With our faulty vehicle, we struggled back to Golden Pillow as best we could. We had our own problems with our mobile phones. As mentioned before, the hotel restaurant had a very slow service. Since it was already dark as we left the Chief’s Palace, and we knew it was another 90 minutes before we got back to the town, we decided to phone through our dinner orders. Problem was we also had no signal on our phones. Alphart driving, Ian and I kept our phones out and tried in vain to get a signal. Every time we got to a hilltop we would pause to see if a signal came. Eventually I got a couple of bars and we were able to order through, although it took some time to explain to the hotel just what we wanted, and that we were legitimate guests at the hotel and would be back in time. As it happened it was still a good half hour after we got in that the food arrived at our table.
We had a busy day of meetings the following day, so Alphart put in a request from the car rental company to replace our vehicle. As ever in Africa, time is a flexible concept, and it was late morning before we were able to leave the hotel. We had a long drive ahead of us, to Namwala in the west.
Fortunately the road out west was much better than the narrow winding track to the national park and we flew along at a pace. The countryside here was like so much of southern Africa, a rich tapestry of farm land and villages punctuated by small woodlands or solid stands of gigantic trees, and the occasional river valley marked out by thick dense vegetation.
We had one scheduled stop along the way, to meet another chief. Before we got to his palace, we were approaching one of these river valleys and spotted a lot of commotion around the concrete bridge. We pulled up our vehicle just short of the bridge and Ian, Alphart and I got out to investigate.