Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Heading west by whatever means possible ...

By taxi we arrived in Ndola, Zambia after a 52hr train experience. Our arrival was even more of an experience than the train was. We arrived in the dark, traveled in the dark and got our first impressions of Ndola in the dark. Thank goodness, they were the wrong impression, for we received the impression that it was a dreary place, with pollution to the point of making the air thick with fumes mixed with dust. The main entrance was made up of refineries and mining operations amidst what appeared to be a barren landscape. Not a good first impression.

Thankfully in the morning we were treated to the view of the gardens of our BandB, Katuba BandB.

They were beautiful. Were we biased because we finally felt clean and fresh? Only time would tell.

Ndola,the second oldest colonial town in Zambia, found in the Copperbelt of Zambia, it was once the largest industrial center in Zambia. Sadly it had declined (decline in copper) with the resulting loss of infrastructure and maintenance. It is back on the upswing again with the rising copper prices and a renewed interest in the mining arena. Zambia is the world's 8th largest producer of copper and yet has many other commodities: precious gems, gold, and the various copper accompanying metals. Ndola also offers a redone oil refinery as well as as another being built. The industry that abounds, cement works due to the large amount of limestone in the area, as well as the refinery and mining lends itself to the presence of the pollution that we experienced on our arrival.  one of the local industries was well able to quench the thirst of those who imbibe.
 nothing spewing out of this during the day but at night ....
So imagine our surprise when we left the guesthouse and headed into town to find that the dust primed pollution of the night before was almost non-existent in the daylight. I would suspect that it is only allowed to flow freely at night. The wind that was blowing might have also had something to do with it. It is also a major transportation hub, including the presence of a 2nd even slower train that connects Livingstone to Kitwe.

Ndola is known for it's treelined streets
 and what wonderful trees they were.
 often times the base looked like elephant feet
  oops, looks like I was listing a whole lot!
The streets themselves were in a state of flux, some being repaired others already done. It was wonderful to walk down the dusty hot road in the shade of these beautiful trees, wondering as we went about the magnificent homes on the other side of the fences behind the trees. In it's heyday this truly was a place of wealth.

Our first stop: to buy tickets for the bus to Solwezi for the next day  how do you know which company to buy from ...
as well as a sim card for our cells. Success in both activities but was unable to access the data that I bought. Guess there was something to the statement "if you have any problems, come back and see me".  The buses that we saw looked comfortable and definitely not ac'd but with windows that would open.
 What I would later discover was that there was no assigned seating and if you didn't understand the system, you lost out! The ticket booth for the buses was a small zinc encased kiosk in the center of a corner lot, viewing for space and safety amongst traffic, both foot and vehicular.

From here we went on to find the National Copperbelt Museum.
 For a small local museum, this one was very well presented.  They had only a small amount of artifacts and items but they made up for this lack in their poster board informational signs. I learned more about geology and how rocks are produced here than I did in all the years of studying natural sciences, and in an easy to understand language. The gem examples were pretty awesome too.   an emerald, for example

The next day found us, bag and baggage, down at the bus stop waiting the arrival of our 11:30 bus, with anticipated arrival in Solwezi at around 5pm. Waiting, and waiting, and waiting some more. The longer we waited I knew the greater the chance of our arriving in the dark. Seems like we are destined to arrive in every new destination in the dark, even though we schedule for a mid-afternoon arrival. The people watching was fantastic, allowing for the passage of time to be less frustrating.
 seems like the favorite way to carry things is on one's head. Their neck must become awfully strong or else they have a lot of problems when they get older.
  everything imaginable is carried this way

 this time live chickens 
 they were quietly looking around, oblivious to their ultimate fate.
 reminders of home as well, "Tx Tech Raiders" on the back of a local ... it truly was amazing to see the variety of worldwide representation by way of t-shirts

Queuing to get on the bus? What is that? Certainly not found here as we fast discovered. I can match the best of them (a skill learned early on in Germany) but was no match here. I blamed it on the fact that I had to watch my bag! Yeah right! No assigned seats and more tickets sold than seats: What a conundrum. I can see and fully understand why people shove and push when in groups.

Finally, on the bus, seated, and on our way only 3 hours late. I sat next to a wonderful young man who was full of questions about the USA/Canada and who in turn, gave me a running dialogue about the country that we going through. He worked, and proud of the fact, in one of the new mines a short distance out of Ndola so I soon lost my seat-mate. But the good part, Danny was able to then sit beside me. Stopping and starting, people on and people off, at no time did we seem to make up any of the time initially lost. The people watching was fantastic however and watching the vendors swarm the bus with their food stuffs was mind boggling. As we had brought shawarmas with us to eat, we did not need to buy anything but water - frozen, ice cold water - yes! Danny initially had a great seat in the very back where he could get some fantastic photos sight unseen
 The women took great pride and imagination in their hair with some of them wearing wigs. In fact, vendors would even get on the bus selling wigs. I saw some of the most beautiful people that I have ever seen and the smiles were breathtaking

while I, on the other hand, sitting on an inside seat was not able to get much of anything except blur.
Throughout our ride we had African soap operas with some parts said in English and others in one of the many dialects. My favorite was called "?? Inside the Palace" and we missed the last segment getting off. (Gary, do you remember the actual name?) Now we will never know what happened with the new ruler.

This is as good a time as ever to talk a little bout one of the more unsavory aspects of public transportation here in Africa. This would be the difficulty in finding and buying deodorant and the lack of excess water for bathing. Their clothing are fastidiously clean and well pressed but their emanating odors are overwhelming. No matter the station in life, it is the same from the lowliest street person to the highly professional ... no difference is smelled. At this time now more than ever, I can understand the habit of old of ladies and their beautifully decorated and perfumed white handkerchiefs: Oh how I wished for one on this trip.

We arrived in Solwezi around 8, and yes, in the dark. Travis and his fellow PCV friends were there to meet us. The taxistas were very aggressive here, grabbing for you while you were still on the bus. And they wanted exorbitant fees. When Travis spoke to them in their own language and told them just how much we should pay, they looked somewhat perplexed and maybe a little disappointed. {erosional space is an unknown here I believe as while waiting for our luggage, we were shoulder to shoulder, front to back and back to front and we weren't evens tanking near the basement of the bus. Definitely a different feel. Couldn't see much of the town as we headed out to the guesthouse but the plans were for a walking tour in the morning. 
 The Fabulous Five! LtoR: Danny, Gary, Travis, Shirley, Peggy in front of one of the fantastic pairings in the PC way house

 Our guesthouse, Chobubwamu,  was close to the PC way house and we checked in to find that we had no hot water for showering and absolutely no food to be had. The hostess was suffering from malaria - oops better use our mosquito net and repellent - or so she said. We settled in to a much needed sleep.