LIFE: WHAT A JOURNEY witH CHARLES CHISALA
SINCE this rainy season set in it has never rained as it did the other Friday in the capital city, Lusaka.
Of course, the city is famous for its poor drainage system and perennial floods, but last Friday was something else.
It started raining heavily on Thursday night and continued on Friday morning, through the afternoon.
By 18:00 hours it was still raining cats and dogs. Our famous Longolongo River, I mean Longolongo Road that hosts two big institutions, the Zambia Daily Mail head office and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, was as usual flooded giving motorists a torrid time.
So deep was the ‘river’ that water filled some vehicles and soaked the legs of the drivers and their passengers.
And talk about traffic congestion, you ain’t seen anything like it.
It was taking one vehicle between 45 minutes and one hour to crawl from Godfrey House to The Globe building, a distance of less than 200 metres.
The engines of a number of vehicles stalled after water seeped into their plugs or injectors.
It was not uncommon to see people standing almost knee-deep in the water stooping under the opened bonnets of their vehicles in a desperate bid to restart the stalled engines.
Some motorists, including two of my workmates, were forced to abandon their vehicles and had to walk all the way to the offices.
However, abandoning their vehicles did little to assuage their troubles as they still had to wade in ankle-deep rain water to navigate their way to the offices.
So if you are in the process of moving to the capital city, the land of opportunities, you will have to put up with the floods, buddy.
On Church Road between the Levy Junction traffic lights and the Main Post Office, which is one of the most dangerous spots whenever it rains heavily, a Toyota Spacio car was swept off the tarmac by the seething torrent of rain water, which rammed it against a metallic pole leaving its three terrified female occupants speaking in tongues and thanking God for saving their lives.
In the townships it was the same story you have been hearing every year around this time.
There were ankle to knee-deep floods in Kanyama, Kuku, Kalikiliki, Chibolya, John Laing, Matero, Jack and one or two other flood-prone townships.
Many people in these mostly unplanned settlements had to hop on concrete blocks to get in and out of their houses.
It is that time of the year when gum boots, amajombo, become the fastest selling merchandise in the townships.
Some 30 houses collapsed or partly collapsed in Matero Township and elsewhere around the capital.
I was on duty on Friday and worked till around 21:00 hours and was worried about my trip back home.
Fortunately, the traffic congestion had dissipated and all but ended by 21:30 hours.
My drive out of the city centre and on Mumbwa road was quite smooth until I turned into the notorious Y Road that leads to my digs.
Somewhere near the first cluster of bars and shops, after Y Road Lodge, all I could see was a ‘lake’ and I had to guess where the road was.
All the outcrops of rock, which serve as guiding beacons, had submerged and I had to rely on my mental compass to navigate the ‘lake’.
As I nudged my tough and trusted Honda CRV SUV through the ‘lake’ I was busy praying to God to help me arrive home safely without the vehicle’s engine stalling as a result of water seepage.
I felt a surge of relief when I finally crossed the puddle of water and drove on dry ground, but it was not long before I had to wade through yet two more ‘lakes’ before reaching home.
The second was the worst as the wheels of the vehicle, whose suspension is quite high, were completely submerged as I negotiated my way across.
I was able to detect stress in the sound of the engine and I prayed it wouldn’t turn out to be a big problem.
It was probably a result of the temperature in the atmosphere, which had dropped drastically as a result of the incessant rain.
My worst fear was that the water might have seeped into the spark plugs or injectors, which would entail removing the cylinder head and conducting some serious work by a good mechanic.
But thank God it was just a minor stress which ended 24 hours later when the temperature in Lusaka improved.
The next morning was not any different.
There still were floods in our area and I had to drive carefully through the three small ‘lakes’ again.
The next day as I was knocking off from work I saw a drunk in front, staggering through the floods while carrying two small packs of chicken offals in his right hand.
Some women and children roasting fresh maize cobs by the roadside were jeering the wretch.
I drove slowly so that the lights from the headlamps of my vehicle could help him see more clearly ahead of him.
But he was so drunk that the lights only made the situation worse.
He turned and faced the vehicle, allowing its lights to dazzle him even more.
I dimmed the lights hoping it would help him regain his bearings.
But alas, he looked more confused.
He kept falling into the water and getting up quickly, with the small parcels of chicken offals still in his hand.
The women and children cheered him on as he crawled on all fours in the knee-deep water in a frantic effort to get back on his feet.
After crossing the pool of water and reaching some dry ground he paused for some rest before staggering on to wherever he was going.
That is Lusaka, our beloved capital city.