What a Riot

Day 84, stage 64, 176km

Start, Chipata, Moma Rula’s Camp

Finish, Chingwewe Hotel

Today was the longest day on the Tour so far, 176km. It was also going to be a bit hilly – about 1100 metres of climb, not huge but not insignificant. The lunch stop was at 80 – not quite half way for the day. We were going to stop there and then go on for another 5 or 5 km to Katete where Ali and Liz, two of our riders, were going to participate in an event organized by a charity they are raising money for. We got to the lunch stop around 9:15 and were told we couldn’t go any further and would have to stay there cooling our jets until further notice. There was a riot in Katete. There were fires and looting and general bad behavior. The charity event was cancelled.

As it turned out a young girl had been murdered a couple of weeks before. It was a suspected ritualistic murder with some mutilation involved. People in the village were convinced that a local shop owner was responsible or involved. But he was from a prominent family and the police had not arrested him. The riot began when the villages stormed and burned the shop in protest at police inaction. The led, as it often does, to more general civil disobedience – looting, burned tires on the road, roaming mobs.

As we sat at our roadside lunch stop we saw truck loads of military and armed police go past. The staff kept in touch with the police and finally by around 11:15 the situation was enough in hand for us to begin riding again. We cycled in convoy to the front end of the town and were stopped again. There was still a mob and a fire in the rod a couple of hundred metres ahead. The police went ahead of us and started fire live rounds into the air to disperse the crowds. They then gave chase into the fields. Eventually a police van with guys with guns in the back led our convoy through. They continued to fire live rounds as we cycled along. We passed youths hand cuffed and prostrate on the side of the rode under armed guard – many bloody from being beaten. After about 10km of police escort they pulled to side of the road and we were waved on. So on we cycled.  Most of us had cycled through Katete but those who were more concerned were given sanctuary in one of the Tour trucks and driven through town.

This was our longest day yet and we still had a long way to cycle. Losing over two to the problems in Katete meant it would be difficult for some to make camp before the sun set. So we peddled hard. I arrived about 3:15. Bob had gotten in almost an hour before me. He had found his legs – or was still hearing gun fire.

Our camp tonight was walking distance to some shops. So Bob and I wandered off to get SIM cards and sort things out. Welcome to Zambia!

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