Musings on Moribund Motels

Author Godfrey Chitalu

By Godfrey Chitalu

I was joking with a friend on Facebook that there are probably only three or so towns that I have not visited in Zambia. If my memory serves me right, I need to go to Ikelenge, Gwembe and Milenge. During my tour of duty, I have slept in myriad motels, lodges and hotels that our country can offer. It is a story of the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes sleeping in these places has been out of necessity and other times a rendition of fire and brimstone.

I vividly remember several years ago arriving in Lukulu town in the middle of the night. Having endured a very bad road network from Kaoma, we discovered that all lodging places were fully booked. We pleaded with some catholic adminstrators for room at their inn but to no avail. In a Joseph way, we had no option but to go into this ramshackle of a guest house. I ended up being bitten by a strange tick. The discovery sprayed red paint on my bedsheets and left me traumatized.  

At another motel in Mansa, I could not sleep because of the thin layer separating the rooms. A leaky roof and a door that left gaping holes compounded my misery. Above all, porous trusses made me eavesdrop, albeit involuntary on the happenings from the couple in the next room. While some might say I had a choice to move to the next place, sometimes you just find yourself without options. Circumstantial, financial and related reasons were at play.

Few weeks ago another Facebook friend posted a complaint on how she was served unsavory tea at one of the lodges in Eastern province. She surreptiosly insisted that a manager of Bemba descent was responsible. As an easterner herself, she forgot that her kith and kin where not doing fine in regard to managing lodges. I forgave her for using tribal cousinship to shield her relatives.

The crux of the matter is that most travelers are given a raw deal when it comes to lodging away from home. Whenever you travel and you are in need of accommodation please be careful.

  1. Avoid dense blankets and bedspreads. Most lodges, especially those run by local authorities rarely wash their bedspreads and blankets. I have sampled many places and have come to the conclusion that this area need attention. You can easily smell freshness in bedsheets but with dense blankets, chances of being duped are high. Be on the lookout especially in the rain season. Sometimes its handy to move with your own pair of bedsheets.  
  2. Be careful with towels, crockery and cutlery. I carry personal towels for selfish reasons. I have no faith sometimes in towels that are offered by our lodges. They don’t invest in quick drying towels. As a frequent local traveler, I always carry my fast dry and light weight, towel. Look out also for utensils used in the serving and consumption of food. Glasses and cups are way dirtier in lodges than we think. Their dirtiness hinge more on the type, quality and state of the material used for cleaning. Sometimes overused and dirty mutton clothes are the culprits.
  3. Inspect your room before occupancy and find out about breakfast. Most times I wonder why cleaning rooms is not taken seriously by lodge owners. It doesn’t need forex to ensure that guests enjoy freshness in their rooms. Move the bed if possible to double check under as cleaners rarely move beds. Some lodges also fail to provide continental breakfast; two slices of bread, butter, jam, sugar and coffee or tea should do the trick. When you do the math, it does not make sense to deny your guests continental breakfast as it is  cost effect and manageable.
  4. Corona virus messages. Being serious about issues of COVID 19, there is need for all our lodges, motels and guest houses to provide information on the same. It is as important as the menu book. Management should not get tired of preaching social distancing, sanitizing and washing of hands.

The author is a social commentator who writes for pleasure.

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