Southern Mozambique

Day 70 – Vilanculos, Monday 6th August – 0kms

I woke up at 6. After all, as night falls soon after 5:30 and we could not wander in the village at night, there was not much to do. Our camp was dead, the small bar was closed as there was no staff to be seen anywhere, with no WiFi or anything else to do, we read a bit and slept early.

It is not wise (for tourists) to walk around after dark, we were told by the manageress at the Baobab.

I read a bit ( I am quite hooked by the Shetlands series and reading my way through the whole 7 books from Anne Cleeves) and by 7am we had a look around to check if there would be some breakfast. All was quiet, no staff around, so we walked, once again via the beach, to the Baobab beach camp. There were people having breakfast, there was a long menu to choose from, free coffee on offer… Paradise! I took an omelette with bacon. It was huge! I could not finish!

We used their WiFi for some planning and finding a place to stay in our next destination. We had decided to leave the following day, as our camp was ghastly with really unfriendly staff who treated us like we were an inconvenience to them. But as all seemed to be so fully booked everywhere, we decided to secure a place before getting to Tofo. All accommodation there was fairly full too but we booked a more expensive than usual, to us, place.

After that we went for a walk into town. We went back to the Baobab to have a drink and early dinner before dark. We shared a very hot pizza. As we were finishing, a family sitting not far from us offered us some grilled fish. They had been off fishing and caught a 1.5 m fish weighting a good 38kgs. They could not eat it all! It was delicious!

After that, completely stuffed, we went back to our miserable camp, before dark, for another early night. This time, with power cuts, it was really not much else to do.

Day 71 – Tofo – Lobster Chalets – Tuesday 7th of August, 320kms

We woke up at 6 am and started packing. The weather was very foggy but we were ready to go before 8. We stopped for fuel, at a bank to get cash. The fog slowly lifted as we travelled south.

It was very hot and we stopped few times for fuel and to drink. The road was in good condition so we made good progress. The many police check points did not pay us any attention. We arrived at Tofo by early afternoon. Tofo is popular with South Africans for surfing and diving so tends to e very busy.

Finding the guesthouse was another problem. The sandy and very damaged track that the GPS wanted to take through was really too damaged for us. Eventually, after a bit of search and faff around, we arrived at the Lobster Chalets. Our chalet was great, big, clean, with a terrace which contained a small kitchen sink and fridge. It was very luxurious.

The bar restaurant was on a roof terrace with nice view over the ocean. The WiFi worked, the bar was a Honesty bar and we were close enough from town to get supplies. Amazing place.

Day 72 and 73 – Tofo, Lobster chalets – weds. 8th and Thursday 9th August, 0kms

From the restaurant, every morning ( eating a huge breakfast!) around 7:30 am, we could see whales playing in the ocean. It was amusing to see, an hour later, when they were gone, the Zodiac boats, full of tourists, going all over trying to look for the whales! We just had to sit early morning to check them out!

We explored the little town and had a couple of excellent lunches at a little shack.

We also found a bar, on Thursday, that served Caipirinhas! A real taste of Brazil! I hope to be able to buy the sugar cane liquor used for this drink, somewhere in South Africa, before we get back home!

Day 74 – near Chidenguele, Sunset Beach Lodge, Friday 8th August, 240kms

Day 75 – same location Saturday 9th August

Most places I investigated online seemed still fully booked for our dates. I found the sunset beach lodge online. They had small self catering chalets and camping ground.

So we left Tofo after a huge breakfast and rode through few miles of sandy trails, picked up the tarmac and then the main road, the EN1.

We arrived at the turn off from Chidengueme early afternoon. Then it was 6 kms of sandy track to the lodge.

Why is it that everywhere we go, we always end up riding few miles of sand to get to camp? I hate sand! Riding sand is hard! This one was usual with sections of deep fluffy sand that sent my front wheel all loose. I managed to keep control and made it to the lodge. The day was incredibly hot and by the time I wrestled my bike through the sand I was drenched!

The camping area was just deep sand. The chalets were 2600 Meticals a night, so we took the comfortable option! We are turning soft in old age!

The place looked deserted but as we took the path down the beach we came across a group of South Africans fishing.

Back at the lodge, a family with 2 kids were lounging by the pool and then having dinner. By dinner time, half an hour after we ordered dinner, a large group of Italians ( 10 or 12 of then ) turned up. I knew what would happen. Those organised tours usually pre order their food. While the cook prepared their food, we waited. 2 hours after our order went off, we finally had our dish, after the Italians got theirs.

A very long wait for a very disappointed dish or bland undercooked ( even some raw) chicken and bad rice. I did complain with my (non existent !) diplomatic skills! Not that the staff gave a crap about it. But I like to complain! I am French, I am good at that!

The next morning, as Alistair was not feeling too well, and our confidence on the Lodge’s cook skills was at an all time low, we decided to self cater. We had some left over bread from Tofo and some peanut butter. So that was breakfast with coffee.

Then Alistair took my bike and rode to the village. From the various little shops, he came back with some onions, a green pepper, a can of tuna, a can of beans and a can of chopped tomatoes. And some spicy powder. With all that I cooked a nice and full of flavours dish for lunch and dinner. The onions and peppers are incredibly sweet and full of taste, in this region.

I tried to do some planning, but without WiFi, it was difficult. As it was a big bank holiday in South Africa, we suspected that the border point would be very busy and with long queues on Sunday. I had booked a hotel in Nelspruit, South Africa, for Monday night, and we also had ordered tyres from a motorcycle shop, over there. The town is only 100kms from the border. We though it would be better to cross early Monday morning and avoid long queues. The best laid plan…..

Day 76 – Komatipoort ( South Africa) , Kruger View backpackers, Sunday 12th August, 370kms

We left the lodge early, at 8am, as we had a long way. As we made good progress, we decided, on the way, to just get to the border. The ride was not fast as it was busy with trucks hard to overtake. The road had only 2 lanes and constant incoming traffic. Despite this, we got around lunch time near Maputo, the capital city. We caught the ring road to get to the road going west to South Africa.

The road was not fully built. As one lane was cut, some young lads tried to stop us,saying there was a diversion. Alistair, being as usual very British and polite, stopped. As I saw trucks and car continuing, and being French and rude and grumpy, I waived the kids out of my way and continued. Whatever scam they ran I would be no part of it. An expensive looking saloon car went past and made us sign to follow it. As the road ended, we follow the car through sanding tracks, with the rest of the traffic. Eventually, we got on the right road, with nice tarmac. The driver signalled which way we should go. We thanked him by waving and got on our way. So we did not part with one single Metical! humbug!

Soon before the border, we stopped at a fuel station to use our last Meticals. Then we went to the border. Immediately, as we entered the compound, we were surrounded by a crowd of men who ran along or bikes and surrounded us as we parked the bikes. As you may suspect, with my sunny and charming temperament, i was a already shouting at them !

One guy, with a badge and a hat that looked kind of official, demanded our passports and that I stay with the bikes while Alistair had to follow him. I shouted at the crowd to disperse and leave us alone, in my most diplomatic style. The official looking guy took our passports and took Alistair to customs.

Alistair snatched the passports back and asked the customs official if he knew who the guy looking kind of official, was. The custom official shrugged, not knowing. Alistair stormed off and came back to the bikes with our passports. All scammers gone. We walked to immigration and had our passports stamped quickly, then went to custom. The custom guy did not know what to do with the Carnets but was happy to follow our instructions and stamp and sign them.

So we then rode to the South African border. Things were a little less hectic. We got our passports stamped in. I made clear we had our plane for the 19th of September, so needed 2 months visa. You see, after one spell in SA, they only give back a transit visa these days. It seems to be the latest policy to avoid people living in SA and doing the border cross to renew their visa every 3 months! So the policy now is, if you already had a 3 months visa, to only give you 7 days. We got 3 months without any problem. I worry too much sometimes.

Then we went to custom. They are not used to Carnets. This is when we spotted that Alistair Carnet had not been stamped correctly and in the right form, when exiting Mozambique. I usually check everything is correct with the Carnets. This is very important as we could be liable to massive import tax for our bikes, if our documents are not properly showing that the motorbikes left each country we visited. But this time I did not check Alistair’s carnet! So while I got my carnet filled for entry to south Africa, Alistair went back to the Mozambique side to correct the error. He had it done without any difficulty.

We were then stopped at the border zone exit for a quick search of or panniers and a chat with the bored customs guys.

We had , on the way, decided to stay the night at Komatipoort, the border town. It skirts Kruger National Park and had plenty of accommodation. I had spotted a backpacker place few days before, when we had WiFi. So we rode there. As usual, the GPS took us via the scenic gravel roads rather than the most direct tarmac road. This time I did not begrudge it, as it took us through a beautiful road and across a stunning little lake.

So, back in South Africa! We still have 5 weeks left to explore and there is plenty of that here! Can’t wait! But first, new tyres and some bike maintenance in the next town!

That’s all for now folks!

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Central Mozambique

Day 65 – Quelimane, Mozambique, Wednesday 1st August – 400kms

We woke up at 6am and left the Mulanje backpackers place soon before 8. We stopped at the petrol station to buy some more fuel, as well as get enough water and snacks for the day. We knew it would be a long day.

Then we rode to the border. We got there at 9am. Exiting Malawi was simple enough. We were also sent to the health centre, where they checked our yellow fever certificate. Strange that they checked it at exit but not when we came in! Mine was done on 2004 and I was told, back in the UK, that it was valid for 20 years or for life, can’t remember! The health worker at the Malawi border told me he did not care but that I could have problems on entry to Mozambique as it should be less than 10years! With that in mind, and the added stress, we left Malawi.

After changing our remaining Malawi Kwachas into Mozambique Meticals, ( about 12 dollars equivalent) without much hassle at all, we rode to the Mozambique border post. At the consulate, they told us that the visa was $75 at the border or 115$ at the consulate. But immigration at the border asked us for $50 only. First for 2 months but then for 30 days only! It took a good 2 hours to get all done.

It was not busy at all at the border, just many officers sitting around not doing much. While we waited for our passports to be processed, I spent a while, explaining in Portuguese to the custom officer, how to fill and stamps our Carnets! They obviously don’t see many of those! That done, we sat and ate some peanuts and stare back at the locals crossing through. No way to rush anything!

Then, an officer took Alistair into a small dark room, alone! For a long time! I got worried he was given the fearsome American style full body intimate search (latex gloves and all!) but they were just trying to work out how to take his finger prints and photo! It was faster with me! Then we went to a small office outside the main building, where a nice young lady was the health care officer. She took details of Alistair’s yellow fever vaccine batch number, by then I was rather nervous! She took a look at mine, wrote some numbers in a big book and asked us if she could take our temperature, as she mentioned something about Ebola! Apparently there was Ebola in DRC, but we went not near it. We both were judged fit and healthy enough to be allowed into Mozambique. Then it was time to buy insurance for our bikes. We were quote 880 Metical per bike ( about 14$) or, we could pay in dollars and it would be 10$ each! Go figure!

A good 2 hours later, we were let into Mozambique. The road was mainly roadworks and slow going for about 20kms, but then it was ok. All along the road, there were constant villages and houses, as well as many people walking and we passed many markets along villages, but in general we maintained good speed. For once, we saw no farm animals roaming free!

The locals stared at us as if we were aliens from another planet. Unlike Malawi or Zambia, no one waved, not even the kids!

We stopped at a town where supposedly there is an ATM machine to get cash. We just stopped at the fuel station and emptied the 5 litres jerrycan on my bike. We had enough local currency to buy some more, so we put 6 litres on Alistair’s bike. With that done, we had enough to make it to our destination, so we did not bother looking for the bank.

We were very keen to get to Quelimane before it got dark. I did not fancy getting cash from a street ATM machine after dark! Night falls very early as we are still in the same time zone that Cape Town and Namibia. In Namibia, day light was at 8am, on the east coast it is 5am. It starts getting dark soon after 5pm. With few stops on the road, we got to Quelimane soon after 4pm.

Without internet access for several days, we relied solely on the very unreliable Lonely Planet to find accommodation. The first budget hotel listed there, with its bucket showers and dilapidated description, did not appeal much. We selected the hotel slightly more expensive at about 50$ a night including breakfast. It was a good choice. Probably the best in town! The place was busy with the zillions of Aid workers we have seen since Zambia, driving around in sparky new giant Toyotas with air-con, staying in the best hotels and eating at the best places. Hotel Flamingo, where we decided to stay 2 nights, was full of them, going around with ipads and laptops, looking important with their iPhones, logos and conferences and meetings held by the pool side and next to the bar! No owner most of them are so fat! I hope that a bit of those billions in Aid actually reach the people who truly need it!

After sorting out the accommodation, we ran to the nearest cash point to get some local currency. We had to pay the hotel in cash. Then we finally got a shower, got went down to the bar by the swimming pool for a beer and some dinner!

Day 66 – Quelimane, Hotel Flamingo – Thursday 2d August 2018

We decided to stay for a day to have a rest and get ready for the long ride south.

We found the local supermarket, with few things we could buy. Each aisle had a member of staff to ensure that all clients were watched and none could steal! We got water and some more cash from the bank.

Later on we went for a short walk, everyone was staring at us ( even on the ride to town, no one waved us, only stared). Few people came to us asking for money… The town was dilapidated and the buildings blackened from mould and dirt.

The climate is more tropical with a lot of humidity. For the 1st time in this trip, we had and used the air-con.

Day 67 – near Gorongosa – Kapulana Hotel – Friday 3rd August – 450kms

From my research online I knew there would be very little accommodation on the only road south. So I had booked a room by email with the 1st hotel on the way south. As it was rather far, we decided to leave early. We were packed and riding soon before 8am. With plenty of time to get there we stopped for fuel. We had few snacks and lots of water.

What we had not prepared for was the absolutely awful state of the road. The first 200kms were fine, then soon before Caia and crossing one of the very few bridges over the Zambezi river, it started to go wrong. Some potholes, then many, then the size of craters.

We had few short sections of good road where we could speed up, but mainly, it was bad to the extreme. As the day progressed but we did not too much, but we kept going. By 3pm, our shadows were getting longer. By 4pm, we were hoping to be closer. As we bumped, swerved and fell into those giants craters I started getting more and more worried. The road was covered in sand, with the long shadows from the trees and the sun going very low, it was very hard to actually see the holes and judge the depth until we were nearly inside. If we had to press on after dark, it would be near impossible with our pathetic lights on the bikes! Eventually, as it got dark, I saw the sign for the hotel. We just about made it by the skin of our teeth, covered in dust and sand and exhausted. It had been a very long difficult ride.

Through this region we saw true poverty, women and children walking bare feet, no sign of schools, people living in mud or even wood huts, a small kid that I glanced at as I passed, with a distended stomach, a clear sign of malnutrition… this region seemed forgotten by everyone. It is obvious that very few tourists venture around here, as everyone stared at us as if were aliens.

Considering the state of the road we had to revise our original plan. Our destination, Vilanculo, was a good 500km further south. With the road as it was, we could not make it in one day. Scouring the Internet we found 2 places on the way. One was about 80$ for a room, the other one was slightly cheaper and was midway.

Day 68 – Muxungue, Hotel Canindica, Saturday 4th August – 240kms

We left around 9am. The road was still horrid for a good 75kms. It took us 2 hours to ride that distance.

Then we got to the good road at last. We made finally good progress and got to our stop for the night early afternoon.

The region seemed less poor, with many schools and neat villages, still some mud huts and wood huts, but more brick buildings, markets, villages and people wearing shoes, many moped and bicycles around.

Day 69 – Vilanculo, Sunday 5th of August, 260kms

Despite what we were told by the staff at the hotel, the road was not too bad. Some sections were damaged and turned into a dirt track, but it was easy to maintain speed.

We arrived at our destination early afternoon. The first place we had in mind, the Baobab beach camp, was full.

We then rode to the Beach village backpackers camp. It was empty. Not a single guest. We took a hut with ensuite bathroom, as rustic as you can expect, although the price tag was not, at 45$. But then, it is a popular town with holiday makers with prices to match.

The hut was missing top bedsheet, towels and even toilet paper. The floor was dirty and covered with dirt and dead flies. I asked the guy at reception to remedy this and a woman came who could really not be bothered! The dead flies remained! I did some laundry while Alistair went into town to find a shop, as we needed water at least. Not sure if the place would provide dinner or any sort of food. The two women who worked there were busy sunbathing by the pool, giving me dirty looks because I had dared to ask for towels and bed linen! The guy in charge of the bar and reception was sleeping near the bar. Some places are so welcoming!

We walked along the beach at 4:30 to get some sort of dinner at the Baobab beach camp, few 100s metre down. The place was full, lively, with staff serving drinks and dinner, receptionist arranging excursions and WiFi working! It was such a contrast with our camp!

We walked back to our camp before it got dark. The lady managing the Baobab camp came to talk to s ad gave us the WiFi password, welcoming us. She knew well that our accommodation had terrible reputation, so told us we could use the Baobab facilities.

Souther Malawi

Day 58 – Senga Bay, Cool Runnings – Wednesday 25th July

As previous, more photos can be found here due to unreliable WiFi.

We were planning to leave, but the place was so pleasant and relaxing that we decided to stay for a 4th night. We spent the day reading and lounging around the various chairs, sun beds and sofas.

Day 59 – Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlid (south shore of lake Malawi) – Thursday 26th July – 176kms

We finally managed to extract ourselves, reluctantly, from Cool Runnings, and rode to Cape Maclear, the south shore of the lake. The weather was slowly getting warmer and less cloudy. On the day we left, it was clear sky but not too hot. Perfect weather to ride. We rode through the sandy streets of the village, back to the main road. We planned to spend 3 nights in the south shore and get to Blantyre, the second biggest town in Malawi, on Sunday only. The plan was to get to the Mozambique consulate early Monday morning for our visas.

The backpacker place we selected had great reviews, but they only had room for two nights. It is now the high season, with plenty of backpackers from Europe. Cape Maclear is easier to reach by public transports than Senga Bay, I guess.

There were lots of backpackers and long time travellers, most of them in their early 20s. ( I am always a bit bemused by very young long time travellers. When I was in my 20s I had to save a lot just to be able to afford a bicycle from Decathlon to commute to my minimum wage job! How do they finance their trips? )

Anyway, the backpacker place was funky with music, a nice bar area to sit and lounge and cheap drinks. A G&T for a pound will attract the backpackers!

We settled in a room, it was simple, with cement floor and bare walls but relatively clean with a mosquito net above the bed. The shared bathrooms were functional with kind of hot water from solar panels. The water was pumped from the lake. We explored the village which was much more touristic than in Senga Bay, with lots of shops selling craft and bright coloured clothes and bags.

In Malawi, free WiFi is only provided in high end hotels. If lucky there may be a hotspot you can catch with the phone and buy a voucher to get access. I bought 2MB.

Day 60 – Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlid – Friday 27th July

We booked a room in another lodge for Saturday night, and then decided to go kayaking in the lake. Had to be done. It was nice to go kayaking again, we used to do this often at weekends, when we lived in Rio.

As we came back, soaked, we decided to go for a swim too. The weather was splendid and the water warm at last!

It’s only later that Alistair mentioned some disease from snails. He went digging his emails and found the document the nurse at the surgery sent him. There is significant risk of Bilharzia in all bodies of fresh water, including in lake Malawi. Oh well, considering the showers and all taps were with water from the lake, swimming or not in the lake would make no difference. We asked the funky Cichlid’s manager whether there was any risk. She said they recommended all guests to take XYZ treatment as prevention. Well, lucky we asked, as they may tell everyone, but not one of their staff told us! And there was certainly no notice, board or any sign of this!

Bilharzia can be fairly dangerous and fatal if untreated. Although the risk of catching it is very small, it is best just to take the treatment as prevention, especially as it is a tablet to take 6 to 8 weeks later and cost about 2 pounds. So we will buy that in a pharmacy in Blantyre.

Easier than asking for it to our GP, back in London, who would refuse to prescribe it. The tests are apparently rather costly, so all the people living by the shore of the lake ( Including and especially all those Europeans and Americans volunteers or workers) take a tablet every 2 months.

We did not do much after all that. So we read some books again. This week is a bit of a holiday for us, before we tackle Mozambique.

My research online showed various addresses for the consulate in Blantyre. Alistair tried to phone the embassy in Lilongwe, but all the phones numbers we found online or on guide books were incorrect. Emails were also incorrect, for both the embassy in Lilongwe and the consulate in Blantyre. The phones for the consulate were also incorrect! Including from a Malawi magazine aiming at tourist info!

If we cannot secure the visas in Blantyre we will just turn up at the border, not much else we can do, considering how elusive Mozambique’s embassy and consulate are!

Finding an affordable place to stay in Blantyre took also some time. The fact, that, as usual, google and booking.com seem to place hotels and guest houses in random locations, making them look like they are in town instead of 30 kms out of town, does not help. Any promising place we found we had to cross reference the address using other sites, and find out it was actually totally out of town!

Day 61 – Cape Maclear, Eco lodge – Saturday 28th July, 500 m ride.

We packed. The Funky Cichlid was fully booked for the weekend so we moved 500 meters down the road to the Eco Lodge . The room with shared bathrooms was cheaper than the Funky Cichlid, at 20$ instead of 30, but the communal space less comfortable and the bar small and poky. We realised that lots of people from the Eco Lodge were actually lounging at the Funky Cichlid’s large open bar and lounge area, as we recognised lots of people having their breakfast at the EcoLodge ! Also at the EcoLodge, the cheaper rooms were away and in a more poky place with lots of junk lying around. I guess at that price we could not complain!

Once unpacked and changed, like everybody else, we walked along the beach back to the Funky Cichlid to lounge and have a beer. We could not get signal from the hotspot ( I needed to do some planning and find accommodation in Blantyre) at the EcoLodge, another reason to spend as little time as possible there.

Later on,we had dinner there as well, as their menu was far superior to the EcoLodge.

Day 62 – Blantyre – Sunday 29th July – 275kms

We left the lake and rode to get to the second biggest town in Malawi. The road, for a good 60kms was just constant roadworks with deviations through sandy tracks. It was slow going with constant people walking, cycling around, goats and sheeps roaming free. This has been a constant for a while. There are constantly people along the road. A village after another. Nowhere to stop for a quick pee or a quiet rest.

For once, at a police checkpoint, we were stopped by the police. After the usual questions ( where do you come from today, where are you going) the guy asked Alistair for money to buy a drink! So disappointing as so far it never happened. Alistair told the guy we needed to get cash from a bank as we had no cash with us. He let us go with a smile.

In Blantyre, we rode to the street where the guesthouse was. In booking.com it had great reviews. The place was as to be expected for 35$ a night including breakfast! A dump! We decided not put a review as we had nothing positive to say about the places. Alistair spent most of the nights there hunting massive mosquitoes as the mosquito net above our bed was full of holes and was so small it was probably for an infant bed only!

Day 63 – Blantyre – Monday 30th July – 0kms

We woke up at 6am. It is daylight soon after 5am and dark soon after 5pm. With regular power cuts and no WiFi or any sort of entertainment, we went to sleep early.

Soon after breakfast (microwaved fried egg, cornflakes with horrid milk, an ok sausage and some fried potatoes) we walked to the town centre. The place, according to the guesthouse owner, who described in his description that it was close to the Mozambique consulate, was in the town centre. We walked the 3kms to the address we had for it, only to find out it had moved two years ago to another location. It was even further away, near a Roman Catholic Church. After a lot of asking and a lot of walking under a blazing sun, we finally found it. The lady at the desk told us the visa would cost us 115$ each, but we could get it for cheaper at the border! So we walked back into the town centre and looked for an Internet cafe, as Alistair had to print some docs for our limited companies accounts.

After that, we tried to find a cafe to sit and have a drink. The only place we found was going into the local luxury hotel. The town centre was only banks and insurance companies building and nothing much for food or drinks! We then walked back to our grimy guesthouse. My steps App, which still seems to work offline on my phone, showed we walked 15.5kms that day!

With another power cut and not much to do, we went to sleep early again.

During our expedition in town, we managed to get the tablets to treat Bilharzia, so you will be glad to know that in 6 to 8 weeks, if we develop horrid worms in our body, that should kill them and we will not die a painful death!

Day 64 – Likhubula village, near Mulanje – Tuesday 31st July – 100kms

We left early and took the scenic route as we had plenty of time. We bought fuel and filled the jerrycan as well, as once we cross the border into Mozambique, if we cannot find an ATM machine, it may be hard to buy fuel, until we get to Quelimane, over 360 from the border. Very few places accept credit card payment!

The ride was beautiful as we rode across vast tea plantations through stunning rolling hills. The villages around seemed more tidy and prosperous generally. As usual, there were constant people along the road, houses, one village after another, groups of young lads hanging around not doing much.

We took a trail off the main road and found (eventually!)a pleasant backpacker place. There were louts everywhere vying for business, mainly as guides to go hiking into Mulanje mountain. We had no intention to go hiking, but they were persistent.

Once settled into our very clean and comfortable room we went for a little walk. Back at the backpacker place, the locals just stared at us from the road, as we sat by the windows. Even the kids! Some lads would try get our attention ( more guides?).

We had dinner at the guesthouse and chatted with a deutsche family on holiday in Malawi. The wife had done a year as junior doctor in Malawi few years earlier. After that we went for an early night as we had to leave very early the next day, in order to cross the border and make it to Qualimane.

Lake Malawi

Day 58 – Senga Bay, Cool Runnings – Wednesday 25th July

As previous, photos can be found here due to costly unreliable WiFi.

We were planning to leave, but the place was so pleasant and relaxing that we decided to stay for a 4th night. We spent the day reading and lounging around the various chairs, sun loungers and sofas, with a bit of “Murder in Paradise” thrown in on TV for a change!

Day 59 – Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlids (south shore of lake Malawi) – Thursday 26th July – 176kms

We finally managed to extract ourselves, reluctantly, from Cool Runnings, and rode to the south shore of the lake. The weather was slowly getting warmer and less cloudy. On the day we left, it was clear sky but not too hot. Perfect weather to ride. We rode through the sandy streets of the village, back to the main road. We planned to spend 3 nights in the south shore and get to Blantyre, the second biggest town in Malawi, on Sunday only. The plan was to get to the Mozambique consulate early Monday morning for our visas.

The backpacker place we selected had great reviews, but they only had room for two nights. It is now the high season with plenty of backpackers from Europe. Cape Maclear is easier to reach by public transports than Senga Bay, I guess.

There were lots of backpackers and long time travellers, most of them in their early 20s. The place was funky with music, nice bar area and cheap drinks. A G&T for a pound will attract the backpackers!

We settled in a room . The shared bathrooms were functional with hot water from solar panels. The water was from the lake. We explored the village which was much more touristic than in Senga Bay, with lots of shops selling craft and coloured clothes and bags.

Day 60 – Cape Maclear, Funky Cichlid – Friday 27th July

We booked a room in another lodge for Saturday night. And then decided to go kayaking in the lake. Had to be done. It was nice to go kayaking again, we used to do this often at weekends, when we lived in Rio.

As we came back, soaked, we decided to go for a swim too. The weather was splendid and the water warm at last!

It’s only later that Alistair mentioned some disease from snails. He went digging his emails and found the document the nurse at the surgery sent him. There is significant risk of Bilharzia in all bodies of fresh water, including in lake Malawi. Oh well, considering the showers and all taps were with water from the lake, swimming or not in the lake would make no difference. We talked with the funky Cichlid’s manager whether there was any risk. She said they recommended everyone to take XYZ treatment as prevention. Well, lucky we asked, as they may tell everyone, but not one of their staff told us. And there was certainly no notice, board or any sign of this!

Bilharzia can be fairly dangerous and fatal if untreated. Although the risk of catching it is very small, it is best just to take the treatment as prevention, especially as it is a single tablet to take 6 to 8 weeks later and cost about 2 pounds. So we will buy that in a pharmacy in Blantyre.

Easier than asking for it to our GP, back in London, who would refuse to prescribe it. The tests are apparently rather costly, so all the people living by the shore of the lake ( Including and especially all those Europeans and Americans volunteers or workers) take a tablet every 2 months.

We did not do much after all that. WiFi in Malawi is rarely free. You need to buy vouchers and it goes fast. So we read some books again. This week is a bit of a holiday for us, before we tackle Mozambique.

My research online showed various addresses for the consulate in Blantyre. Alistair tried to phone the embassy in Lilongwe, but all the phones numbers we found online or on guide books were incorrect. Emails were also incorrect, for both the embassy in Lilongwe and the consulate in Blantyre. The phones for the consulate were also incorrect! Including from a Malawi magazine aiming at tourist info!

If we cannot secure the visas in Blantyre we will just turn up at the border, not much else we can do considering how elusive Mozambique’s embassy and consulate are!

Finding an affordable place to stay in Blantyre took also some time. The fact, that, as usual, google and booking.com seem to place hotels and guest houses in random locations, making them look like they are in town instead of 30 kms out of time, does not help. Any promising place we found we had to cross reference the address using other sites, and find out it was actually totally out of town!

Day 61 – Cape Maclear, Eco lodge – Saturday 28th July, 500 m ride.

We packed. The place was fully booked for the weekend so we moved 500 meters down the road to the Eco Lodge . The room with shared bathrooms was cheaper than the Funky Cichlid, at 20$ instead of 30, but the communal space less comfortable and the bar small and poky. We realised that lots of people from the Eco Lodge were actually lounging at the Funky Cichlid’s large open bar and lounge area, as we recognised lots of people having their breakfast at the EcoLodge ! Also at the EcoLodge, the cheaper rooms were away and in a more poky place with lots of junk lying around. I guess at that price we could not complain!

Once unpacked and changed, like everybody else, we walked along the beach back to the Funky Cichlid to lounge!

So we are having a relaxing Saturday by lake Malawi.

East Zambia and into Malawi

No photos here due to poor, costly WiFi and frequent power cuts. All photos can be seen in the link below. No need for a Facebook account as they are made public.

Photos

Day 51 – near Petauke ( Chimwemwe lodge) – Wednesday 18th July, 410 kms

We left Lusaka early and only stopped for fuel at the last fuel post for a long time. Our map showed a good 320kms without petrol stations, so we also filled the 5 litre Jerry can. In the end, mid way, we came across a new petrol station. The buildings were still in construction, but they sold fuel.

The road, for half way, was rather boring and busy. It was lined with constant traditional villages ( small huts and mud houses) lined with constant cyclists and walkers, women carrying water on their head, kids in school uniforms, men walking around…. not much privacy for a quick pee stop. And many goats, pigs, cows wandering around. In one small village, a massive coach came in the opposite direction. As usual, goats were on the road. 2 small young ones in particular, did not look like they would move. They were standing on the incoming traffic line. I slowed down, expecting them to jump in front of me at any time. An incoming coach came at full pelt, only vaguely hooting, the 2 goats did not move. As I came to the level of the coach and goats, all I heard was a big “thump” noise. The driver did not even bother to slow down! I gasped in horror. I did not expect that! People along this road are very poor, a goat is worth a lot to them. I understand why the big buses have massive metal bumpers!

We passed many police check points and, soon after Lusaka, a toll. We were waved through the toll. The police never bothered with us either and just waved us through. The only time we got stopped was actually soon after crossing the border from Namibia. The poor police officer was alone and bored. We exchange few jokes and he let us go!

About 200kms from Lusaka we crossed over a massive bridge over the Luangwa river. The views were stunning but we could not stop for photos.

The weather was cold and cloudy and we had a strong headwind, as every morning since we started this trip. It seems the wind blow from the east. It usually calmed down early afternoon.

Although the road has many villages, there was no accommodation, shops, coffee shops or anything where you could stop for a rest. All along, people and children waved and smiled at us. Zambian are friendly.

After a long cold day ride, we arrived at the junction with Petauke. From my research, I knew there was some sort of hotel around. We found is eventually. From the outside, it looked nice. Inside, as usual since we left Namibia, it is poorly built, neglected and run down. The lodge had little individual wooden cabins or more expensive bricks ones. We took the cheap wooden cabin for 350 ZK ( about 35 $). They had a small restaurant, so we wandered there after a hot shower. I was absolutely frozen and asked reception for extra blankets. It was going to be a very cold night.

A the restaurant we had a choice of fish, pork or chicken. Rice or chips. We still had to wait a good hour to get our fried fish and rice. After eating, I felt a bit warmer. I never imagined Zambia could get this cold.

Tired and shivering, we got back to our hut for the night.

Day 52 – South Luangwa National Park – Croc Valley camp – Thursday 19th July – 310kms

That night we had a massive storm. No rain but a very violent wind. As we woke up, the sky was dark grey, it was cold and still very windy. I did not look forward to ride with such strong wind. We waited until 10am before setting off, with all my layers on. We neglected to put our trousers waterproof though. After all, this is the dry season right?

After riding for a while, it got colder and started to rain. We had to stop to fetch our waterproof over-trousers. While we got them on, a young lad on a bicycle, across the road, kept watching us. Women with goods on baskets on their heads passed laughing and saying hello.

By mid afternoon we arrived at Chipata, the border town with Malawi. For now, we only stopped there for fuel and at the local Spar, to get some lunch. As soon as we arrived at the Spark parking, we got surrounded by money changers. It always makes me nervous, all these guys surrounding us. We explained we were not going to Malawi and did not need their services. Eventually they left us. While Alistair went inside the shop, I kept watch of the bikes, being offered constantly goods by street sellers and being asked money by many beggars. I hate border towns. They always have that feel of crooks, thieves and danger.

Eventually, Alistair came back with a chicken pastry and two samosas, and some Diet Coke. After eating, we got out of town and picked up the road to the National Park. Surprisingly, the road was all tarmac, which was nice. After 130kms of a small country road, lined, once again, with many villages and people walking around, pigs, goats, cows wandering around, we saw the sign for Croc Valley Camp. I selected this one, among many, as it is one of the cheapest and also provide drives to the park at reasonable cost!

We decided, as it was just only 10 dollars more, to get one of the camp large canvas tent, instead of using our small flimsy dome tent. The tent was big, with two beds and enough room for all our stuff. It had a thatched roof over the tent, that would come handy.

After getting changed we had a look around and immediately saw all the monkeys. And the large baboons. So many of them! There was a communal kitchen that was kept locked. All food had to stay in metal containers or fridge. During the winder season, when food is scarce, elephants wander around the campsites and will steal any food they can reach. A tent, window or car door, is no match for them. And then of course, there are the monkeys.

Walking from our tent to the bar area, a whole gang of baboons had completely flattened a small dome tent and stolen some cloths. They were also all over the car next to it. The staff, unlike in Ai Ais, did nothing to stop them. I was glad we decided to stay in the big solid canvas tent.

Later on, a member of staff told me that monkeys are not afraid of women ( sexist pigs, or monkeys in this case!), and often steal food from the hand of women. So I should be cautious when and where I am eating. As it was dark, all the monkeys were gone. So it was ok. We cooked some vegs and noodles.

The camp is set next to the river and we could see many hippos laying around. They can walk across the camp at night, as well as elephants, crocs and other wildlife.

Day 52 – Croc Valley camp – Friday 20th July – 0kms

A bit before 7am we got woken up by a very large group of baboons. There was a massive fight going on, the noise, screams and rage going on, was pretty scary. They were all over our tent, the roof, the trees, our front door, with a bit of the fight just on my side of the tent. I was so glad to be inside a solid canvas tent. It was a very large group and the males were massive! I did not fancy an 80kgs baboon ripping through the tent!

We eventually came out, once the baboons settled their differences. We went to the building used as kitchen and ate our breakfast inside,standing around the table. There were no chairs but I did not want my breakfast stolen by monkeys again! We had booked a drive to the National Park, starting at 4pm.

So we did not do much while waiting for our drive.

The campsite discouraged people walking to the village but provided a shuttle service at noon, for free. So we took the shuttle service and visited the village. Elephants and will animals roam free in the area as it is so close to the National Park.

At 4pm, we got into the safari car, with 7 other guests and 2 guides, and drove to the park. It was very close to our camp. The park was much more impressive than Etosha, in Namibia, we thought. It was forested and had a higher density of wildlife. We saw many elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, crocs and many different sort of antelopes. We also got incredibly close to them. They did not seem bothered by us.

By 6pm it started to be dark. The safari car had a big torch that a guy used to highlight the bushes. Predators are active at night so we were looking for them. The previous day they had seen many lions and a leopard. We were quite keen to see big cats. Unfortunately we saw none. We came across few solitary hyenas though. One of them was just lying down next to the road, totally ignoring us. It looked quiet cute actually. They were smaller than I thought, the size of a biggish dog.

Back to camp around 8pm, we went to the kitchen to prepare our dinner. We met the unfortunate owners of the tent that had been flattened by the baboons the day before. It was a Canadian / US couple. They told us that the baboons had also urinated all over their tent and covered their car with poo. Nice!

We had a drink at the bar and went to chat with them again, around their campfire.

Day 53 – lilongwe, Malawi – Saturday 21st July – 290 kms

I woke up around 6am. I could not hear any monkeys around so decided to go to the loo. As I came out of the shower blocks and walked into the canvas tents area, built in a circle with the shower block at the exit, a large antelope, with very beautiful markings on its back and sharp antlers, was standing in the middle of the camp. I was as startled as it was and after a moment of surprise, looking at each other, we decided to ignore each other. I walked slowly to my tent, and it walked slowly and gracefully to the other side.

10 minutes later, tucked in bed, we heard a rumble. It was not the hippos, who kept rumbling all night. The tree near our tent was being pulled. Alistair unzipped the window on his side. We saw large tusks. There were few large elephants eating from the tree!

We found out later that a group of 40 elephants had crossed the camp. And also that a leopard was lying by the chalets around 5:30 am!

Asking the staff about the notice to check the pool for crocs and animals, they confirmed that they had pulled out snakes from it and that indeed the older pool had attracted crocs, hippos and elephants! But there was no much risk at this time of year, as the water is too cold.

All I can say is that Croc Valley Camp was an amazing place to see wildlife. It was magical! Definitely worth the stay.

We left quite early as we were planning to cross the border. At Chipata, we stopped to buy fuel and some food for an early lunch. After that, we avoided the money changers hanging around and rode the 20 kms to the border.

We parked the bikes near the office. We got our passports stamped out then the next window was custom. They filled and stamped the carnet for the bikes, gave us a Pass to exit the border and told we were good to go.Then we dealt with the money changers there.

We had checked the rates the day before. We had about 450 Zambian kwachas left, and got 40,000 Malawi Kwachas. It was a good rate.

Then we handed our pass to exit. Except there was a local tax to pay. In Zambian Kwachas only! Argh! Money changers again. I stood by the bikes while Alistair dealt with the tax.

Then we rode to the Malawi side, surrounded, once again, by the money changers.

We filled a couple of forms and pay 75$ each for the visas. We could pay with US dollars for that.

Then we went to the custom office to get the Carnets filled for the bikes. We were told we also had to pay a road tax of $20 each and needed proof of third party insurance for the bikes. Obviously there was a guy from the insurance desk hanging around. We paid 25,000 Kwachas each for the insurance. We changed $50 dollars as both the road tax and the insurance had to be paid in Kwacha (MK).

All that back and forth took about an hour and a half.

Some people may be interested on this: we travel with soft panniers. Nothing is locked. In border like these there are many people around, including the usual beggars. We left our bikes for quite a while, totally out of our sight, and in all our border crossings in Africa and Central Asia, so far, no one ever touched our bikes. We take valuables like cameras, phones and GPS with us but still plenty of stuff of value left!

After the border we rode into Malawi!

The villages along the road seemed to have better housing, built in bricks rather than wood. The roof were metal rather than thatched. I guess as there were less forests and more agricultural land, there is less wood available for construction, so locals have to buy bricks to build homes. Many were painted in white or blue and looked fine.

On the road we saw some tribal men wearing non European style costumes.

We arrived at Lilongwe, the town was confusing, with forest around and The Street along the forest, with far away building through the trees. It was hard to find our way round or a precise address! We had selected a guesthouse that had good rating in booking.com and made the error of not cross referencing the address on another site. As usual with booking.com, the guesthouse probably exist but somewhere completely different, 80kms away!

After that, we went in search of another guesthouse called Japan House. It had good ratings in booking.com. It was on the GPS. We arrived at a gated community. No signs of hotel. We asked one of the guards at the gate. He took us to a house! Hmmm! It had an A4 sheet saying Japan House. Hmmm.

It was actually a house were 2 Japanese young guys lived in. It had a spare bedroom with 3 bunk beds and an ensuing bathroom. The guy receiving us made us wait a good 15 minutes while he prepared the room. We had to remove our shoes inside. Not sure why as the floor was filthy. The house was a tip. 2 guys living there, no cleaner, the bathroom was such that I did not want to touch anything. At least we had clean sheets. The floor was dirty and covered in hairs, the kitchen a health hazard… we got changed and walked to the nearby mall as we needed cash. We found an ATM machine. We used several cards to get enough cash. Then we had some dinner at the mall. By then it was dark. Night fall at around 6pm, as we are still on the same time zone since South Africa, but have travelled quite a long way East. We walked back in the dark, which was quite tricky as there was no pavement and the road was dangerous with fast moving cars. We had to walk by the sandy track that could have holes, garbage etc…

Back at the house, there was a young woman waiting. We had seen her at Croc Valley camp, she was in our safari car the previous day. Veronica was Colombian, studying in Barcelona and backpacking around during the summer holidays. We freed the third bunk bed of our stuff. I had not used dormitories for quite a long time!

There was no hot water, and none of use fancied stepping into the filthy bath, so no shower for us that day!

At least the WiFi worked so we read stuff in our respective bunk beds and chatted with Veronica. It seems the baboons stole her breakfast too, in Croc Valley Camp!

Day 54 – Senga Bay, Cools Running Camp – Sunday 22d July – 126kms

Early morning, Alistair walked to the little mall with Veronica, to get some food for breakfast. Veronica also needed cash, as she had crossed the border the day before, like us.

I would not fancy using buses around here! She told us that she had to take a taxi from the border to the bus station. She was on the front seat of a car with 3 other people, while 6 people crammed at the back! Taxis are communal in Africa! But the mini buses are even worse!

After loading the bikes, we left town and the filthy Japan house! That it was rated 8.5/10 in booking.com is unbelievable! Just shows you cannot trust any of those ratings online!

It was a short 2 hours ride to Senga Bay. Along the road we saw plenty of kids by the side of the road. After all it was Sunday. They had a long stick with was looked like dead mice, 10 to 20 mice, skewered in those sticks. Sometimes even more, tightly packed. I found out later, talking to an Ozzie expat living in Blantyre, that the kids were selling roasted mice, which is considered a snack in Malawi! Some of them are roasted with the skin on. Not sure they are even gutted! The sight of them was rather revolting, with those little legs and skinny tails sticking out!

Finding Cool Running Camp was not easy. Even with the GPS. We had to turn back, stop at a fuel station and ask for directions. It had good reviews and was also recommended by a fellow traveller.

The place was very pleasant. It was very reasonably priced. For 10 USD each, we decided to take the wood hut with real beds rather that set up the tent. We had late lunch of toasted sandwiches on site and didn’t do much after that, the place was full by end of the day.

We also had dinner there. The local fish was excellent. It should be, as we are by the edge of lake Malawi. It is so big we could not see the other side. There were waves and looked like the sea.

Women were doing the laundry on the beach while kids played and swam around.

After our early dinner there was not much to do. It was dark. Most people seemed to have gone to bed very early, so we moved to our hut, away from the many mosquitoes. Our beds had mosquito nets which was really useful.

Day 55 and 56 – Senga Bay – Monday 23rd / Tuesday 24th July – 0 km

We woke up early. After breakfast we did some laundry and planning. WiFi did not work, so I did not buy a voucher. WiFi is rarely free in Malawi, except in high end hotels. Malawi has a hotspot system throughout the country. You buy vouchers to access WiFi. Except, if the power is off, there is no signal. Power cuts are a frequent occurrence in Malawi and most places have a generator. So our planning was mainly with the lonely planet and road map, as the power was off most of the day.

It seems that for Mozambique, we may have to get the visas at a consulate. It may not be possible at the border. Things change constantly, so we would need to find out what is the latest situation on this.

In the afternoon, a group arrived, some with British accent. They were a mix of Brit/ Ozzie expat and some of their family, visiting from the UK. We had a good chat with the Ozzie expat and his wife. They told us they knew of Europeans who had crossed into Mozambique and got the visa at the border. But it is a lot of hassle and things with Mozambique change almost daily, so we would be better off sorting the visas in advance. I found out there was consulate in Blantyre. It was in our way, so we decided we would stop there for few days.

But first we will visit Monkey Bay!

Lusaka ( Zambia)

Days 45 to 50 – Lusaka ( Friday 13th to Tuesday 17th July)

Friday morning Alistair rode to Best of Bike to check out their tyres. They only had cheap bad quality Chinese tyres and even the staff there advised him to keep the Mitas.

In the afternoon we walked to the local shopping mall. We were staying in an AirBnB and had a small kitchen so we wanted to cook some vegs. The little studio flat was located in the back garden of a large mansion, behind a tall metal gate. All ten area was like that. Big plots with big one story buildings and large gardens. All had security but nothing too bad. It was obviously the nice area of Lusaka as the Parliament was a short walk away along with high commissioners mansions and embassies around.

The city however is built for cars with no pavement for walkers. So you either walk on the road, with the cars or across the front gardens and pixels of dirt, rocks, and rubble that constitute the sides of the road, as well as very wide deep open drains. A health and safety officer would have a fit !

On Saturday morning, as Alistair was doing some maintenance on the bikes, he cleaned the oil gauge glass on my bike. The glass went inside the engine! Big “oops” moment. He contacted Best of Bike and pushed my bike to their showroom, a good 5 kms away. Then te bike had to be trucked 35kms away to the workshop.

As they closed at lunchtime and reopened only on Monday, there was not much to do but wait.

I spoke with the Airbnb owner and we were able to stay until Monday. After that they had a guest.

We investigated few local hotels. The problem with that was that both Booking.com and Google Map locate these in completely random places and often miles from where they really are. This happened to us a lot also in Russia and Central Asia. You think your hotel is in the town centre, as showing in the map, and end up miels out of town in the middle of nowhere. That is if you can it in the first place!

Anyhow, after a lot f walking around on Sunday, Alistair located a guesthouse that had room for us, about a mile away.

So on Monday, he took by roll bag there I has bike. Then he came back and picked up more stuff ( tank bag, backpack, small roll bag).then he came back and picked me up.

The hotel was rather run down but it was fairly cheap at 40 USD per night. Including breakfast.

After that we contacted the mechanic dealing with my bike. They confirmed it would be back ready and back in town for Tuesday morning. We just had to wait.

So the next day we finally picked up my bike. I had to ride pillion on the CRF, which is not great as it has no passenger’s footpegs.

The mechanic had to reuse the crankshaft cover gasket and glued the gauge window. It should last until we are back in the UK. Then I will need to order few parts from the US. Then we rode to the local Honda dealer, it they had no tyres. So I guess we will have to carry on and hope our back tyres can last until we are back in South Africa.

We then walked to the mall to get some supplies for few days camping in South Luangwa National Park. I took also the opportunity to investigate and plan our itinerary across Malawi and Mozambique and agree the details with Alistair. We decided to avoid Zimbabwe, as there are presidential elections at the end of July, and things could turn hectic there.

We are ready to hit the road tomorrow !

Into Zambia

Day 41 – Katima Mulilo ( Namibia ) – Sunday 8th July – 330kms

It was time to leave Shametu lodge. The main building was like a Harry Potter movie with 3 large owls living inside, on the beams. A mother and 2 youngsters. At night, the mum would go hunting while the 2 young ones would constantly screech, asking for food, while looking at us below, turning their heard in funny ways, as only owls can do.

Unfortunately we do not carry the sort of cameras that could take long shots in the dark. They were very cute. The owners told us it was good to have them there, despite the mess they would cause on the floor. They eat mice, which means less mice so less snakes in the area!

We left early. The road across the Caprivi Strip was long straight and boring. We did not see any wildlife, despite crossing a national park. The vegetation was kind of semi tropical with lots of bushes, trees and tall grass so it would be hard to spot anything.

Still, when we stopped half way, in the middle of nowhere, for a quick pee, I put Alistair on lions watch! I was told there were many lions and elephants there, so don’t laugh!

The ride was tiring as we had constant headwind.

Eventually, we arrived at Katima Mulilo and found the guest house we had selected online. We even had a booking this time!

We were the only guests. Although the next day for breakfast, there were two men there, who sounded like they spoke Russian or some Slavic language.

The guesthouse owner spoke with us of our plan to cross into Zambia. He warned us that the road, on the Zambian side, was in very bad state and suggested to ride south and go via Botswana to Livingstone. In term of distance, it would be about the same, but we were not keen to cross two borders on the same day and deal with all the taxes, fees and other stuff to pay twice and in two other currencies.

Eventually, after looking the map we decided to stick to our initial plan.

We had dinner in the guesthouse (it was only us. It was a set menu, beef, lots of rice, beans and some thick carrot soup that was to be used as sauce for the rice. Then we went to our chalet. The guesthouse had several little chalets, small but nice. They even had functioning WiFi! Yay!

As usual i felt a bit nervous about the border crossing, not knowing what to expect!

Day 42 – 220kms – Livingstone, Zambia – Monday 9th of July

After breakfast, which was included, we left Happy Forest guesthouse and went to buy fuel. Then we rode to the border.

Leaving Namibia was fairly fast. No touts in the compound. We got our passport stamped, then custom signed out our carnet for the bikes. Then we rode to the Zambian side.

All the offices were in the same building. We parked the bikes, surrounded by touts trying to convince us to change money, but i had done research and we went first to the bank in the compound. I changed all our remaining Namibian rands into Zambian Kwachas (ZK). Meanwhile, Alistair got some cash from the ATM machine.

Then we went to the offices. We had to pay 50$ each ( in dollars) for our single entry visa.

Then we were sent to buy our insurance for the bikes (about 45 $ each, but we paid in ZK). Then we moved to the carbon tax office for about 7 $ each. Then we were directed to the road tax and toll window to pay 10$ in dollars each. By then we had forked a lot of money! The staff were friendly and smiley. Makes a big difference compared with border crossing in Russia or Central Asia!

After that we were told we could go… only to be stopped just before the exit, to pay some additional local tax (3 dollars in ZK).

After that we were really allowed to leave.

The first 40kms were fine with fine tarmac. Then things went bad, but not as bad as we expected. For a long section the potholes had been filed with a mix of stones and sand. After that we had massive potholes. They were very large and very deep. With the bikes we managed to slalom and avoid the worse.

Eventually we made it to Livingstone and found the guesthouse we had booked the day before.

It was simple and the building rundown, in a fairly good location near to the town centre and supermarket, in a sandy gravelly road.

We decided to stay only two nights. We had been before to Victoria falls years ago, and done all the touristic stuff that all tourists do: the bungee jump off the bridge, the white water rafting, the 3 days canoeing down the Zambezi river, the helicopter ride over the falls…. We were not keen on doing anything like that again!

We had a look in town and had dinner near the supermarket.

Day 43 – Livingstone, Tuesday 10th of May – 0 kms

We went in search of an ATM that would accept MasterCard. Not an easy task, but eventually found it.

Every time we go travelling, we try to open a bank account with a bank that would not charge for withdrawing money abroad. Every trip we change, as this free scheme never seems to last.

This time is no exception. Alistair got a new account and got the debit card, but it is MasterCard instead of visa. In Zambia they don’t seem to like much MasterCard! We eventually, after visiting many local banks in the Main Street, found one that would accept our card. Of course we can also use our debits Visa cards but our banks both charge a lot for the pleasure.

In the afternoon I lazed around the courtyard and read a book. The place was ok, but our shower gave us an electric shock when touching the taps. If we were dry it was ok, but once I stepped into the shower and got wet, jeez! Nasty. I had not had a shower giving electric shocks since Bolivia!

We did some research to find accommodation in Lusaka. We usually avoid capital cities, but we need tyres! No way round it and we can only find them in Lusaka!

After going through all the terrible and expensive backpackers places, alistair found a nice AirBnB flat. It even had secured parking for the bikes. So we booked it.

Day 44 – Mazabuka – 370kms – weds 11th July

We left Livingstone early as we had a long ride. We were not aiming to get to Lusaka on the same day, as it is a long way. We decided to stop at the last big town before the capital city. It was still a long and very tiring ride.

We had constant headwind which is very tiring. Our bikes have no fairing so we get it full on.

We finally got to our destination for the night. The cheap guesthouse we had found in iOverlander was interesting.

The room we visited was a dump, and the horrendous bathroom had a massive plastic tub in the middle, full of water, near the shower. When I asked if there was no water, the lady showing us round mumbled something. I opened a tap in the sink, no water. I then asked if they had WiFi, expecting a no.

The woman looked puzzled. I added, thinking she had very little English: “you know WiFi, for Internet”.

She looked at me and said: “what is it, a dish?”. Hmmm….

Seeing the state of the bedroom we decided to inspect the other choices in town. After a bit of a run around ( the second place we looked at was fully booked!) we eventually found a nice clean guesthouse.

After a long day ride with lots of wind we were rather tired. We ate at the restaurant attached to the guesthouse. Choice was chicken, pork or beef. We took chicken! It was good.

Day 45 – Lusaka- 135kms – Thursday 12th July

We were not in a rush, but somehow, we were told breakfast was at 7:30, so woke up early. We left soon after 9.

The road, for about 70kms, was in terrible condition, and as before, we went into slaloms to avoid massive potholes. The road was busy with many trucks. There were also lots of trucks broken down by the side of the road. The weather was cloudy but not too cold.

We then arrive in town around midday. The traffic was going nowhere as all the roads end up in Lusaka and there is no ring roads or anyway to avoid the town centre. So even massive trucks get sucks into the centre. It was very slow going with minibus drivers and taxis all over the place as well as street vendors walking on the roads, between cars.

We wanted to stop at Best of Bikes as we would be riding through that road but did not find it. They don’t have a proper address. It is in Cairo road, the main road in Lusaka, where all the traffic end up driving through. In the end, we stopped at a petrol station and alistair went on foot try to find the place, but it was not where google map said it was! So we decided to ride to the Airbnb flat. That also took a while. I just wanted to get out of the heavy traffic, as it was rather stressful.

The Airbnb place was off the main road, through a dirt road with a big tall metal gate. Perfect for our bikes.

After getting changed we walked to the local supermarket. By then it was mid afternoon and we needed some food. We got enough for a snack and dinner. We decided that Alistair would ride the next day to Best of Bikes and check their tyres. If they are good quality I may also change my rear tyre. My Shinko tyre could still go on for a while. For Alistair, his Mitas rear tyre is over and has to be replaced.

The flat has a washing machine so we decided to do a big load with almost all our clothes.

We will stay in Lusaka until Sunday. I have to do some planning for the next few days of travel across eastern Zambia and our visit to South Luangwa National Park. Long distances with little fuel and campsites. And Alistair needs to do a bit of maintenance on the bikes.

That’s all for now!