We set out on Wednesday morning from Fionnuala’s house in Marangu at 6am. It had been about a week since I’d slept properly due to the rally at the weekend before, but I got in a good seven hours that night and was fresh and ready to leave. We drove all day taking it in turns, and as I had expected Tanzania didn’t disappoint me in her beauty and variety of landscape, as we passed through mountain ranges and vast plains, through open valleys skirted by rift escarpments and even through a national park and saw elephants, giraffes and monkeys right in front of us on the road. Coming up into the Southern highlands the mountains changed in shape and structure and towards Iringa we were as high as my house in Kilimanjaro but on a massive plateau with rolling hills and rocky outcrops littering the otherwise green and lush landscape. Driving ever South we spent the night up there in a campsite and turned in early so as to continue our mission the next day.
Wednesday we had driven around 750km from Kili down to Iringa, and were a little behind schedule but saw ourselves hitting the border with Zambia around lunchtime and be a good 300km into the bush by the time we needed to stop and settle down for the night. Oh how wrong we were as despite making good progress initially we were again hit with similar road works and traffic police as the first day but much more frequent, to the point of seeing two or three every hour along the journey, slowing us down and always making it feel like we weren’t getting anywhere. The border crossing ended a solid seven hour drive for me and at 2pm we checked our passports out of Tanzania and entered the madness of no mans land surrounded by heavy trucks, buses, touts and street sellers all talking in different languages and making the excessive heat in the car even more unbearable. Had things gone smoothly, we should have been through to Zambia in a matter of minutes, maybe an hour at most if there was a problem. We finally got going on the main road South over four hours later, dehydrated, sweaty and underfed, with just an hour before nightfall. Luke spotted a campsite sign and behind the bushes we stumbled upon the little haven in the middle of nowhere that everyone dreams of. Little wooden chalets and loads of camping space, sheltered communal kitchen and amazing hot showers and the warmest welcome anybody could wish for by the South African couple that run the place. Leaving there in the morning had left us all recharged, refreshed and ready to get on with the final run down to Lusaka which because we stopped so early on after the border was now a lot further than we’d managed in either of the first two days driving. Luke took the wheel and with much better roads than we’d expected and nearly no traffic all day we averaged over 100km/h and got ourselves into Lusaka just as night was falling.
Seems crazy to go over 2,500km of Africa in just a few paragraphs, but we really did just push on, only stopping for toilet breaks when all three of us concurred it was necessary, and racking up two speeding tickets along the way (neither of which were me I might add). On our return journey we are taking around two weeks to get back, and will see much more of Zambia and Tanzania as we go. The last three days I have been networking and making new friends here in Lusaka who have helped me on my mission to find family no end. I now have service records of my fathers death, and many people who have been so helpful on message boards and facebook that I will meet and speak to once I arrive in Bulawayo on Wednesday that I feel I am closer than ever, and really starting to feel like I am reaching home in a strange way that I’ve never felt before. Living in Africa for two years has prepared me for taking this journey, and it’s a culmination of feelings and emotions that have brewed for 27 years inside me questions that need answering and a hole that I can see being filled.
Tomorrow I take charge of my own journey and head into Zimbabwe as a Collier, the oldest left in my family searching for roots that have been lost and forgotten. Sometimes you know where you’re going and what you’ll see when you get there. Sometimes life throws you off course and you don’t know where that might end you up. My current journey has brought me from my home in Tanzania down to Zambia, and it’s not over yet, as tomorrow morning I will be heading off on my own to my final destination, and with my arrival I mark a major turning point in my life, and the fulfilment of a promise I made to myself when I was still very young, and one that I made to my father on the eve of my surpassing his age and becoming the oldest in my family – I’m going to go back to where he is from, to see the place my father called home, and to do it with my head held high knowing I made it here on my own merit. I haven’t done this on my own, far from it, in fact without the help of those closest to me out here in Africa and also back home in the UK I would not be able to say that I ever went to Zimbabwe. However I can say that as this week that’s exactly where I’m going.