By Jake Da Motta –
As the population here in the Luangwa Valley grows every month it seems, the road is seeing more and more vehicular traffic and evermore small Japanese saloon cars are sent for sacrifice upon the altar of the Chipata-Mfuwe road. Those that survive, plus a proliferation of minibuses and light goods vehicles, careen up the tar road from the airport to the National Park-gates joining the daily stream of 4×4’s in this tunnel of tall grass with a ribbon of villages nesting in it, ensuring that the number of road accidents is set to increase.
The local constabulary responded with more road blocks over the last year and once we all got over the major hurdle that we had no windscreens to display our tax and fitness discs or hang our rear view mirrors on (presumably to look up the skirts of our clients on their game viewing perches) things settled down. You can still get fined for driving without wearing your seat belt despite the presence of these eight poor, windswept souls clinging onto the high seats on the back with nothing between them and the point of impact except a threatened lawsuit!
If Livingstone is the Adrenalin-Sport-Capital of Zambia then we still have in the Luangwa a hard-core of hell-bent cyclists who for their own blood curdling thrills adhere to the time honoured code below.
Ten Ironclad Rules for Kamikaze Rural Bicycling
- Wherever possible ride in the middle of the road three abreast directly towards oncoming traffic.
- At the last possible second disperse in a totally random manner obeying the laws of Brownian Motion and using the full width of the road and verges.
- As soon as one car passes, immediately and with no warning or indication, swerve back into the middle of the road to ensure the surprise of the driver of the next car which may be following behind the first.
- Never travel with less than 100kgs of live-weight and goods on your bicycle. (the payload of an Eagle bicycle is roughly the same as a Series II Land Rover)
- Carry all long goods (planks, building poles and sugarcane) at right angles to the direction of travel.
- When approaching a blind corner drift across to the far side of the road.
- If a vehicle approaches from behind and toots its horn to notify you of this look over your shoulder at it and veer off the tarmac, crashing spectacularly and immediately claiming damages for harassment.
- Do not waste money on bicycle lights at night. Rather use the lights of passing cars for free, by cycling as far and fast as you can in front of their beams and then following their tail lights when they have passed using the guidelines set out in point (3).
- Always stop and greet other cyclists by dismounting and standing in the middle of the road especially at night.
- Never signal your intentions to oncoming cyclists. Instead ride as fast as you can towards each other and then peel off randomly at the last second.
Our roads would not be the same without such delightful diversions and somewhere a manual must exist from which are drawn the following Top Tips for those cyclists who graduate to four wheeled steeds.
Five Golden Rules in the event of a Punctured Vehicle Tyre
- Do not under any circumstances, move the disabled vehicle off the carriageway to avoid causing a traffic jam. Despite having driven for half an hour on the flat tyre the fact is that should the vehicle be pushed a further three metres to get it off the Great North Road Roundabout your tyre will be damaged beyond repair.
- Never carry a jack, wheel-spanner or spare tyre. To do so is to invite disaster. All these can easily be borrowed off passing, less cautious motorists, who should also be encouraged to stop in the middle of the thoroughfare to show clearly there is a problem.
- Always use enormous boulders to block the vehicle and prevent it from rolling off the borrowed jack. These should then be left in the middle of the road when you depart for the convenience of any other puncture victims.
- In the unlikely event that you are not carrying warning triangles numerous large (and preferably thorny) branches should be cut from roadside trees for a distance of at least 2kms before and after the site of your breakdown. This will while away the time it takes for a vehicle with a jack, wheel-spanner or spare tyre on board to come along, and may cause sufficient punctures to ensure that the other car stops long enough for you to borrow these.
- Under no circumstances repair the puncture in your tyre once you are driving on your spare, again this sort of behaviour is merely asking for another puncture.
And the booby prize for earlier this year goes to the entrepreneur who seeing a seasonal niche market in Zambia for chocolate Easter Eggs invested a small fortune in a large consignment from Zimbabwe which arrived by road at the border in good time to be distributed to the shops and reap high rewards for the foresighted importer. Hopes were dashed however when the whole shipment was refused entry by customs officials in response to emergency measures put in place at all borders to thwart the dreaded Bird Flu. Apparently the importation of eggs into Zambia is no longer allowed……so back they had to go! Anyone hoping to take a box of Kit Kats back to the EU should be warned that they should first have them vaccinated against rabies and micro-chipped lest the same fate await them.