Thursday, May 31, 2012

Define "Breathtaking"

We had a long talk with the kids about why we were electing to spend a friday morning packing and preparing for a weekend adventure.  "Why again are we taking a different road?"  In terms of distance, the drive was shorter, but in time the drive was expected to take at least double.  Why subject ourselves to 6+ hours in the car when 2.5 was an actual option?  We came up with a whole list of reasons and repeated this list just as we were leaving the last stretch of paved road til Sunday afternoon.  About the time we finished the list, our lead car stopped and our fearless drivers hopped out, cursing and inspecting the BRAD NEW shocks.  More on that in a second.  First, the list:

1) we've wanted to do this drive for ages
2) we had TWO other families who were also wanting to do this trip this weekend
3) we have cabin fever like nobody's business
4) it's not too hot
5) there no threat of rain
6) no one said "DON'T GO!"

About #6.  We did have one puzzling conversation immediately after the first car of our-two-car-three-family-convoy turned around. It turns out the new shocks were fine, it was the springs that were shot and without them the car was feeling every bump and the noises were getting worse to the point of being metal-on-metal and were were only 30 minutes into the trip, if that.  They simply coundn't carry on.

The conversation  between TJ and RM (aka Roadside Man).  RM stopped to watch us re-pack as we shifted gear to accommodate our new mom&baby passengers and a mess of gear to accommodate the impending car switch-a-roo in Lusaka. RM also stuck around to say a few stern words to the few little boys who also stayed to watch ("they like to 'pick'" he says):

TJ:  From here the road to Chirundu is passable?
RM:  Yes.  It is impassable.
TJ (to himself): Why did I ask that question that way.
RM (repeating himself): Yes, It is impsssable.
TJ:  I'm sorry. Do you mean to say the road to Chirundu is passable?
RM: Yes.
O:  Remind us why we are doing this drive again?
TJ (less confidently): Because it is said to be "breathtaking and spectacular."
O:  Dadddy? Define breathtaking.

For whatever reason we ignored the only piece of advice anyone who drives this route is given: "Whatever you do, don't go with just one car!" And we decide: "What the heck, let's go with just one car!"  (spoiler alert and grandparent-reassurance side-note:  the story has a happy ending)

Super mom, Anna, lets the boys play with wee-one in the car while she gets the gear battened down.
Long story short, the road was rough, narrow, overgrown, steep, rocky, sandy, washed out, nearly invisible for stretches.  BUT we were really glad to have done it.  The car was so awesome and our drivers were awesome, our passengers were....mostly awesome.  FPFJ was nervous, or more likely high on peanut M&Ms b/c he didn't stop talking loudly or moving the entire drive.  This meant the sleepy baby didn't get to sleep. At all. At one point, her momma needed to drive to help get over some full-on car-sickness, I was "in charge" of Madelise.  She wasn't keen on this idea and decided to take a bite outta my arm--rabid crocodile-style!  We really can't blame her for needing to assert that SHE was in charge!  O admitted once we were back on level ground that he really thought we would roll the car and plummet our way down the escarpment instead of slowly maneuvering its steep rocky switchbacks.  There was a point where 4/6 passengers thought surely we had taken a wrong turn and were actually driving on foot-path.  (Maybe Madelise thought so too but I think she was with TJ on this one.)
Where are we?  Is this a road?  Let's check with the new phone....sure enough WE ARE HERE.
but wait?! The road is over THERE.  This new ap and hardware got a HUGE thumbs up despite the misplaced marker.
The view of the Lower Zambezi River Valley with the Zimbabwe Hills in the distance.  This was the beginning of insane switchbacks and drop-offs where O thought we might just tumble our way down to camp.
It was a great adventure and gave O at least a working definition of "breathtaking."  We decided to add the word "harrowing" to the rumored "breathtaking and spectacular" description of the Escarpment Route.  Would we do it again?  Yes.  We would not do it again alone and we'd pack shovels, and a saw/axe and more cheerios.  Should you do it?  Yes!  But, whatever you do, don't go with just one car!

 A few more snaps:
Anna, Madelise and O take a break from joys of the Vomit Commet.

Cotton Stainers (?) -- I noticed them after I marched in the field but before I picked some bolls to bring back to the car.

We made it! Yeah!
Kate's new 'linkedin' photo?
A few hours and many 'cheese curls' later the last cast was the best.  Dan landed the only tiger fish of the day.  They are delicious but this one went back in the river instead of into the pan. 
We ditched the fishing for a bit and went to check out the hippos, elephants and crocs.  It's easy to forget they are there.

STRIKE! and strike out.  Darn it!

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