I have travelled to and returned from the delights of Zambia.  However, there was, alas, not much in the way of delight.

As you will recall I had two failed attempts to ‘escape’ from Thailand for a few days but was, eventually, confident of succeeding in my mission on Saturday evening, 1st August.  I looked forward to an easy check-in and relaxing couple of hours obtaining some duty free purchases,  having a meal and watching my fellow travellers jet off to all four corners of the globe.

Well, as you will know, I am obviously an idiot who lives in a fantasy world.  I arrived at the Ethiopian Airlines check in desk and handed over my ‘e-ticket.’  I was looked at with the same blank stare that greeted me three days prior and then , once more, heard the words ‘you are not booked on the flight, there is no record of a booking in your name.’  The counter operator was obviously insane, of course I was booked and I had just passed her the e-ticket, she had it in her hand, my name was on it and this was the queue for the flight. There was no conversation and I was told to report to another desk, which I did, albeit along with loud mutterings of serious discontent.

A portly African gentleman looked at my ‘ticket’ and spoke softly, obviously realizing I was working myself up in to a high state of agitation.  ‘I saw you here on Wednesday night didn’t I?’ he ventured.  We discussed my plight over the past week before he explained what I had was not a ticket but an unconfirmed booking – unconfirmed because it had not been paid for.  I remonstrated as I had sat with Bowling whilst we went through the entire booking procedure and she paid for the ticket. I saw it, I saw her do it, I saw the computer tell us ‘transaction complete.’

Whilst words flowed back and forth between the portly African and the portly me it was clear I was yet again in a losing battle.  The long and short of this is that I went to the Kasikorn Bank ATM opposite the check-in desk, withdrew forty thousand Baht and paid for the ticket there and then.  Obviously during the issuing process I called Bowling and swore at her quite a lot.

I did, however, get the ticket, I did get through immigration control, I did pass the place where they check if you have a few bombs on you and, eventually, entered the departure lounge.  I purchased a box of cigarettes and stood waiting for my change whilst listening to the announcement over the loud speaker system saying ‘will the last remaining passengers for Ethiopian Airlines Flight KT629 please make their way to the boarding gate immediately.’  It had gone completely from my mind that sorting the ticket issues had taken almost two hours – all of my leisure departure lounge time had gone.

I lumbered and wheezed to the appropriate gate which, it stands to reason, was the furthest gate from the departure lounge – approximately twenty-five miles was my guess.  I was the last person to board and did so with a mixture of relief, anger, frustration and exhaustion.  I looked to my left and then my right.  I was sandwiched between a family of five and all three children were aged from two to six.  I put my head in my hands and knew this flight, all ten hours of it, was not going to be fun.

The food arrived and I was hungry.  I do not like airline food but never previously complained about it, it is what it is.  Except now on Ethiopian Airlines flight KT629 out of Bangkok to Addis Ababa it was clearly not what it was.  I asked for chicken and there was this ball shaped pale dumpling like object on my plate.  Gingerly I took my plastic knife and cut the object in half.  It opened up to resemble a bath sponge and I knew that never once, in whatever existence this thing had endured, was it the existence of a chicken or anything remotely resembling a feathered bird that clucks.  I was hungry though so I took a bite of the sponge and, in all fairness, it tasted exactly like I imagined a bath sponge would taste were one to add a little gravy to it.  I immediately asked the stewardess to remove the tray.

Fortunately I slept for the rest of the journey to Addis woken only occasionally by tearful children but, to be fair, they could have been a whole lot worse.   I endured three hours at Addis waiting for my connecting flight and then the four hour flight to Lusaka.

The Lusaka flight passed without much in the way of incident although I was surrounded by over fifty Samsung employees wearing their blue vests with Samsung written on the back and complete which matching hats.  When the plane landed they all applauded!  Why do people do that?  You never applaud your bus driver when he arrives at your stop; you do not give a rousing ovation to the train driver for reaching your station so why the hell are you clapping a bloody airline pilot for doing his job?  The mind boggles.

Again seated in the rear I watched as people jumped up immediately the wheels hit the runway and scrambled in the overhead compartments to retrieve their hand luggage.   Samsung employees were a tad slower to their feet than others, due to their need to applaud our arrival, but soon the narrow aisles were full of people and bags well before the aircraft had pulled to a halt.  They then stood for around ten minutes as I sat in my chair, my bag still in the overhead compartment and well aware that no matter how quickly you get off the plane, how far to the head of the immigration queue you are you still have to wait for your boarded luggage to reach the carousel before you can go anywhere.

The masses in the aisles had all now managed to bunch up by pushing forwards a few rows.  I was alone, well as alone as one can be on a crowded Boeing 737.  A stewardess came up to me and pointed to the rear exit which was just opening.  All the passengers were going forwards and none were looking to the rear.  I stood, collected my bag and exited the aircraft quite alone.  I walked across the tarmac, stood at the front of the immigration desk, paid my fifty dollars for a ‘visa upon arrival’ and exited in to the baggage reclaim area before any other passenger had even made it through to the immigration point.

Two hours later my small solitary piece of checked-in luggage appeared on the carousel.  I kid you not – two hours and fifteen minutes after landing the luggage arrived off the plane.  If you are a smoker you can imagine that I was at my wits end and my nerves frayed.  I can endure the departure lounge without the need to smoke, I can put up with not smoking on the plane but once I land the nicotine craving kicks in and build’s to a frenzy in no time at all.  After one hour I just wanted to forget my luggage and go outside for a smoke – obviously you cannot do that because you may be arming your bomb or something!

I met up with Eva and her partner and off we went to their entertainment complex which is being developed and half of it is already operational.  They still have a lot of work to do although the Karaoke Rooms; Chinese Restaurant; Massage & Spa and Nightclub are already open.  A lap-dancing area; conference facilities; Chinese bath house; casino and theatre are planned to open over the next six months.  There are also around ten ‘short-time’ rooms and some twenty rooms for management and staff.  I was afforded a room in the management and staff quarters.

I dumped my bags, quickly washed my face and headed off to the restaurant with Eva for an initial chat and some much needed food.  We were joined by my three ladies who had by now been here for almost one month and all the pleasantries were eventually dismissed.  The girls were thrilled to see me but not because of a great desire to see ‘Boss’ but because ‘Boss’ was here the generator had been turned on early.  I was confused but carried on eating and looking forward to a few hours rest before meeting up with the girls later to find out the real story of how things were going.

I disrobed and flopped on to the bed deciding a five minute period of relaxation before a shower would be okay.  I fell asleep for fully thirty minutes before my room exploded with noise.  The walls shook, the windows vibrated, the bed moved across the floor and objects toppled from table tops.  My room was directly above the nightclub, it was six in the evening, the venue was open and I would be getting no more sleep until the weekend closing time of four in the morning – hoorah!

The Sunday of my arrival happened to be a holiday in Zambia and Eva had laid on a show in the nightclub for later in the evening.  The place was full by around ten thirty and I was introduced to a few local African guys and watched the Charity Shield football match between Chelsea and Arsenal with them and enjoyed a couple of Heineken’s  at around a third of the price they are in Thailand.  Things were not bad and I was relaxed for the first time in over one week.

The girls joined me for a chat, we had a few drinks and by now I was on to Vodka and Tonic although I usually had to ask about two or three times for the Vodka – the tonic was never a problem for the bar staff though!  It was now I learned that the complex had no power over the last few days and the generator only went on at six in the evening.  This meant no water, no lighting (obviously), no cooking, no internet so, really, not much of anything.  I started to get a feeling that all was not well but by one in the morning I was exhausted and, despite the thunderous bass sound, returned to my room and fell promptly to sleep.

I woke at three-thirty, the bass was still making the room dance and I felt like shit.  Sweat was pouring off me, my stomach was churning, I needed to rush to the toilet and realized I also had heartburn.  I had twenty trips to the toilet with extreme diarrhea in the next two hours and was vomiting profusely.  By now the generator was off so I was walking through my bedroom in complete and utter darkness and entering a bathroom where I could not flush the toilet and was now starting to stink out the entire room – tomorrow the entire compound I imagined.

I was unable to wash my face or hands – there was, of course, no water.

I struggled through the night and early morning.  Around midday a serving lady told me it was time for lunch which merely conjured up the image of food – sufficient to have my head as far over the toilet bowl as I dared but by now only able to offer a retch.

I returned to my bed, my heartburn was bad and I was feeling worse than at any time in the previous twelve hours.  I was given a few bottles of water, some fruit juice and milk – none of which made any difference.  Eva had been out for the day and returned just before the generator was to be turned on for the nightclub’s six o’clock opening.  She was extremely sympathetic and promised that tomorrow she would go and get me some medicine but for now, there was nothing that could be done.  She left my room just as the bass sound was wound up and buffeting every inch of my room.

With no energy, no water, no strength, no internet, no peace and feeling the way I did all in a room that had the vilest smell of mixed sweat, diarrhea and vomit that could be imagined I just tried to sleep.  An hour here, thirty minutes there until midnight arrived, the generator went off and peace, if nothing else reigned.

Tuesday followed a similar pattern although by now the vomiting and diarrhea were no longer in play as there was nothing left inside for me to eject.  The power returned at around ten in the morning and I spent over one hour flushing and cleaning and flushing and cleaning the toilet.  I tried the internet but whilst the computer connection was fine the internet signal was to weak.  I headed to the shower, three days with no shower and all that had been happening meant I must have made even the dirtiest hobo appear to be lightly perfumed.  I stood under the shower, turned it on and the lights immediately went out.  The power had failed again.  Well at least, for now, the toilet was clean!

Eva appeared with some medicines around four that afternoon but with no positive news on the electric supply.  The generator apparently only had enough power for the Karaoke rooms and the nightclub but she was constantly chasing the supply authority!   I was missing Thailand and vowed never to say a bad word ever again related to my adopted country – Thailand is in a totally different and considerably higher league to Zambia.

I was moved to another room from six to midnight, whilst the music played, and with the assistance of the medication combined with hardly having slept more than an hour or so for four days did get some rest.  That was until 23:00 when a group of Chinese people appeared at the door asking if two of our girls were in my room.  No they were not in my room, why would they be in my room.  I was sick and they were supposed to be working.  Panic ensued and word came out that they had left the compound with two African guys and they had turned off their phones.  Cars were dispatched, police notified, the name of one of the African guys was known and soon there were several SUV’s full of Chinese guys heading to his house.

Two or three hours later the girls were discovered sitting in a restaurant with their African friends completely oblivious to the complete panic they had caused.  They are not permitted to leave the complex without permission and need to provide the name and address of the person they are leaving with and exactly where they are going.  They MUST also always keep their phones switched on.

By Wednesday morning I was well enough to get out of my bed but capable of little else.  I decided to pack my bags and head to see Eva where I told her I had to be taken immediately to a hotel with hot and cold water, a flushing toilet, internet connection and a constant source of electricity.

At eleven I was in the back of a taxi waving farewell to the Zambian International Hotel Limited complex, not a fond farewell though for rather obvious reasons.  I would have a meeting with Eva early evening and then meet with the girls formally on Thursday.   I hope that the trip would improve slightly from this point forward and was checked in to a Best Western Hotel just two miles from where I had been staying.

So, was this move the turning point in my virgin trip to Africa?  Read the final instalment of ‘Kevin goes to Africa’ at the beginning of September to find out.