Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The Journey

I went down to Durham yesterday to fetch our new car - peace having once more been made with the British banking system.

I caught an early morning train down, via Newcastle, to Durham and then drove straight back. My ideal would have been to spend a bit of time exploring Hadrian's Wall, or maybe some of the nearby coastline but parenting commitments back in Glasgow did not permit.

That said I really enjoyed the journey. It reminded me of why I don't like flying - firstly because I am afraid the machine might plummet to the ground, but also because flying is too fast and too distant from the action to give a real sense of the journey. Driving a large vehicle along long stretches of highway reminded me of the trip I did with my mom and my dog from Cape Town to Zambia.

Over a distance of over 3000kms we left the pace of the city and moved in convoy with our truck to the sedate and dusty streets of Lusaka. We encountered heat, dust, goats, elephants, giraffes, unbelievable African bureaucracy and phenomenal scenery. Our route took us through Mafikeng, into Botswana, through Nata with its endless salt pan, over the border to Zambia on the Kazungula ferry and onto the Great North Road to Lusaka.

The ferry was undoubtedly the moment of greatest symbolic change- a 400m comma between what I knew in southern Africa and what I would come to know in Central Africa. It slowly carries a truck and a few cars at a time over the crocodile and hippo laden waters of the Zambezi. As you wait your turn there's little to do but ponder the islands and banks belonging to Zambia, Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, and the animals who travel obliviously passport-free between them.

I hear that the new bridge at Shesheke is easing the pressure on the pontoon as many trucks now detour through Namibia. But it took us time to cross the Zambezi – queuing, waiting, chatting with others doing the same. And finally being carried over on the belching platform as it fought against the rivers flow. It was the best introduction possible to Central Africa – chaotic, beautiful, slow. It could not be forced and it all got done in its own way and in its own time. I'm sure it was frustrating at the time but now I long for journeys that speak so accurately and honestly of the destinations they reach.

17 comments:

Kaycie said...

Beautiful. I do believe I would enjoy traveling with you.

Iota said...

What a lovely description.

I hope you are going to have many fun journeys in your new car.

The Good Woman said...

Thanks Kaycie.

And me too Iota!

Omega Mum said...

Very atmospheric. Thank you.

Katie said...

Lovely post. I prefer to travel by train if possible - there's nothing like watching the scenery go by while listening to some great music on my headphones.

Drunk Mummy said...

Sounds like you should start a Slow Travel movement (like the Slow Food one) to better appreciate the joys of travelling.
My school run is slow enough at the moment, however.

The Good Woman said...

Thanks to you too Omega.

I love train travel too Katie - a very senbsible pace (although even that is changing).

I love your idea Drunk Mummy. Slow travel. I promise to make it clear that it does not include school runs where the possiblility of warp speed clearly needs to be resolved.

Annie said...

Great post. My parents often talked of the particular smell of Zambia - smells like that never leave your memory either, I find.

The Good Woman said...

Woodsmoke and (this always gets me) new rain on hot earth - those are my Zambia smells Annie. Do your parents ever talk about the cicadas? That's my Zambia soundtrack.

Annie said...

The crickety type things? - YES!!

They say coming here to where I live reminds them in some ways of Zambia. We have a lot of crickets chirping in the evenings. And, even though this town is rapidly growing, there are areas that we drive through that are more rural with homes built low and under the shade of several large trees - with dusty lanes for driveways. My Aunts whom have visited me, and visited us in Zambia years ago drew the same comparisons.

My Mum bought me some frangipani recently for our garden in Florida - another Zambian memory. Sorry, should have done my own blog post on this eh? ;)

The Good Woman said...

I used to do yoga under a beautiful frangipani in the garden. Sigh...

Unfortunately this spoiled me. Indoor yoga just doesn't do it for me. My hips have suffered most. But now I am contemplating a trip to Florida....

Stay at home dad said...

You've settled effortlessly into striking comparisons between your two continents TGW. Very nice.

lady macleod said...

beautiful description of the journey.
Now the new car is to take to Africa? man when you pack, you don't screw around!

The Good Woman said...

Thanks SAHD.

ANd Lady M. Yes, but we'er only taking one container - with the car plus the balance of our worldly possesions. Considereing the size of our car, our worldly possessions are not allowed to be too plentiful!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

A place I would love to visit. A world away from our own familiar surroundings.

Crystal xx

The Good Woman said...

Yes, Crystal, a very differnt place and well worth a visit.

Gwen said...

What lovely desriptions. It makes you realise the joys of taking your time over travel.