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.

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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!

Namibia: Toward the Caprivi strip

Due to poor WiFi connections, all photos can be viewed HERE.

( my posts for this trip are public, so no need for a FB account or to be connected to me!)

Day 35 – Monday 2d July – Grootfontein

The previous day, Alistair found a motorcycle / quad bikes workshop in town, but it was closed ( as it was Sunday).

So in the morning, after eating our B&B’s massive breakfast ( cereals, boerwor sausage, bacon, toasts, 2 eggs) we walk there. The town is pleasant enough, clean with wide streets and avenues, and low rise buildings.

After a chat with the business owner, Johan, who invites us to do the oil change in his premises, we fetch the bikes.

Alistair talks mechanic stuff with the owner. He is worried about his clutch, as it slips a bit.

Usually, we always put specific motorcycle engine oil on our bikes. Sounds logical. But often, in our trips it has been very difficult to fine that.

Johan has motorcycle oil, but he uses multi grade car oil in all his bikes, including his shiny BMW 1200 adventure. He says car oil is good quality, as long as we use a good brand. It is also much cheaper and easier to find. So it’s good to know, as we may not be so lucky, next time we need to change the oil!

After 5,000 kms, the oil from our bikes is black with dirt. We are told the fuel here is probably more “dirty” than in Europe and we should change it more often. Although our bikes manuals say we should change the oil every 10,000 miles, Johan tells we should do it much more often. Cheaper to change oil than something in the engine!

After that, we do some shopping. Alistair gets himself a hoody, as it is so cold at the moment, and we get some food for the next leg of our trip. Our staple food while camping is peanut butter and bread for breakfast, with coffee, and tins of curried mix vegs, tin of baked beans, bags of instant noodles, salted peanuts and biscuits, for dinner and snacks. All of this is easy to transport in a roll bag strapped at the back of my bike.

When we are riding we don’t usually bother with lunch. Dried nuts like peanuts are found everywhere and are filling.

In the evening we have dinner at the B&B’s restaurant and watch some football game with a glass of red wine! As you can see, we are having a hard life!

Day 36 and 37 – Tuesday 3rd July / weds 4th July – Kaisosi river lodge campsite – 280kms

The night is freezing cold and we have added all the extra blankets to our quilt. There is never any heating in houses here, from what we have seen.

We leave Grootfontein around 10am. We don’t have too far to go, and it is all tarmac. The only problem is the cold. It is always sunny and big blue sky, but, this morning in particular, it is freezing. I put all my layers on and even like that I suffer with the cold.

Eventually, by early afternoon, we arrive at Rundu. On the way we pass many traditional villages, with round huts and a round wood fence made of standing sticks side by side. There are lots of cows, donkeys and goats grazing by the side of the road.

By mid day, as we pass all those traditional villages, kids, still in their school uniform, get all excited to see our bikes and wave or run toward us. To start with, I wave back, but I worry that some kids could get too excited and run too close to the bikes, causing an accident. So I decide not to wave and ignore then instead.

In Central Asia, some idiots bikers started the trend of doing a High Five to kids, while riding. As a result, groups of kids now run practically in front of the bikes, even when riding fast. That made me very nervous over there.

After a stop for fuel, we follow the gps to the lodge. The way is via yet more deep sand for a bit of a mile. At some point I start digging my back wheel in deep sand, but I eventually manage to get off.

The grounds of the lodge are very pleasant. As usual for lodges, our campsite has its own small shower/ toilet block. The assistant shows us a site that has a concrete table and benches, which makes a big difference for us. After pitching the tent, we go for a wander.

They have the usual facilities, a curio shop with carved things and stuff to sell, a bar, a restaurant, a large terrace over the river, chalets for the high paying guests, overlooking also the river, and Avery large room with 2 big TVs. So we can watch the football.

The night is very cold, even sleeping with layers. Our sleeping bags are goose down and usually very warm. We bought them in Buenos Aires, back in 2007, during our motorcycle year around South America. My bike had been stolen and with it the camping gear. We replaced the sleeping mats and sleeping bags in Argentina. But even the goose down is not enough to keep us warm! We are told it is snowing in the Cape, and the freezing wind blowing from there!

The next day we laze around and get to know our neighbours in the campsite next to us. Three couples from South Africa on big 4×4 cars with roof tents.

Day 38 – Shametu lodge ( near Divundu) Thursday 5th July – 230kms

We pack up very early. The night was still freezing cold.

We stop at the local supermarket for some supplies to last the 3 days we plan to spend in Shametu. Lodges are usually in the middle of nowhere. They don’t have a shop. Lodge’s guests are in full board, and campers usually bring everything with them in their massive cars and trailers. South Africans, often. They travel in style! Those trailers have a full integrated kitchen and i suspect fridge as well!

At the car park of the supermarket, as we get ready to go, a woman and an old guy come to tell us to watch for a white car. They warn us they might try to follow us. As usual there are lots of people hanging around, or sitting in their cars. We thank the couple and go.

I keep an eye on my mirrors but can’t see anyone following.

The road follow the river Kovango, which is the border between Angola and Namibia. We pass many traditional villages, built with wooden huts and thatched roofs, with a round fence around them. As usual there are lots of cows and donkeys and goats roaming freely around.

We finally arrive at Divundu by early afternoon. We buy fuel and follow the GPS to the lodge. We see lots of tourists in big 4×4 with the usual tent in the roof set up. The place is busy. It is close to the border with Botswana and the only way to get to Zambia.

We find the turn off to the lodge. Once again, a mile of deep sand. I make a mistake and quickly drop the bike! I really don’t enjoy riding in deep sand. Sometimes I get it and skip over it using speed, and sometimes I just can’t do it! It is as much skill as confidence. It is a very big leap of faith, to stand on the footpegs and open the throttle and accelerate over a long section of sand.

The lodge is lovely with great grounds. Our campsite is shaded and enormous. It and has a large kitchen area, with a big worktop and a big aluminium kitchen sink.

Then another building is the toilet and shower room. The place is dark inside, but fine.

I ask the manager if we could get a couple of chairs or some benches to sit, as we have nothing. She kindly get some staff to bring us a couple of camping chairs.

In the evening we cook our usual tin of vegs with a bag of noodles and spend the evening lounging I te lodge buildings.

Day 39 and 40 and – Shametu lodge – sat / Sunday 6th and 7th July – 0kms

We book a river cruise for the afternoon. We see hippos and crocs and lots of birds.

We also see the Pupa falls. They are more like rapids than waterfalls.

I take the opportunity to make a big wash, including my motorcycle suit. The zips are getting very stiff because of the sand and dust stuck there. I give them a good brushing to remove all the dirt, until the zips work fine again. The weather is still fairly cool and surprisingly cloudy. We have not had any clouds since we left South Africa!

With some sort of WiFi working occasionally, I do some research for the next leg of our trip. I found a couple of blogs detailing the border crossing between Zambia and Namibia. There is an ATM machine on the Zambian side, so we don’t need to use money changer touts. There is also a bank, apparently.

I also look at the itinerary across Zambia, where distance between fuel stations might be a problem, through the Great East Road.

I also investigate further Mozambique. Outside of the north, which is dangerous, the country is quiet. Coming from Malawi we should be ok. Instead of riding straight through Mozambique to get to Zimbabwe, I am looking at exploring a bit Mozambique. We will see when we get close to the border.

That’s all for now!

Northern Namibia

 

Day 29 – Uis – Tuesday 26th June – 240 kms

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From our chat with Yamaha yesterday, we realised that the mud from the salt road was extremely corrosive. 

To be fair, the 1st time we crossed it, it was dry, and looked like tarmac. We did not think much of it. So on the way back from Yamaha, We stopped at a car wash facility to give a rinse to my bike , as it was covered in salty mud. 

My electrics took  a hit though, I found out later !

As we leave Swakopmund (at last!) the digital display, which shows my speed, mileage , clock etc… is blank. When we stop for fuel, before leaving town, at first the bike won’t start. Strange. Eventually I catch up with Alistair. 

Once we hit the little D1930 shortcut to Uis, we stop few miles later. The road is badly corrugated and sandy. 

Alistair leaves ahead, and I can’t start my bike. I make a mental note never to jet-wash my bike again. Ever! 

The last small wash, where I directed the lad to avoid the controls and remove the salt just from the lower section of the bike only, still seems to have played havoc with the electrics. After 5 minutes, I finally get a response when I press the start button. Still, I am worried. 

60kms from Uis we stop again and the problem repeats. I get it going eventually and hope it is just water and the humidity causing this. 

We arrive early afternoon at Uis, and after refuel, we get to the Cactus Cafe and campsite. 

The facilities are amazing. Each campsite has its own shaded plot, with individual toilet/ shower, as well as a sink, Braai and tables ad chairs. 

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Once we get the tent up, Alistair put WD40 around my controls and electrics. Leaving the bike drying in the sun helps. I still have nothing on the digital display. This is very annoying. But at least the bike seems to start when I am on neutral only. 

We revise our itinerary. We have wasted 10 days on and off in Swakopmund. and the gravel road I intended via Palmwag to Epupa falls is the main tourist trail. We decide to ride straight north instead, to Ruacana falls. I intended to get there via lots of detours. Going straight there will save us few days. Also, we don’t fancy busy gravel roads and breathing dust and sand raised by the constant traffic. It is exhausting. 

Day 30 – Kamanjab – 240kms – weds 27th June

After packing up, we have breakfast at the Cactus Cafe, attached to the campsite. They have nice pancakes. The staff is friendly, it is definitely a nice place for a night if you need. 

We ride straight north, through yet more bad gravel roads. We don’t see any wildlife. Just cars. We stop in a small town for fuel. Lots of touts around, trying to sell us tat we don’t need. 

By early afternoon we arrive at Kamanjab. There is no other spot on my map until Ruacana falls, over 300kms away. After stopping at a fuel station/ coffee/ shop we try to find accommodation. The GpS charger is dead from water and humidity, badly corroded. So we cannot use it to find a campsite.

Alistair is told about a B&B few hundred metres away. He walks there. They want about 100 USD! How can accommodation be so bloody expensive in Nambia? It never ceases to amaze me. Even camping costs a good 15 to 25 dollars per person, in average! And they won’t drop the price, even if the place is deserted. Surely, if you have a business, you would offer a discount to get customers over during low season! 

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The owner of the cafe recommends her campsite and cabins, a mile out of town. It is half the price and we have a nice chalet for it. 

We cook a tin of vegs with instant noodles for dinner. 

Day 31 – Thursday 28th June – Ruacana, ‘okapita ‘ campsite – 300kms

After breakfast of toasted bread and cheese, as well as banana with yogurt, we are ready for a long ride. 

We go back to town for fuel. We fill the 5l fuel jerrycan as well, as the next fuel station is about 320kms away. Too far to make it with our fuel tanks alone.

Then we hit the road. All sweet nice tarmac, with hardly any traffic. 

About midday, we stop on a rest area to have a rest. Then we see a motorbike passing going south. I wave. It is a large bike with panniers and top box. We have not met any bikers since the unlikely meeting with Jordan in Swakopmund, and Clark in Springbok. 

The biker sees us and do a u turn. We meet Bruno, riding a huge new Africa Twin. 

We speak bike stuff for a while. He mentions he has a campsite near Ruacana falls, and to stop there. We can have a luxury tent for the price of camping. Nice! He mentioned that some time ago he had a Deutsche  couple on two bikes like Alistair ( CRF250). It can only be Leonie and her husband. We met them in Wales last year. I check and he confirms. What are the chances? There are so few people over-landing by motorbike in Africa, and yet we either seem to follow on their steps, or bump into them! 

So we keep riding, and a couple of hours later we reach the T junction, beyond, Angola. We find Bruno’s campsite, up a long very deep twisty sand track. Not fun on two wheels. We have a reception committee, with wet towels offered to clean our hands and a glass of apple juice. All very friendly and nice. 

We settle in the tented camp, which, as it’s name suggests, already contains  Avery large tent, with a really double bed, and a nice shaded vestibule. We are the only guests so the centre of attention of all the staff. After a beer we are asked if we want the set menu for dinner. As they keep asking we settle for the set menu, it is huge, enough to feed an army. 

Then we are invited to watch them singing and dancing. 

After a long day on the bikes, we go to bed early. The night is very cold. Very cold! 

Day 32 – Etosha gate – 460kms – Friday 29th June

We leave camp early and ride to Ruacana falls. Before, we waste some time, due to the stupid GPS, trying to get us through non existent tracks to the fuel station. After the fuel stop is sorted, we ride to the falls. They are at the border with Angola and we need to actually get through the Namibian post  border ( without stamping anything, they wave us through!). Unfortunately, this is the dry season and the falls are dry! But it is a beautiful ride there anyway. 

After that, we get back on the road. It is all tarmac but the stretch of road riding East is very busy with lots of towns and villages. The area is very green and there is a lot of water with plenty of shallow lakes and flooded land as well as a long river or canal.

There are also plenty of donkeys, goats and cows grazing by the side of the road! After crashing into a charging cow in Kyrgyzstan, I am cautious! 

Initially, I was thinking to find a camp on the way, but we find nothing obvious, and in the end, we decide to make it to Onguma camp, which is near the East entrance of Etosha National Park. We cannot get into the park with our motorbikes, but we can organise a drive inside from the campsite, at reasonable price. 

So we push on with the bikes, for most of the day and arrive at the gate of Onguma lodge (just next to Etosha National Park gates) and campsite rather late. It is nearly 6 pm and night falls early. The guard asks us if we have reservations! We don’t. The camp is full. 

We are on a bit of a pickle as the nearest camp is about 100km away! We cannot ride at night with the bikes, it would be too dangerous. The guard phone someone, and after some wait, he lets us in and we camp next to the gate. There is a small cement block with a  toilet, a sink, and a cold shower, which are designed for the door guard, but we can use them. It will do for the night. We have no water left but we can drink from the tap. We have very little food left too.

We manage to cook a packet of vegetarian chilli with some instant noodles. Spicy. 

After that, with nothing much to do and the night being cold, it is an early night. 

We have arranged, with the guard, to get into an early morning drive to Etosha, for about 50 / 52 USD per person. We have to pay in cash the driver. We also pay the guard in cash for the night camping. I don’t think the campsite will see any of that! But this is Africa, and we were in a bit of a trouble, so we are grateful we found a place for the night. 

With such a long ride we drink lots of water and dissolve a rehydration tablet. The consequences are predictable. 

Day 33- Onguma campsite – Saturday 30th June – 3 kms

I wake up around 3:30am…. the night is bitterly cold. I can hear lions roaring not too far. I need to go the toilet! I won’t be able to hold my bladder until daylight. Alistair laughs because I am scared of lions, but I don’t know where they are. We are, after all, camping in a private game reserve. They have lions. And the official campsite, I found out later, is fenced and we are not allowed to walk out! 

Anyhow, after careful exit from the tent and a watch around ( it is full moon and it’s like having a giant spotlight above the tent!) I manage my little expedition safely.

We are up at 5am to be ready for the drive into the park. It is absolutely freezing. I put all my layers on as well as my waterproof insert jacket. 

We were told the car would pick us up at 6am. 

The car actually comes into Onguma at 7, then takes forever to pick up 2 other tourists, who are taking their time having breakfast! Our breakfast was a cup of coffee, and the share of half a stale bread roll with peanut butter! 

Finally by 7:30 we get on the car. By then we are frozen! The diver hand us over a thick poncho, fleece inside and waterproof outside. We need it, as the car is open on all sides to take photos. 

We pay the guard for our night camping and get going. 

We spend all morning driving with a guide around the National Park of Etosha. We see plenty: lots of springbok, impalas, kudus and other deers, giraffes, many elephants, ostriches, zebras, a black rhino, and what i really wanted to see, a lion! A magnificent lion! 

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Later on, we ask the driver to stop at the park official shop, as we can buy some food there and we cannot get there with the bikes. 

We pay the driver in cash for our drive. We are left with very little cash! 

At our return, there are some spots available in the campsite, so we move there early afternoon. We have a nice spot with our own toilet, shower room, sink, kitchen area etc… really nice. 

As it is finally very hot, I wash some clothes as my riding top is not smelling its best! 

We then have a nice hot shower and some late lunch from the bar ( just toasted cheese and tomato sandwich ) and two nice cold beers! 

Once all the chores are done, we go to the swimming pool and lie by the pool. It has been a very tiring day. 

Day 34 – Grootfontein – Sunday 1st July – 170 kms

I sleep like a log, with my thermal shirt and wool socks. The night, as usual, is very cold. We emerge around 7:30. We are not in a rush. 

Our next destination is only 170kms away. We will stay there 2 nights to do some research on the next leg of our trip, do an oil change and get some provisions. 

We leave the campsite around 9:30 after a coffee and some bread with peanut butter. Then we ride. 

We get to Grootfontein rather early. The backpacker place that we had in mind is empty. No one around. After all , it is Sunday. 

We eventually find another place and get settled. Everything is closed but there is a kind of motorcycle shop ( more like quad bikes stuff ) where Alistair thinks he could find motorcycle oil. We can investigate on Monday.