We left Chipata looking forward (?) to another long drive to finally make it to South Luangwa… but today’s drive was really tough, especially for me. One of the things I really dislike about myself is my ability to be motion sick in a matter of seconds. I’ve been wearing accupressure bands constantly (I even have a slight tan line from them…embarrassing) and have been generally ok, but today’s ride was rough.
Most adventure companies don’t include South Luangwa National Park on their trips because the road is so terrible, but Nomad trucks are a bit more heavy duty than other companies. By heavy duty, I really mean basic. A lot of other companies have trucks with computer managed suspension systems. The condition of the roads mean that the computer often thinks there’s an issue (even when there’s not), and the trip has to stop until a mechanic can assess the issue. Our truck is bumpy, but in the end more reliable. My grandpa (a car mechanic) always said the more things that are automated on a car, the greater the possibility for things to go wrong! Nomad thinks the same.
Why is the road so bad?
Really, it’s just never been finished…after 5 years of construction. Most of the drive was on a side dirt road next to the tarred road. I’m really not sure why we weren’t allowed on the tarred portion – my guess is they don’t want to take the time to build access to the tarred portion. The Chinese government built the first section, and the Zambians are working on finishing the remaining section. When I say bad, I mean that it took us 4 hours to travel 130 km. Finishing the road was one of the new president’s campaign promises, so hopefully it’ll be finished sometime soon.
Was it worth the trip?
Yes! South Luangwa National Park is the only Zambian park to not be heavily affected by poaching, so the concentration of animals is very high. We’re staying at a lovely campsite, called the Wildlife Camp. As I’m typing this I’m looking at hippos and crocodiles in the river and monkeys running around the campsite.
But the beautiful campground isn’t the main reason it’s been worth the journey. The main reason is the visit we made to a traditional Zambian village. As we drove into the village, I was curious, but also felt like I was intruding and was even skeptical that our experience would not be authentic. Thankfully, my negative feelings quickly dissipated as we got to know our hosts.
We started off with a traditional song and a Q&A session where they encouraged us to ask any questions. Here are some that were asked:
Do the boys have to sit separately from the girls?
All of the boys were sitting together and all of the girls were sitting together – but they thought this question was hysterical. As in most elementary schools in the US or UK, boys sit with boys and girls sit with girls, but they don’t have to!
Do people in the village work?
Not many, about 30% have jobs outside of the village. The main way they get money is a once a year cotton harvest. The land where the live is free and they grow most of their own food, so not much money is needed to survive. Nomad paid them for our visit, and we also donated money, so they were pleased that we visited.
How has HIV/AIDS affected the village?
About 50% of the kids in the village are orphans. The good news is that recently the government is mandating that all pregnant women and, if possible, fathers be tested prior to the birth of the baby. This awareness of HIV/AIDS is a huge step forward and will hopefully have a positive impact for future generations.
Do all of the kids go to school?
All children in the village have the opportunity to go to a “Community School” until about the age of 14. “Community Schools” are village schools established by charities in poor areas where there are no nearby government schools. This is a real way to see your charitable funds doing something life changing.
In other areas children can go to Primary (grades 1-7) and Secondary (grades 8-12) government funded schools. These schools require uniforms that many families can’t afford, so the government has also formed “Basic School” (grades 1-9) where uniforms are not required and the curriculum is less advanced. Unfortunately most students drop out after grade 7 because they must start paying fees in grade 8.
What age do women get married?
Although the legal age for women to get married is 25, many girls get married between the ages of 12-15, mainly because their families can no longer afford for them to be at home.
The asked us some questions in return – which showed that they were just as curious about us! How do we meet a spouse? Do we have any children? What religions are there in our countries? Are we Christians?
And finally, our village tour ended with the kids guiding us around their village –
showing us their new well, donated to them in 2011 by a nice man,
and teaching us some traditional dance.
We still have a day relaxing by the pool at the campground and a sunset game drive to look forward to tomorrow.