“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” –Mark Jenkins

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Day 3 - Learning about Zambian culture - from the Football club!

Tracey and her pilot both going handsfree!
So it's only day 3 but the big event of the trip that Tracey was dreading is already upon us... the microlight flight! We both decided breakfast was best left until after the experience so we managed with dodgey Roobios tea and nicotine instead. Dennis, from Livingstone's Adventure, arrived shortly before sunrise at 645am to collect us and spent the ten minute journey telling us about his time in Cambridge in the UK back in the 80's. It seems his over-riding memories were of the cold and our wondrous central heating.
Lisuma (Sunshine) in her new glasses
When we got to the Batoka airstrip, we were greeted and told to read the official indemnity before signing our lives away - the final line read.... "It is better to be on the ground wishing to be in the air, than to be in the air, wishing to be on the ground". All I can say is that the ground was absolutely freezing at that time in the morning. Yes the sun was up, but only just, and the air was decidedly chilly. Thankfully they provided us with padded high-vis jackets to fly in. We were given our flight tickets; numbers 49 and 50 and said we would be called when it was our time to fly, so we took our seats outside next to the runway to wait our turn.

Before us was a family of four, but with only 3 micro-lights in the air at once, the mother, daughter and ten-year old son went up first and the father would be flying with Tracey and I in the next round. Tracey watched anxiously as the ten-year old whizzed past us on the runway waving enthusiastically at his father in his over-sized helmet - 15 minutes and that would be us. Tracey looked pale.
We soon heard the engines again returning over the bush and we stood to watch them land and get ready to board. I was first up and Tracey followed in the second. We had headsets that connected us to the pilot and each micro had a GoPro on board to record the whole thing in images taken from the wing at 10 second intervals. The take off was as smooth as I remembered and the view as breathtaking, but what was a surprise was how the temperature changed almost as soon as we were airborne. No longer was there a chilly wind, but a nice warm airflow as we soared above birds and hippos and spiralled downwards over Victoria Falls - simply incredible. Words or pictures cannot do it justice, you have to be up there and feeling the freedom of the wind around you with your arms and legs outstretched - it's exhilarating. So much so that Tracey's first coherent words when she landed back down were "I want to do it again NOW!".
The high-fivers and their pencil cases
Starving and on a massive high, Dennis returned us to the volunteer house for the remains of breakfast and a sneaky look at the 100+ GoPro photos we were each now clutching on USB sticks. 
Still without any local currency and orientation not happening until Monday, we decided to head out for another exploratory wander, taking with us some of the donated pencil cases and sunglasses for the local children we had met the day before.
By 11am we found ourselves cooling off at the local football club, beer in hand, next to a table of African women doing much the same. Of course, it wasn't long before we had befriended them; Edith, who clearly liked a beer or two, was more than a little mad, but good fun. Her cousin, Tango, was visiting from Lusaka, a stunning 20 year old who liked to dance, and Edith's sister, Zeta, a civil servant with the Zambian Air Force who seemed to be the more sensible of the three. They had a 7 year old girl with them called Lisuma, who turned out to be both Edith's sister and her niece!
Zeta, me, Tango and Tracey at the Falls Garden Lodge
We stayed awhile and chatted, learning a lot about Zambian culture; the women do the drinking and do not smoke, but in many tribes, the men can have many wives so the women are often left alone for days at a time. There are 76 tribes in Zambia, each with their own language - the girls spoke Bembo and Nyanja as well as pretty good English. The music was cranked up and more beers appeared (Edith was not happy about us being ripped off paying in US dollars so managed to sort some more beers out with the barman - I certainly wouldn't mess with her!), then all too soon we had to leave them at the bar to get back to the lodge for lunch. With zero local currency, we were also in danger of overstepping the mark of hospitality - we would have to get hold of some Zambian Kwacha somehow and soon, to repay their generosity.
for some reason they don't feel it necessary to put doors on!
Lunch was a massive grilled steak, with pasta and mixed vegetables, so Tracey enjoyed a double helping of African beef, whilst I stuffed myself with carbs. We owed the lodge some US dollars for our private room and also for the extra night we had on arrival and luckily persuaded them to give us our change in local currency... with 100 Kwacha (about £7), we were good to go out again! We loaded up the gift bag once more and set off for the short walk through "Highlands". Edith, Zeta and Tango were still at the sports club when we arrived and the football hadn't yet kicked off. Turns out the opposing team had failed to turn up and so to ensure the hour the boys spent jogging round the sandy pitch, sweating in the afternoon heat was not completely in vain, they decided to have the A team play the B team instead. At this point, Edith decided she wanted to take us to another bar that her friend ran which was closer to our guest-house and much quieter... The Falls Garden Lodge. It was indeed quiet, that is until we turned up. It is an outside bar with thatched roof and considerably better toilets than the sports bar - albeit without toilet doors! Edith had her friend crank the music up once more and the girls took to teaching Tracey and I to do some African dancing - not sure either of us will ever make twerkers, but we had a giggle trying, much to everyone's amusement. Their brother, Sammy Jay, had joined us by this point, an aircraft technician also with the Air force.  We learnt from him a lot more about life in Zambia and shared the differences between their world and ours - some of which they believed and some they didn't - Tango somehow could not get it in her head that we don't have hippos in Sussex! We talked about African suffering, freedom and salaries. Religion and the lack of free education, as well as the dreams of these women who had quickly become our local friends. We left them shortly before 7pm to head back over the red sand road to our accommodation for dinner. Another cracking day that ended with bed about 8:20pm - getting later!

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