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Wednesday, 17 November 2004

I'm Back!

Well, I’m back, from outer space, or something like it.

About an hour before we were due to leave I suddenly decided that it would be nice to read a funny poem at our friends’ wedding. I had in mind one I’d heard at another wedding, by Wendy Cope. As time ticked on I still couldn’t locate the poem on the internet. I cursed Google – how could it let me down at such a crucial moment? I tried all sorts of search words including marriage, relationships, funny, poems etc. Up popped a link to the Manila Married Swingers Club. I tried Amazon. Up popped an ad for a home defibrillator. I know weddings are stressful, but really… Then just as I was about to be dragged out of the office I found the poem. Written by Pam Ayres. Ahem.

One of the project vehicles was supposed to take us to Kapiri, where we would hopefully pick up a ‘proper’ coach to Lusaka. Of course the vehicle broke down just as we reached the tarmac. I am too old now for hiking in 40degree heat with a giant backpack. We got in a minibus that was going as far as Kapiri. We hadn’t been going for 10 minutes when we picked up our first animal. A woman with a live chicken wrapped in a plastic bag got in, and despite the fact that the bus was relatively empty, plonked herself and the bird down next to me. I feckin’ hate chickens I do. The feathers had been plucked from the neck to reveal pink wrinkly skin. It looked like a penis with a beak. We took a series of speed bumps too fast and almost rammed the car in front. Its licence plate began with ‘AAH’. Then the driver decided to put on a shirt, despite the fact that he was already wearing one. He scrambled into it, already buttoned and completely covering his face, and for about 30 seconds it was actually the shirt which was driving the vehicle. We zoom over another speed bump and all of the seats leave the floor. Not the cushions on the seats mind, the actual metal frames. We are airborne for a while before crash landing back to reality.

At Kapiri it is slow because it is a Sunday, and there are no big coaches going to the capital. We reluctantly get into another minibus. These vehicles are not for the claustrophic. There are maybe 60 people in a space meant for 20. We pull out of Kapiri and head south. For 10 metres. Then the bus stops again and everybody has to get out to allow two fat ladies from the back to get off and do a wee. Why they couldn’t do this back at the bus stop I don’t know. We wait. Other passengers wander off to buy drinks. More people get off to wee. At this rate it will take us months to get to Victoria Falls. Finally after half an hour we pull off. The crosswinds inside the vehicle from the open windows are horrific, and by the time we reach Lusaka my hair has been blown out to the side of my head in a point. An old lady laughs at me, but then her hair has been braided upwards into a point on top of her head, so I’m not sure what’s so funny. As we pull into the minbus station in Lusaka the heavens open. It is still 40 degrees heat, and holding an umbrella, a backpack and a daysack is impossible. We get wet. We also stay at a very weird guesthouse and almost look forward to the 6am bus next morning to Livingstone.