Zambia: Everything is Big Here

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Tackling Zambia via the Great East Road proved the country to be full of surprises and much grander than we expected…

Zambia is a country that feels massive. Of course Africa itself is massive with vast and seemingly infinite spaces, but Zambia takes this characteristic to a special level. It’s not the expansive impression that comes from viewing a wide open flat plain; it is hilly in fact. There just seem to be huge spans of time and distance between everything here. It’s almost as if the rules of physics, or at least perception, are bent, amplified even. What looks like one kilometer is really five. A storm is visible hours before it hits. Animals, rivers, and even insects are larger. Massive volumes of space turn people into ants against the giant landscape.

After relaxing for a couple of days in a comfortable camp on the Zambezi, we were set to begin the extra long traverse across this behemoth. We were not quite sure what to expect. A Japanese bike tourist we met, heading in the other direction, said it took him nine days to make it from Chipata to Lusaka. A lady we met in Zim said it was boring. We figured we’d throw our bikes on a bus after a couple of days if it was indeed mundane. Rested and ready, we took off, battling the rains that occur almost daily this time of year.

Zambia, as all of the other countries on this otherworldly continent, has been full of surprises. Here are a few: It’s not boring at all. The people are some of the friendliest we’ve encountered, and some of the most interesting. The heavily forested mountains are all but flat and mundane. It seems like eighty percent of the population rides bicycles, so there is always camaraderie on the road. It’s expensive, even though it is very poor. Water is safe to drink from the NGO supplied bore holes that cropped up throughout our passage. There are a lot of elephants here, and they are far more dangerous to cyclists than lions (although I did meet a British expat whose wife treated locals around the South Luangwa National Park, several of whom had been attacked by lions while casually pedaling down the road). And, last but not least, Zambia is much much bigger than we anticipated.

Bike Touring Zambia

Taking off down a dirt road paralleling the Zambezi River.

Zambezi sunset

After arriving at a rustic lodge, we caught a glimpse of the afterglow of sunset on the river.

Zambezi River - Hippos

A pod of hippos gives us the evil eye before ducking out of sight.

Zambezi River

Amazing that folks have the balls to fish on these dugout canoes. Guys do get taken by crocs and battered hippos on a regular basis, though.

Zambezi River - Saddle Billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork.

Zambezi River - Crocodile

Zambezi River

Zambezi River

Zambezi River

A bird makes a quick exit as a hippo darts for the water.

2014-02-zambia-10

Weaver nests along the bank.

Zambezi River - Crocodile

A big one basks in the sun.

Zambezi River - African Fish Eagle

African fish eagle.

Zambezi River - Hippos

Elephant at the Zambezi River

Elephant at the Zambezi River
Three male elephants put on a show that evening. They eventually start wrestling and playing in the water for about an hour. Here are a few other photos…

Elephant at the Zambezi River

Elephant at the Zambezi River

Elephant at the Zambezi River

Zambezi River

Our boat driver for an afternoon trip down the river.

Zambezi Sunset

Another magical sunset…
Zambezi River
… and a pretty nice sunrise the next day as we wake up early to hit the road.
Zambia - Vegetable Market
A vegetable market on the road… best one yet. That night we made a massive stew.

Zambia vegetable market

Tomatoes galore.

Zambia portrait

Zambia portrait

Bike touring Zambia

Gin felt the rains down in Africa.

Zambia portrait

The children are a bit camera shy here.

Zambia portrait

Bike touring Zambia

Our campsite in a village/bike parking area.

Zambia insect

A very strange insect I discovered hanging something to dry.

Bike touring Zambia

We spent a fair share of time at these bore hole wells that were installed across the country by various NGOs, including The Peace Corps.

Zambia portrait

Bike touring Zambia

Our campsite in the bush on the edge of the Lower Zambezi National Park. We were secretly hoping to hear the roar of a lion or the crash of an elephant that night. No such luck… only dozens of bush baby eyes lighting up the trees as I rushed dinner to jump in the tent after dusk.

Bike touring Zambia - Surly ECR

Bike touring Zambia - bananas

The best bananas I have ever eaten.

Zambia fish market

A fish market at the Luangwa bridge.

Zambia - South Luangwa Park

Bike touring Zambia - bananas

More bananas please.

Zambia Monkey - South Luangwa

Zambia - South Luangwa Park

Zebras in the South Luangwa National Park. We also got a glimpse of some very rare African wild dogs.
Zambia - South Luangwa Park

Zambia - South Luangwa Park

Zambia - South Luangwa Park
A baobab tree.
Zambia - South Luangwa Park
Luangwa River
A massive storm brewing over the river.

Zambia - South Luangwa Park

Tags

  • twowheeltravel

    Certainly NOT boring! Just the thought or Lions or Elephants sounds is pretty exciting. Great pics as usual. :)

    ~tyler

  • Joe

    You have some stunning pictures in this set. Great work! Glad you trip is going well and thanks so much for sharing.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Tyler! Definitely not boring. We actually just met up with some travelers we saw a few weeks back who just caught a festival in Zambia where they witnessed a bull being speared in ceremony… we missed it by a couple of days!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks for the compliments Joe!

  • Taylor Busby

    Incredible.

  • clintval

    I keep reading! The images are great. Keep up the good work!

  • amee

    Amazing Logan! You need to get in contact with National Geographic.

  • nicholas allen

    sensational, love this blog

  • Paul Webster Dorr

    By far, one of the best bicycle touring blogs out there.

  • larry watts

    Beautiful photos-the best yet! I hope you might get the oppotunity to check out a place called Chaminuka on lake Chitoka outside Lusaka. This was the home of Andrew Sardanis the owner of the company that brought us to NC. It is now a lodge and nature preserve. I remember talking to him over dinner about the wonders of Zambia- he obviously loved it.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks! We are far away from Lusaka, unfortunately. Tell everyone hello!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Paul, those are mighty kind words!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks for following Nicholas

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Amee! Tell everyone we said hello. Happy Bday by the way!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Glad you are following, thanks and cheers!

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Taylor… hope you are doing well!

  • amee

    Will do! It is Taco night, Friday! I am sure you and Gin will come up as our objects of envy. I am definitely appreciating following your journey. And thanks, it was an awesome birthday.

  • Fellow ECR

    Thanks for the Great pics. I really enjoy reading your blog keep it up..I also Have an ECR how is it doing on the long haul? Also whats the one piece of gear you just can’t do without. Thanks Again and safe travels.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks! It is doing great! The Knards are showing some wear after almost 4,000 kms (I will post a review soon), but they are performing way better than I expected and I have only had 3 flats (all of which sealed themselves with Stans in the Toob). In terms of gear I can’t do without, funny you ask, I was planning a post about that soon (5 items actually), but I will say that my Bunyan Velo handlebar ‘ditty bag’ by Radi-jo Fabrications is up there on the list…

  • John Q.

    GREAT blog! As a former working pro photographer married to an exceptional world class photographer I’d say your pic.’s are sensational. Enjoy your writing as well and since I will be touring much more when I retire in 137 days I particularly like the equipment testing you are doing for me ;).
    Cheers & stay safe, John q.

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks John… I am flattered having these comments come from a pro!

  • http://Www.adventurefamilyinmotion.com/ Adventure family in motion

    The ECR is getting put through some serious testing! Your photos are fantastic as always, thanks for keeping us up to date.

  • Sabien

    Hello,

    wonderful pictures. We are probably going to cycle in Zambia and Malawi and Malawi. Can you describe shortly which tour you have done? What part of Zambia did you like the most?

  • http://www.pedalingnowhere.com/ Logan

    Thanks Sabien. I really liked all of Zambia, but we kind of cycled it fairly quickly and didn’t take the time to explore as much as I’d have liked. I would like to explore the dirt roads around South Luangua a bit more as well as the highlands near the Malawian border…

  • Jerry Kopack

    Hey guys. Great blog and photos! I’m visiting a friend in Lusaka in June and trying to pull together a 4 week loop in the area. I was looking at this https://goo.gl/maps/Nq4QjoqYE7G2 Any insight you can give on roads (I prefer the less traveled, unpaved kind), ease of finding food and lodging. Do I need to bring a camp stove? How was camping? Any info you can give is appreciated!

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