South-East Africa (Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe)
NOTE to other overlanders: All the important stuff summarised on my "Trip_Facts" sheet
We loved Malawi. Perhaps it is because we spent most of our time along the lakeside, perhaps the super-friendly locals or the cheap prices, perhaps because the supermarkets were filled with South-African goods including boerewors. Whatever it was - the country really seemed a change from all we had experienced before.
At the border nobody harrassed us, the locals were generally curious, and non persistant & even the capital, Lilongwe, feels as relaxed as a small country town. We spent most of our time here at various beaches on Lake Malawi. The lake runs most of the length of the country, and pretty much dominates the country's tourist industry.
We found several amazing campsites where we were able to camp on the edge of the beach. The size of the lake means that relatively large waves form, so it is always a suprise when you jump into the water and find it fresh. We had to keep correcting ourselves from talking about "the sea".
our first stop was South Luangwa National Park. We had heard many excellent reports about this park. What really made it an attractive destination is the fact that there are a number of good campsites on the Luangwa river bank, directly opposite the park. By many reports there was almost as much wildlife to be seen in the campsites as in the park itself. So we based ourselves here for a few days. During this time we both decided that hippos may be our favourite African animal.
This river has around 40 hippos along each km of length. Hippo spend their days lying lazily in the river or on sandbanks.
During this time they chatter away to each other in deep baritone grunts & growls. It's a wonderfully relaxing sound & we could have spent weeks listening to them.
At night they come out of the water to eat grass, and on several occasions we found them munching around our tent at night.
All above photos by Jaye (yawn).
In addition, we had several visits from herds of elephant wandering through the camp. We even saw a grumpy bull send 2 girl running in terror when they got too close!! And like everybody, we were constantly raided by Baboons and monkeys who watched our every move, and went in to grab anything the minute we turned our backs!!
Zim may not seem an ideal destination for the tourist in Aug 2007. However we had a good reason to go: 2 friends were getting married just outside Harare. Travellers are put off for two main difficulties: diesel & cash. I calculated how much diesel we would need for our visit. As a result we entered the country between Lusaka and Harare with 120 litres in our tanks and another 85litres in jerry cans, hidden deep under our stuff. We had no problem entering, and headed directly for Mana Pools N.P.
This Park is perhaps the least affected by Zimbabwe's current problems.
It is set on the Zambezi, with the area closest to the water densely populated by animals.
Our highlight was seeing a pride of 10 Lions early in the morning, while everybody else slept. Interestingly this is the only park where you are allowed to walk around without a guide, but obviously at your own risk.
Our favourite sight in the campsite was this tent with personalised electric fence to keep out Hyena. Aaaahhhh lovely to sleep in a roof tent!!
Then to Harare where we spent the weekend at an excellent wedding at Kufunda Village (www.kufunda.org), a community learning village created by the bride, Marianne. I spent most time catching up with old friends. At times we found ourselves the only transport for some of the guests, with many cars affected by the diesel shortages.
Here we are transporting an amazing 9 people in our 4 seater!
After 6 months in the dust, we still scrub up OK! Our goal was not to be the grubbiest people there, and we succeeded well!!
After the weekend, a group from the wedding party flew to Vic falls. We took 2 days to drive, stopping overnight in the Matobo N.P, just outside Bulawayo. We also took 2 other wedding guests along with us for the ride. I had visited this park years ago and enjoyed it's odd balancing columns of rocks.
It supposedly had one of the highest concentrations of Leopard in the world many years ago. It also boasts a number of White Rhino.
During our visit I honestly have to say we saw less wildlife than any other park we have visited. Admittedly it is very hard to see anything in the dense bush and rocky terrain. We saw lots of Rhino "evidence", but sadly no Rhino. Despite this it is a beautifull park.
During my travels I have lost count of the number of times that somebody has come up to me with a "psssssst - wanna buy hash?" or similar. But it is only here in Zimbabwe that people say "Pssssst - wanna buy diesel??". I bought some extra diesel on the black market. There is no diesel at the pumps, so instead you stop at a garage and wait for the touts to come and offer to sell you 20litres for 50% more than the official price. Stockpiling of fuel for the black market has probably caused some of the shortage. Sales are made out the back of a car in a side-street!!
At Vic Falls we did the amazing Zambezi rafting trip and it was without doubt the best rafting trip I have done!
After Vic falls, we visited Chobe N.P. in Botswana with a friend (see next chapter), and then returned to Zambia, to Livingstone for a week to catch up on our websites, work on Priscilla and relax a bit.
In addition, Jaye took a microlight flight over the falls, something I did 9 years ago. She came back with the same inane grin that I wore :)