I made it into the chicken shack of an airport last night after a twenty-hour travel day. City very dark, just gaggles of young men squatting on the corners. Too hard to make anything of the place in the gloom and smell of burning tires. Too shaken up and addled to go right to sleep in the Universal Concrete Block hotel, so I went down for last call at the hotel bar as everything else seemed shuttered for the night.
The bar looked like a high school cafeteria with brighter lights. Two kinds of beer for sale, along with six or seven musty bottles of booze. Three men with South African accents at one end discussing Rawanda and an older Brit on the stool next to me drinking gin. Started up a conversation with him, but all he wanted to discuss was the U.S. economy and how screwed it is. I drank my Castle lager and pretended to hear what he was saying. Took three bottles of water to my room and passed out.
Set off this morning to find Bottlecap's Texans. Two places to try, the Taj or the Intercontinental. Receptionist here said those are the only places safari types bed down. My hotel is for the copper mine engineers. Rather hard to spot the Texans as it seemed like everyone in both hotels was wearing camo and bush jackets. Drinks horribly expensive, both joints ringed by high fences and armed guards. Sat tight at the Taj bar nursing a vodka tonic until I heard that impossible-to-miss Texas twang. Sidled up to introduce myself and they indeed had met and liked Bottlecap. The score is that they're heading north tomorrow for an undisclosed camp to hunt leopard.
One of their members had pulled out at the last minute and, with no refunds coming, they agreed that I might tag along if I could pay half, which they would return to their buddy in Texas. I have NO idea where this will lead, but they seemed like good people and I'm going to give it a shot -- not literally, the price they quoted for actual hunting is much bigger than my wallet (even if they could get a new permit this late in the game). I will be what they call "an observer."
I really have no idea what the communication systems will be like out there in the bush, so reports to you might be spotty at best. Again, this is all new to me.
This afternoon I'm going to try and get over to the University of Lusaka bookstore to hopefully grab some reading material for the trip and see if perhaps I might find a new post for the Professor. He needs some of this scene to wake him up. It's not that different from the cities I've seen in Central America or Mexico, save for everyone is black and speaks some type of English left over from the British colonian era. Not too many men with guns on the streets, taxis are unmarked and shady-looking and the Zambia currency is so whacked that I'm still trying to figure out how any kind of postage stamp could cost 10,000 units. A new stick of deodorant went for 29,750. I only changed forty bucks and I've still got wads of notes in my pocket.
Your man in Africa,