Day 21 to Day 23 - June 17th-19th

We left the Chief’s Island Lodge and flew back to Livingstone for a day of recreation. We rented a helicopter to see the mile-wide Victoria Falls, where the mighty Zambezi River flows into a crevasse and winds its way down some rapids that kayakers adore.

The rapids are under the famous bungee-jumping bridge, which is known for a few recent mishaps, as I mentioned in my last post.

Here is the famed bungee-jump bridge:

Our next stop was a day with Tony, the tracker I mentioned in the last post. Here’s the armed guard with his AK-47.

Tony warned us that if a rhino should charge, we shouldn’t run or stay near the armed guard with the gun but instead stay with the guide. But how could you not run from a charging rhino?

Here we are, marching off single-file:

He asked us if this giraffe dung was from a male or female:

The answer is that the female pellet has a sharp point at one end.

We finally ran into a family of rhino. The offspring is approximately one year old, and the male will have to wait an additional year before the female is ready to reproduce. A female will often only have three babies in its lifetime. Their slow rate of reproduction is why poaching is such a serious problem.

You can see that he is excited to see us!

We got incredibly close to this enormous 3 ½ ton monster:

He finally decided he’d had enough close contact with us and began coming toward us.

We walked quietly away, getting an obstacle between us and the giant beast. From a distance, we noticed there was another guard also watching the rhino. I am sure there won’t be any poaching in this park.

The next morning we said goodbye to our wives, children, and grandchildren. They flew off to tour the Serengeti while we make our way by motorcycle to meet them further north.

We headed northeast to Lusaka, Zambia, followed by a long 400-mile day going into Malawi and past the teeming city of Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. There were crowds of people on the street and too many onlookers curious about our motorcycles – we would not have been able to go out after dark had we stayed there.

Instead, we drove on and later asked someone on the street to recommend a simple lodge. This is what we got:

We had a wonderful dinner, but shortly after nightfall, the music started on the adjacent property. It was so loud that you could feel the beat on your skin. There were unsavory people in the parking lot— Roger didn’t sleep a wink; I slept with one eye open; Vincent slept in his clothes so he could be ready to run in a moment’s time. We would have been better off in Lilongwe. We left in the early morning with the sun in our eyes and brush growing up on each side of what was a very narrow road. People were walking on the road, cars were coming the other way, and sun glare made for poor visibility—all of which made for a disturbing ride.

We saw many lovely sights like a handmade truck

that this young boy would steer around town:

There were busy markets along the way. We met nice ladies who served us lunch – the way we were dressed, they thought we were astronauts.

A couple rented a clever trailer. It has a pop-up tent, a stove, and everything you could possibly want for luxurious camping.

Charcoal is sold along the road. One guy propped up his bags up on stones and was offering more charcoal than the other guys for the same price:

Charcoal is a big business. People use charcoal heaters inside their mud huts here without any serious ventilation – it cannot be good for a person.

The infamous World War II Bailey Bridge – Vincent cautiously crossing it.

We stopped to talk with Odd Mfjeld, the man who had taken Helge in when he visited in 1983.

Odd came to set up a system of dairy farms for a Dutch non-profit organization. It did not go well. Of the five Malawians who were trained in Europe, only one came back. He worked for several years on the dairy farm, then died of AIDS. Two years later, all the cows had been eaten. Dairy farming was clearly a bad pick for both nutrition and economic development in such an undeveloped country. There is a relaxed work ethic here. One person told us that a poll has been taken to determine by country how long it takes to cross a street. Japan had the shortest time on average and Malawi had the longest time!

Odd spends half his time here and half his time in Norway. His son is an engineer and works next door. I asked him why the fertility rate is so high in Malawi. He said, “Look, there’s no electricity at night; it gets dark early; there is nothing to buy; there is no place to go; and there is no television – what else is there to do!” Do you remember what happened to the fertility rate in New York City nine months after the power went down on the east coast of the U.S.?

Population growth is a serious problem in all five countries that we have visited.

U.S.

South Africa

Namibia

Botswana

Zambia

Malawi

Fertility rate – children/woman

2.1

2.6

2.5

2.5

5.9

5.4

GDP growth rate

1.5%

3.4%

3.6%

6.2%

6.7%

4.6%

Population in millions

315

50

2

2

14

16

GDP/person

$46,000

$6000

$7000

$16,000

$1,600

$1000

% of population under age 15

20%

30%

34%

34%

47%

45%

Imagine how difficult it would be in the U.S. if we had three times as many children in school or three times as many children under age 15. In my opinion, the population growth problem is the most difficult problem to solve in these countries. Across the country, power is divided up among countless “chiefs” that have quasi-control over a tribe of 1,000 or less—without an effective central command, it would be impossible to encourage a curbing of the population explosion.

A lot of the robust gross domestic product growth is due to the fact that the population is growing. This automatically bolsters gross domestic product. During the same period, commodities have gone up in price, also leading to an increase in gross domestic product. From a stability standpoint, a young population combined with a static or declining average annual income is a prescription for instability, whether the countries are democratic or not.

Rehashing the problems in Africa is not productive unless we have a prescription for change. Perhaps the easiest path for instituting change is to have the NGOs (non-governmental organizations). These are generally non-profit and include churches and miscellaneous foundations—a “dog’s breakfast” of organizations focused on helping the African countries cope. What is most needed here is help with education, family planning, economic development focused particularly on exporting goods, agricultural expertise focused on improving efficiency of farms while scaling them up, and research to medically solve the AIDS problem rather than attempt to reduce promiscuity. But these NGOs often aren’t focusing on the areas that most need help, or they fall short of the mark in their efforts to help. For example, a religious organization might provide a school to a community, but no teachers are provided by the organization or are otherwise available (from the community or elsewhere) to teach in the school. A building without teachers is just a building!

One approach to improve the effectiveness of these NGOs would be to measure the ability of each NGO to execute specific, well-defined missions that are determined to be important for the future of Africa. Another would be to measure exactly what percentage of charitable assistance filtered through an NGO is dedicated directly to the mission results (i.e., helping Africans) and not to buying new Land Rovers and paying big salaries to NGO officials.

We ended up staying at a small pleasant lodge on the shore of Lake Malawi, a clean freshwater lake perhaps 45 miles across. The beach was beautiful.

We are now in malaria country and everyone you talk to has had malaria and generally gets it once or twice a year. They can feel it coming. My malaria pills are up-to-date, but this is the view from inside the mosquito net that covers my bed.

The morning sunrise:

Livingstone, Zambia to beyond Lilongwe, Malawi
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  • Miriam Van de Sype and Vivian - June 22, 2012, 2:21 pm
    Great journey Dan! Vivian and I are enjoying the pictures so much. Vivian especially likes you in the picture with the rhino -- "Dan looks prettier without glasses"...

    Have fun and see you soon!
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