Friday, May 13, 2016

The Journey

13th May

I am settling into my new house here in Monze after a reasonable trip from the UK.

The flight left Heathrow more or less on time. Setting off at 6.30 pm inevitably leads to a confusing few hours. It was probably after 10 pm when supper was finished and thoughts of settling for the night were uppermost.

                         Leaving London

I decided to watch North by Northwest over supper and remembered just how good Hitchcock was!

At about 11 pm I closed my eyes in a vain attempt to get some sleep. At 4am (Kenya time) the lights went on and breakfast was served! An hour later at 3am BST we landed at Nairobi. I had forgotten that we needed to go through security once more – this time shoes off as well as having to take the two notebooks out of my backpack and the laptop out of its bag. One of the staff decided to investigate this backpack which I had left half open in my sleepy stupor. She was particularly interested in the multiple packs of soap. (Jennipher has taken a particular fancy to Wright's Coal Tar soap, so if I have any weight allowance remaining it is filled with soap) Eventually they decided they weren't lethal weapons and gave me back my luggage – complete with soap!

At 7am (or 5am as I like to think of it) boarding commenced for the plane to Lusaka. The gate seemed to lead outside – though I did wonder if I had taken a wrong turn, since it seemed that there was a direct route from the gate to another plane!– a bus stood nearby, but no one giving directions. I jumped aboard and hoped that, after a 5 minute drive, the plane we found was going in the right direction. It was a relatively small plane – less than 100 seats and luggage lockers were rather full. Anyway all was well and we had a peaceful flight to Lusaka – well it was peaceful for me, because I slept most of the way. 
                                                                                                Clouds in th UK!!

I usually enjoy the flight but after spending a night awake it is hard to take in the views.

As we approached Lusaka we were informed that we would have to circle for a while. It turned out that the president was using the airport and so it was closed! We landed about 20 minutes later.

I am used to a long queue at immigration. Last year it took me 3 - 4 hours to pass through. On Wednesday I was through in 5 minutes! I picked up a trolley and my bags appeared immediately on the carousel. Before 10 am I had picked up some cash and was being directed to my taxi.

I have learnt in recent years that you cannot haggle with the fares at the airport – there is a fixed charge into town – this year 250 Kwacha (a little under £20). I was almost at the bus station when I realised that it would be easier to pick up the battery for the mobile phone charger while I had transport. So I asked the driver to divert. Fortunately I had located the shop and had a map from the internet and I was told it wouldn't take long.

I picked up a battery from this shop last year but didn't recognise the road – in fact I was sure it wasn't right. After driving up and down and eventually activating my phone I called the shop only to find is was on the other side of Lusaka! In the end all was well and we were back at the Intercity bus station at about 11 hrs.

My driver suggested that rather than try to get through the traffic inside the bus station, it would be better for me to get the ticket and he would park outside in the taxi rank. I first tried Mazandu buses and was told that I would have to wait until 19 hrs. Many people tried to persuade me to catch their bus – going now now!! I suspected that now now might be after 19 hrs anyway. So I fought my way to the Shalom kiosk and was told there were still seats on the 14hrs bus.


                Circling near Lusaka

The whole process of getting a bus at Intercity is quite fraught. You have crowds of people jostling about you, people wanting to take you to their bus, while claiming it is one of the major players i.e. Shalom or Mazandu. Other people try to take your cases – helpfully?

Apparently I was at the wrong window to get my ticket for Shalom. By the time I was at the front of the queue about 15 minutes later - someone had returned a ticket for the 11.30 am bus, so it appeared I was in luck. The only issue was now getting my luggage to the bus with only 10 minutes to spare.

5 minutes later I was feeling a bit foolish! I had a ticket for a bus about to leave, but my luggage was in a taxi, the driver of which I couldn't contact and who was no where to be seen!! I wondered what would become of the babies hats and bottles of clove oil not to mention the footballs and solar powered devices!

Another driver seeing my plight suggested we ask the people at reception to make an announcement over the Tannoy. Just after making this arrangement, I spotted my driver and with much relief ran to my bus – it now being 11.30. My elation was somewhat short lived when I was told there was no room for my luggage and that I was late and would have to wait for another bus!!

Expecting that after queuing again, I would be relegated to the 19 hrs I was relieved that when I eventually found my replacement ticket, I had been placed on the 13 hrs bus.

Perhaps not surprisingly I was now wide awake!!

At least Shalom buses run to time. We set off at 13 hrs. 15 minutes later we had reached the exit of the bus station! I will leave the scenes in the station to your imagination. A pastor came on board to give us a sermon for the next 10 minutes and we started moving again. He continued preaching for a further 10 minutes while we made our way towards the outskirts of Lusaka before taking up a collection and obtaining prayer requests from those leaving their mobile numbers!

A girl called Carol was sitting beside me. She was visiting an uncle in Livingstone. It made a change to have a bit of conversation on the journey.

The roads are again deteriorating and the combination of potholes and wicked road humps made the 2 ½ hour journey take 4 hours. At Kafue an immigration officer asked for my passport – only the second time in all my visits. Perhaps I need to carry my passport more often this year.

Raymond was waiting at Golden Pillow – the stop for big buses in Monze during daylight hours. (It is some years since I have arrived in Monze before sunset!)                Lusaka

Raymond had the taxi organised and Fr. Clement arrived with keys to let me into my house. I have built a good relationship with the Catholic Church in Monze over many years. In particular I have formed a link between Our Lady of the Wayside in Monze and our church of St. Gregory in Cheltenham. Our Lady of the Wayside was made into a parish in 2013 and Fr. Clement is the first parish priest. I have found that many of the priests enjoy a game of pool and there is fierce rivalry on the table between us! Fr. Clement has taken to the pool scene since he met me and now also plays a mean game.

I ate a meal with Raymond at Tooters and enjoyed a Mosi. (I wasn't quite sure by this time whether it was breakfast, lunch or supper!)

It was time to turn in and try to give my body some well needed sleep.


                                                   Kenneth Kaunda Airport, Lusaka

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