Zambia: Broken skies and broken glass

”But don’t you ever get bored just riding your bicycle all day, every day?”, people often ask when you tell them that you’re trying to cross a continent by bicycle. I usually answer that no, not really, because even though the actual peddling is pretty monotonous the surroundings are never too constant.Well, with a few exceptions. Northern Zambia was one of those. 

For nearly 1000 km, from the Tanzanian border to the capital Lusaka, there was actually not much going on along the straight, flat road surrounded by sparse vegetation that, due to deforestation, mostly consists of low bush and young trees. Not very good for the environment, but great for camping. 

Since prices in Zambia are clearly higher than in its East African neighbours, we let our stinginess (or call it money consciousness if you want) decide that it was time to start using the tent and the stove on a more daily basis again. When you can get a comfy and acceptably clean lodge for around 2 dollars it’s easy to get used to sleeping in a bed rather than on a foam mat. The same is true when it comes to food, why waste time cooking when you can get a big portion of beans and rice – perfect for hungry cyclists – for under a dollar? Well, those days are gone. Now we’re back to sleeping and cooking in the bush, which is not too bad either. Especially since there were loads of cheap veggies and mushrooms sold at the side of the road. We’ve probably had more tomatoes, avocados, kale and mushrooms in three weeks than in the last five months. 

Besides an uncountable number of flat tires (which probably had something to do with all the broken glass bottles on the road) cycling in Zambia was pretty easy – friendly people, great roads, potential camping spots everywhere, you name it. But there was one thing that varied much more than the surroundings: the weather. Just like in Tanzania, it rained a lot. Almost every day actually. As long as the road condition doesn’t get affected, I really don’t mind a long and heavy shower while cycling. And most of the times, the tent is as waterproof as it’s supposed to be. Besides, the rain is definitely helpful for other purposes than cooling down sweaty cyclists. According to both locals and news broadcasters there is a pretty severe drought in Eastern and Southern Africa at the moment. Hopefully these downpours are here to stay for at least the rest of the rain period. 

And after less than two weeks we arrived in Lusaka.At that point everything, ourselves included, desperately needed a wash.Once again, we were lucky enough to get to stay in a luxury home, this time thanks to the French-Canadians Matthias and Karine (and Warmshowers, of course). We stayed two nights and were just about to leave when Sam discovered that his old back wheel had got a new problem. It was the cone that goes into the ball bearings that had chipped and moreover the rear bulb treads had deteriorated. For you, who like me, didn’t get all of that, I guess it’s enough knowing that this defect will stop the wheel from turning. And it takes some mechanical skills and time to fix. If it hadn’t been for Matthias help, we would probably have had to go to a bicycle repair shop. Merci! 

When we finally left Lusaka and set off towards Livingstone (February the 24th) it was already afternoon.Outside of town I saw a bunch of striped horses for the first time of my life.Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always loved zebras, probably because I felt that we have something in common. As far as I know, they are the only animals whose name starts with a Z. And there they were, just walking around in a fenced park right next to the road. Well, no risk of getting bored anymore. 

We enjoyed a few more days of cycling through the remote areas in the southern province before reaching Livingstone. Uneventful stretches like these last ones are just perfect for listening to audio books. Or thinking thinking about the still distant but more and more approachable life off the bike, that is to say either off the bike (for me), or cycling another continent (for Sam, who’s going from Iran to China).For we realised not long ago that we’ve actually come to the beginning of the end. After Livingstone there is only about 3000 km left until we’ll (hopefully) reach our final destination, the Cape.

But first there was the absolute must see, one of the seven so called wonders of the world: the Victoria falls. Seeing the falls was an almost as wet experience as it was breathtaking. I’d better not try to describe what it looked like, but I’ll let the photos do the job instead. 

After that amazing last day off in Zambia we were ready for new, even more remote areas in Botswana and later on Namibia. Right now we’re hanging out at a lodge called ”Planet Baobab”, 200 km east of the town Maun. The last days we’ve met and seen a lot more four footed guys than people. But don’t worry, so far we’ve neither been stepped on nor eaten. And yesterday we eventually burnes into a couple of (two footed) cycling friends. Tomorrow we’ll hit the road again together. I’ll tell you more next time. 

Take care!