My Zambian driving adventure…um…mishap.


Today’s post was going to be all about how I drove to the Blue Lagoon National Park and saw awesome wildlife and birds and various flora and so on and so forth.

I set out around 9:00am planning to drive through the city and out west to this new game park that looked to be about 60 miles away on a decent road.   I was armed with a road atlas, plenty of water, snacks and a camera.  I navigated the city roads fairly well, choosing a route that took me around the busiest sections and carefully negotiating the rotary.  I drove out on the new (ie: paved) Mumbwa-Mongu road, following the directions I found on the “Best of Zambia” website and taking time to look around.  I turned at the sign to Nampundwe Konkola Coppermine, and began to look for the “Blue Lagoon” sign on the left which was supposed to come up in “several” kilometers.

Well, I never found it!  Either the directions were wrong, or the sign has gone missing…but I ended up driving all the way to the Coppermine!  I took a few pictures and turned back, passing a number of rustic huts, carts pulled by oxen and numerous goats along the side of the road.

When I finally got back to the city, I was congratulating myself on almost four hours of flawless driving.  I made a turn on what I thought was the road back, but it wasn’t.  I got a bit turned around, pulled over and checked the map.  Seems I was one road off.  So I cut over to what I THOUGHT (again) was the road towards home…Burma Road.

But it wasn’t.  It was Independence Highway.  A divided highway.  A detail I failed to notice (in spite of a car beeping behind me) until I had made the right turn into the left lane and saw the oncoming traffic.

There was nowhere to go.  I couldn’t get off to the side; there was a big ditch.  I couldn’t back up, there were cars coming across the lane.  The oncoming car beeped and braked and pulled to the right and for a brief moment I thought we might escape with a mere bump.  But…it was a bit more than that.  His front left headlight was smashed and my bumper was dashed in (and the radiator punctured.)

To make matters worse, the car that hit me was some kind of “classic” model car.   (Why couldn’t it have been another little Toyota?  On the other hand, it could have been a truck and I wouldn’t be typing this now!)  And the driver was hopping mad, especially when he saw that I was (obviously) not a Zambian.  He swore at me and threatened me and told me that I would have to buy the car right now!  I was fairly speechless, which was a good thing, and another gentleman who lived down the road stopped and got out of his car to help me and calm down the other driver.  A crowd gathered, the ubiquitous guards hovered around and people who were walking by all came up to peer at the damage and shake their heads.   The police were called and the officer who arrived was extremely professional and kind.  He drove me to the police station (after filling my radiator with enough water to get it there!) and I had to fill out a form that described the accident and pay a fee, since I was at fault.  I called my school and Martina (who handles housing and security) was wonderful – told me exactly what to do and not to do.  She said the school will help out getting the car towed from the Police Station to a garage and will bring the insurance papers down to the station.  The other driver had calmed down a bit (apparently he is some kind of well-known businessman) when he realized that I did have auto insurance and that I wasn’t going to be hopping on the next plane back to the states.  I also think he was scared at the time – he told me that if his brakes hadn’t worked as well as they did, I might be dead.  (And he was right.)

My head of school called me to make sure I was okay.  He said that while there have been more than a few car crashes involving staff, he thought I might be the first to do it before school even started.  A dubious honor.

So…I am okay.  My car has some minor damage which is going to be a headache for a little while.  But it could have been so much worse.  So much worse.  And hopefully the insurance will be able to procure the proper parts for the other driver’s classic car.

Pictures of wildlife next time.  I promise!IMG_0989



6 responses »

  1. Certainly could have been much worse, if it was actually a major highway– That type of mistake the the easiest one to fall for when switching from right to left driving. I even did the opposite version of it this past Christmas when I was home in the USA! Especially when you are tired from driving a long while, and lost; the disorientation robs your concentration.
    GET a SatNav– they aren’t expensive anymore, and they changed my driving completely in London. Do they have coverage there?

  2. Keep your stories coming, but be careful would you please there is no need to risk life and limb just so that you have an interesting anecdote to share on your blog!

  3. Hey! So glad you are OK. I experience driving on the wrong side whenever I am in Italy.
    I discovered that a Navigation system which talks to me is the way to go. They warn you of one ways or spilt highways and they also find places without a map. I swear by my Sat. Nav. system.
    The rule in your head for driving is to always keep the centre line or centre of the road on your driving side. Take care xx

  4. Pingback: Courtesy, customs and kindness | Via Con Brio!

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