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… number 4

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ome things you push out of your mind and, unfortunately, one of those that is gone is the name of hell hole #4. It’s a small village in Zambia, somewhere south of the capital Lusaka. It’s a dirt-poor agricultural community with a listless market, crumbling buildings and a heaviness in the air that had nothing to do with the usual humidity. Surprisingly, in a such a run-down yet standard-issue south-central African village, it boasted a huge, gleaming-white mosque.

Visit the map of Zambia and see if you know the name of this place.

What made it so bad for me were the bedbugs, by far the worst I have ever encountered. Staying at the only ‘hotel’ in town meant a single bed with used sheets in a tiny room with bare bulb (and wires) and a quilt of fuzzy green and black mould that almost completely covered the corrugated tin roof. So far, none of this is unusual for backwoods Africa.

But the bugs – there were platoons… no… entire divisions of them. They wheeled, pivoted, gorged, advanced and even dug trenches all over my body. The night started with desperate itching, scraping and brushing but soon exhaustion set in and still they came. All I could do was lie there and wait for morning.

It was a hellish night, in a hellish place. If you’ve been there, remind me of the name of the place. You’ll know it by the mould, the mosque and the bugs.