Revisiting Butch's Childhood - Zambia Part 1

Posted in Travel / The Honey Badger Diaries

Revisiting Butch's Childhood - Zambia Part 1

Butch was born on the 12th of December, 1949, in a small country hospital in Chingola, Zambia. Jan, his handsome dad, was a mine captain, and his gentle jazz pianist mom was a devoted wife, loving mother and the belle of the ball.

After three daughters, Butch, the eldest son, was thoroughly spoilt, indulged, and mollycoddled by all and sundry. He is fond of saying he was “the favourite child.” He has since realised he was the fourth fiddle in a quintet.

A nurse, upon hearing his father enter the maternity ward, shushed the robust infant, wagging a finger before his bawling mouth and said, “Shut up Butch, we all know your father’s here” The name stuck.

Bright as a button, argumentative and vocal, he was often called  De Valera, after the fiery Irish political leader. Hmm.

Life on the Copper Belt was glorious and everything a boisterous, adventurous child could dream of. He had the freedom to explore uncharted territory on his bike, shoot birds with his pellet gun and hunt and fish with his hero, his dad, a competitive rugby player who, due to  World War II missed an opportunity to wear the Green and Gold Springbok cap.

His idyllic, Jock of the Bushveld childhood was filled with playful, caring sisters, fun-filled parents, a boisterous younger brother, and a motley gang of friends in a period of glorious peace in Northern Rhodesia. The sun shone every day with never a dark cloud on his horizon. 

Shortly after turning ten, his parents decided to return to South Africa and pursue different options presented to them with stints in Durban, Stellenbosch, and Somerset West, eventually settling and retiring in Worcester.

This happy, carefree family adapted to their new circumstances, but, as his father always said, “It was easy getting Butch out of the bush, but getting the bush out of Butch was impossible.” The yearning to return to the African bush has always been a seed ready to sprout in his heart. 

When we decided to embark on our African expedition, the first thing Butch said was, “I’d like to show you where I grew up, Maricha.”


Well, here we are in Zambia. Things didn’t start on the right note or wheel, but we live in hope and never get discouraged because we control our attitudes and destinations. A good story needs a few disasters. When the going’s too good, life is boring.

Time was ticking on. We do not drive at night. Our mission was to find a camping spot. We spent the night in a Mopani forest at the King’s Highway campground. After a hot shower, a red, glowing sunset and a braai under the stars, the quiet peacefulness restored our faith, and we were ready to tackle our onward journey. This was the bush Butch remembered.


The condition of the road deteriorated while the landscape remained unchanged. Colourful homes, dry red earth, indigenous trees, subsistence farming dotted with pedestrians, bikes and the odd goat.

The TanZam highway had whittled away our reserves, and our energy levels were at a low ebb. Our bodies needed a rest.

Swinging off the main road, we spent two nights at Kapishya Hot Springs and Campground.


Just being able to turn off the busy main road was a relief. The roads, at times were no better but we didn't have to run a gauntlet, dodging all the obstacles fighting the road, traffic and pedestrians. Freedom.

The words oasis, peace and comfort appealed to us. We were looking forward to wallowing in the natural pool’s hot, gently bubbling waters in an exquisite tropical garden on the banks of the Mansha River where local lads still fish for the catch of the day. 

We allowed no time to slip by and immediately jumped into our bathers and simply wallowed in the temperate cristal clear natural spring waters bubbling like a glass of Moet boiling from the depths of the earth. 

Lush subtropical gardens, trees and ferns surrounded the river and bubbling pool like a protective blanket filtering the very air all around. An example of nature acting to filter both the air and the pulsing water from the depths of the earth.

We filled the days with domestic chores, cycling the district roads, relaxing in the pool and enjoying a communal supper with other guests on our first evening. We had stocked up on some fresh vegetables, saladings and loin chops at Kisolanza Farm, which we were looking forward to.

Once again we found the children begging aggressively, rubbing their thumbs and index fingers to indicate  money. We found it upsetting and disturbing. Such a pity. As I've said before, these kind gestures have turned communities into annoying beggars. 


The woody smoke of our fire, our candles, check linen table napkins and our little fold-up table with a bright African tablecloth under the stars remain our favourite dining experience with different vistas. This time, the sounds of the river, the distant chatter of fellow campers, unfamiliar birds chirping, and the tymbal vibration of cicada’s hum relaxed us. We are never at a loss for dinner conversation and enjoy rehashing our days.

The Mexican-inspired supper at the lodge was a treat, and catching up with news from other guests brought us up to date with world affairs.

Mark, the estate owner, is an eccentric character and lively raconteur who unreservedly recalled his childhood on the farm and the estate’s extraordinary history and enlightened us about his beloved Zambia.

I was inspired by Chef’s use of local ingredients to create an authentic Mexican menu. Refried beans, guacamole, tomato and green pepper salsa, corn wraps and tacos, dishes liberally infused with garlic, ginger, and chilli. Mint, parsley, basil and oregano from the garden garnished platters and plates. I scooped thick clotted cream liberally onto my Chili Con Carne.

Mango ice cream and a colourful fruit platter of pineapple, bananas, pawpaw, and granadilla were served for dessert.


A message from Isuzu confirmed that the truck bearing our precious steering part was on schedule, and we could pop in as soon as we arrived in Lusaka.

Fate can sometimes throw a curve ball, stopping us in our tracks. It happened at four o’clock on our fourth day in Zambia. The horrific roads and horrendous potholes took their toll on our left back wheel.

I had just started scrolling through possible camping options around Chitambo when a deafening gunshot brought us up short, and then the tyre pressure monitor started its blood-curdling screech. Butch calmly brought the truck to a stop on a level, grassed shoulder.

The left rear tyre had shredded, and the rim  was severely bent beyond repair.

Getting the wheel off, removing the bikes to get to the spare wheel, jacking the truck and replacing the wheel took time, and by the time we’d got it all back in place to move on, the sun had set. My little potting spade once again came to the rescue. The most unusual items, packed in case of an emergency, have often played pivotal roles in emergencies.


Our only option was to throw caution to the wind and join several other trucks at the truck stop in Serenje for the night. We had no reason to panic and slept the sleep of the dead.

Interesting, irresistible stalls line the street, roads and highways. We always stop, enjoying the interactions with stall owners and market keepers who often bombard us with their delicious wares. I am always anxious because I know I can’t support everyone, and I try to be as fair as possible and pick a few things from various baskets to spread our few Kwatcha around.

Buying airtime/data in foreign countries doesn’t come without complications. A vendor buys airtime/data on behalf of the relevant telephone number. Once that’s done, the purchase is transferred to the appropriate SIM card. We buy large bundles of wifi, which complicates matters because the vendor has to have sufficient funds in his “bank” to purchase the data. Unlike us, locals buy small bundles regularly.

There is often a delay before an SMS is received confirming the purchase. Frustrating, to say the least. But it’s no use shooting the messenger or the system, is it?

Winter is the season of delicious plump tangarine naartjies. These old fashioned treasures with thick, sweet skins and plump, juicy balloons of naartjie  were impossible to ignore and we'd stop every time we noticed ladies selling them.


Fringilla Farm Campsite was our next stop, where we caught up with laundry and had a “garage pie’ for lunch, a disappointing experience; the pie was cold, and the saladings drooped uninvitingly on the plate.

But, the renowned butchery on the farm was our drawcard, and we filled our fridge with gorgeous steaks, beef mince and wors, chipolatas and biltong, chilli bites and droë̈ wors.

The terrain was suitable for a cycle and an adventure ride to observe vultures who frequent a clearing on the farm. Perfect for photographing them.


Fortunately, Butch, after a sleepless night at Fringilla, fretting about our wheels, decided he’d contact Neville Liebenberg, the manufacturer of our bespoke rims in Germiston. Our photographs were proof enough for him to diagnose, and he agreed that the rim was unsuitable and not cracked up to the task.

Butch immediately ordered two new rims and one replacement tyre. By chance, Neville had two rims available for us, and once he’d sourced a new tyre and had it fitted, he’d have it on a truck to Livingstone, he promised.

On this trip, we’ve met the most amazing people whom we’ve had the confidence to contact whenever we’ve been in a fix. Once again, out came the telephone directory, and Butch called Braam, our friend in the trucking business, who immediately agreed to get our wheels to us in Livingstone.

Unfortunately, their company did not have a truck going there then. Still, Braam could call on a friend who agreed.

Brett, Butch’s nephew, collected the new rims and onetyre and delivered them with the new tyre monitoring system to Ty from RDM Trucking Company, in Kyalami, for delivery. Our new wheels were loaded and on their way. David Schmidt coordinated the whole transaction, and Proudmore was the truck driver.

This is a successful networking story and the power of goodwill and friendship. As a side note, the truck left Kyalami on Friday afternoon, and our goods were delivered in Livingstone two nights later, on Sunday evening at 18h00.

Proudmore was a star and would WhatsApp Butch at regular intervals to update him on his progress. Unfortunately, we did not meet Proudmore. A taxi driver took delivery of our consignment. We hope to meet up someday in the future. That man needs a Bells with Butch.


Instead of spending time in Lusaka cooling our heels waiting for parts we took our trip there slowly and spent two nights on a farm a few kilometers from Kabwe.  The owners of Palm Farm, ex South Africans are lovely and provide good fascilities, hot showers and potable water to fill our tanks. We were presented with a delicious paw paw from their fruit orchard, for breakfast. While I got on with chores Butch could learn all about a farmer's life in Zambia. This campsite a few kilometers off the main road ticked all our boxes and was just what the doctor ordered.


To avoid early morning traffic into Lusaka we decided to get up with the sparrows. The  early morning skylight transformed industrial landscapes. Towns with interesting, colourful names flashed by. We were driving through Kapiri Mposhi. At last, Lusaka winked. The outskirts were in our vision, where we headed straight to the Isuzu workshop to have some maintenance issues sorted, the wheels aligned, and the new part installed to the steering column.

While the technicians attended to that, Butch and I needed to do some shopping at one of the many modern malls in the city.

Butch used the opportunity to have the wheel alignment checked.

We were pleasantly surprised by this modern city that lives up to any first-world standard. The service we received from Jimmy at Isuzu was top-notch. Our driver, Dallas, who ferried us to Malls, was very informative and knowledgeable about his exciting, cosmopolitan city and country.

A friend kindly allowed us to stay in their lovely home on the outskirts of Lusaka while they were on assignment. Her husband is a documentary filmmaker, and she is a journalist. With a baby in tow, they live an exciting, romantic lifestyle where the wind and assignments take them all over East Africa. Unfortunately, our paths and schedules didn’t cross, and we missed a visit.


We hailed a taxi to take us to the local strip mall, where we joined other diners for a pizza and beer. Nothing was going to stop Butcch tucking into his gourmet burger.  The clientele was a cosmopolitan mix of ex-pats, locals,foreign NGO's and a liberal sprinkling of Missionaries. It was good to hear French, German, Italian, English and plenty of Nyanja (Chewa), the lingua franca of Lusaka,



It was Friday, and we were eager to get out of the city to spend the weekend on the banks of the Kafue River and the ever-popular Roy’s Camp adjacent to the Kafue National Park. We couldn't wait to get out of the city and just enjoy the quietness of country roads.

After a few hours, Butch noticed the left rear tyre was losing air.

We had to get to a wheel repair joint immediately. We were currently out of spare wheels. We’d left The damaged tyre next to the road and the rim we’d dumped on our campsite at Fringilla.

At the entrance to Mumbwa, we enquired about a tyre guy at the first fuel station and were pointed to a ramshackle hut alongside a signpost adjacent to the traffic circle, where we met Sydney and his slightly inebriated sidekick.

The wheel was swiftly removed, and then water was hosed onto the tyre and the rim. Bubbles formed on the rim. With his experienced eye, Sydney soon spotted a hairline crack and suggested glue; Butch didn’t take that seriously, bearing in mind the truck’s weight and the size of the wheels.

“No way!” Butch said emphatically and insisted that some welding take place. Sydney agreed and recommended a chap who could braze the rim. Not really the answer, Butch thought, but if push came to shove might get us to Livingstone if the need should arise.

These things all take time, and by the time the wheel was removed from the truck, all the fiddling and examining had taken place, and a decision reached the sun was setting on us. We decided to stay put and sleep where we were parked.

The following day, Sydney went off with the tyre, and by midday, we were back on the road


I needed a shower. I was hangry, hot and dusty and our laundry bag was chock and block. I needed sunshine and a tub to do some washing. At last, Roy’s Campsite’s road sign loomed.

Thinking back now, the first memory that comes flooding back to me is the campsite manager. A delightful man whose friendly, warm smile lit up his face. He never passed me without having something catchy to say or to ask how we were.

The campsite is conveniently situated near the main road, making it a popular overnight stay for people travelling to or from Lusaka, Mongu, and or Kafue National Park.

Views onto the river were spectacular, sunsets and sunrises a golden promise that things were okay. African fish eagles cried and called from ancient branches, and gnarled trees with arthritic roots curling into the river were a reminder that things don’t change quickly here, and the sense of permanence was reassuring.

Hippos grunted, yawned, wheezed and chuffed all day and at night; we were warned they could graze near us. It would be advisable to be aware of them. A fish eagle’s cry and a hippo’s groan are synonymous with an African river scene.

Butch and I ventured off on our bikes into the National Park, where the gatekeepers let us in with big smiles. In retrospect, I wonder whether they were hoping that would be the end of us. Fortunately, no lions got to us, but Tsetse flies bombarded us. Once they’d got their claws into us, they wouldn’t let go. No amount of swatting helped.

After a few kilometres of their unrelenting stinging, we called it a day and returned to the truck, our books and binoculars.


While sipping my coffee on Saturday afternoon, I noticed a vehicle pull in. These were seasoned Overlanders. I could see how expertly they set up their camp, and within a jiffy, their fire was blazing, the tailgate was open, the fridge pulled out, and I could hear the pop and fizz of ice-cold beers being opened.

Amongst a thousand stickers adorning the Land Cruiser was a Put Foot Rally sticker. Fascinated, I knew I’d have to venture over to say hi and find out all about their escapades.

This brave move was contrary to my nature, but I realised I had to do what I needed to do. Butch was taking a nap, and I had to man up.

Meeting Hermie and Anneli was very fortuitous. They were well acquainted with the area, having visited Zambia before, and we gleaned good tips and tricks and recommendations from them.

Butch meandered over later with his sundowner. After hopelessly overstaying our welcome, we headed home to upgrade our to-do and want lists brimming with new ideas. Butch would order a new tyre monitor system, one that he could access using an App on his phone and his Garmin GPS.

We would meet up again at Kasabushi, we all promised. We have since had regular traffic updates, accommodation recommendations, road reports and help with various overlanding questions. Our network keeps expanding, and we appreciate everyone’s knowledgeable input and advice.


Anneli told us she experienced a frightening few minutes with a hippo the following day. Not realising she’d come between the mother and her calf, Hanneli, a keen photographer, was charged and dodged the charging cow, eager to protect her calf in the nick of time.


As we travelled, Butch’s memory of a glorious childhood came flooding back to him, and when something was particularly funny or apt, he’d tell me all about it.

This quote epitomises my Mom's confidence; Butch said, “You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said ‘Parking Fine’.” ― Tommy Cooper.


The one anecdote that made me laugh while we were driving again involved his Mum, who was driving their new1958, Pink and cream, Pontiac Strato Chief. His dad, Jan,  was driving their other vehicle and was familiar with the road, instructed Bets to gear down to second gear when she had to negotiate a steep decline. Nodding, she made it clear she understood perfectly well and was confident in her driving abilities.

And so it came to pass that they were on a particularly steep, winding decline. He had to warn her, he told them later. Butch’s dad passed the Pink Panther and, when he could, extended his right arm full length out the window and indicated with his index and middle finger to decrease her speed immediately and gear down to second.

"The next minute, Mom flew down the hill at full throttle, the sexy tyres with white side walls, screaming around the S bends as she careened past Dad and every other vehicle on the road. As she swept past him, the playful toot-toot and jolly wave did not amuse my father." Butch tells me. 

Stopping in a hail of gravel and dust at the agreed picnic spot, the exasperated Jan, in an anxious state, marched up to Bets, who, entirely unfazed, was unpacking a delicious lunch of hard-boiled eggs, party frikkedels, sliced cold cuts, fresh bread and a salad.

She hands her husband a mug of steaming, sweet, milky coffee poured from their Stanley flask. Accepting the gesture, Jan gruffly says, “I need a stiffer drink than this.”

When his breathing quietened, he enquired why she’d ignored his hand signal to gear down, resulting in dangerous and irresponsible driving.

“Oh,” she said, quite unperturbed,  sharpening her pencil before flicking through her Woman And Home magazine looking for the crossword puzzle, “But that is the V for victory sign, Jan. I had been in 2nd gear the whole time!” 


“Because the greatest part of a road trip isn’t arriving at your destination. It’s all the wild stuff that happens along the way.” – Emma Chase.