31st August to 5th September

[Note: With this exactly 100th post, our travel diary finishes. But we are lucky to travel again every time we talk about this wonderful year :-) ]

Sunday 31 August

We go to the handicraft market, in the surroundings of the Arcade shopping mall. There are hundreds of men exposing their products directly on the floor: wooden crockery and cutlery, bracelets, necklaces, animals in polished precious wood or stones, chess games, small objects made of recycled materials, paintings of African style, ! And of course, from every seller we hear “My friend”, “You are my only client today”, “For you I give a special price”, !

We bargain to divide the original price by 2 or 3, but we are still paying more than we should. It’s wonderful to see so many people wearing the colours of the country. Not only the football T-shirts, but also many shirts or dresses offer declinations of the green, orange, red and black of the national flag. We planned to go to Munda Wanga this afternoon, but after half an hour waiting in the minibus for it to get full, we prefer to go home, because we wouldn’t have had a lot of time there.

Monday 01 September

First thing we do this morning is to go to get the boxes for the bicycles. We had called a bicycle shop, CS Cycle Mart, one week ago to book them. And when we arrive there, they don’t have anything, probably the boxes evaporated. We visit several more shops for these boxes until we arrive at the Njinga manufacturer, a Chinese importer of bikes and motorbikes. There’s a huge patio, watered to prevent the dust from flying, with hundreds of bikes in a hangar, and as many boxes ready to be thrown. Unfortunately, the boxes are half the normal size. So we take 4 of these boxes per bike, to be sure! And now, with 20kg of cardboards, let’s go home. When a taxi accepts to take us the boxes don’t fit inside. Ok, no problem, just put them on the roof and tie them with a string.

In the afternoon, we separate: Mick and Dominika prepare the boxes while Ju goes to the bank to retrieve his card (it has been confiscated by the Barclays ATM yesterday). Instead of the expected two hours, it takes till late at night to build the box, put the bikes inside, and reinforce it. For Ju, the mission turns to a failure: Barclays refuses to retrieve the card (that had been preventively blocked by his bank ING). More than two hours waiting in the bank to get a solution, but the banks are too stubborn to imagine one. In the evening, we get another snapshot of Africa. We have rented a 4 wheel drive for going tomorrow to the Kafue National Park. Just before coming with the car, the guy of the agency realizes the car does not work. So he comes with another car, from a friend, more expensive. After some negotiations, we manage to reduce a little the rpice, and we go to bed, exhausted by this day.

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Tuesday 02 September

We get up at 4am. We pack our stuffs for the day and leave quickly. It takes 2h30 driving to go to the Kafue National Park. This park is huge: more than 22000 sq km (more than Israel or Slovenia, well maybe not for long for Israel!). We are more than happy to be allowed to drive by ourselves in the park.

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There are many antelopes (springboks, reedbucks, !).We furtively see two warthogs (they maintain their tail up while running), and an elephant, which goes quickly away as we try to get closer. We have lunch observing a herd of antelopes.

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We are totally alone on this path. In the afternoon, we discover new animals: blue wildebeest, kudus, varan, crocodile).

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As we are about to leave the path, we see 4 lionesses under a tree, only 5m away from the raod! They look with attention at our car. They don’t look aggressive, but they can reach the car in a split second. We take precautions (windows only slightly open, no arm outside, the engine on and ready to accelerate at any sign).

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Dominika, it’s not the time to climb on the roof! We enjoy the driving on this gravel road, sometimes getting a little too moved and slapping the trees on the side or caressing the edge! the car has changed colour, both outside and inside, due to the dust. Fortunately, it’s night when we are back in Lusaka to return it. We have fought all the day in the car against Tse Tse flies, they are very resistant.

Wednesday 03 September

Today, we have planned several technical visits in Lusaka. We first meet Alex, Mick’s classmate, at her office. She presents us her job in WASAZA.

Afterwards, we have a meeting with Thimothy Phiri, a lecturer of University of Zambia (UNZA) in the new four-year program about Renewable Energy. Here, we present our project to some 15-20 students of this program, and afterwards have a very interesting discussion about the situation of Renewable Energy in Zambia, and their feelings.

In the afternoon, we meet Maximilian Musumali. He works in the brand new ZARENA, the one month old Zambian Agency of Renewable Energy. He explains us the situation of the country, and his role in developing renewables.

With the heavy planning we had these last days in Lusaka, we have not been able to visit the city. Here is the only picture we took:

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Well, the city is not also particularly beautiful (in fact it reminds us of India, with a lot of animation/agitation, pollution, …), so we did not visit it on prupose.

Thursday 04 September

Our last hours in Zambia. We dismount the tents and prepare our bags for the plane. We happily give away some too heavy crockery, the big box of medicine, and other now useless things. At 9h30, we are taken to the airport. But not with the person we have agreed with last night! in fact, yesterday morning, we had talked with a local minibus driver about the possibility to take us to the airport. The problem is that this vehicle may be too small for three huge bicycle boxes. So we did not confirm with them and instead booked another van, more expensive, but big enough. But here we are, with the minibus, and the van still not arriving. After 20 minutes of playing Tetris, the boxes are finally inside and we can drive to the airport.

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Ju is folded between boxes (like in Vietnam!) but the trip is rather short. We fly to Johannesburg on South African Airways the three of us. Then, Dominika goes to Heathrow with British Airways, while we continue to Abu Dhabi, with Etihad. Here in Lusaka, we can plastify our bags and boxes. We don’t pay any extra for the bikes.

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But in Joburg, it’s different. We have to go to the counter of Etihad to get the tickets to Geneva. And we have to pay for extra weight. We both have 45kg instead of the 30kg authorised. The price of the extra kilo is 761 rand (i.e. 70 US$ or 55€). That means we have to pay more than 1000$ per person! It’s totally crazy! So we ask to talk with the responsible of Etihad. He accepts to make a discount of 50% on the fee, but no further. And for accessing the luggage, so that we remove extra weight, we have to resign to our seats tonight! and in consequence pay extra fees for changing the ticket. After several hours of talking and assessing our options, we decide to pay the extra weight fee and fly tonight as planned. But they don’t have the machine for the credit card here. And we’re running out of time. So we are placed on the flight, with our luggage, and maybe someone from the company will come to talk with us for the extra weight fee. We make it to the boarding gate designing strategies to avoid paying, but there is no problem to enter in the plane. Once on board, someone from the company comes to talk with us. But it’s not the expected speech. He tells us that it’s an enormous amount to pay, and if ever we have problems in Abu Dhabi, then we can call him! it seems that in the end, we will escape it. We have a short night on the plane.

Friday 05 September

In Abu Dhabi, we follow the same strategy of arriving quite late at the boarding gate. But we are not told anything. Much relieved, we enjoy the flight. The plane passes just above the Gizah pyramids, the Greek islands, the Croatian confetti coast, and the Mont Blanc!

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In Geneva, we feel elated when all our luggage arrive. We mount our bicycles light-heartedly, ready to cover the last 50km of the journey. The parents of Ju have come to meet us at the airport.

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We leave around 17h. It’s impossible in Geneva to have a common route between us by bike, and Ju’s parents by car, so we decide to meet later.

As if to welcome us, a strong rain falls as we are still in Geneva. The locals tell us it’s the first rain since a fortnight. Has the end of our trip infuriated the gods? We take shelter in a blue house, that is to be destroyed soon, but in the meantime, is used as exhibition room for photographers.

Once in France, the weather is better, and we manage to take small roads, through the countryside.

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Wow! This country looks so clean and organised! And the woods smell so good! We rush to avoid driving by night and just as usual, we arrive at Sillingy for sunset.

TheEnd

We’re tired, but safe and very happy to arrive. We will have time to rest now, and so many more adventures to live!

The last video of the trip… snif…