Charcoal–and a train journey

To travel from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Lusaka in Zambia there are a few options. Either you take a bus – 24 hours. Or a 45 hour train (then a 3 hour bus that took 6 hours). We opted for the latter not because it takes longer or because it is more expensive but because it is one of a handful of epic train journeys in the world. The journey was brilliant fun. We bought 4 tickets for the 2 of us – otherwise we would have been split in to male and female booths. A video summary of the trip can be seen here.  http://vimeo.com/37551170 

As far as plants go, the journey was interesting but not amazing. Lots of maize, beans, some soya crops in Zambia. Lots of “bush” which is fairly open low treed land. Some of it was in national parks, and some was just vast uninhabited areas of scrubby bush. I managed to spot an orchid in a railway cutting but there was no going back for a closer look. We saw some fun wild flowers,  but not many.

One of the most interesting things we saw was charcoal burning. We only saw it at great speed so I have no photos, but I caught the distinctive smell of sweaty wood smoke early on in the journey. IMG_2275 (800x600)

I wrote an article for the Friends of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens newsletter last year about charcoal production in the UK and the importation of charcoal from East African forests. Since arriving in Africa we have seen charcoal production and use all over.  Where gas, coal, and electricity are not available charcoal can still be produced.  Stopping the use of charcoal would save a lot of forest from being cut down, but it would leave a lot of people without fuel to cook with. Charcoal production will decrease as development increases the availability of the aforementioned fuel sources. It is pretty interesting to see the process.

In other news – we have spent a relaxing 10 days in Zambia. One place we went for a few walks in was an area of bush just out of the city of Lusaka.

I found a loverly little orchid, and was surprised to see Tithonia rotundafolia – (invasive from Mexico) growing everywhere as a roadside wildflower.

IMG_1753 (600x800)IMG_2135 (800x600)

We are now in Harare, Zimbabwe where pretty much everyone speaks English, and people are friendly – action stations for plant stories – watch this space to see how we get on. 

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One response to “Charcoal–and a train journey

  1. I have tithonia in my garden – the butterflies love it

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