It is simply not possible to drive the full length of Africa without being in someone’s rainy-season. But if you try it in line with our time-table, it might just be possible to do it without exercising a windscreen wiper. Last night it truly rained, torrential torrents overflowed the guttering. This region has had 30in of rain in the last few days. When you are sleeping under a corrugated iron roof in a little tin shed, a compound grandly called The Mazingo Hotel, and a local tells you it’s about to rain cats and dogs, the subsequent racket is truly unbelievable.
The noise of thunder and lightning, Africa-style, has nothing on the follow-up experience of trying to snatch some sleep inside the cacophony of a kettle-drum.
Morning came, the rain eased off, and we were on the road south again, this time heading for the air-conditioned comforts of the Lusaka Intercontinental. Showers that work, hot water in the taps, lights that come on at the flick of a switch, Mini Bars that actually contain something, with soap and a plug in the wash-basin along with a towel on a hot rail. All pretty forgettable, however, when we come to look back on all this in the months and years to come …nobody is going to forget the sleepless night in the shanty-town of Mpika.
Day 23 saw a short time-trial down two strips of fine gravel with grass growing up the middle, with metre-high grass on either side, first jumping over a railway line, then curving round to return further down the line for another jump as the track returns us to the main road. A circuit of Zambian farmland. Six cars ‘cleaned it’, that is to say all got within the time set for this test.
Then it was down more long hot tarmac, getting busier all the time, to central Lusaka. The vegetable curry is the best thing about this hotel. Our Duncan Milligan needed whip and spurs to knock into some semblance of organisation things like a car park, and a fast key service e…the little things that we all take for granted but which had required over two hours of patience on his part to make happen.
Rachel Vestey and Suzy Harvey were among those taking up the offers of help – the MG radiator looking like it was about to fall onto the road at the next bad bump rather concentrated a number of minds on what might be the best solution.
The following day proved to be bright and sunny, as the competitors left Lusaka to pound down an empty tarmac road. Tall grass and Eucalyptus trees line the ribbon of freshly laid bitumen that heads south to Livingstone. Most crews left early in order to see the Victoria Falls. Some were working late last night in the workshops set up by the Zambia Motorsports Federation.
Quite a few cars left Lusaka today with a much greater chance of reaching Cape Town thanks to the hospitality of the Zambia national motor club. Tonight we are at the Zambezi Sun hotel, a short walk through the bushes from the Victoria Falls. Most of us have spent the afternoon chilling out, taking in the splendour of the World’s largest water-fall, and enjoying each other’s company in the pool bar. A giraffe wandered across the lawn followed by a herd of Zebras …surreal. The band played on, animals ignored us and we gave them the attention they prefer …just a second glance.
A few drivers took to the swimming pool – and why not, it’s hot. There is 1000km to be cracked in the day coming up, plus the border into Namibia. The World’s oldest desert beckons.
Gill said: ‘We are now in Mpika having spent the day travelling from Tanzania into Zambia. Crossing the border was quite an experience! Yesterday we had a long competitive section on rough roads followed by a long road section and a 15km hill climb on a rough twisty road, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Consequently we have now moved up into eighth place.’
Top ten overall
1 14 1h 14m 13 1 E Andy Actman GB Andy Elcomb GB 2010 Toyota Hilux 3000
2 23 1h 16m 17 2 E Steve Blunt GB Bob Duck GB 2006 Subaru Impreza 1994
3 45 2h 56m 18 1 D Joost Van Cauwenberge B Jacques Castelein B 1973 Porsche 911 3000
4 26 3h 18m 26 3 E David Tomlin GB Nicholas Adcock GB 2003 Land Rover Defender TD5 2495
5 33 3h 24m 58 1 B Owen Turner GB Matthew Fowle GB 2002 MG ZR 1589
6 47 3h 41m 10 4 E Patrick Beckers B Egfried Depoorter B 1992 Toyota Landcruiser 80 4200
7 35 3h 44m 27 1 C Alastair Caldwell GB Hayden Burvill AUS 1968 Porsche 912 2000
8 15 4h 02m 19 2 B Jane Edgington GB Gillian Cotton GB 1986 MG Maestro 1598
9 1 4h 44m 12 2 C Richard Atherton GB Rob Henchoz GB 1970 Volvo 144 1998
10 48 6h 08m 43 5 E Eric Claeys B Ben Deleye B 1999 Toyota 73 4200