Saturday, July 9, 2022

WILDLIFE & WATERFALLS IN ZAMBIA

 

We have exited Namibia, so now time to enter Zambia. Covid vaccination check, visas purchased, carnet stamped, insurance paid, carbon tax paid and road tolls paid. Sounds fast like that but the computers are on a go slow, so the vehicle paperwork take ages and of course the road toll guy decides to go to lunch when we get to his counter, so we have to wait. Finally, four hours later we are officially in Zambia.

It is always a bit of a culture shock changing borders especially when we are confronted with shacks and piles of rubbish. But out of town it always improves and we pass village after village enclosed by wooden fences. We follow the Zambesi River north and stop at the Ngonye River Camp for the night. A lovely grassy spot with a huge firepit overlooking the river. Awesome. We meet the owner, Jack, who runs this place and facilitates mission groups who visit villages and drill them water wells completely free of charge.

In the morning we head upstream to try to walk to the Ngonye Falls. The walk involves a lot of rock hopping and then crossing the rapids to the middle of the river. John makes it, I don’t. Some of the leaps are getting so big I fear I will end up washing over Victoria Falls downstream! Then it is back on the road. The western side of Zambia is incredibly poor and people live in thatched huts, grow corn and have a few goats and cows. Oxen carts are the main mode of local transport. We see woman pounding maize and men packing bags of charcoal. We assume it is made at night as we only see one fire mound actually smoking. And of course, the women & children are fetching water all day long. The first biggish town is Senangu where the markets are in full swing. Lots of fish with ladies waving fans to keep the flies away. And lots of different root vegetables. Down by the river front locals are building trailers. It’s a busy place.

The next town is Mongu – a sprawling town on the huge Zambezi delta. Here they celebrate the wet season with the Lozi King travelling from one palace to another via a decorated barge accompanied by drum players, all decked out in amazing costumes. Everyone turns out to watch and party. We drive to the waterfront to look at the boats and the fishing village. Then onto more mundane chores. We need some kwatcha (local currency) and locate an ATM. Nothing spits out at the first, so we head to another. It too refuses to part with cash and it unkindly keeps our card. Bother. The bank is apparently closed, although there is staff inside. I manage to speak on the phone to the only lady with access to the ATM. Result: will have to return tomorrow. So, we head to the Greenview Guesthouse (a rather rundown motel) and overnight in their carpark. We return to the bank at the time we were instructed and wait. Of course! But finally, we get the card back and she takes us to yet another ATM and we now have plenty of kwachas! Let’s get out of this town. We have a long drive (200km) to reach Roys Camp on the far side of Kafue National Park. Shouldn’t be too hard, but there are 80km of broken road where it is hard to dodge the potholes (A good thing John enjoys dodgems)

At dusk we pull into camp and all the other travellers we met are the border are here too. In the morning we spend a few hours chatting with Brenda & David who had a farm in Zimbabwe and were evicted, and then a farm in Zambia. Amazing stories of overcoming hardship. We are blown away by their positive outlook. Later we decide to drive through part of the northern side of Kafue Nat Pk to see if we can spot any wildlife. Unfortunately, we spot way too many tsetse flies (nasty bitey things) and hardly any animals. Plus, it is slow going on the goat track. After 30km we turn around and head back to Roys. More chatting with Brenda & David who suggest we visit Vic Falls now rather than later as the water flow will be about perfect now. So, again a change of plans (if we had planned this properly, we would have got a double entry visa!)

We head off bright and early to enter the South side of Kafue National Park. Apparently the animals are shy and can only be seen early or late!!! Well, they didn’t get up at all this morning.  At least the gravel road is pretty good and there aren’t as many tsetse flies. Much later in the day we reach the waters edge of the Kafue River where it forms a huge lake from the dam, and finally we see our first lot of hippos. Yay. We sneak up to have a good look, keeping a safe distance. They are seriously huge. Driving on we see more hippos and huge herds of elephants. We head out of the park to view the huge dam at Itezhi-Tezhi, then back into the park and further south (we need to exit the park by 6pm or we will be charged another day and at $55US plus camping fees if we stay, we want to exit). We reach the Dundumwezi Gate by 5.30pm and ask if we can camp there. Yes, we can and they stamp us out then too. Perfect. A quiet night despite the village behind us.

The next day we head along the gravel road passing countless small villages: these ones have a central open building surrounded by smaller conical thatched huts. Most have huge baskets ready for collecting maize. Our roads heads through the busy back streets of Kalomo where people and stalls are everywhere. Then we hit the tarseal and the main road to Livingstone. A good sealed road with not too much traffic, perhaps because it is Saturday. We head straight to the camping area at The Victoria Falls Lodge and settle in. The Lodge restaurant is right beside the huge Zambezi River and upstream from the Falls. We enjoy a pizza while watching yet another glorious red sunset.

The Falls today. Bright and early, we get a ride (rather than take GR2) to the border and cross the river to the Zimbabwe border where we purchase a Kaza visa that will give us entry to both Zimbabwe and Zambia. Then straight into Mosi- au-Tunya /Victoria Falls to stop at all the viewpoints. The Falls do not disappoint. They are spectacular, but we do get spectacularly wet. We have jackets but our legs are soaked, our boots full of water and my straw hat is a floppy mess! But so worth it.  A few hours later we head back out of Zimbabwe and back into Zambia. But that is not all for the day. Later we take to the skies (a real indulgence for us) in a helicopter to zoom right along the bottom of the Zambezi Gorge and then up over the Falls……truly stunning.

We haven’t finished with the Falls yet. Monday morning, we drive to the Zambian side, park (we are pleased to see an armed guard on duty) and head out to look at the viewpoints from this side.  We walk right down into the gorge to the boiling pot (Phew!) where rafts are launched. Then walk-through sheets of water, across an amazing bridge that is suspended directly in front of the falls. If anything, it is wetter than the other side, and even more stunning. Finally, back at GR2 we pour water out of our boots and peel off drenched jeans. As we have our coffee a cheeky baboon climbs our steps to look inside. When chased away he climbs up the back tyres and peers in the window before climbing onto the roof and decides to sit comfortably up there on one of the spare tyres. Another one climbs into John’s garage. The upstairs passenger won’t leave until we start to drive away.

We head back to the town of Livingstone to get groceries and visit the little museum. Then it is on the road towards Lusaka. We won’t make it today, so find the Twin Caves Resort at Choma to stop overnight. Then most of the day driving to Lusaka along with hundreds of trucks. We all have to weave around huge potholes. The plan had been to head straight to an Isuzu Workshop, but as it is already nearly 4pm by the time we reach the outskirts of the city and because the workshop is over the other side of the city, we decide to stop at the Eureka Campground on the outskirts and head to the workshop in the morning. In the morning we drive slap bang right through the centre of Lusaka – the crazy traffic and hordes of people are very entertaining. We eventually are sent to a workshop and get a grease and oil change done (John’s comment is that these guys aren’t the complete toolbox!!) Before we head out of town, we track down a friend’s old home. It is completely surrounded by walls that are topped with an electric fence. A picture over the wall doesn’t prove very good, so John sweet talks the guard into letting him pop through the gate for a few more photos.  Then we meander through a few more suburbs on our way to find the usual supermarket and ATM. By now its late afternoon and we crawl with all the other traffic out of the city. We end the day camped at the Fringilla Farm Camp. It is a huge farm complex with chalets, camping, piggery, cattle, butchery etc etc.  Later that evening we chat to the owner – again more interesting stories of such a different life here in Africa.

Hard to believe we have already been in Zambia for 9 nights and there is lots more to see.

 

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