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.