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.