The Black Cat

Date: 02 MAR 18

After far too much over indulgence, I hit the road. I’ve decided to set off straight from Kariba rather than head back down to Harare, which just seemed a bit silly. So I now find myself off plan and entering Zambia, rather than transiting through Tete in northern Mozambique, which was described to me as Africa’s anus. As it happens, Tete has had car-submerging rains and nearly a foot fell in just 24hrs, so I’ve dodged a bullet there.

At the Zim exit post, a lorry bellows Christian songs, for in the back are crammed a truck load of pilgrims head to toe in gleaming white robes and singing at the height of their lungs. Christianity is apparent across the region. I’ve noticed a few times a group or two kneeling in a field in the arse end of nowhere, or an occasional river baptism. It’s quite a nice way to cross a border.

To enter Zambia I have to cycle the dam wall. Apparently, the engineer who designed this concrete arch, Andre Coyne, had built 70 giant concrete water retainers but took his own life after the Mareges Dam swung open in 1959, taking the lives of 421 of his fellow Frenchmen. Despite this, it remains intact and I make it to safety on the other side, but not before a black cat crosses in front of me. Perhaps a bad omen.

Just as I’m entering Zambia I’m reminded of the friendly nature of Africa, as a chap gives me his business card and says if I go though Monkey Bay in Malawi that he would be more than happy to offer me a hot meal and a bed for the night. So much for the black cat. The first hour is emotional as I ascend out of the valley, though that might be because my blood is 60% alcohol at this point, but it’s damn good to sweat it out and stretch my pegs. Baobab trees are plentiful, I’ve only ever really seen the odd one or two but they appear in every field here and make for good tree appreciation stopping points.

In the afternoon I can see the clouds mounting and some dense grey on the horizon, so with storms brewing and the occasional distant rumble of thunder I start the campsite hunt. All of a sudden my gears seize up with a teeth clenching crunch but not before a freak stone wedges itself in my front brake, locking the wheel and ,to add insult to injury, my front tyre springs a leak. That bloody cat! I limp into a truck stop, which is luckily just around the corner, but not before the heavens open as they often do here, drenching me from head to toe in a matter of seconds.

Whilst chatting away and fixing my bike with the eager help of the barman, ying and yang offer to balance out my misfortune. I’m offered a room in the lodge. The current occupant has paid for the night but only needs the room for a few hours. Needless to say I shake his hand and kill some time. Truck stop inns aren’t the classiest of establishments, it seems this is more like an American motel, all it’s missing is the flickering red neon sign out front.

It struck me as a tad odd that a man with a nice car would only need the room for the evening and I cant help but notice two women enter as the music goes up; but beggars can’t be choosers. When the ladies leave, he leans nonchalantly against the door frame looking slightly dishevelled, his shirt open exposing his bulbous middle aged stomach. Seedy. I had decided that I would still take the room and kip on the floor, when a member of staff tells me that my room is ready and I’m escorted to a fresh room with clean sheets. Thank God these walls can’t talk. Perhaps the black cat wasn’t so ominous after all.

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