15-Feb-2004 -- Me, my wife Alemtsehay, and our daughters Sharon and Irene decided to go confluence hunting and see some of the countryside here in Zambia. We have been here since November 2003, since I was hired to be a program coordinator for the University of Alabama at Birmingham's Department of Geographic Medicine Pediatric Helminth and AIDS project. I have wanted to be the first to "discover" a Confluence ever since I heard about confluence.org about a year and a half ago, but all of the relatively easy Confluences in America have already been done, so we had to travel to Africa to achieve this goal.
The Confluence we chose, 15S 28E is the closest to our home in Lusaka, and it looked like it would be an easy one as the maps I had showed a little road going right to the Confluence. As things turned out, the easy trip there was made a little difficult at the end, as I will explain below.
We drove quickly up the Great North Road in the direction of Ndola and turned west just about at the 15th south parallel onto a nice dirt road and continued west in the direction of the DC, following the roads marked on the map I had down-loaded from, believe it or not, Expedia.com! I had purchased a 30-year-old topo map from the Ministry of Lands Map office in Lusaka just to be safe (for 6000 Zambian Kwatchas, about US$ 1.23), but it turned out to be unnecessary as the Expedia map had all the little dirt roads marked right up to the DC (see photos). We drove through scattered farm land and bush, with the occasional electric fence marking the boundary of a ranch or more developed farm. Every thing was nice and green and lush as it is the middle of the rainy season here in southern Africa.
I just drove down the road as the GPS showed us getting closer and closer…Could the DC actually be in the middle of the road? We got down to just 24 meters away from the DC according to the GPS, and then the distance from the DC started going up. I went back to the 24 meter point on the road and saw that we were separated from the DC by a tall row of grass, a ditch, and then an electric fence! The farms/ranches here have electric fences around them to protect them from wild game, and probably to keep the cattle herds on the ranches from wandering away through the bush. In the photos, you can see the difference between the vegetation on the side of the road with the ditch, fence and telegraph poles, and the "undeveloped" side of the road where the bush goes right up to the road side.
Since we were within 24 meters of the Confluence, and the position error was showing 4 to 5 meters, we could consider this a successful visit, but it was frustrating to have come so close so easily, then be stymied at the 24 meters. I took photos of the cardinal points of the compass, and made sure the southern view included the DC. It is right below the tall tree in the center-left of the south picture. If you closely look at that picture you can also see the fence posts of the electric fence sticking up through the tall grass. I suppose someone with more time could find a way around the fence and stand on the actual DC, so it wouldn't hurt for someone else to visit this DC again.
I had one important problem in that the camera I used didn't take close-ups very well, so it is difficult to read the actual latitude and longitude readings on my GPS, which has very small print on the screen. The photos I took needed to be enlarged so that a blurry reading of the latitude and longitude was just barely legible in the prints. I hope the DC coordinators have mercy!