London to Cape Town World Cup Rally 2012
The Long Way Down - Against the Clock
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA - JANUARY 23RD, 2012
It is simply not possible to drive the full length of Africa without being in someone’s rainy-season. But if you try it in line with our time-table, it might just be possible to do it without exercising a windscreen wiper. Or so we thought…
Last night it truly rained, torrential torrents overflowed the guttering. This region has had 30 inches of rain in the last few days - but we have yet to drive in it.
When you are sleeping under a corrugated iron roof in a little tin shed, a compound grandly called The Mazingo Hotel, and a local tells you it’s about to rain cats and dogs, the subsequent racket is truly unbelievable. The noise of thunder and lightning, Africa-style, has nothing on the follow-up experience of trying to snatch some sleep inside the cacophony of a kettle-drum.
Morning came, the rain eased off, and we were on the road south again, this time heading for the air-conditioned comforts of the Lusaka Intercontinental. Showers that work, hot water in the taps, lights that come on at the flick of a switch, Mini Bars that actually contain something, with soap and a plug in the wash-basin along with a towel on a hot rail. All pretty forgettable, however, when we come to look back on all this in the months and years to come …nobody is going to forget the sleepless night in the shanty-town of Mpika.
Today saw a short time-trial down two strips of fine gravel with grass growing up the middle, with metre-high grass on either side, first jumping over a railway line, then curving round to return further down the line for another jump as the track returns us to the main road. A circuit of Zambian farmland. Six cars “cleaned it”, that is to say all got within the time set for this test …if you really want to know, they were Joost Van Cauwenberge, Porsche 911; David Boddy, Datsun; Steve Blunt, Impreza; rally-leader Andrew Actman, Hilux; Alastair Caldwell, Porsche 912; Owen Turner, MG ZR.
Then it was down more long hot tarmac, getting busier all the time, to central Lusaka. The vegetable curry is the best thing about this hotel. Our Duncan Milligan needed whip and spurs to knock into some semblance of organisation things like a car park, and a fast key service e…the little things that we all take for granted but which had required over two hours of patience on his part to make happen.
We have been met by the overwhelming enthusiasm of the Pat Moss of African Rallying, Lynn Szeftel, and Mark Terken, both from the Zambian Motorsport Federation who have assisted our passage across this vast country, with Ashish Patel of Action Auto on hand to help with those who want some welding up and overnight repairs from a workshop able to burn a little midnight oil.
Rachel Vestey and Suzy Harvey were among those taking up the offers of help – the MG radiator looking like it was about to fall onto the road at the next bad bump rather concentrated a number of minds on what might be the best solution.
Tomorrow, we face the easiest day of the whole event – it’s possible to get to the Victoria Falls at Livingstone in an easy five hour coast down the tarmac. Providing, that is, we don’t have to exercise the windscreen wipers.