Planning and preparations for the trip

A trip to Malawi has always been on our bucket list for some time. But reality and commitments had us postpone this year on year. In mid-2016 we started talking about Malawi again and decided now is the time.  We also decided that we would do the trip on our own.  This would give us the freedom to change the itinerary as and when we wanted to without having to take other people into consideration.

Going to 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 into the rest of Africa.  The first thing that we did was to buy a paper map of Malawi and a travel guide.  We explored the internet and read all that we could find about Malawi.

This was the longest trip (5 723kms over 27 days) that we ever undertook that would take us through five countries.

Our route took us through Zimbabwe, Northern Mozambique, Malawi, and Zambia and back through Zimbabwe ending in the Limpopo Province in South Africa (see the map below). Planning daily distances and booking accommodation was done in such a way that we would not be on the road every day for long distances and that we have enough time to explore the areas that we were travelling through.

We also decided not to take our trusty off-road trailer (Donkey) with us for this trip.  We are so used towing Donkey with the trailer tent, a fully equipped kitchen, a water tank and ample packing space – this time we had to fit all we needed into Shrek.

For this trip the first requirement we had was to fit a rooftop tent on Shrek.  After considering all of 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 at All Outdoors Centurion.  For extra packing space in Shrek we bought a few plastic crates and a Tentco ammo box cover that could take six ammo boxes.

For most of our previous trips to remote areas in Botswana, Zimbabwe and the Caprivi, we had to take all our food, water and fuel with us. For this trip we did not have the space to take everything so careful planning was required.  We did however find that there would be ample opportunities to replenish whatever was needed along the route according to Tracks4Africa.

Just as important as the logistic planning was, so was the planning of our finances for the trip.  With every sent that the Rand weakened over the last couple of weeks prior to leaving home, so did the cost of the trip increased.  Furthermore we could only buy US$ and Mozambique Meticais locally.  None of the banks or foreign exchange bureaus in South Africa deals with Malawian or Zambian Kwacha. We had to get these in said countries.

We also decided to leave the satellite phone at home to save costs.  As most of the areas that we would travelling through would have cellphone reception.  We settled on buying a Worldsim simcard and phone, as well as a data simcard for the trip.  With this we would be able to contact home and family without paying any roaming fees.

Final checks were done the weekend of the 5th & 6th of December 2015 and we were ready for our trip. We departed on Saturday, 12th of December 2015 only to return on the 7th of January 2016.

 

Blog page and photo gallery:

Also make sure that you read the regular posts about this trip on our blog page.  That will provide you with even more information about our trip.

Make sure you refer to the Gallary page on our website for photos taken at various locations during the trip.

 

DAY 1 – (12 DECEMBER 2015)(Matoppi Guest House – Musina: South Africa)

We woke up early very excited – this was the first day of our Malawi trip.  We invited our parents for a quick brunch before departing for Musina where we would spend the first night at the Matoppi Guesthouse in Musina.  We decided to stay here to enable us to get to Beitbridge border post early the next morning in an attempt to avoid the suspected congestion at the Border Post.

Distance and time:

Pretoria to Matoppi Guest House in Musina – 471km and 6 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road (N1 North).  Double lane from Pretoria to Polokwane and from there a single lane road but with a double lane every now and then to enable you to pass trucks.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Matoppi Guest house is of a high standard and can be recommended.  As we wanted to leave early the next morning, before breakfast is served, out host offered to prepare breakfast for us to take with and left it in the fridge in our room the previous evening.

R 830.00 for two persons per night.

We booked Matoppi through www.lekkeslaap.co.za and their service was excellent.

 

DAY 2 – (13 DECEMBER 2015)(Great Zimbabwe Ruines – Masvingo: Zimbabwe)

It was still dark when we left Matoppi Guest house, and we arrived at the Beitbridge Border post at daybreak.

Although it was very busy on the South African side of the border, people and cars moved smoothly and quickly through the border.  In less than 15 minutes we were on our way to the Zimbabwean side.

To our disappointment long queues were already forming on the Zimbabwean side of Beitbridge. This was going to be a long and frustrating wait to get through.  Runners offering their assistance to speed up the process quickly gathered around the Landy.  Although I knew that it is not ideal to support them, it looked like this would be the only way to proceed faster through the border.

This was a mistake.  Out of pocket with a lot less money than expected we left the Zimbabwean side of the Beitbridge Border three hours later enroute to Masvingo and the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.

Distance and time:

The Great Zimbabwe Ruins is 309km from the Beitbridge Border post.  However, it took us almost 7 hours due to poor road conditions, heavy traffic, accidents and police blockades.

Road Conditions:

The road between Beitbridge and Masvingo is in a very poor state.  Road shoulders were brittle away and it was full of potholes – probably a result from the hundreds of big trucks transporting heavy loads on this route.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Our initial plan was to camp at the Great Zimbabwean Ruins.  Unfortunately this was not possible as a number of their chalets and campsite ablutions blocks burned down during a fire in November 2015.  The matter was complicated with no water available.

We opted to stay at the Great Zimbabwe Hotel next to the heritage site.  Accommodation for the night at the hotel was US$ 80.00.

The cost for the Guide at the Great Zimbabwe Ruins was US$ 6.00 (US$ 3.00 p.p. and entry fee to the Park was US$ 30.00.

Beitbridge Border Post Costs:

Zimbabwean 3rd Party insurance: R 330.00 (obtained at the Voetspore Megaworld in the Woodlands Mall, Pretoria).

Carbon Tax: US$15.00 (Paid at the Border)

Border toll fee – US$10.00 (Paid at the Border)

Runner – (this is a sensitive issue)

Negatives:

In hindsight we should not have made use of the runner at Beitbridge, it would have taken us the same amount of time, but would have cost us less.

 

DAY 3 – (14 DECEMBER 2015)(Kuimba Shire Bird Sancturary – Harare: Zimbabwe)

At 05:30 we were already waiting at the reception of the Great Zimbabwe Ruins.  We booked a guided tour of the Ruins the previous day before departing for the Kuimba Shiri Bird Park in Harare.  While waiting at reception for the guide to arrive, we heard a loud noise and a big tree came crashing down not too far from us.  We took a vow never to camp under a similar type of tree going forward …

Our guide arrived on time and we did a very informative three hour tour of the ruins and the museum on site.

We left for Harare immediately after.  Enroute to Harare we were fined $30.00 for not switching on our hazard lights at a Police Stop. Annoying, but that is life in Africa.

Distance and time:

343km from the Great Zimbabwe Ruins to Kuimba Shiri at Lake Chevero, Harare.  The trip took us plus minus 6 hours.

Road Conditions:

The road is also in a very poor condition and requires urgent maintenance.  Some sections will have to be totally redone.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Kuimba Shiri has a beautiful grassy campsite with a view over Lake Chevero.  The ablution facilities are not that bad, but very dirty.  Clean ablutions would have made the camping experience perfect.

Park entry fee at Lake Chivero: US$1.00

Gate entry at Kuimba Shiri: US$10.00

Camping cost for the night: US$ 20.00

Positives:

We most definitely recommend Kuimba Shiri as a stopover when touring through Zimbabwe.  It is out of town, quiet and peaceful.

Negatives:

The ablutions for campers seriously needs upgrading and more regular cleaning.

What could we have done differently?

If we had done more research about Kuimba Shiri we might have stayed one day longer to experience Gary (the owner) flying his birds of prey.

 

DAY 4 – (15 DECEMBER 2015)(WBHO Construction Camp – Tete (Moatize): Mozambique)

We departed early morning from Kuimba Shiri.  The next stop would be Tete in Mozambique.  My employer (WBHO) is currently working on a contract in Mozambique and we would sleep over in the construction camp at Moatize.

We crossed the border into Mozambique at the Nyamapanda Border Post.

On the Zimbabwean side of the border “Interpol” officers gave us a hard time because we did not have a police clearance certificate or a Carne de Passage for the Landy.  After lengthy arguments they finally stamped the gate pass and we were on our way.

After we stopped at the Mozambican side, the runner was immediately ready to assist.  We proceeded to the customs office with a firm “no thank you”.

After completion of the passport procedures the runner (who presented himself as a border official – name tag and reflection jacket) was standing ready assist with a temporary import permit and stated the cost would be US$68.00.  I handed him the money and he was back within minutes with the permit.  He then assisted us to proceed through the gates without being searched and handed us the permit outside the border gates.

I noticed that the cost as per the permit was only US$6.00 and asked him where the change is.  He insisted that the cost were a full US$68.00. I demanded a receipt for the balance of US$62.00.  After listening to his lengthy excuses I told him that he has to either produce a receipt or we would backtrack to the customs office to sort out the matter.  He still wanted to argue when Gerida stepped in and yelled at him to give us back our money.  His partner standing behind him said something and with the speed of light he handed us the US$62.00 back and disappeared.

We arrived at the WBHO construction camp without any other incidents and tucked in for the night.  Tomorrow we would cross over into Malawi – excitement was running high.

Distance and time:

It was 273km to the border, and another 155km to the WBHO construction camp.  Total travel time was 5½ hours.

Road Conditions:

The road was in a good condition with road works here and there.

Nyamapanda Border Post Costs

 Mozambique 3rd Party insurance:  R220.00 (Obtained at Voetspore Megaworld in the Woodlands Mall, Pretoria)

Border Toll Fees:  US$ 6.00

Positives:

We got our US$62.00 money back from the runner.

Negatives:

The frustration of having to get rid of the runners at border posts.

 

DAY 5 & 6 – (16 & 17 DECEMBER 2015)(Liwonde National Park – Liwonde: Malawi)

Our alarm went off at 04:30 and we started preparing to pack up and leave for Malawi.  The whole of Moatize was without power and we could not get fuel at any filling station. The alternative was to backtrack about 20km to Tete.

Luckily the construction site had a generator and there was power so we could fill up with diesel.  I decided to fill the jerry cans as well as diesel is cheaper in Mozambique than in Malawi.  After filling we were ready to hit to road.

When we stopped at the Zomba/Mwansa border post between Mozambique and Malawi another runner was immediately next to the vehicle ready to guide us through the process.  We insisted doing everything ourselves.  He was however very determined and literally walked us through the process.  Within minutes all formalities were completed and we were on our way to the Malawian side.  The runner demanded payment for his service though.  We friendly reminded him that we have done everything ourselves and did not make use of he’s services, waved him goodbye and left.

The Malawi border post was a few kilometers further down the road.

At the Malawi border post we once again declined the assistance of the runner and did the whole border process on our own.  It went smoothly and within an hour we had our passports stamped, our TIP (temporary import permit) issued, paid third party insurance paid and sorted and we received our gate pass.

We were in Malawi on our way to our first destination, the Liwonde National Park. The plan was to camp for two nights at the Mvuu Lodge in the Park.

On arrival at the entrance gate to the Park the park official told us that the road to Mvuu was almost impossible to drive on due to seasonal rain, and even if we made it to Mvuu, we might not be able to get out as it was still raining.  She also mentioned that if we continue and get stuck they will charge us US$200.00 for vehicle recovery.  We phoned the lodge and they confirmed that the roads were very wet.

Mvuu Lodge offered to send a boat to pick us up from a parking area on the other side of the Shire River.  This was not an option as it would mean staying at the lodge and not camping.  Transferring our luggage and food would also be a problem as everything was in the Landover and we did not have suitcases etc. with us.

Luckily we did not have a paid booking so we declined the option and decided to seek camping space at the Liwonde Safari Lodge literally only 5km from the Park entrance gate.

The rain gave us a break to pitch camp but then started again.  We spent most of the day sleeping.  The next day we would go on a boat safari on the Shire River that would take us into the Liwonde National Park.

We were ready early the next morning and left camp at 08:00.  Gerida and I were the only people on the boat and we really enjoyed it.  We had never seen such large herds of elephant and hippos.  The guide estimated the one herd of elephant to be plus minus 600.  Between 20 and 30 hippos were out of the water and grazing on the banks. We also saw plenty of crocodiles and water birds.  The boat tour took about 3 hours.

The rest of the day we spent in the camp relaxing.  The next morning we would move onto Palm Beach were we will camp at the banks of the lake for the first time.

Distance and time:

Liwonde Safari Camp is 288km from Moatize in Mozambique.  The trip took us almost 7 hours including the time spent at the border posts.

Road Conditions:

The road from Tete in Mozambique to Liwonde in Malawi is in a good condition.  The dirt road from Liwonde to Liwonde Safari Camp is in a fair condition but might become very muddy in wet conditions.

From Tete to the border with Malawi a few new toll gates were still under construction.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping at Liwonde Safari Camp: US$10.00 per night.

Other Costs:

Boat Safari: US$ 10.00 p.p.

Positives:

Liwonde Safari Lodge has a beautiful campsite and the game viewing on the boat trip was very rewarding.

Negatives:

We could not make it to Mvuu Lodge, but Liwonde Safari Lodge made up for it.

 

DAY 7 – (18 DECEMBER 2015)(Palm Beach – Lake Malawi: Malawi)

Today we would see the lake for the first time.  We got up early morning and started to break up camp.  We wanted to leave for Palm Beach as early as possible.

Enroute to Palm Beach we bought groceries at a superette in Mangochi and also exchanged US$ for Malawian Kwacha. Almost every small village in Malawi has a branch of Stanbic Bank, Barclays Bank and the local Malawi Bank.  Exchanging money is as simple as going to a teller, handing him/her the dollars or other currency you want to exchange with your passport and they give you the equivalent in Kwacha.  No lengthy completion of paperwork required.  All they need is to see your passport.  For US$100.00 I got MK65 000.00.

Very excited we took the turnoff onto a sand track leading to Palm Beach.  The natural beauty of Palm Beach cannot be described in words.  It was stunning and more so as we were the only people camping.  We had the choice of camping just where we wanted too, even on the beach right next to the lake.  We decided to pitch camp under a few palm trees and other shaded trees on the edge of the sandy beach.  We could not have asked for a better camping spot.

It started to rain after we pitched camp and we spent most of the afternoon relaxing in the tent.  We were able to explore the beach late afternoon when the rain stopped.

Distance and time:

Palm Beach is 97km from the Liwonde Safari Lodge and the GPS indicated the traveling time as two hours.  It took us a bit longer because people and animal traffic and taking in as much as possible of the Malawi countryside.

Road Conditions:

The road was generally in a good condition.  Travelling was however slow due to people and animals alongside and on the road.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping cost at Palm Beach: KW6 000.00 for the night.

Other Costs:

We ordered food from their kitchen and the cost was KW3 000.00

Positives:

The scenery at Palm Beach is mind-blowing.  You are allowed to camp on the beach on the edge of the lake.  We opted for camping as close to the beach as possible but under the trees for shade.

Negatives:

The general maintenance of Palm Beach needs attention.  With improved maintenance and up keeping the lodge has the potential to be a state of the art destination.  But saying that, we will definitely revisit.

 

DAG 8 & 9 – (19 & 20 DECEMBER 2015)(Cool Runnings – Senga Bay: Malawi)

It was time to move on to our next stopover- Senga Bay.

The turnoff to Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay is on route to Senga Bay, and we decided to go and have a look. The road from the turn-off was in a terrible state and took us much longer than anticipated.  Cape Maclear is very crowded with small shops and craftsmen selling their products.  Not our type of scenery.  After buying a handcrafted Land Rover we decided to leave and continue further to Senga Bay.

Steps Campsite in Senga Bay, where we planned to stay, was crowded and occupied by noisy locals.  This was not to our liking and we decided to look for something else.  Safari Beach Camp just around the corner from Steps had a campsite available but with no view of the lake.  The guard at the gate referred us to Cool Runnings.  According to him Cool Runnings would be more suited to our requirements – and he was not wrong.

We camped under a tree on luscious grass and from the garden we had a beautiful view of the lake.  There were no locals on the beach in front of Cool Runnings and we swam in the lake for the first time.  We loved the place so much we decided to stay for another day.

Distance and time:

The distance from Palm Beach to Cool Runnings, including the visit to Cape MaClear, was 233km.  It took us just over five hours including the time spent at Cape MaClear.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road except for the bad portion of corrugated gravel road to Cape MaClear.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Cost of accommodation: KW12 400.00 for two nights.

Other Costs:

Electricity for the fridges was KW1 200.00 for two days and we spent KW29 000.00 at the restaurant.

Positives:

Finding Cool Runnings. A well maintained resort and well worth visiting when you are at Lake Malawi.

Negatives:

Steps Campsite was not what we expected, and we will avoid it should we visit Malawi again.

We will also not recommend The Safari Beach Camp just around the corner of Steps.  It has only two campsites with no view of the lake.

 

DAG 10, 11 & 12 – (21 – 23 DECEMBER 2015)(Makuze Beach: Malawi)

Due to the extra day at Cool Runnings we decided not to stay at Mlambe Beach as initially planned, but to press on to Makuzi Beach. Makuzi Beach exceeded all our expectations.  This is how we pictured Lake Malawi.  A white sandy beach with a few rocky outcrops.  The campsite has huge palm trees and green lawns from where you have an open view of the beach.  Once again, we were the only campers.  We spent our days relaxing, snorkeling and swimming in the lake.

The original plan was to stay one night at Makuzi, but we liked it so much that we ended up staying for two days.

Distance and time:

The 288km from Cool Runnings to Makuzi Beach took us plus minus four hours.

Road Conditions:

Roads were in a good condition but traveling is slow because of speed limits and police checkpoints.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Accommodation consists of chalets and campsites.  Camping space is limited to four campsites.

Camping: US$10.00 p.p.p.n.

Positives:

Makuzi beach is situated at a section of the lake that is not easily accessible to the local population.  This results in a deserted beach only used by residents of Makhuzi beach and tourists. This is definitely the ideal place to stay when at Lake Malawi.

Negatives:

The owners should inform guests on arrival what activities are on offer.  They didn’t tell us about boat trips on the lake and to the island, nor the paddle ski’s that you can hire, or where to go snorkeling for tropical fish.

 

DAG 13 & 14 – (24 DECEMBER 2015)(Mushroom Farm – Livingstonia: Malawi)

Our planning included a three day stay at Lukwe Eco Lodge.  We had to reduce this to two days as a result of the extra day we spent at Makuzi Beach.

The drive to Lukwe Lodge was very tiresome.  The tar road up to the turn-off to Livingstonia was in good condition but very mountainous with sharp bends and single lane bridges – resulting in an average speed of less than 60km per hour.  The last 16km from the turn-off is a very narrow gravel road and very steep mountain pass. It took us almost three hours to reach Lukwe Lodge.

Lukwe Lodge was a disappointment.  The campsites at Lukwe Lodge does not resemble that of their website. The reception area was very dirty and looked totally deserted with rubbish strewn all over.  Over and above this, accessibility to the ablutions is very difficult and challenging. You have to climb steep steps, rocks and a steep mountain to access the toilets and showers. Not a pleasant experience in the humid Malawi heat.

We decided to move on and go back to the lake and find a campsite more suited.  On the way down we saw the turn-off to Mushroom Farm advertising campsites.  Gerida noticed it on our way up to Lukwe and we decided to go and have a look.  What a pleasant surprise!  Big level campsites on the edge of the mountain overlooking Lake Malawi. We immediately decided to set up camp for the next two days.

Late afternoon of the 24th of December, I suddenly developed a cold fever and discovered it stemmed from a scratch on my leg that I sustained ten days earlier at Kuimba Shiri in Harare.  It was seriously infected. Gerida cleaned it with disinfectant and ointment and gave me something for fever.

The next morning (25 December) she made contact with the family at home and asked them to get advice on how to treat the leg with the available medicine that she had.  What a way to spend Christmas day.  I was sleeping most of the time and Gerida worrying whether my leg will be ok the next day and whether this was the end of our holiday.

Distance and time:

It is 239km from Makuzi Beach to Lukwe Lodge and back to Mushroom Farm.  The steep mountain pass and gravel road added to travelling time and the whole trip took about six and a half hours.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road, but traveling is slow due to speed limits, single lane bridges, and mountain passes.  The scenery however makes up more than enough for it, especially on those sections where you could see the Lake.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping at Mushroom Farm: US$10.00 per night.

Positives:

Mushroom Farm is a jewel and must be included in your planning when visiting Lake Malawi.

Negatives:

Luke Lodge is not close to what you see on their website, and was very disappointing to say the least.  We will definitely not recommend it for camping.

 

DAY 15 & 16 – (26 & 27 DECEMBER 2015)(Palm Villa Lodge – Kasungu: Malawi)

My leg was feeling much better and I was feeling well enough to break up camp and tackle the road to Kasunga.

The plan was to camp at the Kasunga National Park where we would meet up with people that we had met at Cool Runnings earlier during our trip.

However, the long trip to Kasunga did not do my leg well, and we decided to rather look for accommodation in Kasunga.  We found a reasonable priced lodge, Palm Villa Lodge, which offered us a bed and breakfast room with an on suite bathroom. We booked in for the night.

Later that afternoon we went into town to the local hospital to try and find a doctor to treat my leg.  The hospital however was in such a bad unhygienic state, that we decided to leave and rather let Gerida continue cleaning and treating the leg until we could get to better medical care.

We also stayed an additional night at the lodge to give my leg some more rest before continuing the journey to Chipata in Zambia.

Distance and time:

From Mushroom Farm to Palm Villa Lodge is 373km and it took us almost seven hours.

Road Conditions:

It is a good tar road all the way to Kasangu, excluding the bad 16km mountain pass from Mushroom Farm to the bottom of the mountain where the road joins the tar road.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

A room with a bathroom for two nights: KW32 000.00

Other Costs:

We paid KW1 200.00 to have our washing done.

Positives:

Palm Villa Lodge is a good stopover at Kasangu.

 

DAY 17 & 18 – (28 & 29 DECEMBER 2015)(Mama Rula’s – Chipata: Zambia)

With my leg feeling better after the rest time in Kasungu, we continued our journey to Chipata in Zambia.

The trip was without any events other than the time it took us to get through the Zambian border post.  The border post required from us a “white book” for our vehicle.  I still do not know what a “white book” is, but after speaking to a senior official, they issued the required temporary import permit for the Landy and we could continue on our journey.

We set up camp at Mama Rula’s, just outside Chipata after buying groceries at the Spar in Chipata, filling up with diesel and exchanged some US dollar for Zambian Kwacha.

The next morning we decided to see if we could find a doctor in Chipata.  The manager at Mama Rula’s advised us to go to the St John’s Health Centre in Chipata.  What a pleasant surprise that was.  St John’s was clean and the staff professional and helpful.  The doctor diagnosed my leg with a serious bacterial infection.  He cleaned the wound as best he could and prescribed some medication.  He recommended that I keep myself still in bed with my leg lifted for the day and that I return the next day for re-evaluation.

Back at Mama Rula’s we decided not to pitch camp again but rather opted for a room for the day.

Early the next morning we went back to St John’s and the doctor examined my leg again. The verdict was favourable and we were given the go ahead to proceed to Lusaka.

Distance and time:

Kasangu to Mama Rula’s is 183km which took us just over four and a half hours, border time included.

Road Conditions:

The road from Kasangu to Chipata is a good tar road.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping at Mama Rula’s: ZK90.00 per night for 2 persons Lodging: KW556.00 for 2 persons.

Border Costs:

Border costs entering Zambia at the Mwami Border were as follows:

Dept of Transport (Toll Fees): US$ 20.00

Chipata Municipal Council Fees: KW 40.00

Carbon Tax: KW 150.00

3rd Party Insurance: KW 182.00

Positives:

Mama Rula’s is a well maintained lodge on the outskirts of Chipata.  The lodge is close to town but far enough to exclude the town and associated village noises.

Negatives:

Popular stop-over for overland safari trucks and busses.  Make sure you use the bathrooms before they arrive otherwise you will be left to shower in cold water.

 

DAY 19 – (30 DECEMBER 2015)(Pioneer Camp – Lusaka: Zambia)

With the clean bill of health from the doctor we left for Lusaka.  A long drive but a good road with beautiful scenery.  We arrived late afternoon at Pioneer Camp on the outskirts of Lusaka where we stayed in a safari tent.

My leg was much better and we started to look at options for continuing our planned trip.  As we now were two days behind schedule we decided not to go to Kariba but rather head straight for Mana Pools the next morning.

We informed the family at home about the change in plan.

Distance and time:

Pioneer Camp is 566km from Mama Rula’s in Chipata.  A trip that took us almost eight hours.

Road Conditions:

Generally a very good road.  Sections of the road is under construction with associated speed limits which lengthens the journey.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Pioneer Camp outside of Lusaka was not what we thought it would be.  The campground is seriously neglected, and houses a few scrap cars and LDV’s.  Not a good sight.

We stayed in a safari tent: KW864.00

Other Costs:

We ordered pizza and two soft drinks: KW200.00

 

DAG 20, 21 & 22 – (31 DECEMBER 2015, 1 & 2 January 2016)(Mana Pools: Zimbabwe)

We left Lusaka early morning after buying some groceries at the Pick and Pay and bandages at the pharmacy.

Instead of going through the border post at Kariba we were now heading for the Chirundu Border post, the shortest route to Mana Pools in Zimbabwe.

At Chirundu the border formalities for leaving Zambia and entering Zimbabwe are all done in the same building.

This system could potentially work well if the officials were better trained and more competent.  The exit procedure for Zambia was completed in a few minutes but entering Zimbabwe was another story.  They had issues because we did not have a police clearance certificate from the South African Police, and also had no idea what the difference was between comprehensive vehicle insurance and third party insurance.

After hours of going back and forth, we finally got the required third party insurance and continued with our journey to Mana Pools

At the entrance gate for Mana Pools we were informed that we first needed to go the Parks Board Office 6km further down the main road for an entry permit.

Permit in hand, we could continue the journey to Mana Pools on a very badly corrugated road.  Mana Pools however made up for the bad road.

We had hippo’s grazing next to our tent at night, elephant walking through our campsite night and day playing in the Zambezi.  The most beautiful scenery you could imagine, and hundreds of fireflies lighting up the night.

We camped at Mana Pools for three nights.

Distance and time:

Distance travelled for the day was 285km of which the last 74km was a very bad corrugated gravel road.  The trip took us plus minus seven hours including border time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road till the turn-off to Mana Pools.  From there it is a 74km badly corrugated gravel road.  Deflating the tires to 1.5bar did not help much though.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Campsites are standard and the ablutions are clean.  The only problem was the lack of rubbish removal. Rubbish is dumped in a big pit behind the ablutions where the baboons have a feast while littering the whole area.

Cost for camping at Mana Pools for 3 night:

Conservation Fee and Vehicle entry: US$100.00

Camping Fee: US$345.00

Chirundu Border Fees:

Road access fee: US$10.00

3rd Party Insurance: US$30.00

Positives:

Camping at the edge of the river with the most beautiful sunsets.

Negatives:

The only negative is the heat during summer time.  Extremely hot is an understatement – it does not cool down enough at night to allow for a comfortable sleep.

What could we have done differently?

Not really anything apart from planning the next trip to Mana Pools during the winter months.

 

DAY 23 – (3 JANUARY 2016)(Antelope Park – Gweru: Zimbabwe)

In terms of our original planning we would have spent one day at the Chinhoyi Caves enroute from Mana Pools to Antelope Park.  Our hosts at Kuimbi Shiri Bird Park had advised us not to camp at Chinhoyi as it was unsafe and many campers got robbed according to them. I also had to consider my leg that might have prevented me from walking the caves.  We decided to proceed directly to Antelope Park.

Enroute to Antelope Park we were the victims of police corruption.  We were pulled over by two police officials a few kilometers outside Kadoma alleging that we had passed a bus on a double white line.

They would have to take us back to Kadoma, impound our vehicle and we would have to appear in court the next day.  The alternative would be to pay a fine of US$ 800.  After a long discussions we paid a fine of US$500.

A few kilometers further, at a toll gate, we spoke to another police officer and told her about the incident.  She recommended that we go back to Kadoma and report it to the Head of Police.  This took us about three hours at the police station as we had to show the police exactly where the incident happened. I don’t have high hopes, but just maybe the police will do something about the matter.

We continued with our journey to Antelope Park a few kilometers outside of Gweru.

We only stayed one night at Antelope Park and did not do the Lion and Elephant walks as planned due to my leg injury.

Distance and time:

It took us eight hours to complete the 551km from Mana Pools to Antelope Park.

Road Conditions:

The road is in a good condition apart from the very bad 73km corrugated gravel road to Mana Pools Conservation Area.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Quality of the room that we stayed in is average.

Cost of the room for two people:  US$ 66.00

Other Costs:

Park entry fee:  US$ 20.00 (US$ 10.00 pp.)

Negatives:

We used it as a one night stay over only one as we would not do the Lion or Elephant walks as planned due to my leg injury.

 

DAY 24 – (4 JANUARY 2016)(Magorgor Safari Camp – Musina: South Africa)

Our last day in Zimbabwe.

We decided not stay as long as initially planned at Antelope Park, but to rather leave that for a future visit and head back home to get treatment for the infection in my leg.

We left at daybreak in an attempt to be at the Beitbridge Border Post as early as possible to avoid the New Year crowds.

The trip from Antelope to Beitbridge was uneventful.  Things at the Zimbabwean side of the border went smoothly and we were on our way to the South African side in less than 15 minutes, holding thumbs that it will be the same on the SA side.

The SA side of the Beitbridge border post did not disappoint, is was total chaos as usual.  There were only 2 staff members on duty to assist the hundreds of people crossing the border.  As South African residents we were able to skip the long queue outside the building in the blazing hot sun, but it still took us three hours to complete the border procedure. The attitude of the border officials also did not contribute for a smooth transition.

This was becoming a very long frustrating day.  It was a five hour drive from Antelope Park to the Border, three and a half frustrating hours at the border with another thirty minute drive to Magorgor Safari Lodge.

Distance and time:

It is 414km from Antelope Park to Beitbridge and a further 35km to Magorgor Safari Lodge.  Travelling time was plus minus six hours.

Road Conditions:

The road surface of the A18 from Antelope Park to where it joins the A4 is in a good condition.  It however passes through a number of villages and also mountain passes which slows down progress.  The A4 to Beitbridge is in a very poor state.  Potholes and narrow lanes due to the edges of the road breaking up is in the order of the day.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

R 600.00 for a chalet for 2 persons per night.

Negatives:

My leg that prevented us from having the lion and elephant walks.

The frustrating time at Beitbridge Border Post.

 

DAY 25 – (5 JANUARY 2016)(Pretoria: South Africa)

It was the last day of our trip and we were on our way back to Pretoria with mixed emotions.  Glad to be safely back in South Africa, but sad as it signaled the end of a wonderful holiday in the rest of Africa.

Distance and time:

Magorgor is 460km and five hours travelling time from Pretoria.

Road Conditions:

The N1 South is in a very good condition and made for easy driving.  For the first time in weeks we were able to do 120kph.

Will we do it again?

Yes!! No question about it.  During the trip from Musina to Pretoria we were already discussing the possibility for the next trip and what we would do differently to avoid some of the frustrations experienced during this trip.

 

Cost Summary

Border costs and fees

Road Toll Fees (Zimbabwe)

Fuel (Diesel)

Park Entry Fees

Accommodation

Food

Other expenses

TOTAL COST

R   2 407.98

R      385.72

R 10 282.60

R   3 827.48

R 12 527.16

R   2 523.66

R   1 916.05

R 33 870.65

Our fuel consumption (diesel) worked out on 7.8km per liter or 12.8 liters per 100 kilometer.

 

Greetings

Pieter & Gerida

Landrovingafrica

(Watch this space – the next long distance trip might be to the Katavi National Park in Tanzania)

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