Since the Railways payments crisis, brought above by Rhodesia's UDI, Zambia has tried many means of transport to get her vital copper exports out and her equally vital fuel imports in.
Road sign indicating turn left for East Africa. A copper-laden lorry passes. (It has 450 miles to go from this point and has already done between 70 miles and 160 miles, depending on which refinery it took its copper.)
Lorry turns left and is now on the Great North Road.
View from lorry's cab as road unfolds.
The driver at the wheel
One of the four road graders doing an unequal task on this road. (They're not much help.)
One of the hell-runners pounding along.
Another, just ahead.
Two lorries pass.
A hell-runner climbing one of the many dangerous escarpments along the Great North Road.
A lorry passes, camera rests on gap in elephant grass where lorry plunged over the side last week
LAST TWO SCENES MAY HAVE SOFT FOCUS AS AT THIS POINT I DISCOVERED THE LENS HAD SHAKEN LOOSE IN ITS MOUNT. THERE WAS NO TIME FOR RETAKES AS IT WAS GETTING DARK.
The lorry that went over the edge of the escarpment, lying about 200 ft. from the road.
A lorry passes.
The scene at night as a hell-runner is on his way back to the Copperbelt. (The tail-lights of a lorry in front may just be seen.)
Dawn the next morning. A line of lorries that have been arriving all night wait for their turn to unload at Isoka.
One of the lorries drives in to the unloading area.
Inside the unloading area at Isoka, a hell-runner drives up.
First, as here, the empty fuel drums are unloaded (the copper is underneath).
Closer ditto, showing copper wirebars beneath.
Driver of one lorry gets out after driving to copper-unloading area.
Copper being unloaded (it's just thrown out), with stacks of copper in foreground.
Ditto, another angle.
A pile of copper that has just been dumped off.
A forklift truck picks up a stack of copper.
Forklift loads it into one of the Tanzanian lorries, which will take it to Dar es Salaam.
Door of one of the Tanzanian trucks, with legend: Iringa Transport Partnership.
A huge stockpile of copper, brought about by being brought faster from the Copperbelt than being taken on to Dar.
Drums of fuel being rolled up ramp and . . .
. . . into a returning truck.
Above was one method of loading the lorries with drums of fuel. Here is another. Truck drives to a loading point (drums in foreground).
Forklift truck loads drums on to lorry
Lorry drives out on its way to Copperbelt.
Driver in cab. Drives past line of lorries waiting to be unloaded.
On our way back we came upon a hell-runner that had crashed about 20 minutes before when its tie-rod end broke. Following scenes might be useful for tieing into above.
The crashed lorry with its drums spilled out.
Legend on front of lorry "Thunderbird" (most hell-runners give their lorries nicknames), moving to spilled oil drums.
A lorry passes (crashed lorry in background).
A low view of the corrugated road
There are at least 50 Zambian lorries at Isoka, each of which had brought an average of eight tons of copper. During the time I was there (about six hours) only four Tanzanian lorries, all old and in bad condition, turned up to take the copper on.
THIS COVERAGE IS ACCOMPANIED BY A 1/4in. TAPE (RECORDED AT 7 1/2 IPS) OF ENGINE NOISES, ETC. EACH IS IDENTIFIED ON THE TAPE. UNFORTUNATELY ALTHOUGH I LOCATED THE COCKEREL, IT WOULDN'T CROW AGAIN FOR FILMING.
Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
Background: Since the Railways payments crisis, brought above by Rhodesia's UDI, Zambia has tried many means of transport to get her vital copper exports out and her equally vital fuel imports in. One such is known by the drivers of the lorries that take the copper to Isoka, near Zambia's border with Tanzania, and return with petrol or diesel oil as the Hell Run. The run is operated by small contractors in co-operation with the Zambian Government, organised through Central African Road Services, a quasi-Government body. Using 7-, 8-, and 10-ton trucks, mostly bought recently for the purpose, these small contractors operate a sort of "little Dunkirk" by collecting a load of copper at one of the Copperbelt's refineries and empty fuel drums from C.A.R.S. and making the journey up the Great North Road, which is in atrocious condition even for a dirt road, to Isoka, where they unload and load again with full fuel drums. The trip I went on, travelling in a Bedford 7-ton truck, took 43 hours for the round trip and most operators do this trip about 10 times a month. To date about 6,000 tons of copper have been taken this way to Isoka, little more than one full railway load. In fact, Zambia decided recently that the situation was so desperate that limited use would have to be made of Rhodesia Railways in Zambia's exports were to survive. Finance Minister Arthur Wina announced in his Budget speech last week that the Great North Road would be tarred as quickly as possible, but until that time this notorious route, which sees at least one crashed lorry a day (not to mention breakdowns), will be known as the HELL RUN....