Eight dead snakes, one shy crocodile, a pair of inquisitive impalas, three hornbills and a bike crash
Sunday, May 16
Livingstone, Zambia - Kasane, Botswana
We set off early Sunday morning and say our goodbyes to Tore, who has been a brilliant host. While we set the bikes up (after wheels and parts were removed after travelling south from Lusaka), you can hear psalm readings and Christian hymns competing with birdsong.
The M10 between Livingstone and Kazungula passes through the Zambezi National Park. We have the road and parts of the park almost entirely to ourselves.
After swirving to avoid a decapitated snake, stretched out across the asphalt, I suddenly spot a tremendously beautiful impala stood transfixed next to some bushes at the side of the road. He is staring back at me on my Chinese bike like he's never seen anything like me before. As I turn my head back to the road in front, the next thing I notice is Bjorn's right arm raised in the air and his trailer less than a metre away from my front tyre. I am only doing about 10 kph but I have got no chance of breaking in time.
Tyres-a-screeching I go head first over the handle bars, bouncing into the side of Bjorn's trailer, before hitting the road. I am lucky it is only cuts and bruises to both legs and a long, deep cut near my right shoulder.
A kind passer-by drops his bicycle and runs over to check that I am OK. Where the impala has gone I do not know, but if he was staring at me before I smashed into the back of Bjorn's bike then he must really think I am silly now.
Bruised and bloodied we get back on our way. Parrots, hornbills, lovebirds and fish eagles swoop overhead, treating us to a collection of beautiful and rather weird birdsongs. It is incredible to be cycling through a place like this.
Having passed our fifth dead snake of the day Bjorn does another of his sudden abrupt stops in front, although now I have learned my lesson and allow a stopping distance behind him more like 50 metres instead of five. There, in the creek below the main road, a shy crocodile eyes us then retreats to a hidden spot below some driftwood. It is fair to say it makes your head spin when you see a crocodile when you are out on a sunday morning bike ride.
After a series of tough hills, each rewarded with spectacular views of the national park, we reach the outskirts of Kazungula. The phone rings and it is Aussie Tim texting us to tell us his bus has just overtaken us on its way to Namibia.
Kazungula is where Zambia ends, the Zambezi River roars by, and a pontoon bridge transports lorries, cars and foot passengers across to Botswana.
A local lad, Adam, points us in the direction of customs and immigration and after saying goodbye to him and Zambia we are on our way to Botswana for 30 pence each.
The Zambezi River current is viscious and unpredictable with what look like tiny maelstroms appearing and disappearing thoughout the short crossing. In 2003, 18 people drowned when the pontoon sank. The pontoon bridge ferry can only accommodate two lorries at a time, meaning that the vehicle queue to get on board stretches back a couple of kilometres. The joy of travelling by cycle means we do not have to queue to get across, and do not add much weight to its 70 tonne capacity.
On the Botswana side of the Zambezi, the pontoon ferry completes its 400 metre journey, we climb onto the back of one of the flat-bed lorries to avoid having to trapse through the knee-deep water, and visit customs to pick up our free Botswanan visas.
As way of a change it is Bjorn's bike that is causing us problems today, his trailer needing repairs before we can set off in search of a bed for the night.
Immediately, Botswana feels and looks far more affluent and developed than anywhere else we have been in Africa. As well as this every third person has magically become white rather than black.
On Zambian Adam's advice we cycle on to Kasane and, with nearly 100 kilometres on the clock, make our base for the night at Thebe River Safaris. Several Africa overland companies are present at the camp - these are basically huge trucks cum armoured personal carriers used to transport gap year students across Africa on the cheap and with safety in mind.
In the space of 30 minutes we see more white people than we have seen in the past 5 weeks combined and, sat at the camp's bar, we watch England beat Australia in the cricket Twenty20 final.
Home for the night is Bjorn's two-man tent. As we zip up its protective inner sanctum a noise resembling a Jurrasic Park dinosaur breaks the silence from somewhere out there in the Bush.
Friday, May 14
Victoria Falls, Zambia
After Norwegian porridge, Internet and 'real' coffee we head out for Victoria Falls, regarded by many as one of the wonders of the world.
"Take your shorts and raincoat," I am told.
I take no notice, thinking the locals are being wet in every sense of the word.
Imagine the Scottish Hebrides in a November force 9 storm and you will get a sense of what it is like to walk the slippery, water-lashed path that allows you to pass just metres away from the full force of one of the world's greatest waterfalls.
Truthfully, it is a little scary if you have a fear of heights or of slippery-pathways-leading-to-a-vertical fall-and-almost-certain-death; particularly the walk over the narrow suspension bridge above part of the falls.
It is, though, an amazing, exhilarating experience and rates as a must if you are passing through this part of the world.
Sunset is an ice cold Castle by the banks of the Zambezi. The Zambezi Hotel is colonial throwback at its very best. A night of pure luxury here will set you back anything from 400-2000 dollars but non-residents can slip in and enjoy the daily 6pm near perfect sunset.
Amongst those present for another of those unforgettable African sunsets are the squad members of the Zambian National Football team. Their manager invites us over for a photo and wants to discover more about ‘The Shirt’ project. About to make plans for an impromptu kick about with the national team the following day he is suddenly whisked away to meet the country’s most famous man - the first president of an independent Zambia, . You can’t really compete with that.
Later on we join our new good-value Aussie mates, Axel and Tim, for a night out on the town with tales of snakes, scorpions and the world of ‘props‘. A brilliant laugh is had by all, but I guess you had to be there…