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Pole to Pole

Day 109: Mpulungu to Shiwa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe pull in to the Modern Kwacha Relax Hotel in Kasama where much beer is going down in Chiluba's honour. His photo has been hoisted above the bar. 'This is the man we have waited seven years for!' they cry.

My hot and cold sweats have mercifully not been repeated but my system is very delicate and I excuse myself from the celebrations. But as soon as they realize we are from the BBC they are queuing up to be interviewed, and from being a stretcher-case I'm suddenly a news reporter. Their message is the same - tell the British people that this is a new dawn for Zambia, a dawn of open and incorrupt government. No one seems quite sure how practical change will accompany political change. The World Bank is vaguely mentioned, but this is not the point. The point is to tell the world that democracy has triumphed. When we tell them that we will tell the world but not for about a year, their enthusiasm turns to incredulity. BBC News and their deadline is a year ahead? I just don't feel strong enough to explain, and we move on, leaving them to their beer and their joy.

The drive down south towards Mpika is a further 130 miles of flat Molumba woodland, much of it stripped and burnt for fuel and building materials. The road is metalled and quick, but darkness has fallen by the time we reach the extraordinary red-brick barns, Hardyesque cottages and gabled gatehouses of Shiwa - an English estate in the middle of Africa. John and Lorna Harvey and their son David receive us warmly, and David's dog Deeta takes my hat.

My system has survived the day without collapse, but after the bliss of a hot bath the stomach cramps return and I take to my bed, unable to eat.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 109
  • Country/sea: Zambia
  • Place: Kasama
  • Book page no: 249

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