This is Africa

[2.12.2016 Sally] In this next leg we're heading to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe for Christmas and have a good 3 weeks to ride there so we can slow down a bit and smell the roses.

Nursing a hangover from last night, we're heading back from Swakopmund, riding back the way we came through the Namib Desert, stopping one night at Karibib - same guest house we stayed a few days ago on the way to Swakopmund. Thankfully it's only 180kms, but there's a strong gusty side wind to keep us on our toes.

After a restful day and cooking a basic pasta dish "at home", we head back to Windhoek the next day. I'm leading and decide to pull over at a rest stop after about 70kms - we do this regularly now to shake out numb hands and arms, and have a drink of water. Anyway I pull off the road and see someone at the table but don't make them out until I stop right in front of a mobile speeding camera with a nice Namibian police man pointing it a me. Oops, "Sorry - am I in the way of your camera?", "No, m'am you're OK there". He's very pleasant to us and asks us about our motorbikes and our journey. I can see I'm providing extra cover for him and he soon pulls someone over for speeding.

In Windhoek - we get food delivered and have another quiet night in. It can be quite tiring having to go out and eat every night. And not great for the waistline either. My riding pants are already quite a snug fit now - one can only hope for a gentle bout of amoebic dysentery whilst meandering through in this dark continence . . . sorry continent.

Packing up in the morning I realise I've left my engagement ring in the guest house in Karibib. I call Lisa, the owner, and she immediately walks around to the room and confirms that yes I have left it there. My engagement ring looks great and I love it - it looks like a $40,000 diamond ring - but the truth is Jeff bought it at a flee market in Lima for $10. Nevertheless, I love it and obviously have sentimental attachment to it. I ask if she will kindly post it to our hotel we've already booked in Victoria Falls and I will send her cash for the postage. She agrees and says she will do it tomorrow. That's fine, there's 3 weeks to go before we get there.

So we ride on towards Botswana. It's an easy ride and the landscape is getting notably greener. We run into a police road block and are both pulled to one side. They want to check our drivers licences and ask where we're heading. They are the most pleasant and gentle mannered police we've come across. They wish us a safe journey and wave us on our way.

We're stopping one night in Gobabis and it's 39'C when we get there. We have chosen the cheapest place to stay - a nice enough guest house, but it hasn't got any air conditioning - just a ceiling fan. We're really sweaty and all our riding gear is it soaked through - nice. We strip off and get showered but the ceiling fan is just swishing hot air around. We go out for a Wimpy dinner early and it's quite cool walking back with a nice breeze blowing - but our room has held heat like the core of a nuclear reactor. The only thing we can do is wet through some towels and lay them over us - this works quite well. It's a good experience as we discuss there and then how much extra would it be worth to us to have air con in this heat. We both think $30 without any debate whatsoever. In the morning the owner says an air conditioned room would have cost an extra $10 - aaaararrrrrggh. This news is only made acceptable when he tells us he was fully booked last night.

Next day we're going to be at the Botswana border at Buitepos, and then very soon after, into malaria risk areas so it's time to start taking our malaria tablets which we'll need to take every day until we get to Sudan. It's a short 110km ride to the border and we decide to stop over night before crossing into Botswana as the next place we can stay is a further 200kms through the west side of the Kalahari desert, and we don't know how long it's going to take crossing the border. We stop at East Gate Rest Camp at Buitepos, and get an air conditioned room - luxury. This is a great place - it has a small shop, takeaway snack bar and a little restaurant. It's perfect for us.

I give Lisa a call to see how she went posting my engagement ring, but she seems to have got herself into a worry over it. Her sons and daughters tell her not to send it as it's too much responsibility. I assure her it is only worth $10, but I can't convince her, and she wants me to organise DHL to pick it up which will cost about $90. Added to her grief she tells me her brother has just died unexpectedly. I'll contact her in a few weeks when her brother's funeral is over and things aren't so raw for her. So I'm without my big rock at the moment, which perhaps isn't a bad idea riding through Africa - I don't want to get my finger chopped off for a $10 piece of glass!

So time to cross into Botswana. We have to go through immigration and customs procedures to exit Namibia first. And low and behold we get to see another class of customs officer - different to the two kinds Jeff mentioned in the previous blog...

c) they know what a carnet is and they know exactly how to fill it in.

Cor, blimey - who would have thought that possible?!

Entering Botswana, we want to try and use our new carnets. Strictly speaking, they're not valid until December 17th but it can be a hassle if you're stamped in on the old carnet and it expires before you leave the country. We would have to get the old and new aligned on the same day - December 17th - and would need to go to a customs office somewhere to do it. There aren't many of those around - only at the borders where we are going, so we thought we'd give it a go. The Botswana customs officer - almost a class c) also - happily fills in our new carnet. She probably hasn't noticed the date on the front - but we smoothly pick up our new carnets and run. We have to buy a permit and some minimum insurance before we leave - the two costing about A$30 each. Not too bad.

And, that's it we're into Botswana and heading to Ghanzi for the night. The immigration guy warned us of lots of cattle around - you're not kidding. Cows, donkeys, goats and horses - hoards of them on the side of the road. Most of them happily scavenging a bit of grass here and there, and are quite well behaved and seem used to traffic passing - although some of them get freaked out by the sound of Jeff's bike - he's got a different exhaust to me giving his bike a more roaring sound. It's the young animals that you have to watch out for - they haven't learnt to be cool like their Mum yet and get a bit frisky when traffic passes.

So we have to be on our guard all the time - if we hit any of those animals we're likely to do serious damage, not only to them, but more significantly to ourselves and it could easily end up being fatal - especially if we hit a cow. We make it to Ghanzi, unscathed. Our accommodation description promised a restaurant and breakfast, but neither is true so they give us a lift into town for a bite to eat.

Kalahari Puncture Repairs

Shopping centre car park at Ghanzi.

We're later than we want to be leaving the next day (even though I get up at 6am) - we have to get breakfast in town first, then fuel and water, then buy a Botswana SIM card. So it's about 10:30 by the time we leave and we've got 300kms to ride through the Kalahari Desert to the next place - a backpackers just outside Maun. It's quite a hot ride but not too overwhelming if we keep moving. We stop a couple of times for a quick rest at 80-90km intervals. Not long after our second stop the road surface changes and Jeff does a bit of a wobble and comes to a stop. I can see his back tyre is flat. Booooo - it's roasting hot and not pleasant to have to do puncture repairs - but puncture repair we must. Thankfully there's a tree on the side of the road which is giving a lot of shade so we ride over to that and settle in for some hot sweaty work. It's about 2pm when we start and 100kms from Maun. We're in the middle of nowhere, with nothing in sight apart from the desert bush and the odd bleating goat.

It always seems to be the rear tyre - more of a pain as we have to remove the panniers to get at the wheel, and in this case we have to remove Jeff's roll bags on the back of the bike so the weight is on the front so the rear of the bike lifts up. 

In the middle of nowhere - on the roadside.

Trying to break the bead

So Jeff gets the rear wheel off and starts trying to break the bead and lift the rim of the tyre over the wheel rim - mmmmmm - those Heidenau tyres we bought in Canada are tough. Yes they're probably going to last the whole of our Africa trip - but it takes a lot of sweaty efforts, Jeff's big muscles and some strategic holding down of the tyre irons by me.

Trying to get the tyre rim over the wheel rim

Those Heidenau tyres are tough

Seemingly out of nowhere a little girl appears. She's quite shy but happy just to watch us. "Where do you live, darlin'", I ask her. "Over there" pointing into the bush. About 10 minutes go by and 2 more girls and a boy arrive and join her. "Good afternoon", the oldest girl says confidently, in a perfect english accent. They all sit down and are happy to watch us carry on with the puncture repair.

Our small audience who live just over there.

After quite a bit of hard work the tyre is off, a new inner tube is put in (essential spare parts we carry), and it's just as hard getting the tyre back on the wheel rim. It takes Jeff a few goes of getting the tyre to fit evenly, and them pumps it up with the miniature compressor we carry. So most of the hard work is done, when a man and woman couple appear. The man starts giving Jeff advice on fitting the wheel back on. It turns out he's a trained mechanic and just jumps in and starts helping get the wheel back on. Jeff and I have done this quite a few times and are a good team fitting the wheel, so this man is a help but a bit of a hindrance also as he doesn't see the brake caliper needs jiggling back (as I would have done). Even so we give him about US$5 for helping. We get more of an audience as a herd of goats walks passed.

The bush mechanic helping put the wheel back on.

Some goats join the audience.

The children only ask for a little water, so we give what water we have left in our metal water bottles - it's a bit warm but they enjoy it. We can't give them all of our water - we've still got an hour hot ride to do. 

Jeff takes the bike for a test ride and then loads his luggage back on. Bush mechanic comes to the rescue again to help mount the left pannier and knocks the bike over. The bikes are finely balanced and it doesn't take much for them to fall over. We soon pick it up. 

We're all packed and ready to go and the kids want to sit on the bike.

Oh no, kids on my bike!

It's taken 3 hours in all and the sun is getting quite low in the sky. We've got 100kms to go and there's already a lot more domestic animals wandering around on the roads as dusk approaches. We take it steady, and arrive at backpackers just as the sun is setting - grateful we haven't had to ride in the dark - nor drop our bikes in the bit of sand at the entrance!

Jeff booked this place - The Old Bridge Backpackers, 10kms north of Maun and on the Southern edge of the Okavango Delta. He's booked a 2-bed fixed tent with an en-suite bathroom by the water. I have learnt by now not to expect too much - Botswana can be expensive and this is only costing a cheap A$60 (game lodges can be $1000 per night and more!). So I'm expecting a cramped, hot and stuffy tent, plagued by mozzies.

Well, aren't I pleasantly surprised - it's an ample sized canvas hut with a white corrugated roof, nice bedding with mozzie nets, an outdoor bathroom looking rustic luxury (I should sell that term to travel agents), a balcony with wicker chairs overlooking the water, not a mozzie in site and a cool breeze blowing across the water. It feels like we're on holiday! We're pretty pooped after today and decide immediately to stay a third night before taking a 2 day river/walking safari to see some wild animals.

Our luxury canvas hut.

The rustic luxury bathroom

Our view from the balcony

There is a bar area serving food with some candlelit benches - the whole place has a great relaxed atmosphere. We spend 2 days getting some long awaited down time, catching up on some laundry, the blog and just relaxing with a good book.

The bar at The Old Bridge Backpackers

Okavango Delta

On the third day we're ready for our Mokoro trip down into the Okavango Delta. A mokoro is traditional a dug-out canoe. The Okavango Delta is a unique wetland and covers a max of 15,000 square kilometres of Kalahari Desert in northern Botswana, fed from Okavango River which flows from the Angolan highlands. We've got a 2 day trip, camping in the bush tonight and hoping to finally see some African wild animals. We've opted to go fully catered - it's just too hard to take all of our camping gear, and more difficult to take the food we will need.

We are driven for an hour on sandy tracks through the bush to a small village where the Okavango Kopano Mokoro Community live. Nearly all of its 300 inhabitants are employed in this tourism in one way or another. We are met by several people who will support and guide us.

The fully catered option comes with a chef, and cleaner, 2 men to set up camp and 2 guides. All for us! We all set off in 3 mekoro with all the camping gear, cooking equipment and food.

Loading up the Mekoro for our overnight trip

The start of our Mokoro trip on the Okavango Delta

Our main guide comes with us in one mokoro and he poles us down the delta. No sooner have we left the village we see a hippo.

A hippo just around the corner from the village.

It takes about 2 hours to reach our camp, but it's gloriously peaceful and lined with lillies and tall reeds of grass all the way.

My view down the delta

Jeff behind me with our guide, Rasimon

One of our support crew up front

The mekoro parked at our camp 

Our camp.

When we arrive, Calvin the chef immediately starts making some lunch for us. We take a few hours rest in the afternoon as it's too roasting hot to walk out. In the early evening the 2 guides take us on a walk for 2-3 hours on this large island in the delta. We don't see much for the first hour or so, but our guides take us to a hippo pool, where we see a group of 20 or more hippos keeping cool from the full heat of the day.

Walking through the bush

A hippo pool

Hippos waiting for the sun to go down

On our return walk we see an elephant bull behind a bush. We're about 100 meters away. We don't want to get too close to a bull. And the sun sets over the delta as we make it back to camp.

Chef cooks us a nice dinner for Jeff and I, and the 2 guides, but not for the support crew. Us four special guests sit at table, and the others just hang around in the background - hoping we'll leave some left overs for them. This doesn't sit well with me at all. Where/when are we for goodness sake - in 18th century old colonial times?

Calvin - our chef preparing dinner

Cooking dinner

The next morning we're up at 5am to go on another walk for a few hours. What a special time of day. We see lots of animals and end up walking with a herd of zebra and wildebeest.

The mokoro ride back to the village is just as peaceful. It's still roasting hot and we're hoping for a bit of rain to cool things down a bit. Our wish is granted over night and it pours down, becoming 10'C cooler - dropping to a cool 30'C.

We stay another 2 nights at The Old Bridge, before heading eastwards - the long way around to Kasane in the North Eastern tip at the Zimbabwe border. The shortest way would be through the Chobe National Park, but we can't ride through the national parks as motorbikes aren't allowed and we don't fancy a fight with any lions or tigers. Thankfully there's some cloud cover when we leave and a glorious sprinkling of rain - who'd have thought a Brit would welcome cloud and rain! 

Camping at Plant Baobab

We camp for 2 nights at a Planet Baobab Lodge just passed Gweta. It's got a restaurant and bar so we don't have to worry about carrying food. It's hot but its got a thatched roof shelter we pitch our tent under. We stop a night in a lodge room at Nata one night before turning north. Then all of a sudden we start seeing wild animals on the side of the road - elephants, giraffes, warthogs, ostriches. It's totally bizarre - riding passed and seeing these animals on the side of the road.

Warning - Elephants!

Just riding along...

We camp one night at Elephant Sands Lodge. And as I suspected it hand a very sandy road to get to it. 1km of sheer sand terror. But we must be getting the hang of it - we didn't drop the bikes once - not even me. Elephants Sand lodge is built around a watering hole - with tented chalets and a few camp sites around, and a restaurant just overlooking the hole. Elephants frequent the hole in the evening. Apparently there were fewer when we were there as it had rained the night before so they can get water elsewhere. But we weren't disappointed - we saw several elephants close up. We're advised to take a tent pitch as close as possible to the toilet block as lions are known to wander around.

Sand terror.

Camping at Elephant Sands

Hanging out in the bar with elephants

Our camp this close to the elephants


It was pouring with rain in the morning, and as much as I enjoyed it the other day, getting out of our tiny tent first thing to go to the loo without getting my PJs wet is another matter. I thought long and hard on a strategy for about an hour - delaying the inevitable. But now my bladder was at its max and things were getting critical. The hour long thinking resulted in me struggling into my waterproof riding pants in the space of a coffin, grabbing my riding jacket and making a dash to the toilet block - avoiding any stray lions that may be hanging around. Phew.

We spent 2-3 hours over breakfast waiting for the rain to ease off, packed up the tent, made it down the 1km sandy track without falling off and headed up the road to Pandametanga. We talked ourselves into getting a room for the night as we are going to spend 5 nights camping at Kasane.

We head for Chobe Safari Lodge. It's an upmarket resort, but it has a camp site at the back for $20 a night and we can use the resort facilities. It was recommended to us by 2 people at Elephant Sands. We check in at the lodge reception and are given camp site #4 by the receptionist there. After we're sorted we have to ride down the road to the camp site. I'm following Jeff out of the lodge car park, I'm looking down at a rocky patch of the driveway rather than looking where I want to go (golden rule of motorbiking - look where you want to go), the driveway is on an odd angle and I lose my balance turning right - down I go, falling to the rocky ground on my right side (think previously broken right wrist and previously broken right collar bone). Whilst eating dirt, I immediately connect my intercom to Jeff before he gets too far away, and am immediately surrounded by about 5 blokes helping me to my feet and to lift the bike up. Jeff's quite pleased he doesn't have to pick it up in this heat. Thankfully I'm not hurting too much - just a bruise on my leg where I've landed on the rocks - wrist and collar bone in tact.

It's a nice resort, but they give us a muddy postage-stamp sized camping pitch. We initially book 3 nights (Fri/Sat/Sun) as it's the weekend before Christmas and we don't want to get caught short for accommodation.

Buch Buck behind our tent.

The bush buck just behind our tent

Sunset over the Chobe river.

Monkeys just outside the toilet block at campsite

While here we go on a guided game drive through the Chobe National Park and get to see our first lion. We get a good close up of a hippo too.

Our first lion.

Getting close to a hippo.

More elephants


Baboon just chillin'.

FUZZY logic

When we get back to the lodge we try and ask for another camp pitch as it's Sunday evening and there seem to a be a few spaces now the weekenders have left. Hopefully we can get one by the river with a bit more space - in which case we will book another 2 nights. We ask at the reception of the lodge but they tell me I must go and see the campsite gate security guys as they allocate the camp pitches. So far so good. I go to see the gate security, and what ensues is a mind boggling and totally illogical conversation. So much so I can't repeat it. But to cut a long and painful story short, I think the gist was they they wouldn't give us another plot until all the people who had booked are allocated. "But why can't you just swap us with another group of 2 people?". They wouldn't have it. "Come back at 6 tomorrow morning". "Really?". As much as it pains me I get up early and go to the gate at 6am to be told by someone new, to come back at 7am when the lodge reception has allocated the pitches for the day for all the people who have booked. Grrrr. I get quite exasperated - I want to book, do I not count? Apparently not, as far as I could gather. We leave it and go and have breakfast in the lodge restaurant as it's bucketing down. When we come back about 10am they say we can have pitch 8. But we're so annoyed at having been given the run around, we just pack up and go - stuff you Chobe Sofari Lodge and your rubbish camp site booking system - we're off.

We get a room for 2 nights at a cheap guest house 10kms away in Kazungula - at Elephant Trail guesthouse. It's 3kms down a gravel road on the edge of the national park. It's quite rustic as the owners David and Neo have built the place themselves, but we have a really relaxing time there. The owners are very friendly and we just chill out in the garden for the time we are there.

We're now ready to head into big, bad Zimbabwe. We've heard many reports of police road blocks stopping motorists and "fining" them for the smallest and pettiest of irregularities - like not having reflectors on the back of the car, and having to pay US$50. Also we've heard about street sellers in Victoria Falls being quite numerous and harassing tourists. 

The border is only 2kms out of Kazungula. We exit Botswana quite smoothly, and ride to the Zimbabwe border post another 1km down the road. I'm just parking up behind Jeff and I'm not quite sure what I do, but seem to overturn or overbalance and drop my bike, again, falling to the ground on my right side, again. Thankfully it misses falling onto a parked car by a few inches. Again I have immediate helpers before Jeff can even get off his bike. He's non too pleased with my recent performances. My roll top bags have shifted and are now quite lop sided in favour of the right side.

We try to enter Zimbabwe using our Australian passports again (as Jeff hasn't got many pages left in his British passport), but the immigration guy refuses. He's very pleasant to us, but he says it's against regulations and he can't do it. So another precious page is taken up with the visa for Zimbabwe (costing US$50 each). We have a bit of a wait to see the customs guy as there's a queue, but he's very efficient when we get to him and knows how to fill in the carnet. We have to pay road access fees, insurance and carbon tax - totalling US$26 for each of us. We think we're done and ride up to the boom gate to enter Zimbabwe, but the guard says we have to pay another $1 each. I jump straight to suspicious mode, thinking this is the first of the rip offs we're likely to encounter. I stomp off my bike, annoyed that I have to get off, again, and get my bag out, again. I head over to the security hut and ask for a receipt first - thinking I might outsmart their little scam - but he gets out his wad of receipts for Road Access for Motorbikes $1. OK, so maybe its not a scam, but why can't you just taking a $1 when we paid the customs guy $26? It's just too hot to be messing around like this - angry Sally - grrrrr.

About 2kms down the road we see a small police road block - eh up - how typical - that didn't take the scammers long did it? I'm getting myself psyched up for our first police encounter, slowing down, wandering how many $$ we will have to part with  - and they just wave us through! Hey - you're supposed to be bad and mean.

Victoria Falls

We're staying 3 nights at Shoestring backpackers in Victoria Falls before Christmas - then we'll move to a nice hotel we booked weeks ago. We stay one night in an en-suite room, then move into a fixed tent for 2 nights just opposite our room. It gives us a lot more space and standing room rather than use our own tiny tent. What it does give me is a clear view of a housekeeping lady cleaning the room we stayed in last night. I see the cleaning lady carry out the bed linen, but notice it seems quite a small bundle. While she's gone for a few minutes I look inside the room and see the duvet still with its cover on, on the floor with the pillows, ready to be made again. This wouldn't be so bad, but there wasn't a top sheet - so this means we've been sleeping in other people's bedding, and people staying tonight will have the pleasure of sleeping in the bedding we slept in last night. Yuuueeeeeewwww. 

First day walking into Victoria Falls town, it takes about 30 seconds before we meet our first street seller and the harassing begins. It takes us about 10 minutes to walk 500 meters to an ATM, in which time we've been hassled by about 20 street sellers - some far more persistent than others and it takes a while to shake them off and try different tactics to get rid of them. There are tourist police around but they allow a certain amount of hustling. 

bad hair day

On the return walk we decide to get a hair cut as we haven't had one for months. It's been 5 months since I've had a hair cut and that was quite a bad one in Lima before we left there in July. We fall into the nearest hairdressers. It's an all black hairdressers (staff and customers - not the New Zealand rugby team), and I can see they're very talented with various black ladies' hairstyles - some very elaborate braiding; false straight hair being sewn on to braids; little boys getting sides of their head shaved etc, etc. Jeff's easy - he gets a #2 all over. I just want a cut, but they up-sell me a wash and blow dry too. OK so it will be nice to have a good wash and blow dry. The hair washing goes fine. The blow drying comes next -  thought it would be best to cut it first, but who am I? This lady has clearly never blow dried long blonde hair before and has trouble getting it under control. But eventually she gets it dry and straight - nothing too fancy or elaborate. Next comes the hair cut - which is done by the man. I tell him I haven't had it cut for 5 months and want the dead ends cut off -  indicating the length I want cut off with my thumb and index finger. He has a bit of trouble getting my hair under control, so I suggest he use my hair claw. He pulls out the first lock of hair and snips off 2 inches from the end. So far so good. Then pulls out a complete separate lock and snips a bit of the end of that; and keeps pulling out completely separate locks of hair and snipping a bit off; sometimes getting to a knot and deciding to snip it off just there. Now if you're a bloke sorry to bore the pants off you, but a good hairdresser will "cut in" and use the previous lock of hair to cut against so you get a straight even edge. And will perhaps take some pride in the cutting and make sure all the hair is the same length. He's progressing at quite a slow rate and I can see the hair tragedy unfolding - it takes me back to the late seventies when one of my sisters came home from the hairdressers with the most ridiculous hair cut. It was so bad, me and my other sister couldn't stop laughing at her - even though the poor girl was beside herself crying she was so upset and embarrassed by it. Still, it took us ages to stop laughing - and here I am staring at my reflection in the mirror thinking about that ridiculous hair do, trying to suppress a smirk at my own bad hair day emerging. Thankfully I tie it in a french plait most days if I'm riding, or in a pony tail in the hair clamp otherwise, so I don't get too upset.

The next day, sporting our new hair does, we run the gauntlet of street sellers through town again and walk to Victoria Falls water falls 1km away. Victoria Falls is on the Zambezi River at the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe.  It is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world, and is classified as the largest water fall, based on its combined width and height, resulting in the world's largest sheet of falling water.

It's stunning and Victoria Falls tourism has done a great job - there's a lovely, often shaded pathway walking along the opposite ridge, with plenty of viewing points so you get a great view of its entire length.

Victoria Falls - main falls

Dr David Livingstone was the first European to see the Falls, naming them after Queen Victoria

Pointing to Livingstone Island on the Zambia side 

People in Devil's Pool at the top of the falls.

It's Christmas Eve and time to move to our nice hotel we've booked for Christmas - The Victoria Falls Deluxe Suites. This is our Christmas present to ourselves - just somewhere more up market to stay than a tent or other cheap accommodation we're used to. It's a small boutique hotel 3kms out of town with a small restaurant and bar lounge fitted out with luxurious leather sofas. I can't wait to sink into a comfy sofa - it seems a long time since I've done that. The whole place and our room is a lot nicer that I was expecting - thinking the marketing photos are prone to lie a bit. It will be a welcome relaxing 4 days over Christmas.

For Christmas Day we've booked a lunch cruise on the mighty Zambezi River with Zambezi Explorers company. It's US$60 each and I'm not expecting much - maybe packed into single decker tub with a canvas roof, a long table with maybe 20 guests packed in for a chicken drum stick, some wilting salad and a complimentary glass of cheap Pomagne. See how I've been beaten out of Sally's world? Well, Sally's world came right back - it's got 3 decks and we're handed a glass of reasonable champagne for aperitifs on the upper deck patio furniture as we sail away. The lunch deck has tables set elegantly for the different groups and the chef comes out to explain the lunch options to us. The food is first class and wine free flowing. It was a perfect Christmas lunch for us.

Top deck for aperitifs

Christmas lunch on the Zambezi Explorer.

Next we're heading to Zambia, and stopping at Livingstone just over the border. It's quite close but the border crossing will take about 2 hours and we want to buy Zambia SIM cards, and look for inner tubes. We know that could easily take all day.

This is the first border we get hassled at. Street sellers coming up to us, very friendly, "Hi, how are you? I'm Peter, what is your name? Where do you come from? Do you want bangle? I will look after your bike - don't worry - the baboons sometimes attack if they smell food". It's also the first time we've come across a money changer at a border - which is good on this occasion as we need some Zambian Kwacha to pay for some things at customs and immigration. It's odd seeing baboons walking around the border post.

Baboons at the Zambian border post

Getting our insurance at the border post.

Next day we start heading to Lusaka, Zambia's capital city, stopping for the night at Choma as it's too far to go in one day. The guest house in Choma, Antioch Lodge, has a small dining room offering dinner with a choice of chicken or fish. The chef comes and talks to us for a bit and he is clearly quite drunk. It takes him a while, but he manages to cook us Chicken and Rice - although he seems to have killed the chicken twice over.

It starts raining not long after we leave Choma but it doesn't seem so bad. After a pretty mean "continental" breakfast of a jam sandwich we're both hungry by 10am and stop at a roadside cafe in a rural village. It reminds us immediately of  "almuerzo" in South America - where you can get a fixed lunch for peanuts. Here it is even cheaper. Today's offering is nshima with a piece of chicken, gravy and cabbage for 50 cents. Nshima is made from maize flour and water, and is a staple food of Zambia. It's very tasty, and some of the best food we've had for a while.

50c lunch of nshima, chicken and cabbage

Roadside cafe for 50c lunch.

The village kids come out to say hello.

We ride for another hour and pull over on a dirt patch on the side of the road, unwittingly stopping outside a small village. We soon get a few kids and older boys coming up to us. Some very shy, some quite chatty. I'm interested to know how basic their living is in the mud hut type of living that we've seen a lot of since leaving Livingstone. They have a water pump for the village and solar panels for electricity. They also have televisions and their own school. It's encouraging that we have seen lots of signs pointing to primary schools down dirt tracks. They're very friendly and we spend about 15 minutes chatting to them before saying our goodbyes and wishing them a happy new year for tomorrow.

Then the heavens open and the rain starts coming down in sheets and we can barely see where we're going. OK, it's not nice anymore. We ride for a bit but we're drenched and pull over into muddy layby and thankful there's a thatched hut we can shelter under for a bit of a break.

Zambia rain - riding around the world is not all fun!

The rain doesn't look like it's going to stop anytime soon, so we decide to toughen up and get going. Thankfully it eases off as we approach Lusaka, but then get caught up in city rush hour traffic. We're stuck in a very slow moving queue leading up to a roundabout, and have to 'paddle' the bikes along very slowly. Never ones to miss an opportunity, this is a great captive audience for the street sellers, who walk in between the cars down the lanes selling their wares draped over their arms. "Sun glass?", "No thanks, I've got some"; "Fireworks?", "Er, no thanks"; "Shorts?", "Can I try them on?"; "Jump leads?", "No thanks, I've got some"; "Wrinkled trousers?", "No thanks"; "Deck chair?", "Seriously? Let me just strap that to the back of my bike"; "Pineapple chunks?", "Mmmm, those would be nice, but I can't get to my money", "Grapes?"; "Cuddly Toys?"; "Shoes?"; "Trainers?". They are all good humoured, and they and some passing motorists ask where we're from and where we're going. We finally make it to the roundabout and off we go. We've booked into a reasonable hotel for 3 days over the New Year.

It is without a shadow of a doubt, the quietest New Year's Eve I've ever had, but we have each other and that's all that matters. It's certainly not quite like last year around Sydney Harbour!.

NYE last year on Sydney Harbour.

So as the year closes it also marks a year of our round the world motorbike adventure. We have met some wonderful people along the way, many of whom have helped us quite a bit - Shawn, Drum, Randy and Lee-Ann to name a few.

It's been a great first year for our travels and hopefully we've got a good few months left in us to allow us to complete riding around the world.

Happy New Year to one and all - we hope 2017 is a good year for you. Thank you for following us and sharing in our journey around this amazing planet.