Zambia: hard to get to even harder to leave

The minute we enter the border zone, we’re surrounded by a couple of assistants. They were easy to shrug off on the Botswana side as we stamp out of the country in a civilised manner. A queue of trucks had started many miles back and led to the river front, where two platform-ships were ferrying the trucks across the Zambezi river one at a time. There is a lot of shouting and hustling to pack as many human-porters and the two bikes around one of the trucks. The whole atmosphere is getting tense fast as we set sail on our 3 minute journey across the river. I’m asked to pay the fee – which is quoted 70 pula (6 eur) per bike. This smells high, and there is no price list, so I hastily hand over the 70 pula that I have for two bikes and speed off the ramp as we’re already unloading.

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Botswana: rules in safariland

There are 3 rules in motorcycle travel: never ride in the dark, never ride in the rain and never take the short route. We learned something about two of those rules in Botswana. Bechuanaland is a cool place. Its currency is called pula, which means rain in the local setswana language. The whole country is semi-desert with Kalahari in the middle. Everyone, who is not involved in mining diamonds is growing cattle and for them rain is money. We saw ourselves how the dry stone desert turned into a grassland in Namibia only a few days after the rains had started.

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Your free debit card is not free

I’m between rental flats in London and chose to rent a cottage in Essex for two weeks. I found it on Airbnb and paid the landlord ca £1000 for that. Crazy prices around London.

The landlord got most of it, Airbnb got a good margin, but I was fascinated to pay £2 to my bank as a hidden fee on my debit card. It doesn’t show up anywhere on my card statement, but this is what Airbnb had to pay to the bank that issued my card in what is known as an interchange fee. Read More

Namibia: the African ranch

On the second attempt we succeed in crossing the Namibian border and have agreed to stop a few km outside the border town. While in Angola it was at times hard to find a bar-shed or a cafe-shed, now the problem was opposite. In every village of 10 sheds, 8 of those sheds were bars with cute names.

The first impression couldn’t have been more wrong. 100 km into the country the bars disappear and are replaced by long straight roads with perfect tarmac, bordered by endless fences. Namibia could be mistaken for an African Bundesland or a German version of Arizona. The Ordnung is everywhere. Having been through the chaos of Nigeria, Congo and the places inbetween, the western-like orderliness of everything in Namibia was unexpected. Read More

Angola: less dance more work

Once the crazy Lagos-like traffic of Luanda clears, the road going south is good tarmac and 50km out you can hardly see any other cars on the road, just endless straight lines through much less vegetation than the north. The scenery changed quickly, the steaming rainforests of Gabon gave way to patches of savannah in Congo and now the plains of angola remind of southern Spain. Read More