Planning and preparations for the trip

We just could not get Malawi out of our minds since our previous trip – December 2015. It was not long being back home that we made the decision to go back to Malawi in December 2016.

During the previous trip we wanted to see as much as possible of Malawi resulting in one-night stopovers most of the time. This time we want to go back to specific places that we enjoyed and spend more time there.

We are also taking a different route this time avoiding Zimbabwe and Mozambique. The main reason be to avoid Beitbridge and the northern parts of Mozambique due to political unrest and faction fighting, but also for some new experiences enroute.

Our route the coming December will take us through Botswana all the way up to Kazangulu where we will cross the mighty Zambezi river with the fairy into Zambia. This might be the last opportunity to cross with the fairy before the new bridge over the Zambezi is completed.  Another attraction is a swim in Devils Pool at the Victoria water falls.

Malawi trip

Carnet de Passage

We started to explore countries across our (South Africa) borders many years ago. That includes visits to countries such as:

  • Botswana
  • Lesotho
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Swaziland
  • Zimbabwe
  • Zambia

Never ever was a carnet de passage required to cross the borders, until our visit to Zambia in December 2015. We did manage to cross the border with Zambia without the carnet de passage but only after spending long frustrating hours at the border post explaining to the one after the other official that the vehicle is legally ours and showing them our original registration papers, passports and proof of residence.

On our trip now in December 2016 we will be crossing the border into Zambia on our way to Malawi and again on return from Malawi. We have also read on the Overland Forum and on the 4x4 Community Forum of travelers that spend long hours at the Kazangulu Border Post between Botswana and Zimbabwe and had to pay deposits before they were allowed into Zambia without a carnet de passage.

We therefore opted to obtain a carnet de passage from the Automobile Association (AA) for our planned December 2016 trip to avoid delays and paying deposits at border posts with Zambia. You can read more about it on the AA website and get an idea of the costs involve.

Tracks4Africa(T4A) on their webpage has the best description of what a carnet de passage is that I have seen:

“You cannot travel across borders without a passport. A Carnet de Passage en Douane (CPD) can be seen as a ‘passport’ which allows your vehicle to be temporarily imported into a foreign country when you overland.”

We will keep you updated on our website and our Facebook page about our December 2016 travel to Malawi and update you on our border experience making use of the carnet de passage.

It was also decided to leave the satellite phone home as it is quite expensive to use. As most of the areas that we travelled had cellphone reception we bought a WorldSIM simcard and phone as well as a data simcard for this trip.  With this we could contact home and family without paying any roaming fees.

Final checks were done the weekend of 5 & 6 December 2015 and we were ready for our trip departing from home on Saturday, 12 December 2015 only to be back on 7 January 2016.

Day 1 – Pretoria to Itumela (Wednesday – 14/12/2016)

This was the first day of our December summer holiday and our trip to Malawi started early in the day when we packed our last things and said our goodbyes to the family. This trip was aimed at revisiting some of the familiar places we saw in 2015, see some old friends we made during our last visit, as well as to explore new places we last missed out on.

 

The first leg of our trip took us from Pretoria in South Africa to Palapye in Botswana. For the first time ever, we were the only people on both the South African as well as the Botswana border posts. Absolutely amazing to walk in, be helped within minutes, pay what needs to be paid, and walk out again. We spent our first night at Camp Itumela in Palapye – a familiar campsite that we have visited often in the past on trips to Botswana.

Traveling north on the N1 from Pretoria we came across roadworks in between Bela Bela and Modimolle where they were busy resealing the road surface and where traffic was directed into one lane. In the process some of the tar ran off into the lane that the traffic was directed to and there were no other way but to drive through it.

It however needs to be mentioned that setting up camp did not go as smooth as it did in the past. We were in the midst of a rainstorm, and when Pieter pulled the tent open, liters of water came gushing down landing on him and completely soaking him. We had to sit down and laugh at the irony of it all.

It was only when we stopped in Mokopane (Potgietersrus) at the local Wimpy that we realised how much tar had actually spread onto the Landy. The one side of the Land Rover was completely covered in sticky black tar.

We stopped at a local AutoZone Store and bought Holts Tar remover. At Palapye we would try and salvage the damage.

After setting up camp in Palapye – keeping an eye out for the pending rain storm, Pieter tried to get the tar off. The instructions on the can recommended you spray it on, leave it for a few minutes and then wipe it off. Unfortunately, that did not work – it just smeared the tar all over the cleaner parts. Pieter then sprayed it, wiped it immediately, and it worked like magic. Thankful of this, we celebrated our success with a Bavaria Shandi.

With some more rain pending, we decided to make an early night of it and showered. The ablutions at Itumela are not covered – no roofing or ceiling of any kind. All “natural”. We were aware of this as previously this was also the case.

It does seem as if things in Itumela are slowly but surely picking up. Plenty of roadworks in Botswana pay off at Itumela as many of the road workers make this their basecamp where they stay.

We even saw the old dog (no name though) that we did previously. And even she still looked well. Some new-comers are the turkey, the chicken and a new puppy.

Lessons learned:

If you can, leave a day or so before the December break rush starts. The border posts are much friendlier, faster and no pain in the butt.

When you open your rooftop tent while it rains, make sure you steer away from the water as this will come down on you like a ton of bricks. However, … it does make for a good laugh.

Distance and time:

Pretoria to Itumela Campsite – 516 Km and 04:45 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Excellent tar road all the way.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping for two persons was P 180.00 for one night.

Ablutions very basic open roof but clean. Campsite neat and clean.

Martins drift/Stockpoort Border & Costs:

Road Permit – P 40.00

MVI Insurance – P 50.00

National Road Fund – P 50.00

Day 2 – Itumela to Nata Lodge (Thursday – 15/12/2016)

Our morning started early when we heard thunder and wanted to get the tent closed before it started pouring down. We “gently” got reminded of the humidity in Botswana when we were soaking wet after packing up camp. Funny how even this cannot damper your enthusiasm when you know the rest of your holiday still lies ahead.

Our next stopover was Nata Lodge, Botswana.  Although it is possible to drive from Palapye to Kasane (our third stopover) in one day, it is quite a long drive and we also wanted to see if there were any flamingo’s in the pans.

We left early from Itumela to allow enough time to visit the Nata Bird Sanctuary before checking in at Nata Lodge.  However, the receptionist at the Bird Sanctuary advised us that there were no flamingo’s as the pans were dry and water was only now starting to flow in.  She also said that the road to the Bird Hide (where we always stop) was in a very bad condition and that not even Nata Lodge personnel stopped doing trips to the hide as they got stuck a few times.  We decided not to try and get through to the Bird Hide but to proceed to Nata Lodge – we would try and see if the flamingos were in the pans on our way back to Pretoria.

Funny enough, it was raining all the way to Nata. Water was definitely slowly but surely flowing into the pans. At the sides of the main roads, dams of water could be seen everywhere. It is always a relief to see rains – especially because at times Francistown had no water for days. The recent and still ongoing drought affected many parts of the African continent.

Oh, before we forget – if you are planning on driving through Francistown on your way north, work in some extra hours into your trip. Major roadworks and renovations take up A LOT of time. A new bridge is also being built, which in time will alleviate some of the traffic, but for now, it is mostly causing havoc. We spent the better part of almost an hour struggling through morning traffic.

We booked in at Nata Lodge and proceeded to the campsite. As we entered the campsite Pieter noticed a familiar looking overland camper. It was Mark and his wife from Germany whom we have met on our previous trip to Malawi in 2015 at Pioneer Camp in Lusaka, Zambia.  They were on their way to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in South Africa but had to stay over in Botswana until 2017 as they had already used all the days (90) that they were allowed to be in South Africa for 2016.

At first Mark did not recognize Pieter – and after some extensive explaining, I stepped in and said, “I showed your wife on the map of Malawi where the nice places were”. Out of the camper a voice came: “Yes, I remember, you showed me the Tracks4Africa map”. It was Mark’s wife and she still remembered.

We were able to help them with directions and advise as to which camps in the Kgalagadi we thought would be best to visit. They were also curios as to the road conditions and if their camper would be able to get into some of the places. Small world indeed … I cannot help but wonder if going forward, we are again going to meet up at some other place during our travels.

It was a long and tiring day. We ate some leftovers that we bought from home, showered and headed to bed. Again, thunder was to be heard and rain was in the air.

Distance and time:

Itumela Campsite to Nata Lodge – 348 Km and 3:15 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road all the way. Getting through Francistown at peak time however a nightmare due to road works and road closures without proper signage to direct traffic.  Once completed the new roads should make life a lot easier.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping for two persons was P 170.00 for one night.

Campsite neat and clean with only a few campers far apart. Ablution block in excellent condition.

Day 3 – Nata Lodge to Kubu Lodge (Friday – 16/12/2016)

We had to leave early for Kasane as we had booked for a sunset cruise on the Chobe River through Kubu Lodge for late afternoon.  We stayed over at the Kubu Lodge camping site in Kasane.  The lodge is on the banks of the Chobe River.

Traveling to Kasane is always challenging because of the huge amount of trucks using this road as well as traveling through a nature reserve that forms part of the area with plenty of elephants. In 2006 the road was in a terrible condition, but over the years it improved – it was built, rebuilt and again resurfaced many times. Sad to say, but the decay is again visible. Old potholes are resurfacing and in some places it is almost impossible to overtake.

Kasane still looked the same as we remembered it from 2010. Except for the bakery, where we bought delicious Christmas mince pies and freshly baked bread, no longer existed.

The Spar grocery shop also still looked the same. As for the rest, new stalls had emerged where African art and lovely painted materials and handbags can now be bought.

The campsite at Kubu Lodge is further away from the main area with its own swimming pool and ablutions – situated on the banks of the Chobe. We were the only campers and we were allocated stand number 2. We had lovely big trees providing much needed shade. The ablutions are a bit run down, but they were clean. In one of the toilets I came face to face with a very small snake. We both decided to respect each other’s space and parted ways.

The lodge booked the cruise for us and provided transport to and from the jetty where the cruise departed. We were the only people on the boat which made for an unforgettable experience as the guide (by the name of “Brave”) and driver of the boat were able to cater for our specific needs.

We saw a lot of hippo’s, crocodiles and other wildlife. On two occasions we came very close to crocodiles.

Due to the lack of good rains, many of the elephant graze inland and don’t often come onto Sedudu Island. We saw a small heard of elephant in the distance, but too far for the boat to go near them. We hope to do the trip again when we head back home in January 2017. Hopefully by then, the rains have made grass more attractive for them to swim through and graze on the island.

We had one experience that made us jump – while we were very (like in VERY) near a HUGE crocodile (according to Brave almost 40 years old) the canvas on the boat made a cracking sound sending the crocodile straight back into the water splashing mud and water all over us.

A sunset cruise on the Chobe River is a must when you are in this area. You never know what awaits you.

Distance and time:

Nata Lodge to Kubu Lodge – 310 Km and 03:30 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road all the way.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping for two persons was US$ 20.00 for one night.

The campsite is basic but clean. Ablutions functional but in need of some maintenance.

Activities:

Sunset cruise on the Chobe River – P 660.00

Day 4 – Kubu Lodge to Livingstone (Saturday – 17/12/2016)

This was one of the many days that we really looked forward to on the trip. We would cross the Zambezi River with the Kazungula Ferry into Zambia.  We got up early, packed up camp and drove to the border.

At Martins drift border post in Botswana, Pieter spoke to a guy that stays in Zambia and regularly use the ferry. He advised us to be on time as the ferry starts operating at 6:00 and stops at 18:00. “Be there early enough and you will be fine”.

Completing border procedures on the Botswana side were quick and without any hassles and we proceeded to the launching point for the ferry. We were first in the queue.  Due to the increase of traffic at this crossing there are now 3 ferries in operation.  A new bridge is also under construction which will replace the ferries as soon as completed. Evidence of the bridge can be seen and when finished, this will indeed be an impressive bridge to cross.

When the first ferry arrived we had to wait for a truck to disembark and then it was our turn. I had to walk onto the ferry as no passengers are allowed when driving onto the ferry and no persons in the vehicle when the ferry crosses the Zambezi.  Crossing a river with a ferry was a first for us and on the “GoPro” footage we took from the car, you can see us chatting and giggling all the way to the Zambian side. The magnitude and strength of these ferries are beyond comprehension.

On the Zambian side border procedures were chaotic. It started to rain – which made walking in the already mud and water covered surface almost impossible. The Zambian army are fully armed and in uniform, but there is also just so much they can do to control the parking of trucks, passengers and foot traffic. The Carnet de Passages that we bought from the Automobile Association (AA) made life a lot easier.  When we walked in at immigration the official on duty immediately called us to the front of the long queue when he noticed the Carnet in Pieter’s hand and we were helped promptly without any hassle.  From there we had to go to another office for road and carbon tax, and then to another for third party insurance.  It was very difficult finding your way around but all in all it did not take us to long as we anticipated and within an hour, we were on our way.

Our first stop in Zambia was Victoria Falls Waterfront Lodge where we camped for the night. We stopped at the local Spar grocer and got some drinks and also a MTN data card so we could start updating the blog.

Victoria Falls Waterfront Lodge is a mecca for Overlanders and adventure seekers. It is a buzz of activities and young people all around. At first, we thought the camping sites overlook the Zambezi (as per the website), but it takes you to back of the lodge overlooking a pool. Again, NOT like the website indicated. If I had a dollar for every time a website had mislead us on our travels, I would be rich.

Rain was looming, and with all the Overlanders taking over the ablutions, we set up camp, made dinner and showered. Just in time before the rains came pouring down.

Late that evening, during the storm, another South African registered Land Rover Defender pulled into the campsite next to us. Sheltered from the rain in our tent we watched as they set up camp wondering where their travels would be taking them.

We later met the couple, Riaan and Annelien Oberholzer, and their two kids also from Gauteng, South Africa. They were also on their way to Malawi – and we would meet up with them at some of the places that we would also be staying at.

Distance and time:

Kubu Lodge to Vic Falls Waterfront – 76 Km and 01:00 hours travelling time.

The quoted travelling time exclude the time spend at border posts and the fairy crossing as that is dependent on the number of people and vehicles crossing at the time.

Road Conditions:

Except for the first 5 kilometers badly potholed road from the Zambian border a good tar road all the way.

Kazungula Border & Costs:

3rd Party insurance – ZKW 560.00

Carbon Tax – ZKW 150.00

Council Levy – ZKW 60.00

Tool Fees – US$ 20.00 (valid throughout Zambia and for the return trip)

Kazungula Fairy – P 200.00

Positives:

The Carne de Passage has speed up the border process and we did not have to by any import duties for the temporary importing of our vehicle. When the officials behind the counter notice that I had a Carne de Passage at hand, we were called from the cue, our documents stamped and we could move on.

Day 5 – Livingstone to Eureka Camp – Lusaka (Sunday – 18/12/2016)

We got up early and made our way to Lusaka where we camped at Camp Eureka on the outskirts of Lusaka.

This was an uneventful day, but a very long drive for us. The road was in a good condition but with lots of 50kph speed limits. You drive through villages alongside the road that takes up a lot of time – forcing you to go slow. For the first time ever, we also saw signs alongside the road permitting 100km/h as per the 80km/h we had to endure in 2015.

We arrived at a very wet Camp Eureka and set up camp on a site pointed out to us by one of the labourers. The camp manager was not available, but the late afternoon intoxicated worker told us to park wherever we wanted and set up camp. Again, we got the impression that campers are not the main income of Eureka – more the DSTV access at the bar and of course the pool table. We only got to see the manager/owner of the place when we checked out the next morning. Australian guy (and the “Sheila” and “Bruce” name of the ablutions was a dead giveaway. Still not sure if he IS the owner though – he turned out to be the “silent type”.

Later that afternoon (it was already dark) Riaan and he’s family also arrived at Camp Eureka. They opted for renting a chalet for the night instead of setting up camp in the mud. It had also started to rain again. Not a bad decision for as we packed up camp the next day in muddy conditions.

We opted for Eureka as the website had photos of Zebra, Impala and Giraffe walking the grounds. That much is true, but with all the noise the bar and pool area generates, they opt for grazing out of sight.

The ablutions are just plain weird. No doors … True story. The entrances are built in such a way that nobody can “supposedly” see you from the outside. I believe this is not true as the worker responsible for providing the toilet paper asked me the next morning if I would care to place the extra toilet paper in the toilets … this while I was standing bum in the air completely naked.

Distance and time:

Vic Falls Waterfront to Eureka – 469 Km and 05:00 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Tar road all the way in a reasonable condition except for the piece between Mazabuka and Tumpike (where you join the T2) with is in a bad shape.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

The campsite was a mud bath due to the rain which could not be blamed on management. We were allowed to camp on the lawn in the front garden which were a bid dryer.

The reception and entertainment area also serve as a sort of a sports bar for the locals and is very noisy till late night time.

Camping for two persons was ZKW 300.00 for one night.

Day 6 – Eureka Camp to Bridge Camp (Monday – 19/12/2016)

We departed Camp Eureka early morning, our destination Bridge Camp at the Luanga River more or less halfway to Chipata.  Riaan and family were still busy packing as they wanted to push through to Chipata. We said our goodbyes hoping to see them again at Makuzi beach (Malawi) on the 27th of December.

 

After negotiating some serious congested morning traffic and shopping at the East Park Shopping Mall in Lusaka we were on our way to Bridge Camp. The road was in an excellent condition and we arrived at Bridge Camp just after midday.  It was as hot as hell at Bridge Camp. On the way, we did encounter two individuals on bicycles. We wondered how far they were going and if they were traveling for a cause.

Bridge Camp is not a camp that we would recommend for a long stay, but for a stopover between Lusaka and Chipata it is fine. You can get a warm shower and a good night’s rest. The Luanga River on the opposite side of Bridge Camp is almost dried up, but one wonders what the view would be like if the river was full. I would imagine spectacular.

Just as we finished setting up camp, the two bicycle drivers pulled into Bridge Camp and started setting up for the night. I overheard the man speak Afrikaans and later found out him and he’s wife are on their way to Rwanda. They were both from Cape Town and had been on the road for two months already. They are riding for a cause but also as part of a bucket list adventure they always wanted to do.

Unfortunately, we did not get their names or chat to them before they left before daybreak the next day.

Bridge Camp did not disappoint, but again, it is not what the website looks like. But we were thankful for small mercies. We had hot water, working ablutions and some peace and quiet.

We did not even bother making supper – we were just too tired. We showered, got into bed and contemplated a way of sidestepping the heat and humidity … “dreams are good friends”.

Distance and time:

Eureka Camp to Bridge Camp – 250 Km and 3:30 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road (recently rebuild) all the way.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping for two persons was ZKW 200.00 for one night.

The ablution and recreational building at the campsite is in a poor state of neglect. No maintenance has been done for a very long time.

Negatives:

The tar road (D145) that runs between the campsite and the Luangwa river carries quite a lot of traffic mainly trucks and traffic and is noisy. Looking at the brochures of Bridge Camp does not alert you to this.  But it is ok for a one-night stopover I would guess.

Day 7 – Bridge Camp to Mama Rula’s (Tuesday – 20/12/2016)

With road deviations and road works between Bridge Camp and Chipata the trip took us almost two hours longer than anticipated, but we arrived safely at Mama Rula’s, our stopover for the night.

By now we were feeling tired and run down from setting up camp every day. We were still getting used to the heat and humidity and we were nursing some serious mosquito bites. Africa never disappoints with its variety of bug bites – putting I mildly.

Before checking in at Mama Rula’s we went up to the St Johns Clinic in Chipata to visit and hand over a gift as a token of appreciation to the doctor that treated Pieter’s leg in 2015 when it got badly injured in Malawi. The doctor was on night duty, but the sister in charge did not hesitate to phone him and let him know that we were there. Within ten minutes he arrived and immediately recognised us. He asked Pieter about he’s leg, also wanting to know where we were off to now. We bought him a bottle of Old Brown Sherry and a custom made Old Brown Sherry labelled kettle. He was very surprised and at first did not want to take the gift. When we explained that the treatment that he gave Pieter was of such a high standard that the doctors back in the South Africa commended him on that, he took the present and very shyly said thanks.

We then did some shopping at the local pharmacy Pep Stores and Spar … because who does not want to shop when it is about 42degrees outside? “Sigh”.

We also purchased some Steers takeaways for supper … which of course Pieter later on was convinced it was horse meat. I never ate my burger. Enough said.

There is a change of ownership at Mama Rula’s and the campsite and bar is now on its own and the Bed and Breakfast a separate business. A part of the former campground has also been fenced off as that now belongs to the Bed and Breakfast business.

Sadly the deterioration of facilities as Mama Rula’s is clearly visible. We also heard unconfirmed stories of robberies from tents and vehicles at Mama Rula’s. Last time round we did mention that something needs to be done to the ablutions. Dripping pipes, broken toilet seats etc. With all the Overlander trucks that stop at Mama Rula’s, wasting of water is a major concern. When we met up with Riaan and family at Makuzi later on, they also complained about the Overlanders keeping them awake until 2:00am partying at the bar. On our way back, we did anticipate not staying over at this site again.

In the past, we also advised people on this route to make their last-minute grocery purchases at the local Spar, managed by an ex South African. Sadly again, the Spar has deteriorated and caters for a very specific local group. With the new Shoprite that opened at the exit of Chipata, we now recommend you buy your groceries there as it is fresher and there is a wider variety of goods to choose from.

Distance and time:

Bridge Camp to Mama Rula’s – 347 Km and 04:30 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good newly build tar road except for about 60 kilometers of road still under construction with deviations that took you through adjacent villages.

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Camping for two persons was ZKW 180.00 for one night.

The campsite was very muddy after the heavy rains that they experienced. Something we can’t blame them for.  The morning of our arrival they had to pull campers out of the campsite with a tractor and assist them with the tractor to get through the little river close to the campsite.  Luckily the water has submerged by the time we arrived.

Negatives:

The split of the campsite and the B&B into separate businesses with different owners has a negative impact on Mama Rula’s. The campsite was not in the same condition as it was a year ago when we also stayed over there.

Days 8 – 10 – Mama Rula’s to Kasungu National Park (Malawi)(Wednesday to Friday 21 – 23/12/2016)

 

Funny enough how excitement can make you forget about being tired and run down. THIS was the day that we would be crossing over to Malawi.

We packed up camp early and set off to Spar to buy some last-minute goodies.

Again, our Carnet de Passage saved the day. We were called in from the back of the queue at the border and helped super-fast. We received the same quick service at the Malawian side.

The rains had just started in Malawi, and all along the road you could see people working on planting and maintaining the vegetation. This is by far, the most beautiful country Pieter and I have ever visited so far during our travels.

Our stay for the next three days were the Kasungu National Park at Lifupa Conservation Lodge. This would be the first time leaving home that we would be staying over for longer than one day. A break well deserved as we were tired and very run down.

We drove into Kasungu town to exchange dollars for kwachas at the Bureau de Exchange. Unfortunately, it was payday for the local folk, and Pieter had to stand in long queue before he got helped.

When we eventually got underway, the temperature was 43degrees and the humidity very high. We felt like pouring bottles of water down our throats, just for it to evaporate within minutes by sweating it all out.

From the turn off the main road up to the entrance of Kasungu National Park, it is 56km. Gravel road. Corrugated road. Water damaged road. TERRIBLE road.

When we eventually pulled up at the Park entrance, we were surprised that an additional park entrance fee applied. Be booked online and paid in advance. Lucky enough Pieter had kwachas with him, and the MKW 47 000 was paid.

When we drove up to the entrance if Lifupa Lodge (the only lodge that you can stay at in Kasungu National Park), Isaac and his staff awaited us. Little did we know that in a park of 256 000 hectare, we were the only guests they had.

We wanted to stay at Kasungu National Park as this was part of our “pay it forward” initiative that we opted for this time round. Last year at Senga Bay in Malawi at a place called “Cool Runnings”, we met Jess and Daniel – two young people from Australia. Almost at the end of our stay at Cool Runnings, Jess told us about her dad that runs the anti-poaching initiative at Kasungu National Park. She even went as far as to invite us for Christmas lunch – an invite that we greatly accepted. Pieter unfortunately injured he’s leg and we had to make our way back and could not get to Kasungu.

Back in South Africa I felt bad and wanted to contact Jess to explain why we did not pitch. I could only find a lady that at some point did some research with Mike Labuschagne (Jess’s dad) on the internet. I emailed her and she promised to forward it to Mike (which he said he never received).

At Cool Runnings I promised Jess some body butter and shower gel. This time round, I made up a gift bag for her as a peace offering for missing the lunch.

Isaac confirmed that Mike was still working at the lodge. He walked us to reception and proudly showed us he’s “kingdom”. He has been part of Lifupa for many years. He showed us the chalets, the restaurant, entertainment area and deck overlooking the dam where plenty of hippos were lazing around.

After paying our dues, one of the staff members showed us to our camping spot. We camped on the banks of the dam underneath a beautiful shaded tree. I imagine peace and tranquility to pretty much look like this.

Isaac promised to let Mike and Jess know that we were there and that we would like to catch up with them during our visit.

Just before we started setting up camp, one of the anti-poaching men drove up and asked why we wanted to see Mike. Before I could start explaining, he pulled out he’s mobile phone and phoned Mike. I guess Isaac misunderstood us – thinking that we wanted to see Mike to complain.

I chatted to Mike on the phone an explained to him – and he promised that he and he’s daughter (Shannon) will come by later during the day. Jess was back in Australia, but he would gladly collect her gift.

We set up camp and just before dawn Mike and Shannon pulled up and introduced themselves. In life, you get to meet people. Some stay a mere memory, and some make a lasting impression. Mike and Shannon made a lasting impression. The staff at Lifupa lodge talks highly of Mike and the work that he is doing. I think he will forgive me when I say that at first he looks like a biker – tattoos and all. But when he starts talking ALL conceptions disappear and respect shines through. Shannon is a beautiful young lady. She looks like Jess and has the same friendly manner about her. I gave them Jess’s presents, but told Shannon I’m sure Jess would not mind if she uses some of the shower gel.

Mike and Shannon departed, and Pieter and I were left with the most quiet and tranquil peaceful setting ever. We overheard the hippos in the water. The Puku’s grazed in-front of us and we also saw a couple of Kudu’s approaching the water.

We showered and got into bed. It was a long day, long drive and the heat was absolutely killing us.

The next day we woke up to the most beautiful sunrise – mist on the dam and hippos in the water. The best way to start a day! We did some washing and explored the area a bit. At some point in time, Kasungu National Park must have been the hub of activities.

The entertainment area in the camping grounds have a fireplace and well-equipped kitchen and ablutions. Unfortunately, the lodge has not had many visitors in the last couple of years and things are steadily deteriorating at a pace. With Mike there, the poaching has halved and much of the illegal activities have died down. Mike is hoping to have a permanent structure in place where an anti-poaching unit can be run from and financed by the Malawian government.

The following is a few pictures taken at the facilities at the campsite.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing and waiting for our washing to dry. We booked a tour at “Black Rock” for later that afternoon at 16:00. At Black Rock you can view the most amazing sunsets ever.

Pushke was our guide to Black Rock. At 16:00 he came and picked us up with the lodge’s vehicle. A very run down Pajero that has definitely seen better days. But we made it to Black Rock and back with everything intact.

Pieter opted for climbing the huge rock with Pushke – I opted for “guarding” the Pajero. Pieter later confessed it was a steep climb and at places he did see Pushke move away the snakes on some of the overhanging rocks.  Below is a picture of the famous Black Rock and two pictures of the view from the top.

On our third day, Mike and Shannon came around again to say their goodbyes as we would be leaving the next day. Always sad to part ways, but we will be seeing Mike and Shannon again in future. Thanks for making our stay at Kasungu National Park a highlight of our trip. We will spread the word and urge people to come to visit – all worth it.

We stayed up as late as we could to enjoy the abundance of stars … wishing we could capture them on film. Sad to leave …

When you do decide to visit this park, be aware that you are going to encounter various bug bites, including tsetse fly bites (that really hurt and stay that way for some time). Make sure you have enough bug spray for your tent, as well as for yourself. Make sure you have the right ointment – and enough of that as well. We tested over 10 makes of ointments that various people (including doctors) recommended. In the end, Iodine was the only ointment that really helped.

As we were assured at Lifupa, the World Health Organisation regularly tests the tsetse flies in the area – and they are not the carries of “Sleeping sickness”. You can rest assure that you won’t get sick when stung.

Distance and time:

Mama Rula’s to Kasungu – 221 Km and 4:30 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar road till the turnoff to the Kasungu National Park just before the town of Kasungu. From there it is a terrible dirt round almost washed away at places and the worst corrugated road we had ever driven from the park gate to the Lodge.

Chipata Border & Costs:

3rd Party Insurance – MKW 25 000.00

Accommodation (Quality and Cost):

Park entry fee for three days – MKW 47 955.00

Camping for two persons was US$ 60.00 for three nights.

Positives:

We were the only visitors in a 256 000-hectare national park.

Negatives:

The park entry fee is a bit steep for what they offer at this stage.

Days 11 – 14 – Kasungu National Park to Makuzi Beach (Saturday to Tuesday 24 – 27/12/2016)

 We got up very early on Saturday morning to make sure we got some last sunrise pictures for our collection. We set up the “Go Pro” and waited for the sun to rise. We could hear the hippos in the water, but because of dense mist, we could not really see them. At some point we did see our resident pelican come drifting down the dam to annoy the hippos. For the last three days, this pelican had been our comedy central. He drifts up to the hippos, frightens the living daylights out of them, and then very calmly makes he’s way back upstream.

We packed up camp and with a heavy heart went up to the lodge to say our goodbyes.

Isaack and Pushke were awaiting us. They were very concerned and wanted to know if we would return one day. Pushke put he’s order in for a “small camera” as nobody believes him when he says that he saw wildlife during he’s outings. Isaac wanted to know if he could have a small second hand laptop … only if we return … one day. I’m going back to South Africa, and I’m going to do my utmost best to get these guys what they are wishing for …

We got on the road and headed for Kasungu town where Pieter wanted to exchange some dollars. It was the 24th of December … heaven knows what we were thinking. The queue to the bank was already heading out into the streets. There was no way that we would be exchanging money!

The road from Kasungu to Makuzi beach would take us through some scenic routes and beautiful mountain passes. Last time round we saw some locals along the road selling huge mushrooms – and back in South Africa we researched if these were eatable. They were indeed, so this time round, we were determined to buy some.

Not long before we started encountering these mushroom sellers, but Pieter wanted a really big one. After some time, really high up in the mountains, we got to buy one from a local guy. It was huge … really big. We took photos of him holding the mushroom, and some of me holding it as well. The stem of the mushroom was as big as a small child’s arm.

When we eventually got back into the Landy, we only then realised that it had a really bad odor to it … like in REALLY bad. But again, we were determined to cut this up and fry it with onions and make a real Malawi meal of it.

The route also took us through various rubber tree plantations. Last year (2015) we were amazed to see the locals make rubber balls (as big as soccer balls) from these trees and throw them back and forth to show how high they bounce up in the air. And of course, this time round, I wanted one to take home and show the family. So, we stopped. And we negotiated a price. And we bought one as big as a tennis ball.

 

Back in the Landy the foul smell doubled up as the rubber ball had a really bad odor to it as well.

The only really “big” town on our way was Mzuzu – at which we had to stop to stock up on some much-needed groceries. And again, what were we thinking? It was the 24th of December – EVERYONE in town was in Shoprite to get their last stuff for Christmas. Pieter and I stood in line for fresh bread for over half an hour.

When we got back to the Landy, it was already late afternoon and we could not wait to get to Makuzi beach.

We arrived at Makuzi late afternoon and were greeted by Brett (the co-owner). He said that they had been waiting for us and almost gave up on us arriving in time. Lara (he’s wife and other owner) held our specific camping spot for us (as she had promised) and I also got to see the highlight of Makuzi again – Jet the boxer. Of course he did not remember me, but I was delighted and so happy to see that he had grown into a beautiful dog.

We quickly set up camp and Brett came around asking if we wanted to join the rest for the traditional Christmas lunch the next day. We agreed and he handed us the menu. I also got to give Lara all the presents I bought for her and the family – and of course, Jet and Holly (the old Jack Russell) got their cookies and gifts as well. It felt like seeing family again after a long absence …

After setting camp and our neighbors from Blantyre and Cape Town came to introduce themselves as well. Ben (a six-year-old boy) made friends with me, and even came to show me on Christmas day what he got in he’s Christmas sock. Life was good.

Makuzi still did not disappoint. The beach and lake were still one of the best in Malawi.

We went to bed early … our holiday had “officially” started. We were in Malawi at Makuzi.

On Christmas day, we got up at 5:00 to the most beautiful sunset ever. Pieter and I went down to the beach and sat on the rocks and watched in awe as the sun rose. We took plenty of pictures that will for sure get framed when we get home.

We spent most of the morning swimming in the lake where I dived in and “saved” a MKW1000 note that Ben had spotted in one of the deeper areas.

I had bought tanning oil last year 2015 that was Cansa approved, but also water resistant. I sprayed some on Pieter and myself, and off we went. After an hour or so in the water, I began to itch all over – At some point, I wondered if it was something in the water. I kept quiet, but a few minutes later Pieter also complained that he was itching all over.

We made our way back to the beach, and back at the tent, rinsed ourselves to relief the itching – to no avail. It became excruciating and the itching got worse. I grabbed my toiletry bag and headed for the showers – hoping it will give me some relief. Pieter did the same. This did not help much. Only after about 4 hours, the itching subsided and it got better. It was not something in the lake, but more the suntan oil that we had put it on. We got back into the water later that afternoon – still amazes us as to how warm the water is at any time of the day. Christmas lunch was to be served at 14:30.

The menu included:

Basil and tomato soup with fresh baked bread

Chambo and Kampango pickled fish with tartar sauce

Mango sorbet

Turkey, chicken, gammon, pork sausages, turkey stuffing, rice and a huge variety of vegetables.

Lunch was served on the terrace overlooking the lake. Ironically, my Christmas cracker had a piece of paper in it that said, “where is the most favourite place on earth you want to be right now”?

Dessert was mousse and traditional Christmas pudding served with homemade custard.

Our neighbours afterwards went for a swim again, but Pieter and I opted for lounging in front of our tent. Jet joined us at some point, and not long after all three of us were fast asleep.

We woke on our third morning to a sunrise accompanied by some serious looking clouds. In the distance we could see water shoots forming on the lake – something Pieter and I had not seen before. The sun soon made way for rainy clouds and the wind suddenly picked up. We packed up the camera equipment and headed back to the tent – just in time. Within minutes, it started gushing down – almost the equivalent to a mini hurricane. Our neighbours in front of us suffered some serious tent and gazebo damage, and from the inside of our tent on top of the Landy, we could see and feel the wind.

Suddenly we heard a loud bang, and when we looked out, one of our awning tent poles broke collapsing the whole structure. By that stage, the wind had subsided a bit and the rain had stopped. Pieter and I got out of the tent to assess the damage. One side pole had completely broken in two from the water weight on top of the awning as well as the severe wind.

Pieter managed to make a plan and duct taped some of the pole together, and not long after, the awning was standing again. Our neighbours however had more serious damage to deal with. They packed up and headed to a resort that recently opened right next to Makuzi called Sunga Moyo. It is managed by a South African man and he’s German wife. Pieter thinks that Sunga Moyo is going to give Makuzi some serious competition – and I think he might be onto something.

We spent our last day in the lake – getting some serious sun as well as spending some time with Jet. He got into the lake with me twice, and I also got to play with him with the frizzbee that I had bought him. I was seriously dreading the next day where we had to say goodbye to this absolutely gorgeous beast of a mad dog.

Makuzi caters mostly for chalet bookings and sadly enough neglects the campers when it comes to their ablutions. Not much is done to maintain these, and the decay can be seen everywhere. We have seen this all through Malawi – and actually the rest of Africa. Campers are seriously neglected when it comes to ablutions. Although the ablutions at Makuzi are not bad – they are not on par compared to what the chalet ablutions look like. I know that we as campers pay way less than chalet occupants, but again, we also contribute to spreading the word and advising people to visit these places. Surely we have a right to more upgraded ablutions?

We made an early night of our last day, but not before we saw our Defender friends that we met in Livingstone again. They arrived just before nightfall at Makuzi – very tired and worn out. With the mini hurricane that hit us, they saw the aftermath of this on the Mzuzu Makuzi road. It took them much longer to get to Makuzi than anticipated. Riaan and Annalien were going to camp on our spot when we left the next day.

We said goodbye to Makuzi with heavy hearts – and I cried like a baby when I had to say goodbye to Jet. It will be some time before we see him again as we have other adventures planned for the next year that will take us in a different direction.

Brett advised us to rather not stay at Mlambe Lodge which was our next stop over. Apparently things at Mlambe are not what they used to be, and tourists are advised to stay clear. He suggested we stay over at Nhkotakota Pottery Lodge.

PS: we never got around to eating the mushroom. Soonest we arrived at Makuzi, I asked Brett if it was safe to eat the mushroom, where upon he nodded yes, but you must pick them early morning and make sure you fry them straight after. Apparently the maggots take over after a while (and you don’t see them) and they come out in the frying process. We opted throwing the mushroom away … neither Pieter nor I were very interested in finding maggots in our food.

Distance and time:

Kasungu to Makuzi Beach – 377 Km and 5:30 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Last year the road from Mzuzu to Makuzi was already in a bad state, but this year-round it was terrible. Malawi has appointed a contractor to work on the roads, but the rains have made it almost impossible to drive on them. It took us almost 2 hours longer to get to Makuzi than it should have.

Days 15 – 17 – Makuzi Beach  to Nkhotakota Pottery (Wednesday to Friday – 28 – 30/12/2016)

On our way out, we headed back to see what the new development that our neighbours were at was like at Sunga Moyo. Fred and he’s German wife recently bought the lodge and renamed it Sunga Moyo. Where Makuzi mostly caters for lodge facilities, Fred is more into camping. Sunga Moyo has some lovely shaded trees, beautiful ablutions and almost on the beach meters away from the lake. Definitely a stopover when we visit Malawi again.   See the photos taken at Sunga Moyo below.

On our way to Nkhotakota, we stopped at a local “Peoples” grocery. We have never been in one, but we were desperate for some cold drinks. “Peoples” is a dark grocer where you can easily get lost … not your local Pick n Pay.

We first stopped at Nkhotakota Safari Lodge that appeared to be well equipped for campers – and which was also on the banks of the lake. The ablutions however were in a terrible state – and this made us head further to Nhkotakota Pottery Lodge.

Just before the Pottery, we bought a huge pineapple from a local selling them next to the road. It still looked green, but a day later when we cut into it, it was a tropical yellow and it was super sweet.

Nkhotakota Pottery is right next to the Nkhotakota Safari Lodge – but has recently split ownership. Harold Hildemann from Germany is now the owner, and you can see the difference he is trying to make.

The lodge side is in a very good condition, but he is still working on the camping side. This side has various unoccupied dome tents as well as rooftop tents he has situated on a cement platform that formerly formed part of the pottery. The pottery has moved to a smaller location next to the camping site.

But the one thing that amazed us the most about Nkhotakota Pottery was the ablutions for the campers. Access is controlled by keys that are issued to you upon arrival. The washbasins are all made of home painted tiles and the insides of the shower are tiled (painted by the pottery personnel) from the bottom to the top. It is really a sight to see.

We were the only campers in the area and we had a lovely shaded tree that we could set up camp under. The humidity at Nkhotakota Pottery hits you like a ton of bricks and setting up camp took us much longer than anticipated. The view of the lake is breathtaking and very different than what we were used to at Makuzi.

We really spent our first day getting used to the climate change and just lounging around. We had the odd rainstorm but nothing much happened.

We went to bed early as we had an appointment with the pottery to have two coffee mugs painted, glazed and baked the next day.

Apart from the private security company that is constantly around, Nkhotakota makes sure that warm water to the ablutions are ready very early. We woke up every morning to the smoke of the “donkey” being prepared. Also not sure why hot water is needed – the heat made us shower in cold water every day.

On day two I wanted to do some washing, but saw lake sand in the water – and only then realised that water was being pumped from the lake for washing, showering and the ablutions. Not the ideal because basically you never get rid of the sand in your clothes or hair …

We also got to paint our coffee mugs – and we very much realised that we were NOT artists. The manager of the pottery even grinned when he saw our art work. Unfortunately we will only see our end results at a later stage when our mugs will be couriered to us in South Africa. Some glazing and baking problems occurred and our mugs were not ready when we left.

On day two, some local fishermen also came around, and for the first time Pieter and I got to buy fresh fish (Chambo) to take back home. We even ordered some from the restaurant to eat later on. At Cool Runnings in Senga bay last year, we had amazing Chambo that the chef prepared for us – and we were hoping the same would be applicable to the Pottery. When our food arrived later that day, we were very surprised to find the complete fish (eyes and all) were dipped in boiling hot oil and served on a plate. We weren’t used to eating fish served this way, but nevertheless, it was delicious.

At this point in time, Pieter and I were seriously nursing some heavy inflamed tsetse fly, spider and mosquito bites. We were covered and nothing seemed to help. I remember last year-round when Pieter injured he’s leg, the doctor in Chipata prescribed Iodine ointment. I took this from our first aid bag, and for the first time during the whole trip, we got some relief. At this point in time, we had already used up three cans of Peaceful sleep … and we had four cans in reserve. Africa has the most persistent bugs and mosquitos ever.

We also had a swim in the lake – different from Makuzi as here you share the lake with the locals. Harold and he’s team (the security company) try their utmost best to keep the locals at bay, but Malawian law states that the beach and lake is owned by all.

Because of the heat and humidity, we opted to start packing up later that night. Pieter noticed that there were a lot less “lake flies” at the spotlight as the previous two nights. Pieter even took some video footage to show the number of flies at the light. Much to our surprise, most of the flies were gathered in the bathrooms when we went to shower. Annoying and frustrating when you try to shower and millions of lake flies wants to join.

We went to bed early as the next day was a long trip that included a border post as well.

Distance and time:

Makuzi Beach to Mlambe Beach – 165 Km and 02:00 hours travelling time.

Road Condition:

Tar all the way in a fair condition. Excess roads are bad dirt roads.

Day 18 – Nkhotakota Pottery  to Dean’s Hill View Camp (Zambia) (Saturday – 31/12/2016)

We got up early the next morning at Nkhotakota Pottery, packed and headed towards Lilongwe. Pieter wanted to contact an old colleague of he’s, and we also wanted to get through the border post in time before the New Year celebrations started in Chipata.

We knew that Mama Rula’s would be packed with Overland vehicles – and the bar and restaurant are favorite with the locals – all we wanted was a quiet and peaceful “old year” … preferably sleeping into the New Year.

I also desperately wanted a wooden Land Rover Defender for my desk at work. Last year, Pieter bought a very big wooden one at Cape Maclear, and later during our trip, I also wanted one, but we could not find any stalls that made or sold them. Senga bay was about 30km out of our way to Lilongwe, but we knew that we would be able to get some Land Rovers in that vicinity.

The road condition from Nkhotakota Pottery to Senga isn’t in a bad state, but there are fair amounts of trucks on the road that makes it difficult to pass. Some of the single lane bridges take up a lot of time. Seeing that it was the 31st of December, the Malawian army, police and traffic officials were all out on the road and we encountered many road blocks.

In Senga bay I found two small Land Rovers, and Pieter was even lucky enough to buy a grass made Defender lookalike. Very chuffed with our purchases, we headed for Lilongwe.

There are some very scenic mountain passes you go through before you get to Lilongwe – and these were new to us as our 2015 trip did not include Lilongwe.

We tried getting hold of Pieter’s ex colleague, but later found it they spent the day at the lake and left all mobiles at home (clever people). We ended up ordering some take-away sandwiches from the local Spur – which by the way did not have any ribs, chicken or beef (true story). We kept the food until we reached our destination in Chipata, but ended up throwing it in the trash. That’s just the thing about take-away places in the rest of Africa; you never know what you will find.

We got to the border post in time, and really went through the whole process in record time and without any hassles. We were now back in Zambia, and you could feel the excitement of people getting ready for New Year’s celebrations.

We made a pit stop at the local Spar (Shoprite was closed by then) and at the local Pharmacy. We made sure we stocked up on Iodine ointment. We also ordered some pizzas at the local Debonair (pretty difficult to mess up a pizza) and we were off to search for “Dean’s Hill View Lodge” that we located on Tracks4Africa as an alternative to Mama Rula’s.

The road up to Dean’s is a bumpy one, and no specific indications are set out anywhere to indicate that you are on the right path. When we eventually arrived at Dean’s, it took some time before someone noticed us. Pieter got out of the Landy, opened the gate and went in search for some assistance.

“Dean” is no longer in the land of the living (passed away a year or so ago), but a new guy and he’s girlfriend has taken over the place and are slowly but surely getting it back into the pristine camping site it once was. Apparently upon Dean’s passing, the camping site and chalets were left as is for at least a year – with no maintenance.

There is a small bar and restaurant on the property and some campsites overlooking the whole of Chipata.

See the photos below taken at Dean’s Hill View Camp.

Pieter asked the owner if he was expecting any visitor’s or loud music – at which he assured us he is also in for a quiet night. Hmmm …

The noise of the bar and the restaurant kept going until way past midnight where Pieter and I sat like minion’s wide-eyed listening to the bombs and crackers go off. New Year in Chipata sounds like 3rd world war. When we got up the next morning, Chipata was still going, but Dean’s Hill View had quiet down significantly.

Distance and time:

Mlambe Beach to Dean’s Hill View Camp in Chipata (via Senga Beach to pick up a Landy) – 393 Km and 06:30 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Good tar roads all the way.

Border Costs:

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

Dept. of Transport (Toll Fees) – US$ 20.00

Chipata Municipal Council Fees – ZKW 40.00

Carbon Tax – ZKW 150.00

3rd Party Insurance – ZKW 182.00

Day 19 – Dean’s Hill View Camp to Bridge Camp (Sunday – 01/01/2017)

We were tired and irritated. We packed up, stopped at the local Shoprite for fresh bottled water and headed to Bridge Camp where we knew we would get some peace and quiet.

Our journey from Chipata was uneventful and it did not take us that long until we reached Bridge Camp.

The Luangwa River had since had significant rain, and the level of the river had risen since we camped there in the beginning of our journey.

The humidity had also increased significantly – that we realised after Pieter and I set up camp and had to down almost a liter of water each.

We set up camp and pitched our chairs under the thatched deck for the campers. Pieter walked up the hill to pay for our stay. He got to meet the owner who is an ex South African. I was pretty pissed when I heard that he came from South Africa and is allowing the campsites to go unmaintained.

Not long, and the rain started pouring – a good excuse for Pieter and me to get into the tent and catch up on some lost sleep from the previous night.

Four hours later, we woke to the sound of another camper coming in. Ironically, these two campers – Gareth and Stacy from Tanzania were at Makuzi on Christmas day and they sat next to us at the Christmas lunch. Talk about a small world.

We made some sandwiches from the fresh bread we had bought at the Shoprite at Chipata, packed up the rest of our things, showered and went straight back to bed.

It rained throughout the whole night … and at the light of day, the Luanga River was still rising. A sight I will never forget.

Day 20 – Bridge Camp to Eureka Camp, Lusaka (Monday – 02/01/2017)

We got up early as driving to Lusaka was a long stretch – but apart from this, the road conditions and amount of trucks we encountered on our way made for a long trip.

We woke up to a very cloudy and rainy Bridge Camp. It was drizzling when we started to get ready to break up camp. Gareth and Tracy from Tanzania were also getting ready – they were on their way back home as well.

It’s always challenging breaking up camp when it rains – apart from the fact that you get soaked in the process, the tent, awning and everything else gets wet and makes it very difficult to fold up properly. In the end we usually end up with everything getting stuffed into the Landy with the promise of sorting it out when we get to our next destination.

I think we had reached a record setting up and breaking up camp. From the start (and with no rush) to the end, it takes us about 23min. I’m really chuffed with this – just motivates you when you have to set up camp in scorching heat 30 times during your holiday.

The road to Lusaka was uneventful – apart from some rain showers – pit stops for a quick coffee (that we usually make at the side of the road), we stopped at our favorite shopping mall in Lusaka (East Park Mall) to stock up on some much-needed groceries, ointments and data cards.

The Pick ’n Pay in the East Park Mall in Lusaka makes me jealous – not even our biggest Pick n Pay in Pretoria has so much variety to choose from. The only thing that we are never – EVER able to find in Africa grocery stores is Melrose Cheese spread. We usually get directed to the yoghurt section and with a quick “here you go” by the shop assistant – and then we usually go away without any. We also bought some much needed cold drinks and water. I also found the most divine shower gels in Lusaka that I stocked up on (to the dismay of Pieter who rolled he’s eyes asking me WHERE do I think I will find space for these)?

When we stopped at Eureka Camp, we could see evidence of the heavy rains that fell whilst we were in Malawi. The muddy road leading up to the reception was a mess – but the rest of the grazing grounds looked amazing.

This time round, we had a soberer receptionist at Eureka and we were quickly told we could again camp in the same spot we did last time round.

We set up camp – waited for the rain to start … again … and got into the tent for a late afternoon nap.

We woke to the sound of disco music – and a very loud DSTV channel where soccer was being played. And that pretty much summed out the whole night … until midnight Pieter and I could literally hear word for word the soccer score accompanied by cheering, laughter and LOTS of partying.

We have still yet to see the so called “Australian Owner” of the lodge. I have my doubts … But, at least Pieter got to make a new friend with one of the local boys who helped him with the dishes – and in the process losing a teaspoon (that and also the “imported” flip flops from Maun Pep Stores that Pieter bought in 2006 that tore in Malawi – were the only “casualties” of our trip).

Eureka Camp has SUCH potential – but again – as so many of these African lodges – they have potential but rely on their drinking and eating facilities to generate money.

Will we stay at Eureka again? Not sure. Maybe. We were the only campers on the site (which made it very easy at the ablutions), but the lack of grass makes for a mess when it rains. The noise and absolute disrespect for the privacy of campers leaves me doubting if we will camp there again. Pity … soooooo much potential.

When the music and noise died down at about 2:00am, we eventually got some sleep – minutes after the rain started up again.

Day 21 – Eureka Camp to The Bushfront Lodge (Tuesday – 03/01/2017)

Today was going to be a tough day. 470km to Livingstone. Our GPS indicated that this would take us approximately 6 hours. Our GPS does not keep track of donkeys, bicycles and goats though … *Giggle*

We got an early start at Eureka Camp and started our journey to Livingstone. At Bridge Camp, we chatted briefly to Gareth and Tracy who stayed over at Livingstone when they visited the Victoria Falls. We complained about the noisy overcrowded Victoria Waterfront Lodge where we stayed on our way to Malawi. They experienced the same and opted for looking at some other options. They came upon “The Bushfront Lodge” where the camping grounds was situated well away from the chalets, green grass, huge trees, plenty of shade and excellent ablutions. We made a note and decided we would go and have a look at the place when we get to Livingstone.

As with the drive up to Lusaka when we came, we again encountered so many small baby tortoises on the road … slowly making their way from one side of the road to the other. Always in the same direction – all of them. And of course, this is a busy route – one that gets used by SO many trucks. My heart sunk every time I saw one … knowing that it will not make it across. We still don’t know why this occurred. Some of the locals say that moving tortoise is an indication of plenty of rains to come …

On the other hand, this time round, we saw zillions of millipedes crossing the road as well – opposite side as to what the tortoise were doing. Puzzling.

We had rainy conditions on the road – and for some distance the road conditions were terrible. Huge potholes, and in some instances a complete disintegration of tar.

We arrived at Livingstone at 13:00 and immediately went to The Bushfront Lodge. We were wacked – tired. We just wanted to set up camp and chill.

Distance and time:

Eureka Camp to Vic Falls Waterfront – 467 Km and 05:00 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Excellent tar road and a nice scenic drive.

The Bushfront Lodge reception looks like a five-star hotel – and the staff engages you in a five-star manner. Seeing that we did the Chobe sunset cruise on our way to Malawi, we opted for doing the sunset cruise on the Zambezi this time round. We asked the receptionist at The Bushfront if they catered for these cruises and he said all events in Livingstone are outsourced to a local company who managed this. He will book us seats on the sunset cruise and a mini bus will come and pick us up at our camping site at 3:30. Enough time for us to set up camp, freshen up and change. We waited for the bus – still under the impression the “boat” would be like what we had on the Chobe – flat motorboat with basic seating.

At exactly 3:30 a big mini bus, beautifully branded, stopped next to our Landy and picked us up. It was PACKED with others also booked for the sunset cruise. Still … Pieter and I thought nothing of this … The air con and friendly guide was refreshing … still no indication that we were in for a treat.

The drive to the landing where the boats are launched took about 10 minutes of dead silence in the mini bus. Pieter and I were the only Afrikaans speaking couple – the rest were foreigners. Gossiping in Afrikaans in a packed mini bus is SO rewarding!!

We reached our destination and were greeted with typical African hospitality. African song and dance – SO not what we are used to. We stood out from the rest who thought it was very entertaining.

We paid for the cruise at the reception office and then made our way to the boat … which turned out to be “The African Queen”. True story. I kid you not. We were greeted by the cabin staff (and this is where Pieter pulled out the tickets to make 100% sure we were on the right boat). I just giggled … pulled up my trousers and fiddled with my very flimsy t-shirt (feeling SO underdressed). We got to sit on the ground section – in the most amazing comfortable chairs – with our own table, and own waitress. We felt like royalty. The African Queen is the largest boat on the Zambezi – and we were sitting on her deck.

Our waitress came around and showed us the complimentary menu for drinks – and typical, Pieter and I did not flip it round to see the drinks were also accompanied by complimentary finger food. After placing the order for our drinks, Pieter casually (whilst the waitress was standing next to me) asked me if I wanted a packed of peanuts. The waitress must have thought we were idiots – not accustomed to anything posh. Luckily I declined the packed of peanuts – I would have looked like the biggest idiot because minutes after the boats started up the engine, the waiters brought the freshest most tasteful bowl of local sourced peanuts to our table to snack on whist they prepared our finger food.

The sunset cruise on the Zambesi is different from the Chobe – and cannot be compared. The African Queen is big … and oooooh sloop slow. There are more boats on the Zambezi late afternoon than we are used to – having done the Chobe sunset cruise. BUT – the finger food made up for ANYTHING that was different. It was A-Maaaaaazing.

The cruise took us down the Zambezi at a very slow pace – stopping at spotted hippos, some crocodiles and then turning around just as the sun is about to set. Unfortunately it was a cloudy day, otherwise we would have been the proud owners of magnificent sunset Zambezi photos.

Afterwards the mini bus dropped us off right at our camping site, stayed until we switched on the lights and opened our tent before leaving to drop off the rest of the passengers.

Still today Pieter and I joke about the “packet of peanuts”, but gosh, what an experience!

The ablutions at The Bushfront are divided into two parts – each having a men’s and ladies section. The shower is huge and also has two spaces where you can sit and shower. Very clean, very neat and well thought through.

During the night we had NO outside noise whatsoever. We had another camper come in whilst we were on the boat cruise, but apart from them we were the only campers.

However, during the day it is not as quiet and peaceful. Because of all the activities on the Zambesi and the Victoria Waterfalls, the sky is filled with micro-light aircraft, helicopters etc.

Later during the night our watchman came around, introduced himself and informed us he would be watching over us for the night. Still amazes us that we get looked after soonest we exit South Africa and enter the rest of Africa.

After a nice hot shower, we got into bed and discussed the option of not staying over at Kubu Lodge in Botswana, but pushing on to Nata Lodge seeing that we had done the sunset cruise on the Zambezi side. We decided that we would cross the border, fill up with diesel in Kasane and push on for Nata the next day.

Day 21 – Eureka Camp to The Bushfront Lodge (Tuesday – 03/01/2017)

Today was going to be a tough day. 470km to Livingstone. Our GPS indicated that this would take us approximately 6 hours. Our GPS does not keep track of donkeys, bicycles and goats though … *Giggle*

We got an early start at Eureka Camp and started our journey to Livingstone. At Bridge Camp, we chatted briefly to Gareth and Tracy who stayed over at Livingstone when they visited the Victoria Falls. We complained about the noisy overcrowded Victoria Waterfront Lodge where we stayed on our way to Malawi. They experienced the same and opted for looking at some other options. They came upon “The Bushfront Lodge” where the camping grounds was situated well away from the chalets, green grass, huge trees, plenty of shade and excellent ablutions. We made a note and decided we would go and have a look at the place when we get to Livingstone.

As with the drive up to Lusaka when we came, we again encountered so many small baby tortoises on the road … slowly making their way from one side of the road to the other. Always in the same direction – all of them. And of course, this is a busy route – one that gets used by SO many trucks. My heart sunk every time I saw one … knowing that it will not make it across. We still don’t know why this occurred. Some of the locals say that moving tortoise is an indication of plenty of rains to come …

On the other hand, this time round, we saw zillions of millipedes crossing the road as well – opposite side as to what the tortoise were doing. Puzzling.

We had rainy conditions on the road – and for some distance the road conditions were terrible. Huge potholes, and in some instances a complete disintegration of tar.

We arrived at Livingstone at 13:00 and immediately went to The Bushfront Lodge. We were wacked – tired. We just wanted to set up camp and chill.

Distance and time:

Eureka Camp to Vic Falls Waterfront – 467 Km and 05:00 hours travelling time.

Road Conditions:

Excellent tar road and a nice scenic drive.

Day 22 – The Bushfront Lodge to Nata Lodge (Wednesday – 04/01/2017)

Sad to leave Zambia, but also excited to know that we had found a camp site in Livingstone that really delivers. We will be using The Bushfront Lodge again in December 2017 when we plan to visit Banguwelu Wetlands and North Luanda.

Because we were not staying over at Kubu Lodge in Kasane (Botswana) we had to get a move on early – cross over with the ferry and make our way to Nata.

Just before we turned into the road leading up to the border and ferry crossing, a Zambian police officer pulled us over – we were apparently speeding. Pieter asked how much was he speeding and he was informed 55 in a 50 zone. Wow … that’s driving recklessly for you (not).

At this point, we had pretty much used up all our Zambian Kwachas as South Africa does not exchange any Kwachas for Rands. Needless to say, we could not pay the officer and had to drive to the border to exchange dollars. The police officer kept Pieter’s driver’s license as leverage until he returned and paid the fine.

The border crossing was an absolute mess with trucks standing in queues waiting to cross into Botswana via the ferry. As we stopped at the border, we had at least 10 “runners” come up to the Landy wanting to know if we needed cash to pay the police officer. Now here’s my question – how did they know we were fined? From the border you are not able to even see the police officer. And here’s the tricky part – they even knew with how much we were fined (300 Zambian Kwachas). I’m pretty sure the police officer and the runners at the border are working together …

We exchanged the money and left to pay the police officer. In the meantime, he had flagged down another South African couple on their way to the border – but did nothing when a Zambian car sped past – definitely defying the speed limit.

After we paid the fine, I asked the police officer if he knew how come the runners at the border knew about the fine and the amount. He just shrugged he’s shoulders and ignored me as I waited for an answer.

It puts a bit of a damper on your holiday – especially because this was our first Zambian fine ever … but you must wonder if we were really exceeding the speed limit?

We parked the Landy near the entrance gates of the border post – guarded by an armed army officer. With our Carnet de Passage and passports, we entered the post and got our passports stamped. Getting the Carnet de Passage stamped was also done and then we were routed to the office where we had to pay the Councilor fees (which we paid upon entering Zambia in December). After a long discussion – and Pieter walking back to the Landy to get the proof of payment, we were allowed onto the ferry to cross. With us, we had three other vehicles, a small truck and a front-end loader on the ferry. When the front-end loader drove onto the platform, my heart sunk as you could feel the ferry sinking lower into the water. Just absolutely amazes me how much weight these ferries can take.

It took us less than an hour to exit the border and cross over to Botswana with the ferry. The border post on the Botswana side was also efficient and quick and we were on our way quicker than we thought we would be.

On the Botswana side, we had a very enthusiastic border official that wanted to check our vehicle and check for any meats and other foods not allowed into the country. We had six frozen Chambo fish in the fridge – and we desperately wanted for them not to be confiscated as we wanted family back home to taste them. This took some smooth talk on our side (more me than Pieter) where I told the official that we KNOW Botswana (and in the process flicking open my passport and showing him the many pages that have been stamped) and that we also knew that taking meat from north to south was not allowed … and “why do you do this to us” … etc. It worked. He ordered us to take our shoes and dip them in the “foot and mouth disease” control chemicals – and dip our extra shoes we had in the Landy as well. We did this without winking – as long as he kept he’s hands off our Chambo.

We filled up with diesel just outside Kasane – and we could already see that truck traffic were starting to pick up heading towards Nata. Pieter got us some cold drinks and we were on our way.

Seventy kilometers from Nata, there is another “foot and mouth” vet gate where proper inspections are conducted. We initially thought (from previous trips) that the control gate was closer to Pandamatenga – and when we did not see it, we assumed that it was no longer in use. Surprise!!

Again, the Chambo was under siege and again I convinced the official not to look through our content as “we had JUST come through the border post at Kasane, and how many times do you guys NEED to look”. Pieter just had to open the back of the Landy that had the drawers for our clothes – the official was happy – and again we had to do the “dip shoes in chemicals” and we were off to Nata.

Nata had some lovely rains and we were very hopeful that the flamingo’s had in the meantime come into the pans.

We stopped at the newly erected “Choppies” for some fresh bread and drinks – and booked into Nata Lodge. The guide that is responsible for game drives into the Nata Bird Sanctuary was not there, but the receptionist promised to tell him to come to our camping site as we wanted to know if the flamingos had arrived yet.

We set up camp – whilst the humidity tore us down … and then the rain started. Apart from two other campers, we were the only people in the camping site.

We retreated to the tent and had a good afternoon nap. We were woken by the guard looking for us – and telling us that the rains that Botswana recently had were slowly but surely moving into the pans hindering the flamingo’s to properly nest. He also – much to our surprise – told us that the flamingo’s usually only come through during August and September after much of the water in the pans have dried up.

Somewhat disappointed at not seeing the flamingo’s, we made dinner, showered and went to bed. Afterwards we sat and watched the stars and for the first time ever, I saw a bush baby up in the trees above us.

Our trip the next day was only over a 100km’s to Woodlands Stop Over and Lodge on the way to Francistown. With this in mind, Pieter suggested we skip Woodlands and push through and stay over at Itumela in Palapye. I agreed as this would really cut the trip back home shorter and more bearable. Pieter also checked the GPS for an alternative route through Francistown avoiding the chaos of the new bridge and road being built.

After I showered, I met an elderly lady from Zambia – she complained that the showers were built in such a way making it almost impossible to get dressed without getting your clothes wet from water on the floor. She also told me that they had been living (farming) in Zambia for well over 40 years – and that they stay very near Bangweulu (where we plan to go December 2017). I could first hand hear that we were in for a treat and it would be a great trip. They were on their way to South Africa to visit their son.

Back at the tent, Pieter was getting ready for bed – and it started dripping again.

Distance and time:

Bushfront Lodge to Nata Lodge – 382 Km and 5:45 hours travelling time.

Day 23 – Nata Lodge to Pretoria (Thursday – 05/01/2017)

We woke up later than normal and only got onto the road at 10:00.

The road from Nata to Francistown was in a terrible state – and it took much longer than the suggested GPS time. Also … when you drive over the speed limit you get fined – again. This time round, Pieter was apparently speeding 100 in an 80 zone.

Again, we had to pay the fine. In all the years we have been travelling through the rest of Africa, this is the most we have been fined. Pieter is always super cautious not to exceed the speed limit – but I guess there is no way in questioning another country law officials.

The alternative route through Francistown proved to be a road that everyone else uses as well … and when we stopped for diesel we were informed that Francistown is out of petrol and diesel. This has happened to us before – hence our motto of always filling up where you can even if you don’t really need to.

Just outside Francistown there is a newly built petrol station, small shop and ablutions. We stopped and enquired about diesel – which they had. Also made use of their ablutions (for which you must ask the key for) that were in an immaculate condition. First time ever I smiled using a rest room in the rest of Africa.

Now refreshed, Pieter enquired if I was up for pushing on and staying over at Kwanokeng Lodge just before the border post. As it was still early afternoon, I agreed and we were on our way. Both of us knew that the border would be super busy, and judging by the amount of trucks we had on the road, we knew it was going to take long to get through customs the next day. The nearer we could get to the border, the easier it would be to cross over the next day.

We got to the border just before 17:30 and we looked at the huge amount of trucks already lined up in the queue to exit the next day. Right there and then we decided to cross over and drive home. Neither of us wanted to be stuck in long queues the next day. We quickly got some take-away from the local shop at Kwanokeng, filled up the Landy and set out for the border.

Still – at 5:30pm we were in a long queue on the Botswana side, but we were swiftly helped and on our way to the South African side.

Ugh … here, we had to stand in a longer queue (less officials) in the sun and heat (how disappointing can your home country be after such an amazing holiday crossing borders in the rest of Africa). When we eventually got helped, we were stuck in a truck queue wanting to exit the various gates.

We eventually entered the South African side when the sun was already setting. Only then did we inform our family that we were back in the country and on our way home.

Twelve hours later we stopped in front of our house with my mom and dogs waiting. Long and tiring day – but worth it. We plugged in the fridge and freezer, locked the Landy and went to bed. Unpacking would only follow the next day.

Distance and time:

Nata Lodge to Pretoria – 823 Km and 9:30 hours travelling time.

Was it worth it?

Yes – a million times YES!

It was a holiday without major hick-ups. We got to see new places. We got to meet up with old friends. We got to meet people that are doing amazing work like Mike in Kasungu National Park.

I got to see Jet (the Boxer) again – also Brett and Lara at Makuzi Beach in Malawi.

Pieter got to thank the doctor that treated he’s leg in 2015 in Chipata properly.

We got to see Africa again … the continent where both of us are firmly rooted.

We got to spend over 20 days in each other’s company without work, home, dog, and phone or laptop interruptions.

We are already planning our next trip in December 2017. Bangweulu in Zambia has been on my bucket list for the last year – and now with the info that Mike provided us with, we are even more eager to see this amazing place. Pieter also wants to explore northern Luanga and possibly Katavi National Park in Tanzania.

For now, we are grateful that we got back home safely and without major incidents.

For you … still wondering if you want to explore the rest of Africa, here’s what we say:

“Sometimes the best thing that you can do is not think. No wonder. Not Imagine. Not obsess. Just breathe and have faith that everything will work out for the best”

We hope you have a very blessed 2017 and many happy camping adventures!!

Greetings

Pieter & Gerida Booyens

Landrovingafrica

 

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!