|World cyclist Furtemba Sherpa with Lusaka's Nepalese community and other well-wishers (Photo from Furtemba Sherpa).|
Sherpa has met and received accolades from Prime Ministers, mayors, and other notables all around the world, but he can also count on the support of the local Nepalese community wherever he goes, and described his surprise at finding such communities in virtually every country through which he has travelled. Businessmen, NGO workers, and Nepalese-staffed United Nations peacekeeping missions have all helped him on his way.
Lusaka was no different. On Sunday, when Sherpa was preparing to set off on the road again, we all gathered to see him off, and as he was strapping down his last few belongings to his bike, Lusaka’s Nepalese community arrived in force (it’s about 10 strong) to bid him farewell. This entailed some minor repacking as they gave him food for the road. It was very touching to see two children give him yoghurt as a farewell gesture, and you could tell the kids were thrilled to see this real-live Nepalese hero again.
We stood in the yard and watched him go out the gate, down the road, and off towards Victoria Falls, and from there, through Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa...until 2020.
Sunday afternoon saw a ‘street party’ for the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee celebration. The British High Commission in Lusaka was apparently not doing anything for the occasion, so it fell to Lusaka Backpackers to put out the bunting. There was a cake decorated with corgis and Prince Philip’s mug, scotch eggs, and the event itself live on TV. The semi-engaged audience was a motley assortment of Zambians, expats, and travellers.
A staunch republican, I crossed my fingers during the festivities, but enjoyed watching the mad-house that was the Thames and the embankment as the royal flotilla made its way down the river past all the great London landmarks. The somewhat impertinent commentary we provided on-site in Lusaka went something like ‘What if she falls in the water while stepping between boats?’, ‘What if those boats collided?’, ‘I want a job as a Royal Correspondent for the BBC so that I can spout gibberish for two hours on live television!’, and so on.
Dinner consisted of fish & chips or bangers & mash, and the viewing was cut short by a power outage, at which point one party was heard to mutter irreverently, “There’s only so much of the Queen waving at boats you can take without wanting to shoot yourself”. People retired to lawn chairs scattered around the yard, and hunched over charcoal fires as Lusaka’s wintry, breezy evening weather set in.
Given how chaotic things looked in London, I expect our low-key Jubilee celebrations in Lusaka were much more pleasant!