Posted by: wildsidezambia | November 5, 2012

Down… but not out!

Right from when 67 year old David Lemon set out on his quest to walk the length of the Zambezi from start to finish, we have followed his progress.

After losing 26 kilo’s David since the start of the trip on 21 April of this year, he has finally decided to give it a break. Below is his incredibly frank and moving story of how he reached his decision – and who helped him decide…

“I have never been a good loser, so when I had to tell my Cowbell sponsor, Andy Taylor that I was ending my Zambezi walk early,  I felt a deep sense of failure.  Andy was philosophical about it and I tried hard to console myself with the fact that I really could not go on. I had lost 26 kilograms of body weight, split heels were filling my socks with blood each day, I was subject to ever-more-frequent dizzy spells and my boots were coming apart. In fact, much of my kit was disintegrating and I had stood on my Kindle – thereby robbing myself of the only private entertainment I had. The October heat was building up and my afternoons were spent in sweaty discomfort without even being able to read.

 All in all, I was a mess and felt it. I told Andy that I would walk on as far as Siavonga, but the Zambezi Cowbell Trek would end there and I would go home to write the book.

 Siavonga was another hundred and fifty kilometres further on however and as I wandered down the Kariba shoreline, my sense of failure deepened by the day. I had been beaten by the river. I had given up my dream of walking from source to sea. I was a quitter – a failure and I knew that although folk would be sympathetic and tell me how well I had done – Siavonga is 1800 kilometres from the source near Mwinilunga – I would always know in my heart that I had failed.

 Suddenly, enjoyment in my trip seemed to have disappeared. The people were as friendly as ever, the lakeside scenery was spectacular and nights in the bush soothed my tormented soul with their starlit tranquility, but I was deeply troubled and found it difficult to be friendly with those cheerful folk who asked me about my journey. I trotted out the usual platitudes, but felt sure that they must be able to see through me and know that for all my spurious confidence, I had given up. The furnace-like October heat, the thirty kilogram weight of my pack and the rocky terrain of the gorges below Livingstone had robbed me of my motivation and I was suddenly an unhappy man.

 But what the Zambezi takes away, it gives back in abundance and the people among who I wandered continued to overwhelm me with their kindness and hospitality. They ‘oohed’ and’ aahed’ when I told them about my original plans and commiserated when I added that I was about to end my Zambezi Trek early. It was a fisherman, called Sylvester who came up with the obvious solution.

 “Why don’t you rest for some months,” he asked reasonably, “and return to the river later for the next bit?”

 Why not indeed? I didn’t have to do the entire journey in one fell swoop and by splitting it up, I could possibly avoid the Rains and thereby make things a little easier. With mounting excitement, I told Sylvester that he was a blooming genius (I don’t think he knew what I was on about) and I tried to get hold of Andy Taylor again.

 Inevitably perhaps, it was another fortnight before I had sufficient network coverage to get through and in the meantime, my head was filled with plans for the next stage. I would learn Portuguese; I would approach British Army boffins for advice on nutrition; I would have my wife, Lace design me a set of webbing that would take the strain off my shoulders; I would do this and do that.

 I would complete the walk to Chinde on the Indian Ocean after all!

 With that sorted out and a renewed spring in my step, I arrived at Eagles Rest in Siavonga during their first thunderstorm of the season. The wind howled and rain lashed the lake, but for me it seemed like a small pat on the back from the Nkosi Pezulu and a message that I had done well and it was all going to work out for the best.

 And so it is proving. I had a radio interview with Scottish DJ, David Dunne on Kariba FM and possibly as a result of that, plans are afoot for a big send off when I resume my walk over the Easter weekend in 2014. Rather than tackle the Kariba Gorge, I will walk along the road (18 kilometres of tarmac and 18 kilometres of bush) to Tamarind Lodge at the foot of the gorge. Siavonga Folk – and anyone else who wants to be part of my adventure – will accompany me on that section, on condition that they each make a donation toward my Kariba Elephant Campaign. The walk to Tamarind will take 3 days and will hopefully be fun and raise a lot of money.

David Lemon feeds a rescued baby elephant

So from the depths of despair at Sinazongwe, I left Siavonga full of hope and a feeling that whatever happens from now on, the Zambezi Cowbell Trek is going to be an overwhelming success. Roll on Easter 2014!”




  2. David – you’re an inspiration. Gale

  3. Well done Dave — you did great, and we are all proud of you – heres to April 2014, we look forward to that – Love from Brian, your big sister Linda and the rest of the Colborns. Just a quick one to Andy, you have been a star,
    thank you for your support — will try and get hold of you.

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