Be prepared for a long story… sorry 🙂 We will do some more frequent updates from now on!
We are pleasantly surprised by Zambia, with its very friendly people who are always willing to help, stunning nature, very bad roads, chilled police, cheeky monkeys and countless animals. We will take you back to the start of our Zambia adventure, about 2 weeks ago now. The story starts in Botswana.
“Can we have a full tank of Diesel please?” “No problems, but we have no network, so you need to pay cash”. Ahhh, a perfect start of the day! We just got rid of our last Botswana Pula’s because we are about to cross the border, so we don’t have any cash left. Lesson number one of travelling through Africa: carry loads of cash! In saying that, you are lucky if you can get diesel at all, because the most frequently heard line when trying to fill up is: “eeshh, we run out”… So lesson number 2 when travelling through Africa: always try to fill up when you see a petrol station, even if the tank is far from empty.
Topped up and well, we drive towards the Zambian border, which includes a true ferry ride to get to the country. Kilometers before we reach the border we see trucks parked on the side of the road. One long row waiting to cross the ferry, which can only take one truck a time. When we speak to some locals, they tell us some truck drivers have to wait for 5 days to be able to get onto the ferry. 5 days! Remember, this is the main connection between Botswana and Zambia. So, lesson number 3: never be in a hurry in Africa. We are lucky however, because we just fit in front of one truck and can drive straight onto the ferry. No waiting for us this time! Until we get to the Zambian immigration, where we need to get a Visa, pay for carbon tax, pay for road toll, pay for council duty and get the carnet stamped. Not too bad if you can organise this at one desk, but no, we need to line up for 5 different desks, in 5 different buildings. The people are very friendly though, which makes the wait acceptable. After 80 minutes we have everything organised, and we step back into our car to complete the final hour of this trip as we drive towards Livingstone.
Livingstone is the gateway to the Victoria Falls on the Zambian side. We pick a lovely camping along the Zambezi river where we enjoy a sundowner whilst having a skype session with our parents. The peaceful setting however is disturbed very badly when the lodge decides it is time to get rid of the millions of mosquitos which have invaded the place. A staff member wearing a gasmask and a petrol leaf blower walks onto the deck coughing out big clouds of poisonous fumes in a useless attempt to fight the mosquitos. The mosquitos were back in seconds, we had to run for our lives!
Back at the campsite we realise we forgot to organise wood to make a fire, so we ask the security guard where we can get some: “I will organise this for you. Just wait”. As if he was waiting for it, another guy appeared out of nothing and started digging in a big pile of leaves meters from our car. In no time he dug out about half a cubic meter of perfect firewood. Just hide what people need, next to where they need it, and you have a perfect business. We reward him generously. He does good business today.
At 6 o’clock we wake up and make ourselves ready for a big day: rafting on the Zambezi river! So just try to visualise: the vicfalls, the 7th wonder of the world, drop about one million litres of water every second…. That is a lot of water… And all that water needs to go somewhere. It runs through the Zambezi gorge and creates an extremely wild river. Adrenaline levels rise to extreme heights. “Go hard or go home! And keep on smiling!” our instructor Foster yells when we peddle as hard as we can towards the first rapid. A massive wave rolls over the boat and we hold on as tight as we can…. Soaking wet we come back to life and scream it out of excitement. This is amazing! 9 more rapids to go! In a quiet part of the river we take a dip in the water and float for about 10 minutes next to the boat. Once we are all in the water Foster says: “the crocodiles in this part of the river are vegetarian, so you don’t have to worry”… Classic!
The next morning wake up just before sunrise, which we do every day of the trip now, as we can’t get enough of the spectacular colours of the African sun. Waking up early today has another purpose as well, as we will go for a swim in Devils Pool. This is literally living on the edge. Devils Pool is a natural rock pool on the edge of the Victoria Falls. There is about 30 cm of rock between us and the 1.000.000 liters of water tumbling down a mind blowing 108 meters. “Jump, just jump, but don’t swim to the right” our guide tells us. Welllll…. It feels wrong, but once in the pool, it is amazing. Looking down over the edge, seeing the permanent rainbow is just an unforgettable experience!
Side note: this time of the year the water levels are low, so we can do the rafting and the Devils Pool. In the rainy season the levels can rise with up to 3 meters, which makes most of this impossible.
Before we leave Livingstone, we try to have our fridge fixed which broke down a few days earlier. “Mr Krijn, give me 20 more minutes. It will be fixed”. Unfortunately, it takes a bit longer than 20 minutes and it is impossible to fix, which leaves us with no other option than chilling our products with ice. After a few small repairs to the car we are back on the road again. Kafue National Park is today’s destination.
The first 2 hours of the trip are perfect, following the tarred highway. From the moment we turn off towards the park, the average speed limit drops to 20km/h. The road leads us through local villages and straight through a busy market. This is a very colourful affair, with the market selling plastic buckets in all colours of the rainbow. We see these buckets all over the villages, which are being filled up with water at the water pumps and carried by the women on their heads.
We can’t drive too slow however, since we have to reach the gate of the national park before it closes at sunset. The moment we arrive at the gate the sun is setting already, so we are not allowed to enter the park. There is no other option than camping next to the gate, and to enter first thing next morning. Once we have set up camp, the night guard of the park comes to introduce himself. “Hello, my name is Propser, and I will look after you tonight”. The fact that he carries an AK47 makes us a bit nervous, so we decide to stay nice and invite him for dinner. As long as he doesn’t use his riffle against us we will be fine tonight! He turns out to be the loveliest guy, and it becomes a night full of interesting stories about the Zambian culture, people and politics. Lession number 4: when you accept the way things go, it can turn into something beautiful. Propser is 27 years old, and worked as a child to pay for his own high school. His father has 3 wives, and he has 14 brothers and sisters. He now has a job, and thinks it is awkward for a man to have more than 1 wife and so many children. He hopes to find a wife who is as knowledgeable as he is. This is difficult because of tribal believes that education is not a priority in life. Prosper however believes “education is life” and tries to encourage people to think in the same way. What a great mind!
Kafue National Park turns out to be a little jewel. With almost no touristic footprint in the Southern section of the park, we are the only tourists. We check the log book and the last car has entered 2 days ago. For that reason we are the only guests at Nanzhila Plains safari camp, and set up camp overlooking the swamp flogged by antelopes. We go for a short game drive and fall into a deep sleep listening to the sounds of nature.
After buying a cookbook with local Zambian dishes, we drive through the park towards Hippo Bay, where we set up camp on the edge of the dry banks of the lake. Large herds of elephants come and go and one even mock charges us when we come too close. Always a freighting situation. A local tells us a bit later to just roll a motorcycle tyre towards the elephant when he attacks. As if we always carry one around… We have a shower under the stars and play a game of rummikub next to the fire. A perfect night.
Before the sun rises we roll out our yoga mats and perform some sun salutation to greet the sun for another day. Today we drive towards Lake Kariba, and have to cross a river on a typical African pontoon ferry. Before we even reach the ferry, our roofrack snaps because of the terrible condition of the gravel roads. This road is not a road with potholes, but a pothole with pieces of road. Duct tape saves our day and we manage to continue our journey.
During the trip we see many very interesting examples of Zambian life: a truck carrying bunches of fresh fish on the outside mirror to let them dry as a way of preservation, business meetings are held under trees whilst wearing suits, a group of men sitting around doing nothing next to a building with the text: “The Don’t Rush Club”, a local wedding with the bridesmaids hanging out of a car screaming and shouting, a tornado that rushes through a village and lifts up a bathtub, cows and goats everywhere and last but not least, a small little market where we buy local ingredients to make some recipes from our new cookbook.
When we arrive in Lusaka the next day to have our roof rack fixed in a welding yard, another Land Rover Defender drives in. A former South African guy named Henny steps out, and we chat about our trip and the Land Rover. We tell him where we go and he wishes us a great Journey. A few hours later we hang around in another garage waiting to get the Tie Rods of the car fixed, when the owner of the garage walks up to us with the message that there is a phone call for us… “a phone call for us??? Why, who???” “Hi Krijn, it’s Henny here. We met at the welding yard earlier today. I was thinking about our chat and realised that you guys will never ever be able to reach your destination today. Why don’t you stay at my place tonight?”. “How did you manage to find us here? Krijn asks… “well, I knew you had to fix your car, so I decided to phone around some garages”. If someone goes those lengths to find us, there must be a valid reason for it, so we decide to take him up on the offer. Who knows where this will lead to….
Problem: we can’t remember how to get to his place. He told us he runs an organic farm close to the airport, but we can’t remember the directions. With a few more dirt roads leading though the bush, we are officially lost. We decide to ask some people along the road with no success until we ask an older local lady. “We are looking for an organic farm run by a guy called Henny, with long blond hair”.
“Yes, I know him, he lives on my farm. Henny from Cape Town!” With produce on her head and back, she hops into our car and leads us in the right direction. Once at the farm we find a lovely little farmhouse and a beautiful organic garden built from scratch by Henny and his wife Sally. We have a delicious meal with freshly picked produce from the garden, which we pick whilst the first rain of the rainy season comes down. We get to know these inspiring people better and learn even more about the interesting country that Zambia is. Sally & Henny, if you read this, thanks again for your fabulous hospitality!
After two days in the big city of Lusaka, we feel like camping in nature again, and drive through the mountains towards the Lower Zambezi region. This mountain road is serious 4×4 driving, with many obstacles and stunning views. We make coffee along the way overlooking the valley when we hear cow bells approaching. A herd of cows walks towards us when the sheppard loses control over the group. They walk straight through our little coffee break set up, as the grass behind us looks as a nice afternoon tea to them! They bump into the car and we almost loose the back door.
We survived the bumpy road and cow invasion and end up at Mvuu lodge, overlooking the Zambezi River. We have a superb camp spot with private bathroom under the stars and a fireplace along the water. When we return to our campsite the fire is lit and our dishes are done… this is not camping but glamping, luxurious!
We wake up in the middle of the night because of a sound around our tent. When we open the zipper we see a huge hippo standing right in front of us. He calmly “mows” the grass around our car. We ensure you: a hippo is massive when you see him so close and out of the water!
The next day we enjoy some time in this beautiful national park, enclosed in between a mountain range and the Zambezi river. The river provides some amazing game viewing. Back at our campsite we hold a big spring clean of our car, taking out kilos of dust. You know you drive a Land Rover when you have to clean it…
We head our way towards South Luangwa National park with 2 days driving ahead of us (Zambia is massive!). Another challenging road takes us to Bridgecamp, where we cool down in the pool overlooking Mozambique on the other side of the dry river. We leave the next morning at 6am and are stopped by the police only minutes later. As we wind down our window the Policeman says: “what’s for breakfast?” The police in Zambia is very friendly and polite. Despite being stopped multiple times a day, we never have any bad experiences with them. We give the officers a few sandwiches with Nutella which makes them very happy. We are allowed to carry on.
Once we reach South Luangwa we realise this is a very special place. The nature has changed along the way, from dry land into more tropical vegetation. We have another amazing campsite, overlooking the half dry river, whilst the elephants and many other animals come down to drink. We watch the beautiful sunset whilst braaing some Boerewors and having Gin Tonics to fight the mosquitos.
At 1 o’clock at night we both wake up and sit straight up in bed. “What was that?”, “no idea”. The moment our eyes are used to the dark, we look straight into the eyes of an elephant. He apparently didn’t quite see our car, as the next morning we find the spotlights on the front of the car completely twisted.
The park is one of the highlights of our trip so far. We spot a wounded leopard, a group of about 20 crocodiles eating a dead hippo, a huge herd of buffalo and many other beautiful animals and landscapes. The park also boasts countless hippos. Every time we see a hippo, we sing out loud a Dutch song by Harry Jekkers: “Leve het nijlpaard verschrikkelijk dier. Hij ligt hier al Jaren, in de rivier…. Je hoort hem nooit klagen, het nijlpaard heeft stijl… hij ligt alle dagen, met zijn kont in de Nijl, wha wha wha wha,…” Especially the wha wha wha can be heard on the other side of the park J
Well, that’s it, Zambia is coming to an end. Today we will head into Malawi. Another unknown country we have heard great stories about. We can’t wait to continue this trip and tell you all about it!