Monday 17th January/day 105. Mabuya Camp, Lilongwe – Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. Odometer: 92524 kms.
Lilongwe is a great place to stock up; so we did! We also seemed to faff quite well and didn’t get going to the border until mid-morning. Hey ho.
The border crossings went very smoothly and we were through both sides in 45 minutes. The process is so much smoother when borders have both customs and immigration in the same building and people are happy to help.
For Zambia we had to pay 150,000 Kwa for Carbon tax and buy 3rd party insurance. An added bonus was when the insurance man gave us four free pens.
Heading for Chipata we once again found the dreaded speed bumps. Why so many?! Chipata was a sizeable town and it was good to see markets and street stalls in full action again with plenty of fruit and veg for sale in perfectly stacked pyramids.
Soon after Chipata, we took a right hand turn off the main Lusaka road to South Luangwa National Park and left the luxury of tarmac. The first 20kms weren’t too bad as the road alternated between some limited tarmac and roadworks but we soon encountered some big potholes and puddles! (see photos and video). They were deep and managed to cover Alfie in a think red grime. What’s worse, Sarah got hit by water coming up through the bottom of Alfie! You can see this on the video…
Anyway, 3 hours later and 109kms under our belt we rolled into Wildlife Camp which was set adjacent to the river. We chose a spot over looking the river, cracked open the beers and listened to the snorting hippos and watched them leave the river to graze on the land. Fantastic.
All was going well until the storm once again ruined the moment of relaxation. But we are getting better at judging how soon the first drops will arrive. Everything was packed away in double quick time. What we didn’t bank on was the volume of rain again. The area at the back of the Land Rover soon turn to deep mud. So much so we had to put plastic bags over our shoes to somehow get into the tent…so very very English and wow, did we look silly!
Distance travelled: 308kms.
Tuesday 18th January/day 106. Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa National Park.
First things first, we moved pitches only to be moved again as a dreaded truck was coming in and the low and behold the pitch we had moved to was booked by the truck…boo.
Next… the main reason for heading all the way down a very soggy road was to go on a night drive with the hope of seeing a whole host of different wildlife.
The day was relaxed leading up the 4pm. We had time for a swim, a bit of a read and we were even treated to a heard of elephants walking through the camp – with the hippos burping away in the river and the trumpeting of elephants the scene was just brilliant and set us up for the night drive.
During the first part of the drive while it was still day-light, we saw a number of hippos, elephants, puku, Waterbuck, Impala and Thornicroft Giraffe. After a quick stop and a sundowner, the safari moves onto the search for nocturnal animals. The main aim for us was to find the elusive leopard.
Time was moving on and we seemed to be trundling a lot with very limited sightings of anything apart from a lot of hippo’s bottoms. We realised we were heading back out of the park and Rob decided to put his camera away, only to turn a corner and come across a female leopard plonk in the middle of the road – superb.
The camera was out of the bag and Rob was snapping away. The leopard made a turn into the bush which didn’t deter the driver, Billy, but sadly we lost sight. But not for long, Rob looked to his right and there she was. See pics. It was amazing how close we were to the most infamously elusive of the Big Five.
Distance travelled: 0 kms.
Wednesday 19th January/day 107. Wildlife Camp, South Luangwa National Park – Bridge Camp, Luangwa. Odometer: 92832 kms.
Still on a high from the previous night’s Leopard’s sighting, and after Rob had stopped talking to the resident monkeys, we headed back down the 130km track to the main road to Lusaka. We must also say that the monkeys are far too confident. Sarah turned away for one moment and a cheeky monkey jumped into the back of Alfie and was hunting for goodies (luckily they were all securely stashed away in the boxes).
We made a stop at Tribal Textiles as we had read that this was one of the best places to see Zambia’s hand-painted textiles which did turn out to be a great shop with some lovely prints, bags, t-shirts etc. Sarah may have had a little bit of a shop!
What we hadn’t expected was the road being quite so water-logged from the rains. One stretch in particular was more interesting than Sarah needed, which we managed to capture on video. Sarah just manages to miss the moment the water comes over the top of the bonnet though but you may just hear a sharp intake of breath followed by some excellent filming of the dash and assorted not-out-the-window shots.
The road was much slower going back and it took us the best part of four hours to get to the junction of the main road (approx 110 kms/66miles). There was an option to stay at Mama Rulas campsite in Chipata which had been recommended to us, especially for the t-bone steaks but as it was only mid-day we decided to head on to the half-way point to Lusaka and Bridge Camp.
The road was good tarmac and there was hardly any traffic but it still seemed like a slow drive. The scenery is very monotonous forest. There were a few police road blocks but I think we were waived through all of these.
We arrived at Bridge Camp approx 4.30pm in the rain. (see video) It was all a bit odd. The location was lovely, albeit a bit isolated. The restaurant and bar sat overlooking the Luangwa River which was high and fast moving due to the rains, (the Luangwa river drains into the Zambezi), but the owners weren’t perhaps at their best. Very welcoming to start with, then the lady owner, who was English, soon made it clear that she was bored and just wanted to head back to either Cape Town or England. We later witnessed a lot of shouting at the staff as the meals were being prepared which wasn’t great to hear or witness. A fellow biking overlander later told us that he had heard the site was up for sale last year – we can understand why!
Anyway, the food was good and showers hot. The campsite was perfectly OK, but you wouldn’t fit more than three or four Land Rovers in, but all in all, it is a good spot for an overnight stop to or from Lusaka.
Bridge Camp: S 15 00.191 E 30 12.547.
Distance travelled: 495 kms.
Thursday 20th January/day 108. Bridge Camp, Luangwa – Eureka Camp, Lusaka. Odometer: 93327 kms. 28 deg at 7.30am and humid.
We wanted to get to the Land Rover garage in Lusaka in good time today as we needed to buy new brake pads. The road again was again good tarmac with only a few death buses and trucks on the road. Passing through more forest we could almost touch the Mozambique border to the east.
We did come across a fellow white Land rover on the side of the road with the bonnet up so we pulled over to see if we could help. We tried to reattach one of the pulleys for the drive belt, but unfortunately the threads had already stripped. Luckily they had already called for recovery.
There were a few villages which we drove through, all varying in size and activity but all of them seemed to have the furniture and coffin shops again. Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before! We also passed guys with pigs and goats strapped to their carriers on their bikes – the charges were still alive as well. We will try and get some photos of these.
Next stop was for the testse fly control where a man walks around the vehicle with a butterfly net and then looks in to see if we have any inside. Believe me, they would have been ejected many moons ago if they had flown in – they are horrible and hurt when they bite! Rob pointed out that Sarah was partial to blatting bugs with a lengthy spray of DOOM and the chappy smiled and disappeared back into his hut.
Approaching Lusaka, it must be the centre for chicken production as we passed endless chicken processing plants.
We also desperately needed fuel and this was probably the closest we had come to running out! Fuel stations are far and few between on the road from the border to Lusaka – ensure you leave with a full tank and full jerry cans. We have the extra fuel tank which was a relief but some 1050kms down the road this was even making us feel nervous!
But soon we were driving on dual carriageway towards the Arcades shopping centre to find a Barclays bank and fresh bread. In addition to the bread we came out with some juicy hot sausage rolls and pies. Yum pastry. Oh, and the the ex-pats weekly Telegraph edition to get our fix on the home and overseas news.
Next stop was the Pilatus Land Rover and BMW garage. What a swizz! Parts were incredibly expensive and that was before we had even to check the price for labour. At which point, Sarah dug out the number for Foleys Africa, who are based in Livingstone, and called to see if they could help with brake pads.
It was a blessing to speak to Nick. A quick chat through the prices and labour costs easily forced the decision to drive down to Livingstone. It was also fantastic to hear Nick ask “can I take your name please?” “It’s Sarah and Rob” “ah, are you Alfie?” yes 😀
Nick had been following our exploits and wondered whether we would be popping in.
We wouldn’t recommend Pilatus unless you are in a desperate need to talk to a stroppy Afrikaner or have more money than sense. You’d be far better off taking time to head on down to Livingstone.
We stayed at Eureka Camp, which is Lusaka’s best campsite. Set on a private farm within a game area which was protected with an electric fence. We camped on newly cut grass, with plenty of space around us. The site ranks so far as the best for showers with both the ‘Sheilas’ and ‘Bruces’ being immaculate. There is also a lovely bar, TV room and pool area.
As we sat under our awning that night, sipping ciders and wine, dodging another downpour we heard the first plane and police sirens for months. That coupled with the shopping centre we suddenly felt that we had left the villages and wide open spaces of Africa and returned to civilisation and could almost be back in Europe.
Our early start the next day provided more than enough information as to what the sirens were for. A rather spectacular head on crash aftermath left little to the imagination.
Eureka: S 15 23.537 E 28 18.975.
Friday 21st January/day 109. Eureka, Lusaka – The Zambezi Waterfront, Livingstone. Odometer: 93614 kms. Cool at 20 deg.
Up and away early as we had some 7 hours of driving to get down to Livingstone and Foleys. In fact the road was great and we arrived at 1pm just as everyone had gone to lunch so Sarah took the opportunity to go shopping once again where we discovered that Shoprite is about 20% cheaper than Spar. And, check out a few campsites.
Back to the garage for 2pm where Nick was on hand to check Alfie over. New brake pads, fluid and a bush and bolt on the panhard rod and we were off again. It was good to see a number of other overland vehicles and get the low down of what really happened to Neil Morrisey’s trailer in Men Brewing Badly!
Foleys Africa: S 17 51.956 E 25 51.243.
The Fawlty Towers campsite is not geared up to take roof top tents, only ground tents therefore we headed to The Zambezi Waterfront some 4 kms down the road towards Victoria Falls within the unfenced area of Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park. Wow, what a spot. The pitches have their own BBQ, sink, electricity and light. The bar and restaurant overlook the river. There are two swimming pools, one in the campsite area and one adjacent to the bar. Plus internet which was a big bonus.
Zambezi Waterfront: S 17 53.199 E 25 50.651
Saturday 22nd January/day 110. Zambezi Waterfront.
Ants! Loads of them!
The day was mainly spent updating the web site, loading photos and video clips as we hadn’t had any decent internet since Christmas, which we hope everyone is enjoying.
However, upon returning to Alfie early in the evening, Sarah discovered that we had been invaded by an army of ants. They were everywhere….crawling along the side of Alfie, along the base of the tent and then horror of horrors, into the tent. Everything had to come out. Rob was volunteered to ‘doom’ the tent and then sweep it out.
It turned out that they were crawling from a palm tree onto the back of the tent. Aflie was also moved and a little bit of palm tree cut down to ensure the ants couldn’t jump to complete their house moving mission.
What is it with us?! First a spider, now ants, not worth thinking what may be next!
Distance travelled: 0 kms.
Sunday 23rd January/day 111. Zambezi Waterfront.
Thankfully, no ants in the tent last night but Sarah still woke up with another four mosi-bites, gawd, they are frustrating.
The morning was spent planning the next few days’ exploration to both sides of Victoria Falls. There are a huge number of activities which can be booked from the hotel, from bungee-jumping, white-water rafting through to a whiz up the Zambezi in a speed boat which Sarah quite likes the sound of! Also, microlights, oodles of them as they seemed to buzz around overhead for most of each morning. Ahhh, the sound of low flying lawnmowers.
The afternoon was spent around the pool until another storm came in and as we hastily vacated the sunbeds, a branch from a palm tree fell off with a huge splosh and ended up straddling the pool and sun beds! Crikey.
Kms travelled: 0 km.