The eclipse was FABULOUS! The Zambian government estimated that over 11,000 people came to view the eclipse. This was such a big to-do that the government even called the eclipse day a national holiday and closed all the schools and most of the businesses. This put a crimp into our plans to spend the day at a ZOCS school, but we did visit the school earlier in the week and provided the students with free eclipse viewing glasses donated by Rainbow Symphony Inc. The teachers and students were really excited to get the glasses as they would be able to watch the eclipse without chancing doing damage to their eyes. Read all about Zambia Open Community Schools (ZOCS) here.
We did manage to share the eclipse experience with the many Zambians and travellers who had gathered just outside of the capital city of Lusaka.
The eclipse began with the 1st contact at about 1:40 pm. We watched as over the next 1½ hours the moon slowly covered the sun. We showed people how, by standing under a tree you could view the many eclipse projections on the ground, cast in the light spaces between the leaves. You’ll have to see the photos as soon as we can post them.
We watched as the shadow bands became visible, wavering like mirages on the ground. With the extra mylar we brought, we were able to fashion filters for our Bushnell Permaview binoculars. This provided us with excellent views of Baileys’ Beads and the fantastic diamond rings. The temperature dropped and the sunlight dimmed as it began to look like dusk. Check out the photos.
From 2nd to 3rd contacts, we removed our filters as we could now view the eclipse safely. We watched the prominences rise from the surface of the sun together with the glowing ring of the sun’s corona.
After viewing the diamond ring at 3rd contact, we replaced our filters and watch the moon move away from covering the sun. The full experience is difficult to adequately describe. It really must truly by viewed to be fully appreciated.
The day following the eclipse was almost comical in that there was a mass exodus of people from Lusaka. We caught a 6:00 am bus (it seems that all long distance travel buses leave at 6:00 am) for the Malawi border. About 1/3 of the bus was taken up by other travellers. This was the highest concentration of travellers we had seen in one place on the entire expedition. Public transport in Africa has more risk due to the quality of the roads, condition of the vehicle and the egos of the drivers. Although none of our transport suffered any accidents, one bus following this route was recently involved in a fatal crash.
This large number of travellers actually came in handy after we crossed the border. I was able to get a group of 8 travellers together and we chartered a mini-bus and driver to take us to Lilongwe, Malawi. The amazing part was that the cost was only $4.00US per person!
In Lilongwe we were able to find a computer repairman, but he wasn’t able to get our laptop running. It appears that the problem is with the hardware itself. We won’t be able to add any more photos until we can locate another computer. We’ll let you know as soon as more photos and updates get posted directly on the web site.
We also have an update locked away in the computer’s hard drive for the time leading up to the eclipse. Stay tuned!
The last few days since we left Lilongwe have been one long travel blur. Travelling by public transportation is always an adventure and the last few days have been no exception.
Starting in Lilongwe we caught a bus, again at 6:00am, for Liwonde, Malawi. We should have known things were too good to be true when, rather than leaving when the bus was full, the driver left with only 8 passengers on board. After only about 30 minutes into a five hour ride, the bus began losing power. We limped into a small town call Dedza and got a refund for our fare. We then waited about ½ an hour before a minibus showed up going in our direction.
The worst part is that our nice empty bus was also an express bus that didn’t stop along the way. The minibus seemed to stop every mile to either pick up more passengers, or to drop someone off. No matter how full you think the bus is, the driver always believes that there is room for more. Oh well. It only took an extra 2 hours to get to our destination.
The next day we caught the train from Liwonde to the Mozambique border. From the border we caught a minibus across the “no man’s land” and once past Mozambique immigration, on to Cuamba. The ride was a quick 2 hours, but it was all on a dirt road with the dust just pouring through the hundreds of openings and cracks in the vehicle. We also got our fourth flat tire of the trip, but fortunately it happened right at the edge of town, so the driver just continued into town with the air hissing out.
Our next adventure was taking the train from Cuamba to Nampula. We had originally decided to go second class because first class seemed ridiculously high priced. But because 2nd class is only available on alternate days, we were relegated to 3rd class.
Add to this mess, 8 people in seats meant to only hold 5, people standing in the aisle, bags in the aisle, a luggage rack overhead filled to the roof with STUFF! Maybe you will get the picture. (We do have photos!)
To get the full effect, like we did, you sit on the aisle where there is non-stop movement up and down. Bags and babies hitting your arms, shoulders and head and salespeople with their bags of food and drinks being passed over you. Last, but not least, is the smell from the toilets at each end of the train car.
At the end of the train trip we had an errand planned. When we arrived in Nampula we wanted to buy airline tickets to fly from Pemba in the north, to Maputo in the south. We had heard that travel by road would have taken at least one week.
So anyway, because our fun train ride took 10 hours, we arrived with less than one hour before the airline office closed. So we trekked over to the office with our backpacks and discovered a full house of people waiting to buy tickets. Fortunately there was a travel agent right across the street that could sell us the same tickets.
This is just how things are in Africa. Everything you do is an adventure.