Our arrival at the Lusaka International Airport brought back memories of the 4th May 1978 when we waved farewell to the airport and Lusaka. My observations relate to changes to Lusaka that we noticed since we left.
In general terms the airport has not changed or that is to say that I could not spot any differences. We taxied up to the terminal and disembarked going through to the baggage hall to collect out cases. One of the quickest I have ever done, I think that the baggage beat us into the hall.
On walking onto the main building there was the car hire company rep with my name on a sheet of paper waiting to take us to the transport for the week. We filled in all the necessary forms and within 15 minutes had the car loaded ready to head on towards Lusaka.
The front of the airport has also hardly changed and I don't think the road between the airport and the Great East Road hasn't changed since it was first built.
This brought us to the Great East Road (GER) itself, here the changes were enormous. At the intersection of the airport road and GER there is now a roundabout. We were to discover that there were also roundabouts at a number of other major junctions along the GER. The first thing is that the road in now a dual carriageway which goes all the way into Lusaka and crosses the railway line over a bridge that is very much like those that are on Church Road and Independence Avenue. It was a tentative drive into Lusaka and to be honest was one of the only times that I was unsure of where we where at all times. This was because when we left there were large 'gaps' of open ground that have now been taken up with buildings. I still had pictures in my head of the undulations and curves in the road that identified your position, these are no longer the same so I was not always able to readily work out our position.
The road all the way from the Airport to Lusaka is in excellent condition, absolutely smooth and pleasure to drive on. This applies in general to all the roads around Lusaka. We came across two exceptions to this, one being the road past where my folks used to live and the other being the Great North Road just north of Lusaka. Having said this the Great North Road is in the process of being rebuilt into a dual carriageway all the way out to the Independence Stadium. By the time I got round to writing this it has probably been completed.
Once we got to the bottom of Addis Abba Drive (Cecil Rhodes Drive), although there are major changes to the buildings on either side of the road, I felt more at home and was able to identify our position more accurately.
Our first trip into Lusaka only took us as far as the North End roundabout from where we headed out to our hotel for the week, Protea Lusaka Safari Lodge.
We did a number of trips into Lusaka and whilst there has been a great deal of development the general layout of the city remained the same. Only once were we unsure of our position and this was going into Roma from the Great East Road. This we felt had changed considerably.
The most noticeable change overall are the high walls around most residences that give a feeling of claustrophobia but as I think I have said elsewhere the growth in the trees also serve to give you a feeling of being closed in.
We did not stop in the town centre, not because we felt in any way not able to do so, just because we had no reason to do so. My first impressions of Lusaka was that it was mucky and needed a good general clean. Having looked at the video we took while driving around I don't think it is as bad as I first thought. Yes there is a lot of litter lying along the sides of the roads, yes the sides of the road are bare of grass, yes the taxis do not give a good impression of driving standards or road safety, yes the government schools are a mess, yes the clubs we frequented have gone down hill but overall we were surprised, pleasantly surprised at the general state of the Capital City.
Would we go back to Lusaka to live? I am not one to say 'never' but in this case I think I have to.
Would we go back to Lusaka on a visit? Without doubt we will be back there in the not too distant future.