Laundry clean and packed, we carted our bags back out to the rover for our drive to the next camp. We managed to embarrass our hostess (and entertain the staff yet again) when we ‘fessed up to hiding naked in the back end of our chalet so that we wouldn’t embarrass her when delivering coffee to our chalet first thing in the morning.
Elizabeth prepared a lunch of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and apples for the road, which we carefully packed into the cooler – much better than granola bars! We said our goodbyes, and did the pothole polka to the pavement and our next fuel stop. Next camp: McBrides’.
To get to the northern part of the park, we have to head out to where the Great East Road bisects the park into north and south sections. But, to get to the northern camps, we have to travel east to Mumbwa, then arc northwest back into the park to get to McBride’s: the classic “you can’t get there from here.”
The pavement was relatively good once we emerged from the river road, and we spotted elephants near the river. We approached Mumbwa with a little apprehension. Mumbwa was our next fuel stop, and the pumps are notoriously dry more often than not.
As we pulled in, several men approached the rover, but none from the fuel station itself. They tell us that the pumps are dry, but they might be able to help us with some fuel. By now, we know that we are only topping off the tank – 20 liters should be all we need. One gentleman offers us “high-grade” diesel for 8,000 kwacha and “low-grade” diesel for 7,000 kwacha. Not sure what “low-grade” diesel is, and not wanting to ruin the engine with something closer to grain alcohol than diesel, Steve negotiates 20 liters of “high grade” for 7,500 kw. (Not bad, considering that we were paying 6,999 at the pump in Livingstone.) Still not sure what we were buying, one gentleman appeared with a plastic water bottle, biting off the bottom with his teeth to create a funnel for our fuel.
Tank full (maybe?), we headed west back into the national park, holding our breath the first few kilometers for the engine coughing signs of bad fuel. A little later, I couldn’t help but wonder if we had just repurchased the diesel we had left behind a few days earlier in Itechi Techi. What are the odds…?