HEADING TO ZAMBIA FOR AQUAMARINE
“YOU HEAR THE ENGINES RUNNING AND THE SMELL OF KEROSENE LINGERS IN THE AIR”
“The sun so bright you can barely see. You can taste the red earth stirred up by the wind. In the back, you hear the engines running and the smell of kerosene lingers in the air”, this is how Stefan Kreis describes his landing at Lusaka International Airport in Zambia, Africa in 1985.
This was a tumultuous year. In the early 1980s, Zambia had taken IMF funding and was now forced to implement austerity measures. One such measure was to reduce the pay of civil servants by ~25%, another was to cut price subsidies. “I remember hearing reports about strikes and riots. We listened carefully to the local radio stations to avoid running into a mob. Our goal was to leave Lusaka as fast as possible. There was no time to be wasted anyway”, Stefan explains.
HEADING TO LUNDAZI
“DUSTY ROADS WITH POTHOLES AND DEBRIS ON THE SIDE”
Back then, only 1 flight per week was headed from Zambia to Frankfurt, Germany. This provided them with a short window of opportunity. It took two days to get to the mining area and two days back. This left him at the mining spot with only three days available. “The streets were only dusty roads with potholes and debris on the side. Whilst driving, you could not see anything in the rearview mirror by all the red earth which the wheels would throw into the air”, Mr. Kreis says.
The goal was to reach the mining area in Lundazi, close to the border of Malawi. It was a travel in no-man’s-land. Because of this, each journey had to be organized carefully. Weeks of planning went into preparing a trip. Cell phones weren’t available and even if, there would probably no connection. No possibility to reach for help in the case of an emergency except for pure luck. “If the car was to break down permanently, we would have been lost in the middle of nowhere. You could only hope for a lucky coincidence of someone passing by. But what are the odds of that happening”, Stefan says with a smile.
AT THE MINING SITE
“DARING ENOUGH TO SLEEP IN THE AFRICAN BUSH”
Once at the mining site, they wasted no time to look for scarce tourmaline and aquamarine. They would put up their tent and take a look around. The high-quality gemstones are exceptionally rare even to this day. And KREIS can access these gems because of the connections and relations which started so many years ago. At a time, when no one was willing to take on the trouble to reach these sites off the beaten path. “Do you know anyone daring enough to sleep in the African bush to get the first look at the finest rough material out there”, Stefan asks laughing.