Kafue National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:20 pm
Aug 292011
 

Having heard that the north of the park was the best place to visit we headed towards McBrides Camp. The road from Fringilla Farm to the north of the park was not the best although they are doing roadworks so maybe in time it will be ok.

Travelling through the north of the park to McBrides we were quite disappointed, there was barely an animal to be seen and a lot of the vegetation was burnt out or at best extremely dry. Reviews rave about McBrides, but again we were disappointed. Yes it is a great bush camp near the river, but you are probably 200m from the river and there is tall grass between it and camp. They have cleared it in front of the dining area but they need to clear it in front of the camp as well. The showers were hot but a little bit of TLC wouldn’t go astray. I also got bitten on my hand by a damn tsetse fly, so maybe that doesn’t help my thoughts of the place. We heard only a few hippos during the night, but a leopard left its scat and footprints not far from our campsite so there are definitely animals about.

Not wanting to give up completely on the park we headed towards the centre of the park and stayed at Mukambi Lodge for 2 nights. This is a great campsite on the river. Each site has its own thatched shelter and a fire pit. There is a communal kitchen, hot showers and a resident hippo. The hippo came through camp one afternoon, drank from one of the taps and then grazed not far from our tent until after dinner. He also comes and sits around the restaurant and reception area regularly.

Mukambi Lodge, Kafue National ParkMukambi Lodge, Kafue National Park

There still was not a lot of game to be seen, but there was a lot more than in the north. We did a night drive and managed to see a really big male leopard about 5 metres from our car which was pretty cool.  We also saw puku, impala, elephant, bushbuck, warthog, defassa waterbuck, hartebeest, crocodile, baboon, vervet monkey, hippo and kudu. I heard a lion during the night so they definitely exist there. I think South Luangwa is a better option than Kafue for both the animals and the landscape although Kafue definitely has less visitors.

Puku, Kafue National ParkKafue National ParkKudu, Kafue National ParkWarthog, Kafue National ParkLeopard, South Luangwa National Park

Lusaka

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:06 pm
Aug 262011
 

At the last minute we decided we would visit Kafue National Park before we ventured back into Zimbabwe. Leaving Croc Valley in South Luangwa we made our way towards Lusaka. Once again we took the scenic route, travelling via Petauke rather than the more popular route through Chipata. It probably took us about the same time, but was a shorter distance and we did not have to deal with trucks, buses and potholes. It was a pleasant drive along a bush track through villages and over dry river beds. We stopped on the way at Luangwa Bridge Camp which is fine for an overnight stop with hot showers and free firewood but it was quite dusty.

From there we headed into Lusaka to stock up on money, fuel and food. We have been spoilt for so long now with cheap, fresh veges from the markets and reasonably priced food that it was a rude shock to venture into the supermarket and see the prices! The veges in the first supermarket we tried were terrible and expensive, as was the meat. We found reasonable products at Shoprite in the end, but the prices still hurt!

Food and money replenished we needed to find a tyre place as we had a very slow leak in one of our tyres. Finding the auto repair and spares street (Freedom Way) we picked out one of the numerous tyre shops and they proceeded to sort our tyre for us. For the total sum of $4 they took the tyre off, eventually found the hole, plugged it and put the tyre back on – definitely not worth the hassle of doing it ourselves (which we could have easily done as we have a repair kit). Our driver side mirror broke when a twig flung back and hit it so next mission was to try and find a place to replace the mirror. There are heaps of glass places there but we could not find one who could cut the mirror to size so we still have a cracked mirror.

Our tasks completed we headed out of town to Fringilla Farm for the night. This is a lovely, huge farm where you can camp for $5 each in a shaded, grassed area surround by the farm. There are hot showers and free wifi internet in reception. The farm has a restaurant, butchery (where we bought some excellent steak), I think a dairy and they make fresh bread, some of which the owner gave us to take with us and was very nice (we must be looking poor these days!) Next stop Kafue.

South Luangwa

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:05 pm
Aug 242011
 

Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkWe continued our scenic drive from Luambe to South Luangwa National Park. We checked out Wildlife Camp but we were not allowed to park the car on the grass which meant we would be camping in the dust and it was full of overland trucks. Next we took a look at Croc Valley Camp and this is where we ended up staying 3 nights. Our campsite was grassed, shady and right on the river’s edge with a great view both up and down the river. From the comfort of our chairs we could watch hippo, the elephants drinking, eating and crossing the river as well as a variety of other wildlife as they came down to drink. (The first 3 photos below were taken from in front of our tent). The camp is an excellent place with a bar, restaurant and pool and frequent visits from the elephants and hippo. Each day we were there the elephants would visit at one time or another, either a male alone or a family group that included a baby. As you can see in the photos below the elephants ate right around our tent, both during the day and night – and at night they kept waking us up! One night they even came into the bar until they were scared away. They look so cute and placid but you have to keep remembering these are wild animals and will trample you in an instant – in fact a woman was killed by an elephant in the rice fields nearby just a few days earlier. Unfortunately some people staying in camp seemed to think they were like pets and walked to within a few metres of them, just asking for trouble.

View from Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkView from Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkView from Croc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkCroc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkCroc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National ParkCroc Valley Camp, South Luangwa National Park

Leopard, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park was quite a nice park although we did not see the same concentration of game as we did further north, but it is definitely worth a visit. One of the highlights was finding a leopard eating a kill in a tree. The other was stumbling upon a lioness who in the morning tried to take on a waterbuck and then in the afternoon chased an impala and then found a buffalo who was weak and stuck in the mud. We sat there for some time watching the lion and buffalo eye each other off. The buffalo ever so slowly struggled out of the mud and once out the lion attempted numerous times to move in. At times they circled each other with the lion just waiting for a moment to attack, which it did once but Leopard, South Luangwa National Parkfailed. After about an hour unfortunately a game vehicle turned up, got on the radio and within minutes there were 10-15 vehicles surrounding the poor animals. The game vehicles harassed the animals, moving around constantly whenever one of the animals moved. In the end the lion half gave up and the buffalo managed to get out of the open and into the bushes. From then on it was impossible to see what was happening as they moved further into the bush. The lion probably won eventually if it had the patience, if not, the buffalo would surely be someone’s meal before long as it definitely was not well.

Lion, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park

Thornicroft Giraffe, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa also has the Thornicroft Giraffe which is a lot smaller than the other giraffes. We did a night drive that was pretty uneventful, although we did see 2 porcupines which we have never seen before, well we have seen a dead one but I don’t think that counts. Our game sightings included:

buffalo zebra puku warthog
hippo elephant kudu crocodile
leopard lion waterbuck Thornicroft giraffe
impala hyena genet vervet monkey
white tailed mongoose baboon bushbuck porcupine

 

Impala, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National ParkPuku, South Luangwa National ParkZebra, South Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National ParkSouth Luangwa National Park

Aug 212011
 

We filled our car with diesel at Kakalantekwe which is the village on the main road at the turn off to Kapishya. The owner of Kapishya gets his fuel here and phoned them to order our fuel so we thought it should be ok even if you do buy it from plastic containers. There are definitely no fuel stations in this northern part of Zambia, so the locals have an “arrangement” with the truck drivers, which we think means the truck drivers’ siphon off part of their fuel to sell to the locals and then the locals sell it on. The diesel was cheaper than the fuel stations and we haven’t had a problem with it. I guess you do what you need to.

North Luangwa National ParkWe entered North Luangwa National Park and took the road down past Buffalo Camp and back up to the pontoon. The road in goes down the escarpment and is a little rough, but was perfectly fine in the dry. There are very few roads through the park so the options are pretty limited. There is not a lot of game to be seen here, but we decided we would take the scenic route down to South Luangwa rather than sticking to the boring tar. We did though manage to see puku for the first time this trip as well as elephant, zebra, hippo, impala, kudu, baboon, warthog, bushbuck, waterbuck, reedbuck, crocodile, buffalo and squirrel.

Pontoon, North Luangwa National ParkTo exit the park you need to cross the Luangwa River via a pontoon. First you need to cross about 150m of sandy river bed. You then arrive at a ramp thing made of small wooden logs. The pontoon is made up of metal drums with some wooden planks on top with folding ramps on either end to allow you to drive on and off. It is hand propelled by pulling on a steel rope suspended across the river. The passengers must get out of the car whilst the car is driven on to it, which wasn’t too bad and then the driver must also get out. You then stand on the planks whilst you cross the river and they did not ask for any payment which was a surprise.

We spent the night at Chifundu Camp right next to the pontoon. It is in a lovely spot, right on the river edge with hippos in the river in front of you. The showers and toilets are quite good and they even heated some water for us and filled the drum that supplied the shower. After dinner we had an elephant come quite close to our car. As the nearest campers were a few hundred metres away I was a little nervous but the elephant just ate and walked through the bushes around us and left us alone. During the night we heard hippos and a leopard numerous times. Early in the morning we could hear a lion to our right, another one across the river and what sounded like several lions to our left all roaring at the same time – very cool. (The other campers saw them and said there were 10 of them).

We then headed for Luambe National Park. First our GPS told us to take the road along the riverfront, but after a few kilometres we were stopped and told this was a hunting area and we needed to go back and take the other road past the airport (read dirt strip). We had been having issues with our GPS for some time and it decided that now was the time that it was going to completely die, right when there are no signs and numerous tracks to follow. Luckily we have a GPS receiver and software to enable us to use it via the laptop, so we pulled that out and I spent the next bit of time trying to remember how to use it. Eventually we sorted it out and headed off in the right direction. The drive is quite scenic, winding through trees, a few animals and numerous dry river crossings. It is not though something I would like to do in the wet, particularly as some of the rivers had quite steep entry or exit points that would not be fun in the mud.

Hippos across from camp, Luambe National ParkThe park is free to transit through but we decided to break the journey and spend the night there. It is a small park with very few roads for game drives, but we did see more puku, impala, waterbuck, elephant, hippo, baboon and squirrels. We spent the night at Luangwa Wilderness Lodge which is also in a lovely spot right on the river edge. Directly in front of us there would have been 200 hippos all making one hell of a noise, making a peaceful night’s sleep impossible. The shower was hot and had plenty of water, a real luxury. The camp cook baked an enormous loaf of bread for us which was lovely.

Unfortunately there are tsetse flies everywhere in this area (although not in the camps) and once again I was bitten, this time several bites on both my feet. I ended up with both feet red, hot, extremely itchy, swollen and painful for a few days – not much fun. If it is any reassurance I was told that someone did their PHD and determined that none of the flies there carry sleeping sickness. Once again Wayne barely got a bite and did not react whatsoever to them. To say I am now paranoid about any fly in the car is an understatement!

To Zambia

 Posted by Elizabeth at 2:18 pm
Aug 192011
 

As we were no longer going to Uganda and Rwanda we needed to get to Zambia and continue on from where we would have been. That meant we had 3 long days of driving and 2 border crossings ahead of us. We left Tiwi Beach and headed for the Kenya/Tanzania border, crossing quickly and without any hassles.

Back in Tanzania the road instantly turned to dirt, the first part of which was OK, getting a bit worse as you got closer to Tanga, taking about 90 minutes from the border to Tanga. From Tanga on it was good tar. We managed to make it to Mikumi and stopped over once again at Tan Swiss knowing we could eat in their restaurant.

From Mikumi we headed for Mbeya. Once again we encountered the Tanzanian police. We were pulled over by a very arrogant officer who advised us we were doing 52km/h in a 50 zone. There was no way – we had just come to a complete stop behind a turning truck and our car will not get to 52 in 150 metres! We told him that the speed on his radar was not from our car (and as if their guns are calibrated well enough to pick you up 2 km over the limit). He then tried to tell Wayne it was an offence to drive in bare feet – yeah right. Wayne just kept telling him he was not paying a fine. Wayne had to get out to go and talk to him and after about 5 minutes the guy told him that if it was not the speed of our car to leave, so of course we did! We spent the night about 20km south of Mbeya at the ICC Mission for about $6. They will let you park on the grass and give you a room key for the shower and toilet.

From Mbeya we headed for the Zambian border. Once again the police were out in force. This time we were doing 67 in a 50 zone. Wayne kept asking where the 50km sign was as there was none. There was one arrogant officer again who just kept telling him he had to pay a fine and another reasonable guy who Wayne spoke to. Eventually Wayne was told that every village is a 50km zone whether there is a sign or not – makes it pretty hard when there are houses almost the entire length of the road to the border. Do we do 50km/h the whole way just in case? As it turned out we didn’t have 20,000 Tsh for the fine anyway as we spent the last of our money on diesel. Once we explained this we were given the option of paying without a receipt, surprise surprise. In the end we gave them 10,000 Tsh as we wanted to get going as we had a long day ahead of us. It is so frustrating though when you see so many unroadworthy vehicles being driven at ridiculous speeds. No one wears a seatbelt, half their lights don’t work, nobody obeys road markings or signs, yet it is more important to raise money by sitting with a radar than it is to make the roads safe. Oh well, this is Africa!

Next was the most confusing border crossing we have encountered yet. Leaving Tanzania was fine, but getting into Zambia was ridiculous. It went something like this:

  • Complete Tanzania departure form and get exit stamp in passport
  • Go to Tanzania customs office, find the guy in his office as there is no one at the counter and get him to complete our carnet.
  • Leave Tanzania and drive to Zambian side.
  • Go to immigration, complete entry form and pay $US50 each for a visa. All straightforward.
  • Now the fun part with the car begins.
  • Go to the exit gate and have the carnet completed but not stamped ((imagine completing it AND stamping it at the same place!)
  • Walk back to the building beside immigration and find the office where the guy will ask you to hand him the stamp (as he is so busy) so he can stamp the carnet. Tear off the slip yourself and hand it back to him.
  • Go to another office beside immigration (all of which are unmarked) and fight your way to the front of the 30 odd truck drivers that are also waiting in there, to be told he is busy counting up yesterday’s money and to come back when he is finished.
  • Go back when he has finished, hand over carnet and be told you need to pay 200,000 Kw for carbon tax and it has to be paid in Zambia Kwatcha which we have none of. 
  • Find a moneychanger and argue about the exchange rate as they try to rip you off (the few other times we have changed money at a border the rate has been more than fair and we have not had to bargain with them). Finally get them to agree to a fair rate and change money.
  • Return with the kwatcha and pay the carbon tax. You will be provided a receipt and your carnet returned.
  • Try and find the office (a shipping container past immigration) in order to pay road tax $US30 (which had to be paid in $US). Once again fight your way to the front of the queue, which is worse than the other queue. You must know which border you are leaving Zambia from as it is recorded on the receipt. Get your receipt.
  • After about 2 hours of running around you finally drive to the exit gate where they will check your receipts and carnet.
  • Finally you are in Zambia!

The first part of the road south is a mixture of good tar where you can do 100km/h but with huge potholes and road edges crumbling away thrown in just to make it interesting. There are heaps of trucks, once again travelling at speed, so it is a road requiring concentration, lots of braking and swerving around holes. Needless to say we saw several truck accidents along the way.

Kapishya Hot SpringsBy mid afternoon we reached Kapishya Hot Springs where we are staying for 2 nights. It is a lovely campsite beside the river as well as having a crystal clear 40C hot spring that has no sulphur in it. We even washed our hair in it this morning. They have excellent, really hot showers, flush loos and heaps of free firewood.

Having made it to Zambia we are now back into our more leisurely mode of travel thank goodness!

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