Until today, I’d only ever owned one type of car, the reliable, easy-to-park and incredibly girly Renault Clio! I’ve had 3 lovely Clio’s in my time, and I’ve loved them all dearly. However, I have become the owner of the antithesis of a Clio… Will and I now own a Toyota Land Cruiser, and it is a beast!
However, my Clio shouldn’t feel too betrayed, because it was clear from Will’s big grin and boyish excitement when we collected the car that the Land Cruiser is really his.
I came to Zambia to work in a local hospital and experience life in rural Africa, and I probably could have survived without a car. Will came to Zambia for his wildlife photography in the nearby South Luangwa National Park and beyond, for which a 4×4 is essential.
Buying a car in Zambia has been a long, fascinating and stressful process! The Land Cruiser is a 1996 Prado from Nagoya, Japan. It was imported to Zambia by a car import company and was sitting in a bonded stockyard in Lusaka waiting for a buyer. We found the car online and actually paid for it 3 weeks ago from the UK, before we had ever seen it (gulp!). We hoped that buying it in advance of our arrival would mean it would be ready on arrival… so naïve!
The first delay was a 10-day wait for the necessary paperwork to enable the car to be released from the bonded stockyard. Following that, there was a 5-day wait for the pre-licensing inspection by the police. Yesterday, we were finally able to collect our car (and see it for the first time).
Having been told we could drive it away, we were surprised to find that it didn’t have any license plates. Apparently it is fine to drive within Zambia for 30 days post-registration whilst waiting for the plates to be issued. We have made it through several police checkpoints without difficulty, so this must be true!
When it came to paying for the car insurance, the antiquated card machine at the insurance company didn’t accept foreign credit cards – so we had to trek out to find various ATM machines, taking out the maximum limit on several cards and returning with a brick of Kwachas to pay for our policy!
Nonetheless, after a few hiccups and delays, we have a car! Our inaugural drive lasted 7-hours and took us 500km along the Great East Road from Lusaka to Katete, over potholes, past remote reed hut villages and through beautiful woodlands with the odd baboon lining the road. Will did most of the driving, but I did get behind the wheel for a while. My main thoughts were ‘wow, I’m high up’, ‘is this lane wide enough?’ and ‘gosh, this has a bit more power than a Clio!’
I think I’ll always be a Clio girl… but for a year, I’m looking forward to embracing the quintessential African off-road vehicle and allowing it to open up the Zambian wilderness to us.