“Road” Trip


“If you have men who will only come if they know there is a good road, I don’t want them. I want men who will come if there is no road at all.” David Livingstone, missionary, explorer

LIVINGSTONE, ZAMBIA — The David Livingstone Safari Lodge and Spa, a wonderful place that is sensitive in every other way to its guests’ needs, shared this irritating thought from its namesake on a brochure I found in the room.

It may seem cute at first, the insight that you don’t wind up in a place as close to paradise as that pictured above without some work. But if you think about it, or better yet, experience it, the fact that a century and a half after Livingstone’s “discovery” of what is now Zambia’s No. 1 tourist attraction the last stretch of the land route from the capital to there is a rutted and rock strewn dirt path where blinding billows of dust obscure hazards from view, just doesn’t make sense. Then consider that this road is a well-travelled part of the north-south trucking route that carries goods and resources from the Democratic Republic of Congo, through Zambia, Botswana, South Africa, and you think maybe Livinstone’s preference isn’t more than a little anachronistic by now.

I got there from Choma, where I had travelled to from Lusaka a couple of days earlier to go see a remote rural malaria hospital, the road to which is a similar, but another story.

The trip to Choma had its own hazards, although it is called a Good Road because it is paved and what they call a “dual carriageway,” meaning you can overtake vehicles by driving into the oncoming traffic lane. This is even less fun than it sounds once it gets dark– slate black dark – which it did in the last twisting undulating stretch of road during the final hour of my drive from Lusaka to Choma.

From Choma to I got to familiarize myself with the art of driving on what locally they call a “bad road” — which I call “no road” — rather a stretch of cleared bush next to what will someday be a road that a foreign construction crew was working on.

This practice though was a dry run for the much more well-travelled road between Choma and Livingstone. The trip from Choma to Livingstone takes three hours — with the first two hours taking care of about 125 miles, on “good”road — passing trucks in the oncoming traffic lane, swerving around goats and cows — and the last hour spent on the  40 miles of dirt and rocks and holes and ditches and a sudden explosion of white powder from a truck we passed.

You get there tired, which is why I think the hotel should rethink the Livingstone quote.


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