June 1 – June 6, 2001:
Preparatory arrangements of the expedition are culminating. We've got over some necessary vaccinations, acquisition of the international vaccination certificate, journey to Rokycany to borrow the MTO objective. Production of the modulus for temperature and lighting measurements was contracted in West Bohemia affiliate of the Czech Astronomical Society and production of the modulus stand had come to an agreement in workshops of our Department of Physics. We are buying the digital camera Nikon CoolPix 995 and teleconvertor TC-E3 ED at the last minute (Paul is in charge to learn how to use it) and camcorder Sony CCDPRV59E Hi8 (it is a challenge for Martin).
2001: After the yesterday fax communication with Zimbabwean representatives in Berlin and Vienna, the final decision fell – we have to go to Vienna. If we arrive at 9 a.m., the visas would be ready at 2 p.m. This is why we have made a swift drive at 4 a.m. to Vienna. We have received our visas according to the plan. Paul was learning how to make photos by new digital
15, 2001: The D-day: the departure from Ruzyně airport to London. The customers denied confirming our list of the instruments we want to export. Never mind. The departure of our plane is two hours late. The airport staff is assuring us that there will be no problem in London (we have to change for the plane to Johannesburg) and they are saying that the planes wait for each other and if not, the representatives of Czech Airlines will wait for us there and solve this problem. What a foolish notion! There was no CSA representative in London; the plane to Johannesburg has gone, of course. The staff in London was kind but nobody was able to help us. Until Air France clerk not only arranged another flight 24 hours later but also fancy accommodation in a hotel including boarding on the account of CSA. She gave us also tickets for the city transport but there was nothing available after the midnight so it finished by cab for 30 pounds.
16, 2001: We unwillingly spent the
whole day in Sheraton Heathrow Hotel. We were living on the periphery
close to the airport, and there was nothing interesting to be seen. It was
rainy all the day furthermore. In the evening we have moved to the airport
with one-day-long delay and at 9.30 p.m. we were boarding for
Johannesburg flight after all.
June 17, 2001: After eleven hours of flight we are landing at about 10 a.m. in Johannesburg. We all are feeling insecure and scared. We are using taxi to get to the bus station, the black men are everywhere and we are watching our luggage with anxiety. Tear-gas in our pockets for case of an assault. We are receiving information that all and buses to Lusaka are fully booked and there is no chance to get there by bus. We are passing through the first serious crisis. It looks that thanks to the one-day delay the solar eclipse is very unsure for us.
The morning custom formalities on the border took about 4 hours and it seemed to us that a terrible confusion was ruling everywhere. We met first monkeys. During the 19-hour bus journey we contacted first natives. Then, also in the evening and during the night we continued by another bus from Harare to Lusaka, Zambia. The bus company was even less representative than "City to City" one. The bus was really awful. Everybody was throwing the litter out off the window. We spent another night on the road like fish in a can.
19, 2001: The border crossing in the morning, a few hours again, visas to Zambia are issued right on the border. Our information is
correct. After all we arrive to Lusaka and our dream comes true - we are
really in the total eclipse zone. There is solar eclipse information center in which we
receive some contacts to Lusaka University representatives and arrange our accommodation.
Lusaka has more than one million inhabitants and is the capital of Zambia.
In the center there are situated several modern buildings and some shops.
20, 2001: All the day we do comparative measurements on the University
playground. The measurement itself takes four hours. Furthermore we
visited the University Department of Physics and sent the email. We have
found a groceries, bookstore, post office and copying center. The
playground was relatively empty and nobody was carrying about us.
21, 2001: The day of the eclipse. A big number of people are occurring during the day. The eclipse reminds of a freak. The beer is sold everywhere, sausages are grilled, and natives are singing and dancing. Some of them look that they will not be able to see the eclipse later. The weather is wonderful. The full phase starts at 1.09 p.m. local time. David is photographing by the MTO objective- lens, Paul by Nikon, Martin is taking care of the video and the modulus and Peter speaks to the people – an easy way to get them out of the instruments. It is great; Jupiter, Saturn, Aldebaran and other stars are seen. The only negation that we will find out later is, that Martin has taken care of native women more than of the camera.
June 22, 2001: Early in the morning we are leaving the Zambian capital to Livingstone (Zambian side of Victoria Falls). After an 8-hour long journey we are completely black because the black oily smoke penetrated into the bus through the holes. Late in the afternoon we are arriving to Livingstone. Martin has found cheap accommodation. (Martin appeared to be good in it so he was in charge of looking for good accommodation all the future).
23, 2001: Sightseeing of Zambian part of the Victoria Falls. It is simply wonderful. Length 1700 meters, depth almost 100 meters. There is water spray and rainbows all around. Paul
takes pictures, some of them even 20 times. We see first elephant here too. In the evening we cross Zambian/Zimbabwean border by feet and Martin finds accommodation in town called Victoria Falls.
24, 2001: Sightseeing of the Zimbabwean side of the falls. The entry costs 20 USD (on the Zambian side only 10 USD). The falls are as beautiful as yesterday; we are running around till we are completely wet. In the evening we are leaving by 3rd-class train for the Bulawaya town. We go overnight and save money for the accommodation. The average speed is 30 km/hr.
June 25, 2001: The train was only 2 hours late, we arrive to Bulawaya at about 9 a.m. We continue to Masvingo immediately. Martin founds a good hostel there again, so we can sleep well. Tomorrow we will visit ruins of the Shona people civilization nearby.
We are going to see the ruins of Shona royal town. It is extremely beautiful; you can enjoy it in the
Gallery. We visited the native Shona village (open-air museum). We also saw an interesting cave that served as a loudhailer for king’s communication with his people. Shona civilization worshipped the fish eagle as a symbol and its statuettes have preserved all around. It is also on the flag and national emblem of Zimbabwe. We saw real giant falic symbol that is depicted on the Zimbabwean coins. We are not surprised by arrogant monkeys present everywhere. In the evening we leave Masvingo and go to the South Africa – Zimbabwe border by minibus.
After the nightlong journey we are waiting till the border is opened. We are changing money and cross the border (Zimbabwe/RSA) on the bridge over Limpopo River. The plough stripe of soil and the barbed wires remind us the communist period of our country. We are happy to be in RSA. David suggests hitchhiking. After some Peter's hesitation we are on the road. It is easy. The drivers are stopping almost immediately and we are making the journey to Nelspruit in really short time. Martin found accommodation as usual, this time in Sun Lodge hostel and it is excellent.
June 28, 2001: We hired a car for two days (VW microbus) with a driver and guide. The first day we are visiting the Blyde River Canyon. It is the third biggest canyon in the world. It is 32 km long and 850 m deep. It is marvelous. Enjoy our photos in the Gallery.
We are getting up very early because Kruger National Park is on the program and we want to be there before the sunrise. It is incommunicable experience. The animals are everywhere, the lion gang on the road, sunbathing crocodile, lots of antelopes and birds, giraffes, elephants, leopards, hippos, rhinoceroses. Simply super. Kruger Park is 350 km long and 60-70 km wide. In the evening we must say goodbye to our guide Brian in the pub and the last night in Africa is
June 30, 2001: We are leaving to Johannesburg early in the morning, than by taxi to the airport and during the night we fly to London.
July 1, 2001: The history repeats, our plane is delayed so we miss the one to Prague. But we are so hardened that it doesn’t bother us. After only 8 hours we are boarding another plane and at 6 p.m. we are landing on Ruzyně runway in Prague. Another nice chapter of our lives has finished.