Bound For The Cape of Good Hope…

Swaziland was a bit of a revelation to us. 
I don’t know what we were really expecting but we were quite surprised at how ‘civilised’ the country is. The landscape is mountainous and beautiful – I think we expected that – but there is a measure of prosperity that I didn’t think we’d see: from the number & quality of cars, the absence of shanty towns & people living in grass huts, the excellent condition of the roads and the lack of typical South African ‘tension’ in the air. There is clearly some money around and an atmosphere of well-being, openness and contentedness that is rarely apparent in their South African neighbours. 
We spent a very pleasant and relaxed few days at Mlilwane, looking round the traditional beehive huts…

…watching the lake steam after the mid-day thunderstorms…

…and chilling around the braai in the evenings. 
The camp area is frequently visited by zebra, warthogs, impala, bushbuck and beautiful nyala. The baked potatoes are nearly ready, now all I need to do is find some meat…

We even went out and did some ‘tourist’ stuff! There’s an excellent little craft market with tremendous batik work, handmade clothing & housewares and a small workshop called Swazi Candles. Everything is made by hand and with tremendous skill. Helene of course, was straight in.

Sheets and balls of wax are kept warm and pliable in a small heated drawer…

…the coloured and patterned sheets are moulded around the white balls of wax (these will be the burning element with a wick)…

…then the wax is re-warmed before being teased and cut…

…into animal or plant shapes.

Too soon we had to leave Swaziland and cross back into South Africa (an amazing 11 minutes at the Ngwenya border, no charges or complicated paperwork).
Swaziland is a small Kingdom, but has some pretty long, steep mountain roads. As we left the Kingdom behind us the car temperature gauge was getting very excited and the radiator system was whistling like a kettle. By the third time I stopped to let it cool we had a fountain of scalding steam coming out of a tear in the radiator top hose. After again letting it cool and topping up the water, we limped a hundred kilometres or so at 30kph and eventually found a roadside workshop outside a small village, conveniently opposite a scrapyard.

Alfrien didn’t speak a word of English, but he hunted through his piles of scrap until he found a piece of hose that he could cut to roughly the right shape and had it on the car in no time. 

Total labour and parts $3.
Unfortunately, although it stopped the leak it didn’t solve our overheating problem and, after a couple of whatsap conversations with Nick Selby back at Foleys Zambia he narrowed it down to a couple of possible causes. At the next village we stripped out the thermostat (clearly it had been stuck closed) and the engine has run sweet as a nut since.
Our travel plan was to take a circuitous route via Mpumalanga Province to Johannesburg and then through Free State to the Karoo wilderness areas of Western Cape Province, and finally down to Cape Town where we were due to collect Judith (a friend from the UK) who would be visiting us in 3 weeks time.
As always, we travel slowly, preferring to drive no more than 2-300km per day and to stay wherever we stop for a minimum of 2 (ideally 3-4) nights. Since we had 3 weeks to cover 1,800km our laziness knew no bounds.
We spent a few days at Jonkers Dam, a fishing lake in farming country outside Standerton. Owners Hannes and Beyanka made us very welcome (wouldn’t let us pay for dinner when we couldn’t be bothered cooking and told us that “if money is a bit tight, you’re welcome to stay as long as you like without charge.“)
Very tempting: although the landscape around here is very flat, the sky’s are huge, the star-scapes are stunning and the sunset View From The Penthouse is not too shabby:

Even on the occasional cloudy night (when there’s no cloud it was bitterly cold at night) the moon painted beautiful, subtle colours as it backlit the night sky.

After a couple of days we raced up to Jo’burg to collect some supplies (appalling place, I couldn’t wait to get away from it as fast as possible) and headed south west out into the Karoo wilderness.
We made a couple of quick stops at Gariep Dam (where the twilight painted the landscape in shades of oyster and violet)…

…and we spent a couple of days reading and watching the Yellow Mongooses (Mongeese?)

The landscape here is huge, bleak and empty. Roads are deserted, tracks are long, dusty ribbons of gravel.

It’s sobering to think that the Voortrekkers and gold miners headed out into this wilderness only 150 years ago on wooden wheeled carts pulled by oxen, with no concept of what they’d find, where they’d collect water, or where their next meal (other than salted biltong) would come from in the years to come.

Certainly these days there’s very little game around. We had a couple of buck visit us in camp…

…and almost tripped over what (until it hissed at us) originally appeared to be a particularly inconvenient doorstop.

Our intention was to head into the Karoo Wilderness National Park for a few days. We nipped into the closest town to restock provisions and as we pulled out of Beaufort West the car juddered and and stopped with a loud jarring, grinding sound. 
The rear half-shaft had been spat out of the differential. Oh joy!

Still, at least we weren’t in the middle of the Karoo wilderness! 
I managed to get the car moving with the diff-lock engaged and we limped round the corner to a small workshop we’d seen earlier in the day.
It was the day before a Public Holiday weekend, everyone was working fast to get through the backlog of vehicles and knock-off early. But the guys set to work on the axel. They identified that it wasn’t too damaged but that, although there was a circlip on the outside of the hub, there wasn’t one on the inside (which would prevent it from slipping out over time). 
They talked about welding the shaft to the hub, but I wasn’t too keen on that idea. Eventually they found a machine shop at the other end of town who actually cut a perfect groove into the half shaft, behind the hub and fitted an internal circlip so that once bolted back onto the axel, the shaft couldn’t slip in any direction. It took them all day, but once again local experts proved they could find a way to build a work-around.
Before the sun set, we got through the gates to the Karoo National Park, drove the 11km track to our designated campsite and settled down to a glass of something cold.
View From The Penthouse:

Karoo is not a National Park stocked with game like a Downton Abbey larder just before Christmas. There are a few lion and herds of buck, but they’re very elusive. 
The Mountain Zebra are beautiful and rare…

…and occasionally the big kudu will break cover for a surreptitious drink…

…but with so little water and such sparse vegetation, there’s even very little bird life.

What Karoo is about is the massive, empty landscape…

…the ever-changing colours of the escarpment and plains…

…the surprisingly vivid colours of some of the plants…

…and the multitude of mobile doorstops that roam our camp.

We set out from Karoo to cross the plains and escarpments of Groot Swartburg with its strange undulating folds of granite mountains that were moulded when this area was all sea bed…

…and traversed the very scenic R62 route west to Calitzdorp where we camped for a couple of days at the old station on the outskirts of town. 

The station has been converted into a small campsite and backpackers and is being restored by the owners who took it on 4-5 years ago.

In Europe we’re so used to castles, churches and even homes being 300, 400, even 500 years old that we take for granted our history. Much of southern Africa has only been settled for a matter of 120-150 years and therefore any building a century old almost automatically becomes an historic monument.
We continued along the R62 through the beautiful valley of Ladismith…

…and joined the Garden Route at Swellendam, crossing the huge sweeping plains of parched, dusty farmland around Hermanus and Caledon…

…before dropping down over the final Cape escarpment at Sir Lowry’s Pass and getting our first sighting of salt water for almost 3 years.

We pitched our ground tent next to the Berg River amongst the vineyards and mountains of Stellenbosch and settled in to wait for Judith’s flight to arrive in Cape Town the following day.

Hanging Around in Kruger…

Trying to find some relief from the miserable weather, we headed down off the escarpment and decided to revisit Kruger National Park for a few days. 
We had bought a ‘Wild Card’ online ($300 annual membership per couple, providing free entry to all South Africa National Parks) which meant that it would actually be cheaper to camp inside the National Parks than in private campsites outside the boundaries.
The weather wasn’t considerably better, but being 600 lower meant that at least we weren’t actually camped in the clouds.
They’ve had huge rains in this area recently and the whole park is lush.
 
Bursting with greenery and life is fantastic for the bird population, particularly the raptors…

…for whom the abundant insect and rodent population provide an all you can eat buffet.

Unfortunately the high grass and thick foliage make more traditional Game-spotting a little more difficult than in the dry season.
If it’s big cats you’re looking for, they’re likely to be hidden in the thick, tall undergrowth or up in the dense tree canopies. Sometimes the only way you know something is close is by spotting the vultures circling or loitering patiently in a tree, waiting to pick up the scraps from a kill.

With their beady eyes firmly fixed on the prize, they’re content to wait all day just for the chance to thrust their mangy heads into the belly of a downed zebra, warthog or buck that’s been dead 3-4 days.

Other than a few tell-tales signs, sometimes you’ve just got to keep your eyes peeled. If you’re lucky, you might spot a leopard in a tree a few hundred metres from the track. If you’re exceptionally lucky, you might even spot one only 20 metres from the track.
We were exceptionally lucky. 
Even that close though, since the park is so huge and most of the day is spent cruising the sandy / gravel tracks, it would be all to easy to drive right past. 
Whilst keeping one eye on the potholed, corrugated, rutted track ahead, another on the high bush to ensure you don’t get wiped out by a stray elephant / giraffe / buffalo / etc, another on the road ahead so that you don’t run over dung beetles, tortoises, snakes, rodents, etc, and another on your mirrors to make sure nothing is sneaking up on you, this is what you’re looking for…

Did you spot it?

Even when the park is pretty quiet, it doesn’t take long for someone else cruising around to spot a stationary car in the distance and head over to take a look. Nothing wrong with that, there’s no points-system for who spotted the great sighting first. What I can’t understand though is the people who race up, take 2-3 snaps and then race off, having ticked the ‘leopard’ box.
Sure, when a leopard is sleeping lazily, nothing is likely to happen in a hurry. But that doesn’t mean nothing will happen at all.

Even if they’re just shifting their weight to get a more comfortable perch, they’re always worth watching.

We watched this beautiful young female for more than 7 hours over a 2-day period. I don’t think we were bored for a single minute.

At one point she climbed down for 30 minutes or so and we lost her in the grass. We got some very strange looks from people who passed and asked what we were watching “There was a leopard in the tree, but she’s down in the long grass now. I’m sure she’ll be back.” 
Right. Ok.” …and a knowing look before they drove off to tick another box.
Soon enough though she was back in the tree. After a territorial display to let everyone know this was her patch…

…she prowled around her turf…

…then disappeared further up the tree, into the thick canopy.
It took us a while to work out what was going on. The reason she was so determined to stake her claim on that particular tree was that she had hidden an Impala carcass in the tree a day or so before.

After a good 30 minute feed on what was left of the carcass (imagine the strength required to climb a tree backwards, dragging a fully grown Impala, 70% of your own body weight, between your teeth!) she came back down to her perch…

…leaving only a few bites hanging around for supper that evening, or breakfast the following day.

 

After spending a couple of days with something as beautiful as the leopard it’s easy to forget that the park is bursting with life of many types (albeit hard to spot in such high bush). Some of the elephants here have the biggest tusks we’ve seen in all of Africa.

And the kudu may not be the kings of the animal kingdom, but they stand around and pose as if they were. 

With so much rain recently, the normally dried up, wandering creeks have been turned into pulsing, turbulent river beds that need care when crossing.

It’s always tempting to stop in the middle and take a couple of pictures. There are unforeseen dangers though (apart from crocs and hippos). When we stopped briefly in the middle of one shallow dam wall, within 60 seconds the car was surrounded by vicious predators. I could have just kept driving, but with 30 or so of them around the wheels and under the vehicle, if I’d driven off I’d have left a jigsaw of shell behind me. 

Still, there’s always something around that would have been prepared to pick up the pieces and benefit from the carnage.

Mind you, not everything around here is predatory (at least not obviously so). Some of the birdlife in particular seems to have little purpose other than to look outstandingly beautiful. Like the European Roller. At one point (a couple of years ago) we seemed to see them everywhere, but haven’t seen any for at least 18 months.

The Lilac Breasted Roller is perhaps even more beautiful and even more rare in recent years.

Of all the things that we thought were truly rare, and have seen precious few times, on this visit, rhino seem to be like busses. You don’t see one for ages, then suddenly they all arrive at once.
Over a 24 hour period, between solo animals, small family groups and cows with calves we saw 17 rhino. 
Some we glimpsed wandering through the bush…

…others took us by surprise (and gave us a pretty hard stare) as we rounded a corner on a remote track…

Even in the middle of poorly drained flood plains, we met a couple of really big fellows. This chap had just emerged from his morning bath, covered in flies and tics.

I don’t know exactly how brave / fierce / foolish you have to be to take on a rhino, but something had gotten close enough to give him a pretty nasty wound above his right eye.

Covered in hundreds of flies, what he needs is to dry off a bit and then let the Ox-peckers get to work. There’s nothing they like better than to climb on board and spend the day feasting on flies and bugs picked fresh off drying rhino hide…

Nothing puts them off their stroke or diverts them from their task. The rhino put up with them fussing around every orifice.

It seems every bird in Kruger is enjoying the wet season. Raptors get the spoils of the plentiful Game kills, migratory birds like the Rollers have plenty of berries and flies to sustain them, Beeaters swoop between the thorn trees…

…eating bees.

Around here, I guess one way or the other you’re either predator or prey. Which makes you think wildlife would be better off blending in and keeping a low profile. I’m not sure how that works if you paint yourself up like some sort of carnival queen – whoever said cricket was boring…

After 5 days in Kruger, we headed directly South. Only 100km or so away, across the mountains that border Kwazulu Natal and Mozambique is the landlocked, independent Kingdom of Swaziland.
We crossed the border at Jeppe’s Reef, high above sweeping plains of eucalyptus. The border itself couldn’t have been much easier – no visa charge, 50 Rand road toll charge ($4), 15 minutes in total. From the north the road is a steep switchback, the terrain is lush, mountainous and always shrouded in mist. 

One mountain pass, rising up from the dam wall, was so steep and long that it took us 25 minutes in 2nd gear, doing no more than 20kph. By the time we got to the top the temperature gauge was firmly in the red and the car was whistling like a kettle.
After 150km or so we arrived near Manzini at our camp for the next 4-5 days. As we drove though the tracks of Milwane Wildlife Reserve the skies thickened…

…the lightening struck to either side of us and the gathering storm welcomed us.

Within a couple of hours, the storm had abated, the skies started to clear…

…and we were set for a lovely (but very cold) evening of star watching.
View From The Penthouse:

Bots, Pots & Spots…

We’ve spent the last 3 weeks heading broadly south to get to Cape Town in order to meet our pal Judith who’s hopefully coming out from UK to see us for Easter. In the meantime though, there were a few places in South Africa that we wanted to visit before we have to head west to the Cape.
We had heard a few horror stories about the Zimbabwe / S Africa border at Beitbridge so decided to cross first into Botswana from Zimbabwe and then use an easier border forms Botswana into S Africa. 
So, heading west from The Matopos, we only had to run the gauntlet of another 4 Zimbabwe police roadblocks up to the Botswana border on the road to Francistown. 
For the first time in years, we didn’t have to pay for an entry visa. Botswana is free for Commonwealth Citizens. In fact the only cost to be paid was 240 Pula ($24) for combined Road Toll & 3rd Party Insurance. Unfortunately, although the Botswana border is pretty efficient, they don’t take US$ and the fee must be paid in Pula. Since you can’t buy Pula in Zimbabwe and the efficient Botswanans don’t allow Foreign-Exchange touts at the border, the only option is to change dollars at the ‘official’ For-Ex bureau (a 20-year old caravan in the blazing sun of the car park). 
Here, the exchange rate is currently about 30% out of sync with the banks so buying 240Pula ($24) actually costs $32. 
I smell a rat somewhere.
The Botswanans also operate a series of what they call Veterinary Fences at the border and on all main highways. At each of these, supposedly set up to prevent contaminated products from being transported through the country, they will search the car and confiscate any fresh (or frozen!) meat, dairy or vegetable products. 
Needless to say there is a lot of speculation about why the Veterinary Patrols Staff look so well fed. 
I had taken all but a couple of small ‘sacrificial’ pieces of meat from our freezer and stashed them in the storage box under my seat. The border guard was too concerned about getting rained on to bother searching the car and satisfied himself by confiscating an apple that Helene admitted having when asked if we were carrying any ‘contraband’ items.
In Bots the weather really started to turn. Much cooler, a fair amount of rain and some dramatic skies across their wide-open, huge horizons.

We always try not to drive too far after planning to cross a border – you just never know how much of the day a border is likely to take up.
We spent a couple of nights at Woodlands Stopover, just outside Francistown ($10 each, spotlessly maintained, quiet, unobtrusively lit – so great star filled skies and the sounds of villagers singing in the distance) and then moved south to Palapye. 
Palapye has expanded significantly since we were first there 3 years ago. The power still goes off every day due to problems with the Chinese-built power station (the problems seem to come from the coal supplied by the, coincidently, Chinese-owned coal mine next door) but the whole town is certainly looking more prosperous.
We camped at Itumella Camp (friendly, but a bit dilapidated) behind the railway station. That’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds since the railway doesn’t see a lot of action.

At camp, when the sun did occasionally come out, we found shade beneath Camelthorn trees and a huge cactus.

Overnight the jagged, stark, forbidding, 10-metre high cactus almost burst at the seams with beautiful highly scented flower heads: each 100mm-200mm diameter, which were completely closed up again and concealed by dawn.

The weather continued to deteriorate, the rains now being kept company by angry gusting winds (something we’ve experienced very of little in inland Africa).
On the upside, that meant that we weren’t stopped at any of the 6 additional Veterinary Fence Roadblocks (it seems staying dry is more important to the search parties than preventing the country from being contaminated by frozen chicken breasts).
On the downside, as we crossed into South Africa at Martin’s Drift, it looked like we were in for a prolonged spell of grizzly weather.

As a result of the weather we had been through Bots at a fair rate of knots. We loved Botswana on our way north originally, but it’s just too wet to be able to get around properly at the moment.
Having tried 7 or 8 Cash Machines (without success) to get local currency, I eventually gave up and had to go into a bank to exchange some US$. Whilst standing in the inevitable queue for 45 minutes (only 6 people ahead of me, but I was actually pleasantly surprised at their speed – by African standards) the bank was showing a news channel that reported a Tropical Cyclone destroying the Tanzania Coast. 
Even in those early stages of the storm over 20,000 homes had been lost, 130,000 people displaced and widespread flooding was creating havoc throughout the region. The storm was almost 2,000km from us and even here on the fringes it was causing problems. Even halfway between us and the coast it had actually closed over 70% of Kruger National Park due to the 600mm of rain that fell in only 6 hours!
I guess we were getting off lightly.
We crossed the Limpopo river and over the following 10 days headed east through a variety of camps: Big Fig @ Groblersbrug, Boma in The Bush at Polokwane (met a very nice SA family heading north to Jerusalem), Hippo Lodge @ Nelspruit (the camp we’d stayed in here previously had been turned into a girls boarding school and, although I was keen to stay anyway, Helene wasn’t so positive) and Manoutsa on the Olliphants River @ Hoedspruit (caravan park! with water slides, behind a petrol station).
Most of the camps were nice, but each was as wet as the other and we had to keep moving on. However, at any camp, when you’re stuck with nothing to do, when all else fails, there’s always something around you can spend a few hours watching…

…or something that has plenty of work to do, whatever the weather.

Unfortunately though, it was all a bit miserable. Although we’d seen a little occasional sunshine, we had been wet for almost 2 weeks. I had sat for so long in damp clothes and a damp car seat that I felt like I was getting bed-sores. Not to put too fine a point on it, my backside was as spotty as an autistic child’s ultimate fantasy join-the-dots book!
Try and get that brain-worm picture out of your head for a while! 
Top Tip: bring Sudacreme cream for nappy / diaper-rash, burns, bites, sweat rashes, etc. Marvellous stuff!
We really wanted to visit Blyde River Canyon (pronounced ‘Blayda Rifeeerra’, for some reason) as we’d heard many stories about how beautiful it is. We drove up into the mountains for a night and got beaten back once again by the miserable weather. 


We thought we’d try to buy ourselves a few days grace and drive the long way around the lowlands of the canyon and the Drakensburg Escarpment for a few days, to sit out the bad weather in the mountains, spending some time at Blyde River Dam, another beautiful national park.
That wasn’t to be either. 
Having driven all morning to get there, we pulled up to the barrier at the main park entrance to be told that the park was closed for the moment. 
What about the fancy resort in the middle of the park, is that open?” …maybe we’ll pamper our selves for a few days. 
“No sir, that’s off limits as well at the moment.” 
That doesn’t sound good. Will it reopen soon, is it due to the rains bad weather?” 
“No, the whole park and the resort are closed because they’ve been hired for the next 2 months by a television company filming the Australian version of I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here”.
I think I actually pitied those poor buggers, in the mountains, for 2 months, in that weather. Though the crew would certainly be living the high-life only a few kilometres away in that resort.
Exasperated, wet, frustrated and getting tired we drove for the rest of the day through the soaking eucalyptus forests and citrus plantations (wonderful smells of passion fruit, lemons, pineapple & mango for a hundred kilometres) and eventually climbed back up the escarpment to Panorama View Camp at Graskop.
This is where we had been making for over the last 3 weeks. 
The outstanding landscape of the Drakensburg Escarpment. 
The camp is just outside Graskop and within 20km of some of the most beautiful landscapes in Southern Africa. 
There are numerous waterfalls within a short drive & walk. 
Like Bridal Veil Falls. Stunning.

Then there are the amazing Bourke’s Potholes…

The Pots, at the bottom of the picture, were thought to have been created by tonnes and tonnes of boulders freakishly swirling round a side cavern of an underground river for thousands (tens of thousands?) of years before the roof of the cavern collapsed and the course of the river was diverted.
Outstanding.

The highlight of the view though is from a vantage point called God’s Window. 
It’s not surprising they settled on that name – it looks out over the 3rd largest canyon in the world (after Grand Canyon, USA and Fish River Canyon, Namibia).
Breathtaking.

Even the view from the swimming pool at our campsite on the edge of the canyon is absolutely beautiful.

Well, it is if the weather is good. This is the best we saw for the 3 days we were there…

Uncle Bob: Still on top of his game…

We’ve crossed the Victoria Fall border between Zambia and Zimbabwe 7-8 times over the last few years. The border has always been pretty easy and, despite political problems and poverty, we like Zimbabwe and the everyday Zimbabwean people have always been welcoming and friendly. 
One way or the other though, President M (Uncle Bob) is still working his feverish little scams to fleece people of their money and line his pockets. As someone said to us the other day “How else can he afford all that expensive Chinese plastic surgery?”
His latest jolly wheeze is the printing of the ‘Zimbabwe Dollar’. His scam is that US$ (the previously used national currency) are taken in at borders, used by tourists to buy visas, spent in shops and hotels and then any currency handed out by banks, used by the government to pay locals, given out as change, etc will generally be in Zimbabwe Dollars.

So, where do the real US$ we paid for visas etc at the border go ($55 each for visas, $11 Carbon Tax for the car, $10 Road Levy, $30 for 3rd-Party Car Insurance)? They certainly don’t go to all the local or national Government employees – they’re paid in Uncle Bob’s Disney Dollars. These new $Zim can be used throughout Zimbabwe totally legitimately, but aren’t recognised outside the country so, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES leave the country with any in your pockets as no Forex Bureau or bank will touch them.
There’s another scam going on at the border where money changers are convincing people new to Zimbabwe that they must pay for certain things (Road Levy, etc) in Zim Dollars. This was all new to me and, although I was sceptical, I reluctantly changed US$15 for $10 Zimbabwe. I’m usually pretty aware of money changing scams at the border, but with these new notes in circulation and new visa / toll costs in Zim I didn’t want to get stuck in no-man’s-land between Zambia exit and Zim entry with no appropriate currency. 
Needless to say, it was a scam. Sure, you can change US$ for $Zim. But their is no need to and there’s no exchange rate. It’s strictly 1:1. 
Oh well, at least I only changed US$15 – mind you, the money changer must be a wealthy guy if every sap crossing the border pays him a 50% commission like I did. Thank God I didn’t change more money.

Top Tip: At borders, be friendly, calm, polite and patient. Trust your instincts. Trust no one else.

We planned to stay only 1 night in Victoria Falls as we were on a tight(ish) timetable to get down to Bulawayo and The Motopos National Park. In the end we stayed 3 as we met up with a couple of really interesting Brits, Doctors Niall & Mark.

They’re Zoological Doctors and have worked for many years across the world filmmaking and crusading with Sir David Attenborough and many other wildlife experts. Their latest project is ‘National Park Rescue’. It’s just getting off the ground here in Zim but you can check out some preliminary information at www.nationalparkrescue.org
Essentially, they’re signing contracts with the National Parks to provide training, education and (perhaps more usefully) direct-action response to restore law-and-order, dealing with poaching and try to stamp out corruption in the National Parks themselves. Their main high-profile UK patrons include David Attenborough, Roger Moore, Michael Palin, Michael Caine, Joanna Lumley.

975,000 lions have been killed in Africa over the last 100 years. Only 3,500 males remain! Rhino: 471,000 killed, only 29,000 remain (1 is butchered every 12 hours). Elephant: 4,650,000 killed, only 350,000 remain and they’re being slaughtered at the rate of 35,000 per year. Essentially lions, rhino and elephant have 10 years left!
A fascinating couple of days talking to them. We heard some encouraging stories about actions taken, saw some depressing, short films they have made documenting numerous large-scale local poaching atrocities and were pretty shocked at some of the theories of Institutional corruption that is actually behind (and financing) the widespread poaching that is going on. 

We also heard from one ‘authority’ that, realising there a world-wide ban on ivory trading, one Minister recently used her ‘export’ company to round up 400 young elephants, tear them away from their mothers and ship them (live) to Chinese ‘farms’!
It’s going to be a tough battle for Niall & Mark, and a political minefield. Potentially dangerous too.
They were both fascinated by Helen’s briquette initiatives and the training we have been doing informally. After checking out the blog and our web-pages both Mark & Niall were tremendously encouraging and seem determined that they can point us in the right direction to getting some promotional films made, Corporate Funding, sponsors & Grants that would pay our costs and enable us to tour Africa with a long-term, properly funded training programme.
It’s something to think about seriously as we wind our way south and we could have stayed to talk with them for days, but we had to get back on the road and so did they.
It’s almost 500km from Vic Falls to Bulawayo and the road is tar all the way. Nevertheless, it’s slow going. The tar is reasonably good, but sways the car from side to side like being in a boat on a sloppy sea. Also, the 14 police road-blocks and checkpoints make it a long drive. 
Every one wants to check something different. Lights, car registration papers, insurance, warning triangles, fluorescent safety jackets, windscreen wipers, Carnet, fire extinguisher, fog lights (FOG!). In that way, they can write you a ticket at each one rather than get it all over in one go.
I had checked all my lights in Vic Falls, but by the time we got to the first road-block I got pinged for the number plate light not working. The official fine is $20 per offence. I could have told the officer that I didn’t need a receipt and just paid a few dollars, but I knew the next roadblock would just fine me again. I paid up in full and took the receipt since it gives you 48 hours ‘immunity’ to get it fixed. I tracked it down to a loose connection subsequently but at least I was able to wave the receipt under the noses of the officers at each of the other 10 roadblocks that made us stop. 
They were all reasonably pleasant and there was no aggression, but I did have a 10 minute ‘conversation’ with one officer who inspected our fire extinguisher and said that it was illegal as the needle on the gauge was marginally between the green and the red. It was only when I convinced him that I was a Deputy Fire Chief back in the U.K. and the ambient temperature in Zimbabwe at this time of year affected the coefficient of expansion and viscosity of the powder under pressure in any extinguisher less than 2kg, that he finally let us go.
We camped overnight at Burke’s Paradise in Bulawayo (nice, cheap, very friendly & helpful, a bit ‘happy-clappy’) then moved on south west to The Motopos. On the way we dropped in to Khami National Ruins, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was developed around 1450 BC and was a complex series of walled structures built to accommodate the kings (rich in gold, cattle and ivory) on the highest plateaus and featuring uncommon patterns in the granite-blocked walls.

Spread over a 2km site, it’s not as widespread as Great Zimbabwe Ruins, but it’s also not as ruined.

It also has the longest decorated wall in Southern Africa.

It’s not Ephesus but it really is a beautiful location and you can see why the kings would have chosen to have their camps at the top, overseeing and defending their estates.

From Khami we took some pretty shambolic, rough tracks across to The Motobos National Park but eventually found the tar road again and got to Big Cave Lodge where we planned to base ourselves for a few days. A lovely campsite with a small bar, run by Brown (a very entertaining local) for the last 20 years, in the grounds of Big Cave Lodge. Quiet, chilled, little ground light and amazing star-watching.
The Lodge itself is set amongst the amazing, previously seabed, almost surreal granite plateaus and huge boulders that The Motopos are famous for.

They’ve used the natural landscape to provide interior decoration for their restaurant…

…and to landscape their front yard…


It’s a beautiful place to walk around in the heat of the day and not too difficult to find shade…

The landscape at this time of year is lush and green and the swathes of undulating granite are awash with beautiful lizards of many colours.

And birds like this lovely Beeater.


The Motobos National Park is great value (around $45 for 24-hour entry) and is essentially split into 2 sections. One side is a Game Park with a large number of black & white rhino (de-horned to prevent poaching) and a lot of leopards (unlikely to be seen due to the geography). The Game Park was pretty much inaccessible while we were there due to the heavy, prolonged rain and a number of bridges / tracks having been washed away.
The other part of the park though was what we had come all this way to see. 

There is a tar road around about 30% of the park, but the western gate we chose to enter from meant diving through about 30km of wet, narrow, rutted, steep, sandy trails and then across the Malemi Dam wall…

…before the tar tracks are reached. 
Beautiful. Once again, we had the whole park to ourselves.

The Motopos is another World Heritage Site. A stunningly beautiful otherworldly landscape of balancing ‘kopjes‘ – giant boulders unfeasibly teetering on top of one another. When you see it it’s easy to understand why this region is considered the spiritual home of Zimbabwe.
Almost at the centre of the park is the World’s View (Malindidzimu Hill). One of Zimbabwe’s most breathtaking sites, it takes in 360-degree views of the entire park. It just can’t be captured in one or two pictures – not by me at any rate.

Wherever you look there are crazy rock formations. Like the cats eyes…

…and never ending boulder fields…

In the centre left of the picture above is a formation known as the Mother & Child. Beautiful and massive.

At the peak of World’s View the boulder field is a highly spiritual, sacred place for the local, ancient Ndebele people. 

It’s also (controversially) the burial spot of Rhodesia’s founder, Cecil Rhodes.

What a spot to rest your bones.

The landscape up here is surreal with giant boulders covered in gold, green, yellow black and red lichen…

…and an amazing plant called Resurrection Grass, which can lay scorched and dormant for years and then suddenly spring back to lushness when (if, eventually) the rains come.

A truely wonderful place to walk around, rest and take in the views.

One thing you can’t help but being awed by up here though are the huge skies (I guess that applies to most of wilderness Africa that we have seen). The skies are like fantasies. As we headed deeper into the park it was hard to decide whether the landscape dominated the sky or vice-versa?

Dotted around the 425sq-km Motopos Park are 3,000 officially recognised rock-art sites including one of the best collections in the world of San paintings.
Some of the sites can be walked to easily. Unfortunately the plain to the White Rhino Cave site was flooded and we couldn’t get there.

At Pomongwe Cave there is a small museum manned by a couple of really informative, friendly staff.

Some of the rock art here is estimated to date back 6,000 – 10,000 years, when the cave was occupied by 60-70 people.

Once again though, the Zimbabwe Government prove that they can screw up anything. A few years ago, some clown in The Ministry of Monuments (probably a favourite ‘neice‘ of good old Uncle Bob) decided the best way to preserve some of the paintings was to coat them in Linseed oil.

Criminal. They didn’t even just try it on one though. They decided to ‘protect’ a large number of them at the same time. Almost 10,000 years without harm: 10 minutes under the responsibility of some idiot.

Still, even if all the rock art can’t be viewed at its best, the caves themselves are stunning.

Maramba worries…

Back in Lilongwe, both Woodlands Lodge (where we camped, stranded, in front of their main entrance last year) and MA Motors both remembered us (more particularly they remembered Trigger’s Broom) as we pulled up at their doors. 
They must have been rubbing their hands with glee at the thought of being able to pay their kids school fees for yet another year by the time we’d got the car fixed this time.
MA Motors did another excellent job replacing the Brake Master Cylinder, windscreen wiper gear wheel and replacing our auxiliary battery. Hellish expensive parts cost (£470 for items that would have been £200 in U.K.) but ridiculously cheap labour for such a fancy workshop: £30. Maybe it’s some sort of tax scam?
In the meantime we hung around the Woodlands Lodge eating tremendous Indian food, listening to the Bush Babies, lions and hyena overnight and to Dennis’s woes during the day. 
Dennis is a retired Brit who’s daughter lives in Cape Town. He’d come up on his first visit to Malawi to check on progress with a small farm and taxi business his daughter and her ex-SAS husband have here and found that one of the staff had run off (across the border) with one of Dennis’s son-in-law’s $30,000 taxis. If it wasn’t so serious, his employment of police and private detectives, daily treks out to the border posts and planning ambushes to try and catch the thief would have been pretty comical. I wouldn’t want to be in the miscreant’s shoes if Dennis’s son in law catches up with him.
Other than that, while waiting for the car to be fixed, we spent our spare time at camp studying the ant colonies and smaller predators around the woodland area.
A very pleasant few hours were had watching a sand-wasp painstakingly trap and paralyse a caterpillar.

It then carried it off to a shady spot…

…to a point where it had previously dug a tubular hole (at the bottom of which it had laid its eggs).

It then dragged the stunned caterpillar into the hole…

… then crawled out past it, filled in the hole and left its hatching eggs to enjoy the still living, but immobile, caterpillar at their leisure over the next 7 days or so.
Small, but brutal.
Still, all too soon the fun was over and we crossed the border at Chipata, back into Zambia. Since we didn’t bother renewing our COMESA (multi country, 3rd Party Car Insurance) we had to buy a policy from the border Insurance Agents ($16 for 3 months – totally useless but a legal requirement). 
They seemed to struggle getting the car details right. I guess 80% of cars in Africa are Toyotas and either they either don’t see many Land Rovers or, knowing how much we’ve spent fixing Trigger’s Broom, they made a Freudian slip…

For some reason (a bit like the Chinese) the East Africans constantly mix up their ‘L’ and their ‘R’. 

From Deans Camp at Chipata it was only a 4 hour ‘hop’ along an excellent new tar road to Bridge Camp, where the rains have almost completely revived the Luangua River since our last visit.

From there, another 4 hour hop the next day, back to Eureka Camp just south of Lusaka. 
Despite being only 10km from the Lusaka City (a bit of a dump, but rapidly expanding as wealthy ‘whites’ and almost certainly corrupt local ministers make ever increasing fortunes charging wasteful USA and European NGO’s outrageous rents) it’s wonderful to be able to wake up to kudu, impala, giraffe and zebra wandering around the tent…

…or trying to hide whilst watching you as you eat breakfast.

The Zebra actually wander around as if they own the place and appeared the moment we arrived. As soon as I started setting up the kitchen and stove to make dinner, one chap decided that he had an itch he couldn’t scratch and the stone worktop would do the job nicely.

Having been in Africa now for over 3 years, we’ve pretty much become immune to flies and bugs buzzing around us, landing on our skin, clothes, cooking equipment, plates, etc. In fact it’s almost an unwritten rule now that if something smaller than a finger nail lands on your plate, don’t moan about it: man-up and just carry on eating.
You have to draw the line somewhere though. This zebra wasn’t just scratching his backside – he seemed to be making some sort of comment about my camp-cooking skills.

While at Eureka we also got a very welcome surprise visit from friends Ian and Solveig, who we last bumped into in Nairobi. At that time they were heading back home to S Africa to sort out some business issues, having curtailed their original plan to drive north and into Europe. 

They’re currently on a whistle-stop trip up to Rwanda / Uganda, heard we were in the area and just ‘dropped by’ to catch up with us over a cold beer. Great to see them again and hope to catch up again in SA later in the year.
From Lusaka we made a slow 2-day hop back to Livingstone. We stopped overnight at The Moorings and witnessed a sighting of what must surely be some of the rarest animals we have seen in Africa. 

We’ve seen more leopards than horses!
Once again we ended up at Maramba River Lodge, in Livingstone. I’m not sure where actually qualifies as our second home in Africa – Maramba, Chitimba or Kasese? Whatever, it’s a pleasure to be at any of them.
What a change in Zambia though since we left only 3 months ago. The place is so green and lush. They’ve had heavy rains, probably the heaviest for 7 years and the locals are really suffering now from their crops being flooded (rather than parched).
There has been so much rain that the water-hyacinth choked Maramba river has completely cleared and is full of water (one minute sparkling green / silver as the flood waters sweep down from their source 100km away and wash everything into the Zambezi, the next minute sluggish chocolate milk). One day alone, the river rose almost 1 metre with the flood waters.
 
We spent a week at Maramba recharging our batteries after the long drive from Northern Malawi and enjoyed everything from scorching 40 degree sun soaked skies to huge storms.

View From The Penthouse:

 
I love a good storm. Particularly if I’m sitting in a bar or under shelter at a camp. The storms we had over the 6-7 days we were in Livingstone were absolute belters. One in particular just crept up on us. It was mid afternoon. The sky darkened, but not considerably and there was no real sign of rain in the air. We’d heard thunder, which seemed to be 25-30 miles away and were expecting a pretty good lightening storm later, in the distance, once it got dark. 
Without any warning there was a blinding flash of lightening and an instantaneous explosion of thunder. There was considerably less than a second’s gap between the two and it was so deafeningly loud and brilliantly dazzling that I actually threw my telephone into the air and had to catch it again!
That got the old adrenaline going.
The following day we were catching up with Nick Selby at Foleys Africa when another storm hit. Actually, I swear it did HIT.  
The three of us were standing on the threshold of his workshop doorway when there was a huge flash and crash. Even Nick flinched and he’s famous for his 1,000 yard stare and implacable reaction to any disaster. I’m sure the lightening actually hit his wifi / satellite ariel directly above our heads. When we looked outside, the mains electrical cables were oscillating like sine waves between the power poles. He tramped off through the deluge to see if he could find any craters, smouldering Land Rovers or destroyed buildings in the yard.
Zambia is beautiful in the rain (albeit difficult to get around) and equally stunning in the dry season. No elephants in camp this time around but plenty of hippos, crocs, genet, monkeys, baboons, bird life, etc. A couple of the hippos had newborn calves as small as labradors. The mothers were fiercely protective…

…while the calves just look as cute as suckling pigs waiting to be put on a barbecue spit.

When the river waters are calm the crocs start cruising around. Beautiful in a sparkling twilight. This big 5 meter long guy (girl? – I don’t now, or want to find out, how you sex a crocodile) cruised past our camp every afternoon around 5pm.

Guy or girl, I wouldn’t want to tangle with it.
.

We were heading into Zimbabwe so, within a week we had to leave Livingstone and say goodbye to the staff at the lodge. They’re a great team and a number of them were in tears (as was Helene) as we left. Adriada was probably the most difficult for Helene to say goodbye to. 


Adriada is just a humble housekeeper at the Lodge but has a wonderful, friendly way about her. She’s as small as a doll, charming, cheerful and uncomplaining. Not an easy life: poorly paid, working long hours, 6 days a week. She supports her husband and 3 children. She’s 31 years old and had her first child when she was 12.
I must admit, we worry for the staff at Maramba – Febby, Precious, Makafute, Kelvin, Titani, Gracious, Marlon, Dawa, and the others. There has been a marked change in the last 2-3 months. The Lodge has been sold (it’s been on the market for a couple of years) and is now owned by a Zimbabwean businessman and Chief Mukumi. 
The new owners have brought in a new manager and I fear for the atmosphere in the place as much as the staff seem to fear for their jobs these days. The place has always been peaceful, friendly and had a gentle, warm atmosphere. We’ve recommended it to many people. 
The staff are still wonderful, the place is still beautiful. The change was perhaps most noticeable one Sunday lunchtime when we were sitting on the deck watching the swirling, roiling waters race by. There were a few adults and a couple of children around having a peaceful afternoon treat. One table (a very loud woman, her foul-mouthed husband and brother in law, and their mother) got steadily more heavily drunk and loud and foul-mouthed over a period of a an hour or so. 
I’m no prude. I like to swear. I’m pretty good at it: I have been since I was a teenager. I consider myself both fluent and imaginative. But I think there are times when it’s pretty inappropriate. Particularly when there are kids around.
It got to the point that I felt I should say something, but it’s a delicate situation – the ‘superior’ Mzungu lecturing people about how they should behave? I thought perhaps the best way would be to have a word with the new manager and see if something could be quietly done about their behaviour. 
Guess who the woman with the big mouth was? Yup, the new manager.

Hotel California…

We had intended to stay up at Chitimba for only a couple of weeks over Xmas & New Year but, what with one thing and another we ended up staying around 6 weeks. 

To Ed & Carmen’s credit, they tried not to look too delighted each time we said we would be going in a couple of days, or too crestfallen when we changed our mind each time. Something always seemed to crop up. To the point that Helene started referring to the Camp as ‘Hotel California’. 

You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave…

I can’t think of many places we’d prefer to spend time though.

One departure date was delayed by a week while we carried out some briquette-making demonstrations in the village with the Ezechial Women’s Group.

A number of the staff at camp had expressed an interest and set up the demonstration. We went along to a small compound just outside the village and found 27 women waiting for us, with all the simple equipment we’d asked them to collate in advance.


As has so often been the case, they were highly interested in the benefits, slightly sceptical regarding how easy we told them it would all be, but incredibly enthusiastic.

From a standing-start, with no prior knowledge, it takes only 2-3 hours for people to prepare the raw materials, make up the porridge used as a binder…


…mix up the charcoal fines with the binder and start moulding their first briquettes.


By the end of the morning, everyone has had some fun, learnt pretty much all they need to know about the process and produced enough briquettes to last the average family about a week.


Our second intended departure date was delayed by finding out that Marco, one of the locals who comes into the bar, was a supervisor at a small local coal mine. We had driven past it a couple of times (basically just a trench cut into the mountain, where men hack out wet stone-coal using picks and hammers) and noticed a lot of waste coal chippings lying around. We asked Marco to bring us a bag of waste and decided to experiment making briquettes with coal dust (if it’s free, local and waste – we had to at least try). 

We knew they wouldn’t burn smoke free like the charcoal ones do, but at least they’d be inexpensive to make. In the end, we got them to work and they burned hot & long (but were difficult to mould, dry and light compared to charcoal).
In the meantime we continued to help Ed & Carmen complete the new-build of the ablutions blocks and additional chalets they had built. They really will make a great addition to the camp and there are still more improvements on the way. 
We also decided to try to build a simple ‘rocket-stove’ out of left over mud bricks. The staff typically cook a communal lunch – a huge plate of nsima, with a handful of sauce made of tomatoes and small fried fish cooked on an open fire (like the one in the briquette pictures above). This is time consuming and hugely inefficient. 

As an alternative to an open fire, a ‘rocket stove’ uses the principle of having only one front opening and one top opening in order to contain the heat and to draw the incoming air through the fuel from underneath. The fuel sits on a shelf made of metal rods. As the air is heated it rises rapidly, is expelled and draws even more air quickly across the coals / wood. This produces a huge amount of heat for a relatively small amount of fuel. More fuel is added from the front rather than the top.


The experimental stove we built is not pretty, but once the bricks have been cut down to size and everything cemented over it will work even better. The guys love it. Water boils in 25% of the time it had previously taken them and fuel use is down by 70%+. 

It wasn’t all work though – there was plenty of time for play and for relaxing. Even watching a Chameleon can while away a good few hours. When we saw this one he had just come out of a bush. He walked in his stuttering manner across the terrace and tried to climb up a small wall. Unfortunately it was too sheer and slippery, so we didn’t get the chance to see how he would cope with trying to turn bright orange. 

We even went to the Sunday afternoon netball & football matches in the village. In a small village like Chitimba this is probably the highlight of the social calendar every 2 weeks or so. 

I pretty much have no interest in football, but it was great fun. There could have been 1,000 people there (almost the whole community) and as always there’s a few who do a lot of drinking (home-brewed rotgut beer and vodka) and the same people later in the afternoon having pretty ineffectual, entertaining fights. 

The vast majority though are just having a good time. The crowd aren’t content to just stand on the sidelines of the very dusty, but hard-packed, rugged pitch. Their main pastime is dancing / running up and down the touch-line (usually on the pitch itself while the game is going on) singing their support for the team and generally getting in the way of the players.


We even bumped into some people we know. Like Chico, one of the local woodcarvers and a security guard at Chitimba, who was proudly showing off a pair of sunglasses he’d made for himself.


Other than that, our time at Chitimba was pretty quiet and relaxing. We had a couple of very colourful spiders in the room, a scorpion at the door (Helene wanders everywhere barefoot in the sandy grounds of the camp!) and a Vine Snake fell with a loud thud onto the back of my chair from the thatch on the beach shelter roof. That got me out of my seat pretty quickly.
We also had a couple of fantastic Lake-Fly sightings (without them striking the camp in any real numbers thank goodness). They may be a pest, but what a sight. Like a flotilla of ghostly ships, ploughing their way along the lake, at the mercy of the wind.


As we said before, the locals welcome them and the fishermen take them in their stride.


But otherwise, an uneventful few weeks. Perhaps best of all, the camp was fairly quiet. 5-6 tour trucks came in every week on their dash from Nairobi to Cape Town, but since it’s supposed to be rainy season, most weren’t more than half full. 
There were a couple of other interesting visitors: a Psychology Professor from Boston who was writing a book about Malawi culture and a couple of retired Dutch surgeons who have been working in Malawian village-hospital operating rooms out here since they took early retirement. 

Jan, one of the surgeons, was particularly pleased to hear that we’d taken time out to travel. As he said, the reason he retired early from medicine was that he realised that “Life is a sexually transmitted disease – with a fatal outcome. You’d better make the most of it!

Our final delayed departure was caused by John, headmaster at a local orphanage school who, since he had told us he was trained as a boy to be a tailor, said he could make Helene a pair of trousers, skirt and scarf from some additional material she had bought at the Wednesday travelling market.

Anyway, eventually we lived up to our promise to Ed & Carmen, and left. After having been here so often, and looking after the place for them last year, they’ve become real friends and we were sad to go, but pleased to be on the road again.
Not that being on the road was that much fun. We still had the problem that we’d arrived at Chitimba with before Christmas – no brakes. Only this time, the rains had started and one of our windscreen wipers had failed. 

Just to make life more interesting, our leisure battery wouldn’t hold a charge and that meant that, unless the car was running, the fridge, water pump, power outlets, compressor, etc weren’t!


It took us 3 pretty tense days in the rain (via Macondo Camp in Mzuzu & Ngala Beach Lodge) to cover the 700 fun-filled kilometres back to Lilongwe where we hoped we’d be able to find some spares. 

Chitimba Daily Grind

Despite the car’s brake problems, the drive to Chitimba Camp had been beautiful. The hills and plateau we had driven through lie at around 1300m altitude and their breadth & depth allow the opportunity to see skies that look like they’ve been painted onto the roof of a chapel.Despite the remoteness of the area and the sparse population, just about every conceivable acre of land that can be cultivated has been. Every square metre of it by hand, using a simple hoe.


One thing about Africa though, even when you think there’s no one around, you’re invariably proved wrong. Even up here, someone’s making some sort of a living running his own taxi-bike business.


First order of duty, once we’d settled in at Chitimba Camp (a few beers to relax after our downhill braking dramas) was to go through the 2 large bags of T-shirts and caps that we’d brought from the UK 3 months ago (thanks Luke) and some women’s clothes donated to us by Caroline in Scotland.
There was enough for all of the 20+ staff to have at least one of everything. Some of the guys (security & maintenance staff) wanted the fancy rugby & football shirts. The guys in the bar / restaurant generally went for the designer-label T-shirts or baseball caps. Even the women wanted some of Charlotte’s ski hats (they will swear blind they’re freezing to death at certain times of the year when it can drop as low as 15-16 Centigrade overnight)!
In my opinion, Clement picked the singularly most inappropriate shirt.


Bless him. Clement is one of the grounds-maintenance staff at Chitimba. Like all of the team he’s very friendly and cheerful. He’s mid 50’s (I don’t think anyone actually knows how old he is), about 1.4m tall, weighs no more than 50kg soaking wet and spends his whole day in the full glare of the sun raking the campsite and the beach. He’s as strong as a python and as wiry as a pipe cleaner. The full extent of his English is “Morning Bwana, yah, yah,” “Yeah Bwana, yah, yah,” and “Tomorrow Bwana, yah, yah.” Always with a smile, a laugh and a handshake for us at the start and end of each day (but never eye contact – unless there’s a camera). 
There’s absolutely no doubt that Clement is one of the friendliest and most helpful people you could wish to meet, but he’s definitely not all there. 
And I doubt he even knows what a ‘Stunt’ is.
Top Tip: bring out as many spare t-shirts, hats, dresses (nothing short), skirts and socks as you can carry. You’d be stunned to find out what it means to people to get a gift like that.
Over the following few days, Helene slipped easily back into talking to the staff in the Tambuka language she picked up when we were last here. Every day starts with a formal but friendly greeting from each of the staff, and laughter as they get their head around the fact that she can hold a reasonably civil conversation with them – but that I can’t even remember ‘good morning’. 
Actually, this is pretty much the case wherever we go. Helene has got the basics in Tonga, Lozi, Tambuka, Nyanja, Chichewa, Swahili, Ndebele and a couple of others I won’t even attempt to spell. Once the locals’ shock at hearing a mzungu even try to speak their local (general tribal) language subsides, the ice is broken and the laughing / giggling starts. Idiot that I am, I usually have to stick to a handshake, salute or boring ‘good morning’ in English while she rattles on.
Armed with even more Tambuka that Chitimba housekeepers Ruth & Rose taught her, she headed off to the 2nd biggest event of the week in the village – the Wednesday market. Not the best day out I’ve had in Africa: 3 tarpaulins heaped high with ‘previously owned’ flip flops; half a dozen sacks on the floor carrying a display of tomatoes, cabbages, and onions, a trestle table (highly professional entrepreneur) covered in thin plastic basins & buckets, 3-4 guys selling dried fish (a particularly evocative smell) and 2 or 3 groups of women selling clothes and cloth that they’d strung up on washing lines.
Still, Helene needed a Chitenge (traditional wrap that all the women wear when working, to protect their clothes) since we had a briquette-making demonstration set up with a woman’s group the following week. Really good quality cloth, screen printed, 1.2m wide by 2m long for 3,000 Kwacha ($3.50). Bargain.


It’s been 39-40 Centigrade in the shade for a week or so, and the temperature rarely drops below 23-25 degrees overnight. Fortunately Ed & Carmen gave us one of the rooms to use at camp. Comfortable though the rooftent is, it doesn’t have an en-suite shower and an electric fan. I’d be misleading you if I said I hesitated for more than a fraction of second before accepting their kind offer.
At this time of year the camp is often quiet (theoretically rainy season) although some days 30-40 people can show up. When it’s quiet it is like a slice of paradise. Ed’s building programme is coming on leaps and bounds with new lounge areas, shower blocks and en-suite chalets. The whole bar is also being re-thatched and that should be complete before the end of January. The place is looking great.


Within only a few days, Christmas was upon us. Fortunately that was quiet so we got to enjoy a quiet meal with Ed & Carmen and a British woman called Jo who’s been living in a hut along the beach for a few weeks and we invited to join us. Not a particularly traditional Christmas dinner, but a feast nevertheless – filet steak, pork chops, sausages, dauphinois potatoes and fresh green beans followed by home made steamed lemon, macadamia nut and apple pudding with fresh lemon curd (lemons from the tree in camp).
That’s why I’m sweating like a pig at the table.


A few days later, we heard a shout as we were walking back from the village. Jo was in her ‘workshop’ and called us over to see what she had been doing. She was previously a passenger on one of the tour trucks (meat wagons) pounding up and down the east coast of Africa. Then she jumped ship (truck?) in Egypt, flew back to Malawi, got a bus to Chitimba, rented a mud / grass hut on the beach and (after having a woodcarving lesson at Chitimba when she first passed through) made arrangements with a local carpenter for him to teach her how to make furniture.
She turned up alone 3 weeks ago and set it all up herself. Pretty brave. She is about 1/3 of the way through her lessons and has already made a couple of the legs for her first coffee table. Not bad considering there are only 4 hand tools in the workshop (and one of those is a pencil).


While Jo was busy whittling, Helene & I lent a hand to help Ed get the chalets and new ablutions finished. Nothing too technical, painting, oiling, cleaning, varnishing but no one de-snags a building job like Helene and besides you can’t just lie around in the sun all day.


Slowly, the weather is starting to change. We’ve had a couple of cracking thunderstorms, tremendous lightening storms that last for hours (one of which blew up our phone charger and the electric fan) and the humidity is rising. Given the mountain and lake landscape though, there’s usually a bit of warning that it’s coming and the skies themselves tell the story of what to expect.
View From The Penthouse:


Once the sky clears though, there’s no place like it. 

Malawi Lake Flies…

I’m sooo far behind on our blog. Sorry.

Anyway, between their windscreen drama, ATM trips to get cash and Florence’s infected cuts to knees and hands (from a morning jogging fall), Frans & Florence were having the sort of fun that I thought only only Helene & I regularly experienced. 

Since the Land Rover had been behaving extremely well for the last couple of months, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t enjoying our break from our usual ‘dramas’. 

Florence and Flo’s dramas continued for the last few days we were with them in Lilongwe. They made 4 trips to the Mozambique embassy to get the visas for the next part of their trip: 
1st visit, they were turned back from the gates because Frans was wearing knee-length shorts instead of trousers and Flo had bared shoulders; 
2nd visit, they weren’t let in because she had open-toed shoes; 
3rd visit (despite having borrowed a pair of Helene’s shoes) still no entry – the place had closed for a half-day. 
On the 4th visit they finally managed to actually enter the gates. 

All of this just to collect their application forms. 

We left them to wait 3-4 days for their application to be ‘considered’ and, from Woodlands Lodge, headed north 300 km up the lake to Ngala Lodge, our first stop on our way up to Chitimba Camp. Ngala is a very peaceful location with beach camping on the 350 mile long, 52 mile wide Lake Malawi. 

View From The Penthouse:



The camping area faces directly east and, providing you’re up and about from around 4.30am, provides a wonderful sunrise.


Being one of the 4 poorest populations in the world, it is the lucky Malawians who actually live in close proximity to the lake. Many people rely solely upon Lake Malawi for everything from drinking water to laundry. 

For the majority of people here, fish is often the only source of protein with which they can supplement their daily diet of Nsima (cassava flour in water, boiled to a Play-Doh texture) & beans.

Fishing is by far the most popular activity, but their are no trawlers here – everyone uses whatever means they can, from bamboo poles with fixed lines, to dug-out canoes.


Overnight there is usually a 10-15km long string of lights spread out on the lake, anywhere between 7-20km offshore. There are a few people on the overland tour trucks (often pretty gullible, and occasionally not even sure which country they’re in) who have gone home believing that the lights are from the construction teams building a bridge across to Tanzania!

In fact the lights mark the night fishermen in their small boats. They use bright lamps connected to car batteries to attract fish to their lines and hand-thrown nets, bringing their catch home from 4am, singing and drumming on their canoes to let the villagers know they’re on their way.

Once they’re back, they often set up for a spot of close-in fishing before retiring to bed. They row a boat out from the beach in a wide diameter arc, playing out a net and then arriving back on shore only 50m from where they started. Then they enlist the help of local lads to haul the net in (a small share of the fish being the wage involved).


Only the wealthiest fishermen can afford to fish in this way. Many months of income are invested into the cost of the 2km of rope that the small net in the centre is strung from. 

The boys earn their breakfast by hauling it in by hand…


…although some of the younger lads just sit around daydreaming about how they’ll have their own boats when they grow up.


As the small catch is brought ashore, women from the local village arrive to start haggling over the price and the best of the fish.


We had intended to stay at Ngala for a few nights ($10 each camping, but expensive set-dinner at $18). However, a terrific rainstorm encouraged us to move on after two nights, only 70km or so up the lake to Chinteche Inn. 

On the way to Chinteche, we dropped into a new lakeside Lodge that we had heard rumours about. 

It’s British owners have been building it for 7 years and, by coincidence were having a private launch / opening party later that day. Nevertheless, owner / builder Russell took time out from his last minute preparations to show us around – from the battlements…
The location on the lakeshore is beautiful – as it is for so many camps in Malawi. However, complete with turreted rooms / suites, a drawbridge and a banqueting hall, Kachere Kastle is not your typical African Lodge. 


At Chinteche Inn we again camped next to the lake ($10 each). A couple of lazy days in the sunshine, watching the fishermen and being taught by barman Charles how to play Bao (a game a bit like droughts / chequers, found right across Africa). 

We slept under the mango trees, although fortunately not directly under. Death by mango would not be entirely out of the question when some of these huge, heavy fruits ripen and fall to the ground. Throughout the night we’d hear them thudding to the ground. Each morning we’d wake to at least 30-40 large fruits lying at the foot of the car.

A great deal less welcome than having wonderful fresh mangos fall into your lap are the infamous Malawi Lake Flies. Best observed from a distance of a least 3-10 kilometres, huge swarms of the flies can occasionally be seen patrolling up and down the lake in what appear to be huge towering schooners, tacking and jibing at the whim of the breeze. 


From a distance, it can seem that huge smoke plumes are rising from invisible bonfires somewhere on the surface of the lake. 

Incredibly, these flies are individually no bigger than the head of a sewing pin. Each of these plumes will literally contain billions of flies and their direction is entirely dependant upon the prevailing winds. The phenomenon is seen only in 3-4 places worldwide and even then only occasionally.

The flies spawn on the lake surface (despite never touching the water itself) and the eggs sink to the bottom until ready to hatch. Then they rise, hatch at the surface and take to the air – only to commence the same cycle again over their 3-5 day life cycle.

As rare and fascinating sight as they are, in my opinion they are best observed from a distance. If they are blown onto the shore, although they don’t bite or irritate in any way, they can till make a mess of your gin and tonic. 

We watched the tail end of one swarm pass by us as a tower collapsed like a Victorian pottery-factory chimney being felled by a demolition team.


That this was only a small swarm (the tip of the iceberg?) was evident by the colour of the cloud being grey/brown rather than jet black. As it came across the bows of our beach our camp was flooded with flies – but that was just like the peripheral winds of a tornado when compared to the centre of the maelstrom.

The main part of the chimney collapsed about 500m down the lake from us, across a small village (fortunately, the main ‘schooner’ of flies passed by the other side of the headland!).
As the villagers sat at the lake doing their laundry, the flies (determined not to touch the water) took to the trees…


…and engulfed the village. 


Once they’re in the trees, the grass and the thatch, they don’t leave until they are exhausted and die. Not that that upsets the locals. When the flies hit the village, all hands are on deck. Men, women and children rush out with wet plates, bags, wicker baskets, anything they can get their hands on. They wave them frantically in the air or shake them under trees and bushes so that the minute flies stick to the wet surfaces. From there they are scraped into bags or bowls and within hours will have been made into little burgers to be fried for dinner – if the kids can wait that long without eating straight from the bowl by the handful. Despite stinking like a dried-up tin of sardines, these lake flies are an enormous source of protein and are regarded as a delicious delicacy by the villagers whenever they are ‘fortunate’ enough to have them arrive.

Having previously been caught up in just the peripheral clouds, (and tried some collected in a bowl) I’ll pass!

From Chinteche Inn we had only a short hop to our most northern destination on this leg of our travels at Chitimba Camp to see our pals Carmen and Ed, the Dutch owners. We stopped off for a couple of nights in Mzuzu to stock up on shopping and stayed at a new camp called Umunthu on the fringe of the town, behind Shopright. There are two new camps opened around the town and both get excellent recommendations from people we’ve met while travelling recently. 

It’s about time, the only other option in town is Mzuzuzoo, a backpackers / camp that might have had a good vibe 5-10 years ago, but these days seems to have turned into a tatty party-dive for local drinkers. Not recommended.

Umunthu deserves its good reviews. Simply set out in the grounds of owner Andrei’s garden the feel of the camp and rooms is modern, the showers are great, the camping is cheap ($5), the bar is nice and the home made burgers & pizzas are outstanding. Andrei was head chef at an upmarket Lake Tanganyika Lodge for 8 years and, although his own menu is simple, everything including the breads are made in-house. Great stuff.

The road east then north from Mzuzu winds through beautiful valleys and 1,200m high plateaus of rubber plantations before it descends again to the lake. The rubber trees stand in regimented rows for miles in every direction and the liquid rubber is still harvested by hand. A spiral cut is made in the trunk of the tree, down which the viscous natural rubber slowly runs until it drips into a teacup-sized bowl at the bottom of the spiral. There must be tens of thousands of trees on the terraces here.

With so many rubber trees, a little bit of ‘poaching’ is only to be expected I guess. As our car is heard rounding each bend, locals sprint out from the trees and start bouncing huge rubber balls on the road, trying to sell them to us. They look like a golf ball with the white outer casing stripped off – a giant skein of wound rubber collected (whist no one from the plantation is looking no doubt) from the little cups and strung out into huge threads before being wrapped round a lightweight paper mould. As the car passes they sprint back into the anonymity of the trees by the roadside.

Three hours and 150km after leaving Mzuzu we were back at Chitimba Camp, at the foot of the road up the mountain to Livingstonia. It should have been a fairly uneventful trip but unfortunately we seem to have developed an intermittent brake failure. I guess intermittent is better than permanent, but that’s not much comfort if you can’t tell whether your next braking event is going to mean that the pedal goes straight to the floor. 

The decent from the plateau was particularly entertaining – a 700m drop over a very scenic 4km of switchback hairpin bends on the side of the escarpment. I rolled closely behind a heavy, crawling truck (that I would normally have overtaken at a safe point) reasoning that if the brakes failed altogether, I’d use his rear end as a buffer.

Still, that was 3 weeks ago now, just a couple of days before Christmas. 

Since then, the car hasn’t moved from where we parked it when we rolled into camp. 

In many ways little has changed here at Chitimba Camp. In other ways much is different.

Owners Ed & Carmen have changed little – still enjoying life in their paradise setting on the lakeshore. All but 2 of the 25 staff are the same guys we enjoyed spending time with when we ran the place for a while last year. The simple village atmosphere is the same as it has been for years.

The camp itself is changing fast though. Ed has built 2 excellent new shower / toilet blocks, a couple of additional lovely en-suite chalets, new shelters and pergolas on the beach and extended the bar / restaurant. The place really is looking great.

It’s been 39-40 degrees in the shade, hot, and stormy. Regularly 22-27 degrees overnight (not so much fun) but little rain so far. 

Still, it’s great to be back.


You Can Never Have Enough Cash…

Blistering hot at Bridge Camp. So hot that we actually had to sleep half out the rooftent, with our heads on the roof-rack just to stop ourselves melting.
Back to normal form, we had the place to ourselves, other than a missionary group who stopped in for a late lunch on their way from Blantyre to Lusaka to pick up a donated overland truck (that’s really motoring!). The only other guests were a group of soldier ants off on a raiding party. They always seem to know exactly where they want to go, and allow very little to divert them from their course.

Bridge Camp has changed. Owner Lindsey died just after we left last year and her husband Will seems to have got a new local manageress in. Push-up bra, lacy top, short shorts and one of the fiercest scowls I’ve encountered for a good few years. She seems to have perfected the technique of registering customers, serving behind the bar and settling bills without actually saying a single word, registering any form of facial expression or even putting her beer down.
Still, on a happier note, the road to Chipata at the Malawi border has now been tarred and, what took us 10 hours on a rutted, dusty, roller-coaster track the first time we came this way, took us only 4 1/2 hours this time round.
The road is so good that, since its single lane, they’ve put speed bumps in to slow drivers down around the (infrequent) villages. Most of these are just rumble-strips and gentle humps. Occasionally though they throw in a ‘Uganda Standard’ hump, just to catch out the unwary. We were about 100m outside one village, behind a S African Toyota towing a fully loaded overland trailer, when he decided to put his foot down. He crested the ‘Uganda’ style speed hump, his trailer didn’t. The trailer reared like a boat trying to break out of the surf on a beach and the tow bar dug into the tar bringing it to an immediate stop. Had we been in anything other than a Land Rover (no acceleration) we’d have ploughed into the back of it.
The Toyota roared off into the distance – no doubt congratulating himself on his vastly superior torque and towing power – leaving the trailer, upright, in the middle of the road. I did my best to catch him, sounding the horn, flashing all lights, accelerating as hard as possible (!). If the road out of the village hadn’t been dead flat, dead straight and deserted, he probably never would have seen us. As it was, he eventually slowed down and stopped about 3 miles outside the village and we pulled alongside him. As we drew level with his car, he stepped out. Helene wound her window down and he asked her if there was a problem. “I think so‘ she replied ‘you seem to have lost your trailer.’ “What, where?” ‘About 3 miles back, at the last speed bump.‘ If he hadn’t actually looked behind his car, I don’t think he would have believed her.
At Chipata we decided to stay somewhere different to Mama Rullas (most of the place has now been sold / leased of to Cargill Investments for long-term staff accommodation so went to Dean’s Hill View Camp which is now owned / run by Andrea and Mata a young Italian couple who met in the middle of nowhere, Zambia. 
Deans Camp was empty when we arrived, but within 24 hours there were 5 other overlanders camping on the terraces just outside town. 

We were back up at 1,200m altitude so it’s a lot cooler here (no need for Helene to shower in her nightie before getting into bed) and the storms come in pretty fast.

Andrea mentioned that Mata made her own pasta. When it’s chucking it down with rain and you find an Italian woman who’s husband brags that his wife makes her own pasta, forget about campfire cooking. We headed for the bar with Kers & Simone (a Dutch couple, also brave enough to overland in a Land Rover, rather than a Toyota) and feasted on home made lasagne. Ace.


The next morning a bright yellow Land Cruiser pulled into the camp and we recognised Florence & Frans, another Dutch couple we’d met previously watching clouds of termites (over a beer) outside Lusaka. They had just cut short their stay at Croc Camp, just outside South Luangwa National Park (where the baboons mercilessly robbed us of our meat for dinner while we were there) after they’d been sitting next to their car and 4 elephants strolled up. They weren’t too concerned at first, just moved away slightly and gave them some room. 

One of the elephants either took exception to something about their car, or decided he wanted a new iPhone, so he stuck his trunk through the drivers window, demolishing it entirely, and his tusk through the windscreen in front of the drivers seat.


A couple of relaxing, stress free days for all concerned were on the menu at Deans Camp, then we headed out to Lilongwe, Malawi.
As previously, the border was pretty straightforward, although the $75 per person visa fee hurts since it was introduced last year (it was previously free for most Europeans) and we had to pay 30,000 Malawi Kwacha ($40) for 3 moths 3-Rd party insurance as we haven’t bothered to renew our COMESSA for this part of the trip. We drove 159km to the Immigration Office in Lilongwe and (painlessly & quickly) extended our visas for a further 30 days for only 5,000 Kwacha (around $5) each then found our way to Woodlands Lodge & Campsite, near the Wildlife Reserve and the Embassies.
It was nice to be back and the management & staff remembered us from our last visit. Hardly surprising really – the last time we were here we were camping directly in front of the main entrance to the lodge with our fuel tank and whole fuel system in bits in the car park for 7 days after being towed in from 150km away and dropped off at 2am.
Still, it’s nice to be remembered.
Anyway, embarrassed or not, I wasn’t going to miss the chance to once again get stuck into their Indian Menu at the Lodge restaurant. The owners are Indian / English and they brought the chefs over with them. Without doubt one of the best Indian menus in Africa and better food than most Indian restaurants in the UK.
One of the biggest issues in Malawi is that the highest denomination note they produce is 1,000 Kwacha (about $1.30 / £1) and the largest amount that can be withdrawn from an ATM is 40,000 Kwacha. 
In most cases, the locals rarely need larger notes (average wages are around $1 per day), but unfortunately fuel costs about $1.50 per litre and camping costs $10 each per night. Credit cards are only very rarely accepted (never for fuel or shopping, occasionally for up-market lodges). 
Therefore you need a lot of cash. Queues at ATMs (if you can find one with cash) can make opening day lines outside London’s Apple Store the night of an iPhone launch look like a Macdonalds drive-through at 4am on a snowy Wednesday in Watford.
This little lot is the result of 7 maximum withdrawals from the ATM (my bank charges $2 per withdrawal) and will just about allow us to fill the Trigger’s Broom’s tank with diesel and camp for 3 nights.


I thought we were hard done by, scouring Lilongwe for cash. Imagine how Frans & Florence felt. They turned up at Woodlands Lodge having got their windscreen and window replaced at MA Motors (who fixed our car last time we were here) for only $1,250. 
That’s almost 25 maximum withdrawals over a period of 2 days. Could have been worse, Toyota Lilongwe quoted the same price for the windscreen alone, excluding fitting and the drivers window, but (fortunately) didn’t have any in stock. 

Man – It’s Hot!

For our last week in Livingstone the temperature continued to climb and the Mosquitos continued to swarm. It was slightly cooler to be in the roof tent, than in the dome tents, but it was still typically 24-27 Centigrade overnight. Helene even got into the habit of having a final evening shower in her night clothes then climbing into the tent sopping wet.
Like most of the game around the camp, during the day we spent pretty much all our time either seeking shade, or quenching our thirsts. The important thing is to drink as often as you can, as much as you can…

There has been no slackening of the animal activity in the camp. Fortunately the crocs seem content to stay 20 metres away on the riverbank, rather than wander around the camp itself.
They are powerful looking beasts and it’s easy to take them for granted when they just lie about looking dozy…

… but it doesn’t take much activity in the water or some scent in the air to wake them pretty quickly and for us to be reminded just how formidable 4 metre long, 20-year old predators like this one are.

Elephant activity in camp has kept up at quite a high pitch. More often than not we are still awoken in the rooftent by the cracking of branches and lie awake for a while watching them in the moonlight or the dim glow of the camp lights. 
Mind you, there are less camp lights than there were. We watched one large bull trying to pull an obviously tasty looking branch from a tree, then, startled by the bright flash and loud bang as he snapped the lighting cable to his supper-tree, race past our tent in a pretty grumpy mood.
Undeterred, only a couple of nights later we could do little other than watch as one particularly determined big guy pushed a 25metre high palm one way then the other until he fractured the root-ball. Once he’d got it sufficiently loosened, he sized it up like some professional logger, to decide which way he thought it best to fell it. Unfortunately he chose the direction towards ‘Triggers Broom’ and we watched from The Penthouse as it toppled towards us. 
Closer for comfort than I would have liked, but fortunately Foleys’ lovely new Keswick-Green paintwork on the car remained unscratched.

The only other incident of note really was a nighttime trip to the toilets I had one evening. I’d had a bit of an upset stomach and, although I knew there were hippos wandering around the camp, my need was greater than my sense of caution. We’d been watching 2 hippos munching the camp grass and I skirted around the back of them, walking briskly (urgently!) but trying not to take large strides, if you get my meaning. As I arrived at the ablutions, another hippo was about 4 metres in front of the doors, but just starting to walk away with its back to me. I nipped in behind it, confident that it was heading in the opposite direction to the path I would take back to the camp. I walked back to camp through the trees towards where Jackie & Vince (British Overlanders we had met) were camped and when I got half way to their truck a hippo thundered out of the bush towards me, stopping about 8 meters away, stamping its feet and giving me a pretty good view down its throat. 
Fortunately, I think it was a ‘mock’ charge – just threatening me, rather than any serious intent. I jumped behind a large tree, putting it between us and backing away directly in line with it until I got into the relative safety (and light) of Jackie & Vince’s camp and fire. 
It’s a good job this happened on the way back from the toilets. I wouldn’t have made a very attractive guest for Jackie if it had been on my outward trip.
Still, that pretty much broke the ice with Vince & Jackie and we stayed at Maramba an extra couple of days to hear about their trip down the West Coast from Morocco to Namibia in their overland truck.

However, it was all too soon time to leave. We had already been into the Immigration Office in Livingstone and extended our Zambian visas for another month (simplest process yet – no charge, and only took 4 minutes from entering the front door of the building!). Having shopped & stocked up the freezer we headed back up to Lusaka since we wanted to be in Northern Malawi, back at Chitimba Camp with Ed & Carmen, for Xmas.
Most people would get to Lusaka in a day. It’s only about 550km and the road is actually pretty good tar all the way. But since we’re a couple of old farts in an old (but recently rejuvenated) Land Rover, we had a relaxing couple of nights about 2/3 of the way there at The Moorings camp outside Monze. Unusually, there was someone else at the camp (we see so few other Overlanders these days) and we celebrated by having a few beers with Florence & Francis, a Dutch couple in their bright yellow Land Cruiser. Another few hours of swapping stories, and hearing some pretty old-school tales from their days of when they were Overland Truck Drivers & Crew for a Dutch tour company operating the African west coast routes from Amsterdam down to Windhoek. They were also heading north towards Malawi / Mozambique and set off the day before us for Pioneer Camp. We left the next day, heading for Eureka Camp, just south of Lusaka City.
Eureka Camp has always been quite pleasant, but it’s one of those places that’s way too noisy with a heavy-drinking crowd at the weekends. During the week however, it’s usually pretty quiet and the camping is civilised, with Kudu, Impala, Zebra and Giraffe wandering and grazing through the camp.

For some reason though, Eureka have raised their camping prices to $15 per person recently, whilst even some of the fanciest lodges we’ve stayed at typically charge only around $10. Lusaka is becoming an extremely expensive city in which to live. Housing costs for expats (occasionally business people but most often fat, bloated NGOs and Aid Charities) are regularly paying between $3,500 – $7,000 per month. 

Either way, Eureka doesn’t warrant 50% higher camping fees than anywhere else, so we moved on after one night to Pioneer Camp on the east side of town – from where we would also get a quick exit east towards Malawi without having to face Lusaka’ notorious traffic congestion.
Finally, it seems, the rains have come. We had a couple of stormy nights around Lusaka and spent our evening watching the clouds of termites and flying ants that pour out of the ground like plumes from volcanoes and fill the air like blankets of bubbles from a special effects machine outside a hippy tent at Glastonbury. Within 20 minutes of them launching, they shed their wings, leaving a silvery carpet covering the ground that oscillates in the lightest breeze like moonlight on an almost flat-calm sea.
Keen to get out of Lusaka (we just have little or no interest in any cities, however lively, sophisticated, strategic or well-stocked they may be) and took of on The Great East Road to Bridge Camp about 260km west. The camp is simple but clean and conveniently breaks the journey to Chipata. It’s situated on the Luangua River (almost completely dry at this time of year) and the centre of the riverbed is the border between eastern Zambia and Mozambique.
View From The Penthouse: