Yesterday we took our German neighbour, Max, who had a Zambia guidebook, and went in search of the Chimpanzee Orphanage by Chingola.
Things were going well until we pulled up to another one of those police checks that frequent the Zambian roads. Usually you can say “muli shani” (how are you) and they wave you on. This officer asked to see Robert’s driver’s licence.
He studied the Canadian licence in detail, and finally said, “this is not an international license.” I got nervous at this point. I had told Robert in Canada that he should get an international licence but he didn’t listen to me.
The officer first threatened to impound the vehicle, then insisted on a fine of 275,000 kwacha ($70.) Robert talked, discussed and cajoled until finally they let him go. Whew!
I worried they would get us on the way back again. The same officers just smiled broadly, wished us “safe journey” and waved us on.
There was a hippo pool along this road, according to the tourist map. Guess it must have been that river down there. Max and Johanna insisted they had seen a hippo. When we turned around, it was only a grey log peeking out of the water. In the photos it really does look like a hippo.
We finally saw the sign to the chimp farm. It would be 18 kilometres along a dirt path. Max’s guidebook said it would take 40 minutes in the dry season. We should have been suspicious when we read that. We got through the first water pool OK but the next was a lake.
We parked the car and looked at the lake. Johanna brought out a package of Smarties she had been saving. We decided to go for a drink at the Protea Hotel in Chingola instead.
On the way back we stopped at Mufulira turnoff to get some fresh vegetables and fruit at the roadside market. We had barely stopped the car when we were surrounded by shouting women and children who shoved their wares into our open windows. It was almost scary.
Robert stayed in the car and took photos. The kids liked it once he showed them the pictures on the camera screen.
I didn’t really see the children’s faces until I looked at my pictures on the
computer that night. At the time it had been a matter of survival for us both — for me to get past them to buy the vegetables I wanted, for them to get me to buy from them so they could eat. Now I wish I had taken the moment to see who they really were, kids with needs.
But, had I taken that moment, they would have seized it to batter me to buy!