Malawi has always been on our bucket list, but time after time the Kalahari would win the battle and we would settle for hot and dry December vacations.

When we returned from Mabuasehube (the Botswana side of the Kgalagadi) in January 2015, we sat down and started our planning for our next December holiday. Malawi was mentioned, but it looked and felt very far.

As time went by, it became more of a viable goal … and eventually a reality. That was it – Malawi was the place we wanted to go.

With our planning,  we set out to make this an adventurous holiday as possible – we would after all be crossing over Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Zambia!

I guess this time round we will still have a HOT holiday, but at least not a dry one.

Let the games begin!

Planning for Malawi was a total new experience for us and held a couple of challenges that we never had to deal with during our previous trips in Africa.

Firstly this would be the longest trip that we have ever undertaken crossing through five countries and doing plus minus 6 000 kilometers.  Our route will take us to Musina in Limpopo on the first day.  From there we will cross the border to Zimbabwe at Beitbridge.  Our route will take us to the famous Zimbabwe Ruins and the Kuimba Shiri Bird Park at Lake Chivero just outside Harare.  From Zimbabwe we will cross through the Nyamapanda border and travel through the Tete Province of Mozambique crossing into Malawi at the Zobwe border post.  Our first day in Malawi will take us to the Liwonde National Park from where we will follow the shores of Lake Malawi to Livingstonia which is situated between the Lake and the Niyika National Park.  Here we will turn around making our way to the Mwami border post where we will cross into Zambia. From here you will see us traveling all the way down to Lusaka on the main (T4) route, and then down to Kariba where will enter Zimbabwe at the Kariba Dam Wall.  Our route through Zimbabwe will include visits to Mana Pools, the Chinhoyi Caves and the Antelope Park before crossing back into South Africa at Beitbridge spending our first night back in South Africa in Musina.  Planning daily distances and booking accommodation is such a way that we are not too long on the road every day and that we have enough time to relax and rest is of utmost importance.

Malawi Route
Malawi Route

Our route from Pretoria, through Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and back

Secondly we have decided not to take our trusty off-road trailer (Donkey) with us for this trip.  Only time will tell whether this was a good or bad decision.  But, as we were so used towing Donkey behind our Land Rover (Shrek) with the trailer tent, a fully equipped kitchen, a water tank and ample packing space, we now had to fit all we need into Shrek.  So for this trip the first requirement was to fit a rooftop tent for Shrek.  After careful consideration of all the options available we decided on a Howling Moon Stargazer.  From experience camping with Donkey a silver sheet for the rooftop tent was a must, so we had one custom made by All Outdoors.  To create extra packing space in Shrek we bought a few plastic crates and a Tentco ammo box cover that can take six ammo boxes.

Silwer Seil

Picture of the silver sheet on the rooftop tent

What to take with us and what not was the next challenge.  Almost all of our previous trips were to remote areas in Botswana, Zimbabwe and the Caprivi for which we had to take all our food, water and fuel with us as there were no facilities close to us.  For this trip we do not have the space to take everything with us due to space and weight considerations as we do not have the luxury of Donkey trailing behind us.  So this involves careful planning.  Luckily our route will take us past ample opportunities to replenish whatever is needed.

Just as important was the planning of our finances for the trip.  Every sent that the Rand weakened over the last couple of weeks has added to the total cost of our trip.  We also had to plan very careful how much cash to take with us and in what currency.  We could only buy USD and Mozambique Meticais locally.  None of the banks or foreign exchange bureaus in South Africa is dealing with Malawian or Zambian Kwacha.  They also warned us not to bring any of these back with us as we would be unable to exchange that back into Rand.  At the end we worked out a budget detailed budget that cater for fuel and border costs, cost of accommodation, the cost of activities that we want to take part in and also allowed for some extra spending money.

We took a satellite phone with us during all our previous trips only for use in case of emergency as we were for days at a time in areas with no cell phone reception.  For this trip we are leaving the satellite phone at home as we will have cell phone reception for most of the time.  We bought a worldsim simcard and phone as well as a data simcard for this trip.  With this option we can make contact with home and family without paying roaming fees.  This work out much cheaper than the satellite phone and will also give us the flexibility to update our blog as we progress on our route.

Final checks will be done this coming weekend and then we are ready for our trip departing from home on Saturday, 12 December 2015 only to be back in January 2016.

Will keep you posted with progress as far as possible.