by a huge mosquito net.
The nightmare leaves me feeling disturbed. I have ‘the fear’, lay in the dark, unable to get back to sleep and listening intently to every single noise and rustle of the bushes that emanates from the street outside. It is only midnight. I feel convinced somebody will try to break into our hut. My heart is pounding, while Bjorn is once again snoring.
The fear builds and builds, but by the time the umpteenth car engine, lone footstep and panting stray dog passes I no longer feel so scared. It is around 2am that I fall back to sleep, having mentally exhausted myself with my fears…
…and 4am that I wake up once again. A taxi driver (tried and trusted by SKZ) is due to pick us up at four and to take us to the bus station for our 5am departure to Lusaka. It is pitch black outside as we pile up our bags and ready our bikes for the taxi driver’s arrival. It is not safe enough to cycle to the station in the darkness. Ten minutes late, 20 minutes late…seems like a bad case of A.T.
When the driver does finally arrive (after four phone calls) we can smell booze on his breath and it is already 5am.
With every Tom, Dick and Emmanuel grabbing at our bags as we arrive at the bus station we manage to flag down and get on board the Lusaka-bound coach as it is departing the bus terminal. It is 600 kilometres to the Zambian capital. I once again drift off to sleep.
The scenery in eastern Zambia is some of the finest in the country. For many dozens of miles there isn't a single person in sight - only fabulous bush and mountain views.
Why are we on the bus instead of cycling? Because on our bikes it would take us 7-8 days instead of 7-8 hours to complete the journey from Chipata to Lusaka. We need to be in South Africa by May 22 and we have at least 2,500 kilometres left to travel.
The UNHCR greet us at Lusaka coach station.
When we reach the headquarters our truck is checked for car-bombs and the security staff salute us.
Together with UNHCR Kelvin we plan ahead for wednesday's Zambian press conference. Those invited include Reuters and the BBC.
We also get in touch with UNHCR South Africa. Many things need to be planned ahead including World Refugee Day and the press coverage of us crossing the border from Botswana later this month.
A very kind Belgian lady, who works for the UNHCR, puts us up for the night at her house in a pleasant suburb.
As if to prove that every day has an incident of some kind, one of the security guards working at her house collapses in the early evening with breathing problems. It is at least 30 minutes before help arrives, and that comes in the form of the security company's 'armed response team' driving a Benny Hill style comedy ambulance. I get the sense that the fallen man's well being isn't of vital importance to his secutiry firm colleagues.
The man is bundled in the back with his bare feet hanging out of the back as the van crawls off into the darkness. I hope the lad is ok.
With that drama over, we watch Gordon Brown resign as British Prime Minister while our friendly hosts treat us to a tasty Chinese takeaway meal and a couple of glasses of whiskey.
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