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.
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.