Tips for Malawi and Zambia
1) Petrol is expensive in Malawi and even more expensive in Zambia, so fill up in Tanzania or Botswana where it is cheaper
2) Supermarkets aren't particularly good in Malawi and we found that the only veg we could get was tomatoes and onions - which are expensive
3) Roads are generally good although the road to South Luangwa can be bad in the rainy season, so check in Chipata before setting off. We wanted to go on from South Luangwa as there was another road down to Lusaka on our map. However upon investigation we found out that this road had been washed away completely and was impassable. Best to ask locals in the rainy season.
4) Zambia is an expensive country to drive in. Here is a list of fees we had to pay at the border....
i) $50 visa per person (despite what the lonely planet says, the price is the same from Brits and other Europeans - Pim and Git paid the same). Also despite what the guidebooks say it is apparently now impossible to get visa waivers for Zambia
ii) $20 Road tax
iii) $20 Carbon tax
iv) $5 a police road tax??? We suspect this one is a con
v) $20 for the pontoon over to Botswana
5) For Malawi you need to have reflective stickers on the front and back - Pim and Git were stopped and fined for this at the first roadblock in Malawi. We were pre-warned so bought some stickers in Mafinga, Southern Tanzania
Location: The Waterfront, Livingstone
Miles travelled: 133 miles
Weather: 34ºC, too hot!!!!
Today we mostly listened to: Jurassic 5
After leaving Macha we stayed one night at a crocodile farm in Choma, a reasonably big town half way between Livingstone and Lusaka. It took us about 3 hours to get from Choma to Livinstone and despite some tales to the contrary the road was very good until about 20km away from our destination where we hit yet more African roadworks.
We got in to Livingstone around lunchtime and after a short stop to get some fresh bread and a bath for Monty we headed to the Waterfront campsite - which is upstream of the Mosi oa Tunya (aka Victoria Falls). With the weather being unbearably hot we spent the rest of the afternoon lounging by the nice pool they have here and sipping cold Savannas (a nice African cider). In the evening we had a campfire and actually got rather soozled on a box of wine we had managed to purchase at the 'Super-Spar' supermarket.
Feeling a little green this morning we had a slightly later start than usual and surfaced from the very hot rooftent at about 8.30 - positively a lie-in! We managed to organise a lift and guide for the falls, so the four of us (we're still with Pim and Git) headed off to see one of the seven natural wonders of the world.
You hear and feel the falls before you actually see them. The thundering water is audible upon approaching the park boundaries and the spray that comes off them travels quite some distance. As we're here in the rainy season the water levels are almost at their highest peak, making the whole experience even more breathtaking. The expanse of the falls is impressively wide and too far for the eye to see with all the mist coming off them. An almost completely circular rainbow hung over one side, and against the clear blue sky and white waters the colours looked brighter than on your average rainbow.
So we spent the afternoon looking at stunning views from around the Zambian side of the falls and getting well and truely soaked through - a highly refreshing experience in this heat!
Location: Gwemba Crocodile Farm, Choma
Miles travelled: 256 miles (with a detour to Macha)
Weather: 32ºC, hot, hot, hot
Today we mostly listened to: A Passage to India by E.M.Forster
As some of you reading this may be aware as part of our journey Dickie and I have been raising money through sponsorship for the very worthwhile charity, Computer Aid. Many very generous friends, family and even complete strangers have donated to the cause parting with some of their hard earned cash (not an easy thing at the moment we appreciate) in order to help supply computer equipment to schools, colleges, hospitals and communities throughout Africa. This particular blog should go someway to describing how that money is getting spent - contrary to what some people think it isn't funding our trip!
We left Lusaka this morning and headed for the remote township of Macha - a place that the guys from Computer Aid suggested we visit to get a sense of some of the work the charity is doing in Zambia. Before arriving we didn't really know what to expect and our basic idea was that it may consist of a small town off the beaten track with a small internet cafe providing services to the community. We couldn't have been more wrong. Macha no longer has an internet cafe because most of its residents already have computers in their homes, courtesy of Computer Aid.
About ten years ago Macha was a place like many others in Africa. It had progressed when the mission hospital was built there but apart from that development in the area was slow. All that changed when Linknet and Macha Works - two community based, co-operative organisations began working there. So it happened that this remote little corner in Zambia got connected up to the internet via a satellite, and now that they have the internet it's opened up a world of possibilities to the community there.
In the three short hours that we were there we saw many examples of how Linknet, Macha Works and Computer Aid are genuinely improving peoples lives in a way that is sustainable and, probably most importantly, run by Zambians themselves in their local communities.
The first stop on our tour was the airstrip, built by the community (through Macha Works) who cleared the land and put in a runway. A small 6-seater plane goes 4 times a week to Lusaka and Livingstone offering affordable flights for residents who want to avoid the bumpy, dirt-track road - very important for transfering hospital patients to the capital quickly and easily. Residents book their tickets and check schedules simply by a few clicks on the airstips website.
Probably the most impressive thing we saw was the hospital laboratory, where a group of scientists are conducting pioneering research in to Malaria. Without computers and the internet in the area it simply wouldn't be possible for this lab to exist. As a result of the research and malarial programme that the doctors have been able to implement, the number of cases of malaria has dropped significantly saving many lives. The hospital is also in the process of building an HIV research centre too which should hopefully open soon.
One of the problems Macha faces is the local power supply. As is the case in many African countries power surges are common - and highly damaging to sensitive computer equipment - and power cuts happen almost daily. To get around this problem the community conducted internet based research in to alternative energy sources and have set-up a farm which will start to produce a special oil to use in generators, making Macha effectively off-grid. The farm employs over 500 people helping to keep unemployment levels really low.
The list of examples goes on and on, but to put it simply internet and computers in the area creates opportunities and jobs that otherwise wouldn't exist. And the great thing about Macha is that it serves as an example to other areas in Zambia. Individuals from other parts of the country can come to see how it works and return to their own community to set-up similar projects there. Computer Aid and Linknet play their part by providing internet services and computers (cleverly packaged up in to re-used transport containers that serve as cheap internet cafes) to other towns in Zambia.
After seeing the negative impact of foreign aid firsthand in Ethiopia I cannot describe how refreshing and heart-warmer it is to see this place where Africans genuinely are 'doing it for themselves'. So thank you so much to everyone that has sponsored us so far and to anyone still thinking of logging on to our just giving page I can promise you the money goes to a fantastic charity that really is making a difference.
Location: Eureka Camp, Lusaka
Miles travelled: 448 Miles over 2 days (79 miles - South Luwanga to Chipata, 369 miles - Chipata to Lusaka)
Weather: 28ºC, muggy and sticky
Today we mostly listened to: A Passage to India by E.M.Forster
We were up early yesterday to go out on the morning game drive around the park. We had the same tracker again, which we were glad about because he was really good. The standards and examinations for Zambian guides are a lot higher and harder than in many other African countries - particularly East Africa. They have to learn not only the English and local names for all the animals (including numerous different bird species) but they also have to know the Latin names. They also have to know all the animal tracks and sounds. Our guide was even able to pinpoint a warning call from a particular bird species that he used to find predadors in near-by areas.
We saw pretty much the same game as the night before and unfortunately the leopards eluded us again - much to Pim's disapointment because he is yet to see one. I think the best thing we came across was a group of elephants feeding on the road side. One of the bull elephants got particularly annoyed with us being so close to the young so he trumpeted and started to charge us - all terribly exciting.
We were back in camp around 11 and we had a late breakfast before heading back along the awful road to Mama Rula's. That evening after a super of pasta and cabbage salad we retired to the bar to watch their satellite TV and an episode of Takeshi's Castle. It seems that we have something in common with Zambians - we love to laugh at Japanese people doing stupid things on game shows!
The next morning we left the campsite bright and early as we had a long drive to the Capital, Lusaka. The road was excellent however and we passed hardly any cars at all. When we reached the city we headed straight for the biggest shopping mall in order to stock up on supplies. Usually at home I wouldn't spend more time than was absolutely required in an out of town shopping centre. However we have found ourselves hanging out around big supermarkets a lot in all the African cities we have passed through. Mainly because you can usually get a coffee, use a Western toilet and spend hours in the food aisles looking at all the fabulous imported products! So after two hours hanging around the Arcade Shopping Centre we finally motored on to the campsite with Monty and Mitch laden with nice food for super.
The campsite is nice and has a really friendly little dog, which we have called Roley Poley, who seems to have adopted us. Since arriving she has spent the entire time with us, barking at any other dogs or humans than come near us and spending a lot of time on Git and Ric's laps. We have met lots of friendly dogs a long the way, but she is currently one of our favourites.
Location: Croc Valley Campsite, South Luwanga
Miles travelled: 90 Miles
Weather: 32ºC, muggy and sticky with some rain in the evening
Today we mostly listened to: Some Dutch music from Pim's iPod
We left Mitch in Chipata this morning and the four of us travelled in Monty North of Chipata to the edge of South Luangwa National Park. Despite advice to the contrary from the guys at Mama Rula's the road was pretty bad. As it rained hard the night before it was muddy in places and where it wasn't muddy there were potholes and corregations. It took us about 3 hours in the end to travel the 150km.
We reached Flatdogs camp just after lunch only to find it closed for the month - this is definately something to consider if you plan to travel in Zambia in the rainy season! It wasn't a big deal though as we found a campsite very close-by called Croc Valley. The owners, Sean and Millie are a lovely couple and they made us feel very welcome. As we set up camp next to the river Sean gave us a few words of advice - 'watch out for hippos and elephants at night' and 'don't go right down to the waters edge because four people have been eaten by crocs in the past 5 years!'. They even have a little pool next to the bar where hippos come to bathe at night. I was very glad to be in our roof tent - poor Pim and Git are on the floor in our little one man tent!
At about 4pm we left for the afternoon/evening game drive. We decided to hire a vehicle and guide this time so that Ric could completely focus on watching for animals rather than driving. I was a little apprehensive when a vehicle with no roof turned up though, particularly as we were told we were pretty much guarenteed to see lions! Our guide assured us though that 'it is almost always okay'. Great.
South Luangwa Park is a great place and I highly recommend it. It feels a lot more remote that the Serengeti - we only saw 2 other cars all afternoon, and one of those was a ranger. The paths are also very good and, unlike the Serengeti, there doesn't seem to be too much trouble if you drive off the paths a little. The only problem is we were visiting the park in the wet season when there is so much lush vegetation around and watering spots that the animals can spread really far out - which makes them more difficult to find. Despite that we did manage to find giraffes, zebras, impala, baboons, monkeys, a number of different birds, lions, elephants and even a couple of porcupines.
It was also really great to watch the sun set over the park and do a night drive. We went back to see some lions we had found earlier in the afternoon and they were much more active after dark. The group consisted of three females and one male. They were all extremely fat from a recent super of buffalo - the remains of which we could still see and smell! We went back to the camp at around 8 and got caught in a rather nasty thunderstorm and as a result we arrived back rather wet. The thunderstorm was really impressive to see though - the clouds were spectacular and we watched the folk lighting from a great vantage point in the park for a while. Super and an early night followed - mainly because we wanted to get safely in our tents before the nightime wildlife arrived!
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