Tag Archives: Namibia

Assignment: Zambia

Beautiful Zambia: the "smoke that thunders"

Beautiful Zambia: the “Smoke That Thunders”, Victoria Falls

Well, no sooner was I back from my wonderful road trip in the States than I got a call from a BBC contact about a new assignment – in Zambia! With barely a week in the UK – and most of my stuff still packed in my suitcase! – I was suddenly skidding back to Heathrow and flying south towards Jo’burg, then on to Lusaka.

My last trip to Zambia, maybe 3 years ago, was an unforgettable journey, entering the country’s western border via Namibia’s Caprivi Strip and driving up through Livingstone with a stop-off to gaze in awe at the mighty Victoria Falls before exploring the endless delights of the Zambezi River. Coming back to Zambia, this time for work, has been an altogether different kind of experience – though no less memorable!

On location with the Zambian TV crew

On location: shooting with the Zambian TV crew

I’ve been working as Consultant Producer on a UK AID/DFID-funded documentary being made by a Zambian documentary crew. I’ve had the privilege of working with this small team of local film-makers, seeing how they work and advising them on technical and creative aspects of the production. I can assure you, it’s been a learning curve for all of us! And working with them has once again afforded me the chance to see a country in a different way from your average tourist or traveller.

Filming in all kinds of locations from remote maize farms to local downtown markets and back-street nshima (Zambia’s staple dish) restaurants, we’ve met an amazing cross-section of people in a very short space of time. As ever, I’ve been struck by how little people survive on here in Africa, but how happy they are regardless – and wondered at the poverty that still exists, even in the heart of big developed cities like Lusaka.

Exploring Lusaka on two wheels

Exploring Lusaka on two wheels: not for the faint-hearted!

And of course, it wouldn’t be a proper trip without some forays out on two wheels. On my weekends off, I’ve been exploring under my own steam on a little Chinese-made 125cc bike that goes like a bomb and is great for dodging Lusaka’s burgeoning traffic – though nerves of steel and lightning-quick reflexes have been required on many an occasion: the combination of sudden pot-holes and things you wouldn’t expect to see shuffling across the tarmac (where did that one-legged woman come from?!) certainly made me feel well and truly alive out there on the road!

So it’s been work combined with a little bit of pleasure and, all too soon, my three-week stint here is coming to an end. I have a feeling I’ll be back here very soon, though. One way or another, Africa just keeps a-calling! 🙂

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Ride To The Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Well here I am at one of the Great Wonders of the World – and wow, what a wonder it is! My whole life, I’ve wanted to see Arizona’s Grand Canyon but nothing prepared me for just how beautiful – and how BIG! – it really is.

The ride up from Flagstaff was in itself an experience. I took the long way round – historic Route 66, then up Interstate 89 to Cameron, then westwards on the I-64, along Desert View Road, approaching the canyon from the east. At first the land was volcanic, with the San Francisco Peaks, still capped with snow, visible in the wing mirror for miles. Then the landscape turned to arid reddish-brown desert – it really reminded me of Namibia and immediately called to mind my journeys to the Fish River Canyon, which is second in size only to the Grand Canyon.

Look what I borrowed! :)

Look what I borrowed!

Oh and when I say “ride”, as luck would have it, on arriving in Flagstaff, I got chatting to a lovely guy who, it turned out, had a lovely bronze-coloured Honda Rebel gathering dust in the garage. Hearing about my plans to head for the Canyon, he immediately suggested I take the bike. It was an offer too good to resist and so, alongside all the ubiquitous Harley Davidson riders plying Route 66, here I am on a small-but-perfectly-formed Honda Rebel, tearing up the landscape with the best of ’em! 🙂

The first views of the mighty Canyon from the Desert View lookouts were absolutely breathtaking. I have to admit, a shed a little tear: I could barely believe I was here after so long dreaming about coming one day. The vast expanses of deep red, brown, cream and pale green rock, the intricately-chiselled cliff edges, and the sheer drops down the side of the canyon (it’s a mile deep!) left me breathless with wonder. At certain points I could see the rapids of the Colorado River gushing through the canyon far below, while up above condors circled and swooped, surveying the massive gash in the earth underneath them. I’ve seen many natural wonders in the world, but this has to be one of the most awe-inspiring, truly.

Contemplating the scenery...

Contemplating the Canyon…

I’ve been here a few days now, staying in a lodge (Yavapai) buried deep in sweet-smelling pine forest. I’ve hiked many different trails, breathless in the searing heat (101ºF) and altitude (7,000ft). And anywhere I could ride to enjoy yet another vista, believe me, I’ve ridden there!

I leave tomorrow with a happy heart – and some brilliant photos. And more adventures await! Next I’m off to the Overland Expo just south of Flagstaff (via the scenic route, of course!) to mingle with the great and good of the adventure motorcycle and 4×4 overlanding world. Before then, I’ve got a bit more riding to do… 🙂

Desert Road Trip: Namibia

On the road in Namibia, January 2012

Well here I am on the road yet again in glorious Namibia – an intriguing, vast and utterly remote country. And I’ve gotta say, I’m loving every moment of this challenging desert road trip.

Namibia’s gravel roads have proved – yet again – to be endless and unforgiving. I’ve already had a major tyre blowout crossing the Namib Desert. Thankfully I was able to limp the car on its three good wheels into a village about 15kms away called Bethanie, where a friendly white Namibian called Phillip spotted my problem and helped me change the mangled tyre in scorching 40-degree heat – watched by an ever-growing crowd of locals enjoying the ensuing excitement in their dusty, sleepy old town. It was a timely reminder that the desert needs respect at all times. I’d gotten confident driving on the gravel – picking up speed to lessen the shudder-effect of the corrugations – and one lapse of concentration combined with a moment of ill luck cost me dear this particular day.

Showing off my new set of wheels (!) at the Canon Roadhouse, Namib Desert

Back on the road, the desert’s charms have been captivating me just as they did on my first visit. Out here, it’s so quiet – apart from the sudden gusts of warm desert winds – and the remoteness is all the more striking for being out here on my own. It’s by turns exciting and terrifying to realise just how far from civilisation I am. Well worth a busted tyre any day of the week.

I could wax lyrical about the mighty Fish River Canyon, the sheer orange dunes of Sossuvlei, or the eerie, misty majesty of the Skeleton Coast, for they are indeed incredible natural wonders to behold. But in fact it’s the simple experience of crossing the desert – this raw land full of ever-changing colours and terrains – that is perhaps the most captivating of all. For sure, there are sights to see – albeit thousands of kilometres apart! – but more than anything I’m revelling in simply travelling across this remote desert wilderness, alone and unfettered. Just me and the mighty desert.

As usual, I’m hamstrung by time – the bane of all of us who must work to fund these sporadic adventures into the wilderness. After a few weeks on the road, it’s time for me to turn my wheels back towards South Africa to head back to Cape Town, and thence back to Australia. Till then, I’m going to savour these last days on the road – they’re what keep me alive when I’m office-bound once more.