Monday, 12 April 2010


We were told that once you pass the equator, things start to improve, camps and food get better, conditions are nicer and you should look forward for this part of the trip... Well, who ever told this obviously did not ride north east Zambia... The last 5 days have been rather depressing. The only thing that has changed is the length of the stages, we have even done 200 km one day, but as for comfort, we have gone back to Ethiopia levels with one horrible camp after another. It has almost become a standard joke amongst us, how does TDA manage to find such horrible camp sites... I suppose we are all very tired and 3 months of camping across Africa going from shit hole to shit hole makes you depressed, or is it the the Lariam?.. They say Lariam (the anti malaria pills we take) makes you depress... Well, I am usually a very positive person, but right now, I am depressed. I need civilisation... urgently.... please... A burger on a clean plate with chips and no flies on it...

We have just done something between 700 and 800 km of hard core mountainous humid, super hot road across some boring country side (except for yesterday) with thinly populated areas. Thanks God, it is thinly populated because the few inhabitants here are either drunk or looking so poor and dirty that it adds to the depression feeling... I guess, we were all thinking that the worst was over a bit too early. 5 days in north east Zambia is a good reminder that crossing Africa on a bicycle is not a walk in the park...

Zambia is poor, very poor.It makes more than half of its foreign income on only one commodity: copper. So Zambia depends on the price of copper. Right now, copper is expensive and the country's empty coffers can be refilled slowly but it would need a lot more that that to take it out of its current poverty levels. There also seems to be a high level of alcoholism here as we have seen plenty of drunk people (mostly men). So far the places we have stopped at, along the great eastern highway (that is just the name of the road, don't get too exited...) have been dirty and messy. Nothing is being maintained, buildings are left to fall apart and people live in conditions that feel like middle ages to us. Just about every coke stop we have done in the last five days sums it up, dirty and smelly places, kids wearing filthy rags and drunk young men sitting in the shade of a tree drinking local home made beer. Not a very positive picture, I am afraid. We have also met plenty of nice Zambians of course, but it has been a bit of a shock to many of us how dirty and filthy everything is here. They have some of the highest infant mortality rate in the world and I am not surprised.

Camps have also been really depressing since we entered Zambia, hot humid and full of bugs. No commodities of course, no water, no toilets; so we have been looking for village water pumps to at least wash and get a sense of dignity back. This has been the highlight of the day, when we have poured this could bucket of water over our heads, giving us a fresh and clean feeling. But of course it is under the scrutiny of entire swamps of children and if you like privacy, you will be frustrated... The other thing is that you are permanently attacked by flies, mosquitoes, ants and spiders. Your nerves eventually start to give up and you hate being here. You cannot imagine how lucky you are when reading this in a sealed room with no flies on your face and ants climbing up your ankles. By now, many riders have very strange insect bites all over their bodies. Gabriele has been beaten by a spider on his stomach and it looks pretty bad, but there is not much one can do about it. We all have bites that are struggling to heal in this humid environment. Even a simple mosquito bite can turn into a nasty infection, so camp looks like a war hospital with many people walking with bandages on their ankles, arms and other strange body parts...

                                       Tony celebrating his 50 th birthday after the 200 km ride,
                                       the longest of the tour so far
                              Our amused public after we used the village water pump for shower
                                                               Young kid pumping water
                                    When I said that there is not such a word as privacy in Africa,
                                    you can see what I mean... Wherever we go, there are always
                                    children and people to observe what the Muzungus are doing...
                                 A very upset Tony, late on the evening of his 50 th cleaning up his
                                 tent from the 50 smelly dried fishes... It was like a scene out of an
                                Asterix comic book as he started throwing the fishes at other tents...
                                But who the hell put these fishes in his tent?....
                                                             Hardi and Eric at a coke stop
                                         Building maintenance is not really a priority in Zambia....
                                    Young local cyclist intrigued by our colourful bikes and gears
                                                            Jos and Gabriel buying food
                                      In rural Zambia, the shops are very basic and the buildings
                                      run down, we also found Zambia a lot more dirty than Malawi
                                               Anti corruption billboard next to the border post
                                           Eric buying a coke from a typical small road side shop.
                                           (dirty and smelly)

                           The 28 bikes we are donating here in this very remote part of the country
                                      The bike hand over cermony was delayed and started late
                                      as the truck delivering the bikes from Lusaka broke down
                                      Believe or not, but this is a shop in the middle of nowhere
                                     along the great Eastern Hihgway which we are following all
                                     the way to Lusaka. It is stocked with clothes, alcohol and biscuits
                                                              Tony... still smelling .... fish
                                 Tony wanted to show me that he had reconciliated with fish and
                                 posed in front of this horribly smelly drying fishes outside a shop...
                                It might have reminded him of his tent... he he...
                                      Zambians are using straw to produce mùany things as you
                                      can see here. The police check point after the Luawnga
                                      river bridge has become a mini shopping center along both
                                      sides of the road
                                                 Dried smoked fish from the Luanwga river
                                    Most riders took a cold drink brake at the police check point
                                   after crossing the Luanwga river bridge. Plenty of activity
                                   going on here
                                    Police check points are commun all accross Africa, we have
                                    passed hundreds of them since Cairo. They never stop us on the bikes.
                                    The Luanwga river and the beautiful hanging bridge that we
                                    have just used for crossing
                                 As I was taking a shot of the river, this young fellow appeared out
                                of nowhere and made his way to this blog...
                                 Fishing boat on the Luanga river. I took this shot from the bridge
                                                                            Luanwga river
                               We were told that it is absolutely forbidden to take pictures of this
                               bridge, so I had to get one...
                                                      The Luanwga river from the bridge
                                          The Luanwga river makes its way in the middle of this
                                          very mountainous area, just like us...
                                      This morning as we started our ride we had this amazing
                                      view of mountains bathed by sunshine and valleys filled
                                      with morning fog...
                                        Gabriele, pushing an early morning good pace for this
                                        150 km long stage which includes 2100 meters of climbing...
                                Men sitting under shade and drinking the local home brewed beer,
                                a very commun feature here in Zambia...
                                We have seen a lot of drunk Zambians...
                                  Family eating maize and a pumpkin leave mash (the green dish).
                                  I tried it and it was good
                                  In rural Zambia everybody still lives in such small traditional huts
                                  On the road we met this friendly young man from Mozambique.
                                  He had already travelled 50 km from the border to sell his goat
                                  loaded on his bike...
                          He he, another typical African story... We stopped at this restaurant
                          impressed by the large offer advertised on the board.... The T-bone,
                          the chicken and the beef were finished, the eggs were not ready and
                          the only saussage looked so bad we decided to order what was left, the chips...
                                   The bikes we donated are made here in Zambia by a company
                                   called Zambikes. These bikes are very solid and seem to be of a
                                    very good quality.


Amanda Coniel said...

Hi dad. Keep going! It will get better in a few days when you get to see mom. Very proud of you as always. Lots of hugs. Amanda

Parag said...

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