Archives for December 2013

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Malawi

13th December 2013 Friday Yesterday drove to Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi. It is a very busy, bustling place with people milling everywhere, bazars, stalls and all manner of shops painted in garish colours. Many with exaggerated signage such as “Shopping Complex” above a one-room shop.

As we left Lilongwe I was caught in a radar trap and a resulting fine of 5000 Kwachas was imposed. How outrageous, until I calculated that this to about AUD $11.00. As the policeman was handing me the receipt he was very nearly sideswiped by a speeding passing truck. He had to run and dive to the front of our car to avoid a fatal contact. The truck was not booked.

The countryside is picturesque and there are always people, many riding bicycles,     many, many bicycles, riding in 37 degree heat and carrying impossible loads such as five, two metre long bags of charcoal. I did see one with six.

Arriving at Monkey Bay on Lake Malawi we checked into The Fat Monkey Camping Ground, having selected a waterfront position. Parking the troopy under a shade tree we discovered it was a mango tree that, thoughtfully, had left about a dozen samples for us. All was well until the wind picked up and a rain of mangos descended upon us to the point where we had to take shelter in the car and hope they didn’t put too many dings in the Duco.

Prices are very reasonable here as we can have a meal here for AUD $4.00. and camping is $3.00 each per night for an unpowered site, $6.oo powered.

This lake is a huge fresh water sea and you cannot see to the opposite shore. Swimming here was great as the water temperature was equivalent to a tepid bath.

14th December 2013 A dugout canoe excursion to an island two kilometres away was on offer. The deal was for myself and Jude to be paddled out there, (one of us had to help paddle), do some snorkelling and then be fed a lunch of braai, bbq of local fish, rice and a sauce of capsicum, potato and a pap of corn flour which you roll into a ball and then dip into the sauce. Delicious. Total price 15,000.00 kwachas or about AUD$30.00. The day started at 8am, although we didn’t actually push off until 10am, and ended at 4pm and the tropical fish we saw were the equal of what you would see at the barrier reef with clear underwater visibility of about ten meters.

Judy thought an amusing sight was myself, a Norwegian and a villager having a political discussion on the beach as a boatload of, twenty or more, gospel singers rounded our bay, standing in their boat and harmonising. It could have been Polynesia.

The dugout canoes are interesting in that they a very labour intensive, slow, top heavy, unstable and leaking. Perfect.

Being a slow journey gave our captain the opportunity to tell us of his life, a bit sad I’m afraid. He is twenty two years of age and his entire family has died from AIDS which means he has had to stop his schooling to do this paddling to earn a few kwachas. He doesn’t consider himself to be young, as many of his people die prematurely by our standards, his uncle at thirty five years. The villagers live from hand to mouth with their only concern being to get some food for the day. They sometimes raid the camp mango tree. At least the weather and scenery here is good for them and in themselves they are cheerful and friendly.

The secondary camera that we took with us got wet and wouldn’t operate, so no pictures.

15th December 2013 Today we intend to drive out to Otter Point a few kilometres away which is meant to have crystal clear water.

Later; Became completely lost, missed Otter Point and Eagle Nest and ended up at Cool Runnings Camping at Senga near Salima. A pleasant oasis again on Lake Malawi, the beach being a little overused over the last few centuries. Travelled north and detected an ever increasing depth of poverty. I saw a three year old with the bloated belly of malnutrition. At a roadblock I was, by routine, questioned as to my destination by the smartest young police man yet, and, as he was about to let me proceed, mentioned that there was a lot of famine in the area and “Could we spare some food?” We gave him two bread rolls but he stated that there were three policemen in total so we gave him the third. He turned to face his colleagues and we knew he had a big grin on his face and that the colleagues approved. Thumbs up all round. It pointed out to us, though, how desperate these people are, not for money but food.

Obverseley or perversely we have made our way for the night to the opulent Chintheche Inn Camp Site. A beautiful resort on Lake Malawi with a pristine beach, perfect temperature, the place all to ourselves, and yes our old friends, the fireflies. Just had our braai.

We notice often, uniformed and ununiformed bands of men or sometimes women carrying machine guns. Yesterday there were three men in black uniforms sitting in the back of a Ute all carrying arms.

20th December 2013 Has it been five days later? Yes. We have lazed around on the beach, reading, a little guitar plunking and that’s about it. Paradise here, a little more expensive than the usual camping area but still very reasonable. This resort is gearing up for the Christmas rush and not quite ready for business, however, last night they set up a table and chairs in the middle of the lawn, overlooking the bay and served us a candlelit dinner of roast chicken as we watched the lights of the fishing canoes.

One of the few locals allowed on the premises came to us the first day that we were here, selling catfish and paintings. The next day he came offering to buy groceries at the village for us. We placed an order of fruit and vegetables. On his return he told us that his daughter had fallen into a drainage pit the previous day and could not walk. He could not get her to hospital as there is no ambulance and he could not afford to hire someone with a car to take her there. He said that the other camper here had given him a thousand kwachas to help out so I donated the same amount. He was very grateful. A thousand kwachas are about two dollars.

Whenever we get talking at any length to a Malawian a sad story will eventually emerge.

22nd December 2013 Yesterday we drove inland just 20k or so into the mountains to stay at Lukwe Gardens Eco Camp              4k short of Livingstonia. The drive up to here was a hair-raising experience as it is a very steep rough dirt road with twenty or so tight hairpin bends. I mostly had to use 1st gear in low range 4wd to get up here. It was worth the trip. The camp is perched on the side of a mountain, overlooking Lake Malawi and it is a permaculture garden built from scratch by a Belgium couple some fifteen years ago. A small restaurant is at the cliffs edge and you just sit on the deck taking it all in, just making out the distant shore of Mozambique.

Judy was very happy to make a reacquaintance with her old friend the “salad”, which we haven’t had for a while now, as vegetables in general are hard to get in Malawi.

In the afternoon we drove to Livingstonia and let me just say that so far, driving the length of Malawi, we have passed a myriad small, poor villages and only a couple of large, poor towns. Well! Livingstonia, in these remote mountains boasts a large university, technical and further education college, a well-reputed hospital, cathedralesque church, museum and a small poor village. I am gobsmacked.

Dr.Livingstone I presume

Dr.Livingstone I presume

This morning it is raining with dense fog, perfect for the drive back down the luge. Let me change “raining” to teeming rain, thunder, lightning, an even more denser fog and the dogs got the only dry spot in our shelter. I think we’ll stay.

The rain has stopped and we have decided to go, after checking with the owner of the camping area as to whether the road was safe to use. I use the term “road” loosely. Again it was a hell ride probably worse than going up but we made it unscathed.

We ended up staying overnight at the FloJa campsite, right on Lake Malawi. The interesting thing about this place is that it is run by a Dutch couple whom have set up a day care centre for eighty local, needy children and any profit derived from the campsite and lodges goes toward the foundation. www.FloJaMalawi.nl   All donations gratefully accepted.

They have also just adopted a baby who was found abandoned, wrapped in plastic, in the bush near Mzuzu. It had been there for two days. They should call him Lucky.

As I was strumming my guit at our campsite by the beach three small children appeared and sat in front watching. I tried to discourage them by playing “Pub with no beer” but to no avail as they seemed to like it. I played on and after a while they were dancing, each on their own rather large boulder that were on the beach. Rock music.

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Zambia

We had a choice of entry into Zambia. One was via an indirect way on the map, which appeared to involve a crossing of about 100 metres of Zimbabwian territory (with all of the incumbent formalities), or a direct way, straight to Zambia but via a punt. Yup, I chose direct. On the Botswana side there were notices stating that no agents were needed on the Zambian side. As I motored past two kilometeres of trucks trying to get into Zambia a glaze developed over my eyes a I became enslaved to the “AGENT ” offering me an easy passage through all of this. I did defer to the Botswanan police who told me I should go with the agent.

In the end we paid US$80 for something we could have done ourselves as Judy had all of the info,  just by bumping around like a ball in a pinball machine until we got out of the border control. There were many fees to pay, carbon tax, road tax, insurance, Carnet, etc. however having said this the experience was truly frontier.

The Zambian government has no control of this border crossing and allows this opportunism to go on. The Botswanan policeman also misled me. I also got a washed car by the time I got back, and not very well at that for which US$20.00 was asked KRIPES. I kind of liked my mud anyhow as I know that down the road it’s gonna be back on before too long. I haggled it down to US$10 but not until I’d had a huge argument with them. Was it worth it?

I recommend that you do not accept anything from anyone unless they have a hat or uniform or both. Good rule of thumb. Even then be wary.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Tomorrow we go to the falls (Victoria) and are pre warned. I wonder how they will trick us this time.

7th December 2013

Now that it is tomorrow I can tell you how they tricked us this time.

In the morning I had to attend to getting some COMESA yellow card insurance, and, while I was doing this Judy stayed with the car at the shopping centre car park. The constant touting and begging that goes on here distracted Judy and someone raided the rear saddlebag. They got away with our dirty laundry. I would like to put a rattrap in there for them but the only rat I might catch is myself, when I forget.

We visited the falls, which were not quite as spectacular as during the wet season and after yesterdays experience did not feel like crossing into Zimbabwe and back just to get a view from the other side.

We are now halfway to Lusaka, the capital, at a pleasant campsite near Choma, Gwembe Safari Lodge which has good facilities and is a working farm. Incongruously, Judy is getting water by pressing a button whilst through our window we can see the villagers gathering water from the communal pump and then carrying it, on their heads, back home some distance away.

8th December 2013

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Bivouacked well past lusaka at Luangwa Bridge on the Luangwa River in Dr. Livingston’s footsteps, we are sitting in Zambia but looking into Mozambique. It is a balmy 33 degrees at 8pm, but a dry comfortable heat , Judy has not fainted yet and If you feel like a midnight swim forget it as there are croc a plenty and hippo further down. Apparently there is fighting in Mozambique at present, as our fellow overlanders here have told us.

Zambia, to my eyes, is a lush and fertile place. The native Zambians, much like other Africans, seem to be an industrious lot. We see them up early each morning doing their chores or working on road gangs with shoulder firmly to the wheel. And yet still a 3rd world country. I don’t know why. Everyone says Government corruption!

Our road trip today involved some interaction with the locals as we bought fruit from several roadside sellers. They are genuinely charming people and I find I sometimes cannot keep my eyes off of them. They fascinate me.

In the 450 or so K’s we travelled today there was a constant passing parade on the highway of people walking, stalls, and villages. People here walk or ride a bike. Being Sunday many where going to church in the morning. Church is big here with Seven Day Adventists having a big presence. We often saw men in suits, shirt and tie, riding their bikes in the middle of nowhere and some pretty natty dressers there are. Petrol Trucks with, say, two wheels missing, bikes loaded with huge bags of coal, woman carrying everything on their heads with babies on their backs and fields being hoed with everyone helping.

Tomorrow we head to South Luangwa National Park. It is a little out of the way but we have heard good reports about it.

9th December 2013

Rolling down the road when I heard a gravelly rumble and the car became a little wonky. A flat tyre. As I exited the car I immediately noticed the oncoming helpers. Like Anzacs marching twenty abreast coming towards us. I exaggerate. There where at least twelve of them though, snappily dressed and able bodied men who materialised from the native rondavels to help me by watching my every move and offering technical advice such as “ Where is the jack?”

At the end we chopped up our watermelon and all cooled off.

 

A little way down the road we saw a guy repairing tyres just by the side of the road so I pulled over to have the repair done. He extracted, out of my tyre, a tube totally ripped to shreds and exclaimed “Big hole”. I answered ‘Yes but can you fix it”. He didn’t get the joke.

So we didn’t get as far as we may have hoped today and are camped at the Mamma Rula’s Campground at Chipata.

Just as I sit here typing I am dismayed to see not one but two huge pink tour busses full of Swedish backpackers arrive next to us. They are a busy lot, putting up tarps and general camp preparations all with headlamps on and making a lot of noise. Paradise lost. Could be in for an interesting night.

I cannot believe what I’m seeing here now. The bus has been morphed into sleeping accommodation and the roof has somehow been turned into a dormitory with mosquito nets. They all look like locusts in their cocoons.

To be continued.

Later that night we noticed several of their number sleeping directly in front of the toilets instead of being on the bus, possibly the victims of diarrhoea or worse still dysentry. They had to be able to get to the toilet quickly. We gave them a wide birth the next day.

10th December 2013

Arrived at South Luangwa National Park quite early, 10am, and no sooner had we driven through the gate when we saw about one hundred hippo and, a short distance on, a leopard. The ranger had told us of the lions that had been spotted earlier in the day and gave us detailed directions ending with “Just past the vultures, there you will see them”. He thought there might be twenty or so lions.

We looked and looked but could not locate the lions, that is, until we did. They were exactly where the ranger told us, just past the vultures, we must have driven right past them the first time. There were seven females and cubs and, in their own den and little way on, two males in their shed.

Had a standoff with a heard of water buffalo. I backed down, and on the way back for lunch we saw elephants and zebra. In fact there were elephants all the way back to our campsite, which is well out of the Park, free range you know. The adult elephants always shepherd their young away from us.

I am now sitting at lunch at our campsite, looking across the Luangwa Luangwa (not a typo) River and in the distance I see a herd of hippo. There are crocs in there also and surprisingly, fishermen along the bank.

We will head back into the Park this afternoon for round two.

Round two: Wow. Went back at about 3pm and at first not too much was happening, a few giraffe and the usual zebra, antelope etc. On our way back, though, we saw a leopard stalking a zebra. The zebra was totally unaware of the leopard until finally it twigged and made a run for it, however it appeared that the zebra was lame. We did not see the final outcome, luckily.

Had the zebra not been lame it may have made a fist of the leopard, as their kick is harder than their bite.

We then decided to check out the lions that we had seen earlier, thinking that they may be more active at dusk. We were treated to a feast of lion activity, if I may use the expression. Pulling up at the lions den the male, alpha, appeared from his sleep, in profile. Bid yawn and then did an ablution, just like humans. Then the others appeared and started eating from the meal they had prepared earlier. A hippo. All sorts of antics from the cubs and adolescents.

This is by far the best park we have visited and it was almost by chance as it’s a little out of the way. The park itself is very pretty to drive around as well, making the whole experience just breathtaking.

The baboons are a real pest and are very brazen. They got our milk right in front of our eyes. An effective deterrent is a slingshot. You don’t even have to fire a rock at them, just aim it and they run away.

11th December 2013

Today we will regroup, do some washing and take our time getting back to Chipata before we go to Malawi tomorrow.

 

 

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Botswana

6th December 2013

Entered Botswana with easy formalities, with only our tomatoes and firewood confiscated. All the meat, dairy products and a springbok skin were acceptable although we had to walk in a chemical filled tray and the troopy also had its own trough to drive through. Drove on through the Chobe National Park at the very north of Botswana with just the usual antelopes and giraffes until the very end where we saw a herd of elephants twenty strong and many hippos. We reached the border town of Kasane where we lunched and tried to get Zambian currency before entering Zambia. No deal. First premonition.

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Namibia Part Two

1st December 2013 What a day it’s been. Yesterday we saw the rock carvings of Twyfelfontein, six thousand years old but you could identify each animal quite clearly, and again, almost had the place to ourselves. Judy almost fainted, once more, and I’m beginning to think she can’t take a temperature over 45 degrees!

So today;

We started off by going to see the “Living Museum” of the San people, but, no one there, so we strolled through the village huts and souvenir stalls, all stocked, and left. Next the Petrified Forest and then on to Khorixas where we were well and truly conned by the “Mayor” of this town, who sold us some trinkets at an exorbitant price. He was good, though. His technique was to casually start a chat with Judy, whilst I was at the garage, and within the conversation asked her name. Next he showed one of his carved balls and turned it around to reveal the name “Judy”.  I came back and he had already carved the rest of the family. I fell into the trap and added the grand children. AUD$35.00 thank you. I did haggle down from $50.00 but somehow I don’t think I won the contest.

We had lunch at Outjo at the Etosha Hotel and were greeted at the door by a young Namibian man and woman who explained to us the buffet on offer. They were very charming and the meal was sumptuous, comprising ten or so courses. We explained that we only required a light lunch, upon which they offered us the light buffet.   We chose this at AUD $8.00 each as opposed to the full buffet at AUD$17.00. We received a, huge, four-course meal and a demonstration of the Click language of the Bushmen by our host, whose father was a genuine “Bushman” who could speak the seven click language. His mother was from the town and could speak the four click language. He explained that he had grown up as a Bushman but had started school at the age of eleven and so, now, he can come to town and put on some western clothes to work at the hotel or go back home and wear his traditional clothing and become a bushman once again.

We arrived at the Etosha National park finding our campsite to be next to a waterhole, and so, we went down at dusk to see if any animals would appear, but, only a rhino and five lions. Oh well!  Better luck tomorrow.

2nd December 2013 Travelled the length of Etosha National Park and saw various antelope, wildebeest, giraffe and zebra, but no lions. We will go down to the westernmost waterhole at Namutoni tonight and try our luck.

No luck.                        We must be hungry for lions……….or is it the other way round.

3rd December 2013 Motored on to Rundu in the far north of Namibia and the last stretch from Grootfontein was absolutely beautiful, green and village after rustic village all kept very clean with fire wood stacked neatly, goats and stalls by the side of the road with plenty of people milling about or strolling along. They all seem to be active, many still working the fields at 6pm.

This last leg of our Namibia section will take us through the Caprivi Strip starting at the Okavango and taking us through to Victoria Falls in Zambia.

4th December 2013

We took the “preferred tourist route” east. This was a good dirt road that took us through rural villages running parallel to the main road heading toward Livingstone. We stopped for the evening at Ngepi Camp, just out of Divundu, which had been recommended. The owner of this establishment has a good sense of humour and there are many quirky and funny signs all around the campsite. As an example there was one at the front gate, at the start of a dirt track, instructing drivers of 4×4’s to “Engage four wheel drive, select low range and lock all diffs- all other cars drive normally” and, at the bar “We accept cash”.

We arrived at about 4pm and found that the canoe tour would start shortly so we enrolled and were treated to 2 ½ hours of adventure on the Okavango. This included many hippo which at times got a little too close for comfort, even for our paddling guides, and crocs, literally six feet away (in the old money).

We ended the evening with dinner at the riverside restaurant, all very good.

5th December 2013

Judy is about to cook “Toad in the hole for breakfast”. I must have done something right. Eggs were off but! Had modified French toast instead.

5pm we are sitting in Namibia on the banks of the mighty Zambezi River, looking into Botswana, with a loose lion hanging around here somewhere. The drive into this camping area was a challenge, it’s the start of the rainy season, but on arrival it turned out to be a boutique, glamping resort with huge tents as taut as a snare drum, clear windows, timber panelling and silver service, Judy wishes she was there instead of our campsite, which, I might add does have running hot water. What more could a girl need?

By the way, I just heard the roar of the male lion across the river. I hope he’s the one they were talking about. Can they swim?

8pm we are sitting in our van with our Scott of the Antarctica roof tent up, the wind is howling and its raining but we are snug.

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