Aurel: Here we are in Namibia! Actually here you are because we have already left the country! We are a bit late with the publication of articles but you are going to be amazed in the next few weeks!
The asphalt disapears as soon as we cross the border and is replaced by a track in perfect condition. We easily ride at 100km/h!
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This offer is over, you're too late!
Loïc: Welcome to Botswana! We take a ferry.
We do not change money in the street before crossing the border as we are big boys and we learn from our experience. But this time we have to pay the carbon tax on the top of the visa (50 US$). This tax is only to be paid in "Pula", the local currency. Of course there is no bank or currency exchange office at the border and we do not have "Pula". So we cannot enter Botswana! Fortunately an English man in a 4X4 helps us out this time.
Here we are in Kasana, at Chobe's doors, not a very big park but famous for being much richer than those in Kenya or Tanzania.
The first impression of Botswana is that everything is slow. Cars crawl along, campsites' receptionists seem to be on holiday as much as tourists... So we get into their stride by setting in a campsite on Chobe river. We have to sign up for a 4X4 trip despite our endless discussion with nice park's guardians. This is the condition for entering the park which is supposed to be too dangerous with our bikes because of lions...
In the first kilometers we are not scared by wild animals but by the very sandy track which makes it hardly passable by bike.
Aurel: We wanted to increase our stock of US$ in Livingston. It's always useful to have a certain amount of $ for visas or parks ticket entrees which are often only payable in US$. It's also a matter of security if one day we run out of money in one country and there is no ATM nearby; we can always change US$ into local currency.
There are two possibilites to change money here. The first is exchange offices which is the best option, they only deal "westerner" currencies, Euros, US$ and the country's local currency. They do not change currencies of neighboring countries. So when there is no exchange office and that we want to change money from one African currency to another, we must go through the black market. Some guys (usually at the borders) change money in the street. It's generally known from everyone and quite tolerated. These guys do not hide and they are all over tourists crossing borders.
We decide to withdraw 1,000,000 Zambian kwacha in order to change them to 200 US$. There is one of those guys in front of the bank offering us the expected 200 US$. The time we withdraw the money he goes get the Dollars.
We meet him 5 minutes later still in front of the bank. He hands me two 100 US$ bills which seem fine when I touch them (feeling of relief) and I give them back to him the time of counting 1M Kwacha. Once the exchange is done, he even proposes that him and his partner who has just joined, visit us at the campsite 45 minutes later to exchange our old Malawi bills. Why not.
A few meters after leaving them I check again the bills he gave us. They seem very smooth like glossy paper. There are fake, and very badly made. At this moment I blame myself and I wonder if he did a sleight of hand to give me the fake bills. Or perhaps I have been done like a tourist.
We sit at the campsite's bar hoping that they will come to us with cupidity. But they are not so stupid in the end... We might see them again the next day in front of the bank as in their minds we only stay here for one day. But again they are smarter than that.
Loïc suggests that we pay with the fake US$ when we go to Victoria Falls that morning. But the cashier is suspicious and he has a counterfeit detector. Again, we were not very clever!!! The cashier warns the policeman watching the falls' entrance.
Loïc: I told to myself that this place was full of tourists and fake dollars were probably common, and that in the worst case the cashier will only keep the fake bill.
Aurel: We explain to them how things happened and the cashier says that if he accepts fake bills he is going to loose his job and won't be able to feed his kids etc.
Finally the policeman explains that we could come with him in front of the bank in town to find the guys. But he also tells us that if we don't find them we will be in trouble as he has no other suspect to get his teeth into.
He still suggests us to take a walk to the falls and to sort the problem out afterwards. I am not that serene while we are at the falls. Authorities rarely joke with counterfeit money and I'm not delighted about the idea of spending a couple of years in prison in Africa. I think that before things get worse I must prevent the Consulate. To our great surprise we are directly connected with Mr Consul himself, who has just taken up his post the week before. He takes our details and ask us to call him back once we know more. I also warn two friends by text message.
We walk for 1h around the falls and take some pictures. We try to anticipate what's going to happen when we get back to the entrance where the policeman and the cashier are waiting for us.
Loïc: The policeman tells us that we have to go to the central police station but he is annoyed because we do not have a helmet for him. As he does not have a car he says that he needs to take a taxi and us our bikes; but this means a cost for the taxi. I pretend not to understand and absolutely not propose to pay for his taxi. I mean, come on! As we are not able to go to the central police station we therefore go to the falls police station 200 m away; the policeman on foot (with our passports in hand) and we ride.
Aurel: So we go to the falls police station. Policemen give us a lesson to recognize counterfeit bills, to hear them talk they are experts! And we hear that the cashier has called the Livingston police station; two men of the anti-fraud police are going to arrest us.
In short they talk, they gossip, they negotiate, they make calls. Police the African way. Two anti-fraud policemen arrive. A man and a woman. They talk, they gossip, they negotiate, they make calls.
One hour later we follow them to the the police station. Actually when we reach the police station it's 1.20pm and our 2 policemen are 20 minutes late for their lunch break.
Loïc: I suddenly have a strange feeling: Aurel asks to go out to smoke and they tell him to go behind the building instead of the main entrance. They say that they are going to eat and they advice us to eat as well but they propose to go get us sandwiches and drinks instead of letting us go. They do not officially tell us we are arrested but we are no longer allowed to leave. I feel the net is tightening. Especially when I join Aurel at the rear of the building.
Aurel: We are waiting for them to finish their lunch in the prison cell. Cells are like the rest of the police station, squalid. It sucks, it smells of urine, it's dirty, not the ideal place to spend holiday! Fortunately we have the "courtyard", an open-air 10 m² cell. We can see the sky through the barbed wire so at least we've got some fresh air and it nearly does not stink.
They let us our bags so that includes my camera!