Livinstone (Victoria Falls,) Monze, Kafue National Park, Lusaka, Lake Kariba, Lusaka, Mana Pools (Zimbabwe), Lusaka, South Luangwa national park and Chipata.
Lusaka en South Luangwa National Park
Border crossing and Lusaka
From Mana Pools we drove back to Lusaka crossing the border again at Chirundu. The Zimbabwean immigration process is quick and we continued to get the car cleared by customs. After customs there is an ‘interpol desk’. The guy sitting there is very grumpy and reluctantly stamps our carnet with a ‘inspection stamp’ without even inspecting the car. Later we learned from others that this so called Interpol guy was trying to get a bribe from them and they just sat at his desk for almost an hour before he stamped their documents…and of course, they didn’t pay any bribe. Formalities on the Zambian side are again fast and in total it just took us 50 minutes to cross the border into Zambia.
And for the fourth time we drove the same mountain pass back to Lusaka arriving there mid afternoon to start our search for metal fuses (strookzekeringen) as we found out one was blown, as a result breaking the connection with the household battery which was not being charged while driving. It took about 3 hours and 6 shops to finally find a good solution with alternative fuses. After installation and starting the car, the battery monitor finally confirmed our electricity shortage of the past weeks was solved… It was charging at 30A, 280W as we remember it was before ;-)
South Luangwa National Park
Our next stop was South Luangwa National Park, which is situated 700km from Lusaka, according to Tracks for Africa a long day of driving of almost 11 hours. We had already heard that the road conditions were extremely bad and we had many deep potholes to avoid. As there are no suitable stops half way, we had no choice and we left early… To our surprise the road was newly paved with not a pothole in sight! It was a smooth ride, but of course, still a very long day (9,5 hours). We arrived just before dusk at our campsite Track and Trail river camp about 800m outside the gate of South Luangwa National Park.
South Luangwa is the best park of Zambia for wildlife viewing. The park lifeblood is the Luangwa River, which flows year round. The geography is diverse form open grassy plains, open woodland on the riverbanks to very dense woodland more inland from the river.
We were in the park at the end of the dry season and the river is very shallow, and a vast midstream of sandbanks is exposed, covered with many crocodiles and hippo’s. The park is also renowned for it high density of leopards and Wilfred is very keen on spotting a leopard with prey in a tree.
Although the park is very nice we were still a little bit disappointed after our excellent visit to Mana Pools. We know we shouldn’t compare these two parks as they are really different, but Mana Pools really stole our hearts.
The next three days we did two game drives a day, mostly close to the riverbank and south section of the park as the animals are around the river or lagoon as there is no water elsewhere in de park. This will change in the coming weeks when the rain sets in, making it more difficult to spot game. During the game drives, we were lucky enough to spot leopards in a tree (unfortunately both occasions without prey), many puku, impala’s, elephants, lions and a really large herds of cape buffelo’s. One of the nights, Judith got up to go to the ablution block and when she walked around the truck she was face to face with a huge grazing hippo at only 4 metres distance…luckily the hippo was more scared of Judith and ran off.
After 5 nights at South Luangwa (and making the difficult choice not to visit Kasanka national park with it’s annual fruit bat migration and the hot springs at Mpika in North Zambia), we headed to the border town with Malawi; Chipata. At the campsite Mama Rula’s we met a Dutch expat couple working for Cargill who are living in Chipata for the past 2 years. We learn a lot about the challenges of working with local farmers and the low education levels of employees. They also mentioned that the police in Malawi is not so friendly anymore and will try to get a bribe, cold drink or food from you. A completely different story than we heard so far from other travellers we met that emphasized how friendly the Malawian people (and police) are.
The next morning (November 3rd) we went to the Chipata border crossing and within 15 minutes all formalities on the Zambian side were done and we head for the car to drive the full 50 meters to the offices of the Malawian border control.
Lusaka, Lake Kariba and Lusaka (again)
After Kafue National Park we went to Lusaka, the capital of Zambia where 1.4 million people live. It is situated on an elevation of 1300 meters above sea level…meaning a cool night for the first time in weeks !!! Our campsite (Pioneer camp) is on the outskirts of Lusaka, 5 km on a dirt road. We were driving on the dirt road at dusk and suddenly Wilfred hit the breaks…we almost catapulted over a huge speed hump…yes…even for our truck an incredibly high speed hump !!! When we arrived at the campsite the manger said it is because they fixed the road so well that every one was speeding instead of driving 50km per hour. As a result, the people living next to the road were in dust for the entire day, hence speed humps were introduced every 100 metres (to be removed when rainy season starts in November).
For us Lusaka was nothing more than a stop over on our way to Lake Kariba and Mana Pools NP (in Zimbabwe). We stock up on food supplies that will last for about a week.
The drive to Lake Kariba turned out to be very scenic through a mountain pass with nice views over the valley below. Lake Kariba is one the largest artificial lakes in Africa. From Victoria Falls the Zambezi River flows through Batoka Gorge to this lake, formed behind the massive Kariba dam. It is used to generate power, but for years the water levels were so low that is wasn’t possible to generate power. There is a nice story (or history of the dam) called ‘the Curse of the Kariba dam’ . The dam is constructed at the head of the Kariba Gorge and both were named after a huge rock buttress called Kariba, which the local Tonga people believe is the home of their river God, fish headed and serpent tailed called Nyaminyami. When the Tonga learned that the built of the new dam would flood their God’s residence they were (understandingly) angry, but when they learned that also their houses would be submerged by the construction of the dam, it was the last straw…they asked Nyaminyami to step in and destroy the white men’s interference. And did God deliver…oh yes he did ! In 1957 a year into the construction of the dam a torrential storm of the Upper Zambezi sent a huge flood roaring through the work site, destroying all equipment and breaching the temporary dam. The next year a flood roared through the site again. Despite these floods the construction of the Kariba dam was finalised in 1960. Meanwhile disgruntled Tonga people were forced to leave their homeland.
When we arrived at our campsite just outside the small town of Siavonga Wilfred parked the car as normal, however, after looking at the pitches Wilfred tried to start the car again… the result; nothing but a loud clicking noise… Our first analysis of the problem; it would either be the ‘start blocker’ (start onderbreker) or a flat battery. It turned out to be the latter…we had no worries as we had purchased a ‘power boozt battery pack’, right before we left. This small battery pack is supposed to let you start your car at least six times, before needing to be reloaded…but after connecting the cables to the battery and trying to start the engine a lot of smoke came from the cable. Fortunately we met someone in the bar that owned a Land cruiser Prado and the next morning we jump started the car using his battery and drove back to Lusaka (200km) to buy a new battery.
We decided our best bet to get a proper battery for the truck would be at the Toyota dealer. However, we could only get an old technology battery for the ridiculously amount of €260,-. So we started calling different companies and finally got in touch with a shop that sells Varta and Deltec batteries (which are made by the same producer as our optima battery). We decided to go for the Deltec, a stronger battery based on AGM technology at less than half price of the battery at the Toyota dealer.
We arrived late in the afternoon/early evening at Pioneer Camp due to the traffic jams getting out of the city… On top we had to wait almost an extra 30 minutes at a roundabout to let an escort of police through…later we heard that the president just arrived at the airport from his trip to New York where he met with the IMF and was driven home...
The next day Wilfred installed the new battery, in the process needing to change some of the electrical wiring of the truck. And yes…the truck started immediately. As neither one of us wanted to do a long day of driving to Mana Pools (Zimbabwe), we spent the rest of the day doing laundry, cleaning the truck and relaxing at the campsite.
Livingstone (Victoria Falls), Lochinvar National Park, Kafue National Park, Lusaka, Lake Kariba (Siavonga), Lower Zambezi, Lusaka, Kasane National Park, Kapishya Hotsprings, South Luangwa, Chipata.
Zambia is a former British colony and gained independence 52 years ago. After gaining independence the name was changed from Northern Rhodesia to Zambia and inherited a British style political multiparty political system. The first elections were held in 1964. Kaunda became the first president of Zambia, but as he disliked opposition he disbanded all but his own political party in 1972 and he remained in power for the next 27 years. His rule was based on ‘humanism’ his own mixture of Marxism and African values, most private companies were nationalised, but corruption, mismanagement and fall of the world copper prices, doomed Zambia to become one of the poorest countries in Africa. During the late 1980’s a wind of changes blowing through Africa combined with Zambia’s disastrous domestic situation something had to give. After violent street protests against yet again a significant increase in food process, these protest led to a more general protest to bring back the multiparty system and Kaunda was forced to accede to public opinion. He was forced to legalize opposition parties and a full election was held in 1991, which was won by the opposition. A Former trade union leader named Chiluba become the second president and after one term Zambia was not recovered form it’s poor economical position, meaning Kaunda could work his way back into politics. Chiluba feared he might loos the upcoming election and quickly passed a law stating no one could become president if his parents were not born in Zambia, as Kaunda parents were from Malawi. Even though it is allegedly stated that Chiluba’s parents were born in the Republic of Congo. As form of protest Kaunda party withdrew all candidates and this led to an easy win for Chiluba. After two terms in 2001 Chiluba was determined to run for a third terms, but was unable to change the constitution. His vice president succeeded him and there have been elections every five years and only two term presidents since the beginning of this millennium. In the last decade health care has become more and more affordable and available for people, even in remote places and most general stores have a basic, but good supply of groceries. It will take a long time for Zambia to fully recover, but every year it seems to get a little better.
Border crossing and Livingstone (Victoria Falls)
Crossing the border
On October 11 we crossed the border from Kasane, Botswana to Kangazula, Zambia. This is a ferry border crossing with one ferry that operates the crossing. When we drove to the ferry we passed a huge queue of trucks waiting for a spot on the ferry. Most of these trucks drive the long way towards South Africa bypassing Zimbabwe due to the many roadblock and bribery practices of the Zimbabwean police. With a regular car you can just drive to the beginning of the line as the ferry can transport 5 small cars and one large truck.
The border post on the Botswana side is very easy and only took about 15 minutes, but (as always at a border post) we were immediately surrounded by fixers who offered to help us (for a fee of course). Since all border crossings so far were really smooth we declined the help. After getting all the stamps (and the gate pass) we got to the ferry and we drove immediately on it. Fifteen minutes later we drove off the ferry on the Zambian site.
This border post was a little bit more complicated than on the other side…we need to get our passports and the carnet de passage stamped, pay road and carbon tax…but it is unclear where we need to pay our road tax (in US$) and our carbon tax (in ZMV). After 1,5 hours of walking from building to building and waiting in line we paid road and carbon tax and started our drive to Livingstone.
Livingstone and Victoria Falls
Livingstone is an hour’s drive from the border and we arrived the beginning of the afternoon. We heard good things about Jollyboys backpackers and go there to see of we can camp there. The pace looked very nice and vibrant, but you could only pitch your tent there…so we searched for another campsite and went to Victoria Falls waterfront on the Zambezi River.
In the evening we enjoyed a couple of drinks while watching sunset over the Zambezi River. The next day we had to do some errands, like getting money, a new SIM card, etc. We also wanted to buy some bug spray, called ‘peaceful sleep’ as there were many mosquitos in our truck the night before…and yes we sleep peacefully after spraying the truck at night. We ended up visiting five different shops as ‘peaceful sleep’ was sold out in all the supermarkets in town. Once found, Judith decided to buy all the cans (three).
In the afternoon we visited the Royal Livingstone hotel, possibly the most expensive hotel in Zambia. A luxury hotel with excellent outdoor seating area overlooking the Zambezi River towards the Victoria Falls. We could only see the spray of the Falls going into the sky, as they plunge down on the Zimbabwean side.
In the evening we went on the Royal Livingstone express, a stream train from 1922 that will ride the tracks onto the historical bridge over the Batoka gorge looking towards the Victoria Falls. Dinning in style on part of the tracks that connects Cairo to Cape Town. John Cecil Rhodes funded the build of the tracks, even though he never visited Zambia.
The next morning we visited the Mosi-oa-Tunya (‘the smoke that thunders’) national park for sunrise. Having already seen the Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwean side we were a little bit disappointed as the falls on the Zambia side were almost dry (as it is the end of the dry season). After our short hike Wilfred suggested to see if breakfast at the Royal Livingstone was open to non-guests…and it was…the breakfast was the best hotel breakfast we ever had !!! Excellent coffee, fresh juices and a very extensive menu for cooked breakfast…Wilfred enjoyed poached eggs with smoked crocodile and Judith ordered a eggs with steak. It was so good we were tempted to go there again.
Kafue National Park
Our next destination in Zambia is Kafue National Park, 200 kilometres west of Lusaka and the size of Belgium. It is the largest national park of Zambia and one of the biggest in the world. The park is very diverse in geography, i.e. the Kafue floodplains, woodlands and swamp areas. We stayed one night at New Kalala campsite in the south sector on the shores of Lake Itezhi-Tetzhi and two nights in the middle sector at Mayukuyuku campsite on the shore of the Kafue River.
To get to the south sector we drove from Monze via Lochinvar National park over the Kafue floodplains to Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. It was a long day of driving and the roads led us through small villages with traditional mud huts. As it has been dry for a long time in Zambia we decided to drive on different tracks to our destination…many tracks run across the floodplains and where the river once ran there are now many dry riverbed crossings.
On our game drive in the middle sector we saw the puku and oribi antelope for the first time. We used our new screens for the front windows for the first time to keep the tsetse flies out of our car and they worked like a charm. From our campsite we saw many elephants crossing the Kafue River or bathing, hippo’s (who make a lot of noise at night) and some wading birds.