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!

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