The Road to Find Out

Name that tune.

For me, The Road to Find Out (Cat Stevens) was my personal college anthem:
So on and on I go,
the seconds tick the time out
There’s so much left to know,
and I’m on the road to find out.

I traveled many roads not taken by many of my friends and peers, impatient to experience and learn. Some argue that I am still on that road to find out, and I can’t disagree. And, I can’t say that I’ve learned to temper my impatience very well, either.

As we turn off the pavement at Kalomo, it’s hard to tell if we are actually on the road that will connect us to one of the largest national parks on the continent. It looks like we might be on someone’s driveway. But, there are signs of commerce that tell us we are on the main drag: roadside stalls selling tomatoes, sodas, and “top off” minutes for cell phones, and plenty of pedestrians and loaded down bicycles.

Off the pavement and driving through the village scene, now it feels like the adventure part of our trip has begun. The gravel has been recently graded, so the going is relatively smooth, although dusty. We head for the park gate with the advice from Bradt’s guide rattling around our heads: “If you want to drive here, then think of it as an expedition…If you have problems, you must be able to solve them yourself, as you can expect little help…Do bring a GPS; you will need one. Remember that many of the tracks in Southern Kafue have started to grow over with lack of use, so rediscovering them will be part of the adventure.” We have plenty of food, equipment and tools…and a satellite phone.

Our hope is that this trip will help us learn more about “real” Africa – what does it mean to live here, to be African? We believe that we will influence people’s reactions to us – our obvious affluence starts with the vehicle we are driving, then our clothing, as well as our packs loaded with binoculars and cameras. With every passing kilometer, I grow more and more self-conscious about how much wealth we have carried with us. How can we expect anything but respect and deference from the people we may meet along the way? Or contempt? Or, will we just be a novelty, treated with curiosity, as we travel through these villages? We suspect the answer is, “All of the above,” but we will see as we move about the country.

So far, people have been friendly and smiling. We try to be respectful, slowing down to reduce dust and flying gravel as we pass pedestrians and bicyclists. And, as we get further off the paved road, the population of human road traffic does not decrease. Just as we think we are getting to the “middle of nowhere,” we see bicycle tracks in the road dust. Or a herd of goats. People here live remotely, simply. Does this make them poor? In need of aid? More things to contemplate as we bump along the road.

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