Posted by: wildsidezambia | November 27, 2013

Cowbells down the Zambezi

It took true grit and determination. Although the characteristically modest David Lemon says: “It is entirely due to not wanting to look too much of a fool by biting off more than I can chew”.

David Lemon’s new book about his epic walk along the mighty Zambezi, from its source at Mwinilunga in Northern Zambia to Siavonga on Lake Kariba tells of the incredible highs, but also of the lowest lows of his six month journey.


At 67 years old, most people of his age would be putting their feet up in front of the fire with a pipe. Instead, David took his feet along a 1800km walk, carrying a 30kg backpack, smoking his beloved pipe (and on occasion losing it on one of his many falls) at his various shelters along the banks of the Zambezi.

David originally set out to walk the entire length (2,574km) of the Zambezi, a project that became too ambitious even for David’s indomitable adventurous spirit. The realisation of this almost crushes him, until he meets a tribal elder, Sylvester, who tells him that ‘he is not giving up, he is just taking a break’. David decides to do just that, not giving up, but taking some time to gain the weight he lost and give his battered body a break. He intends carrying on the 1200km walk left along the Zambezi to its mouth in Mozambique in April 2014. 

He tells of his harrowing days stumbling through the sodden Luena plains, and climbing over seemingly never ending rocks through the gorges. Along the way he meets friendly Zambian villagers, who invariably invite him to share their nshima and fish with them. He also comes across lordly cabinet ministers, drug smugglers, bandits, colourful tribal chiefs and game lodge owners. Everyone metes out the legendary Zambian hospitality and try to help wherever they can.

On his trip David eats anything from roast rat, fried flying ants and boiled monkey to tender roast fillets. Despite this the weight falls off him.

It is in this state that he arrives at Kayube River Estate, where Karien has an enormous strawberry cake waiting for him. Karien refuses to let him carry on before he has put on some weight and feeds him up with plates brimming with delicious and nourishing meals.

“It was great having David staying with us, quietly reading and getting his strength back, never in the way and with great stories at the dinner table!”, says Karien. “At the same time we had this boisterous Italian staying at the ‘Mama Out of Africa’. They were two completely opposite characters. Enrico was a rep for Davidoff Tobacco. He saved David’s sanity by sending him some tobacco from Italy”.

David enjoys a quiet time at Kayube River Estate

David enjoys a quiet time at Kayube River Estate

The Kermers’ friends Sandy and Patrick Danckwerts carry on fattening David up when he catches up with them at their cottage at Sinazongwe where David spends a few days before taking on the last part of the gruelling walk.

‘Cowbells Down the Zambezi’ is a fascinating account of his 184 days battling the heat, mosquitoes, thick bush, the notorious wag ‘n bietjie thorns, the loss of his beloved Kindle and at times crippling bouts of depression. Yet the spectacular sunsets, magnificent panoramas and crystal clear daybreaks and the wonderful people along the way make up for the tough times. 

‘Cowbells Down the Zambezi’ is available in South Africa through for R258.97. It is also available on Kindle.


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