Travelblog -short English version of our blog "Afrika ruft - Reiseblog" about Zambia
for pictures please look there.
English Version: Zambia
Thursday, September, 28th 2017 – Friday, October, 27th 2017
After 2 exciting months in Namibia we cross the border to Zamibia at Wenela in Katima Mulilo. The Namibian side takes us about 10 minutes, yet the Zambian side is a bit more complicated. You have to pass various official desks, pay entry fees, taxes, road fees, for the visa, etc. in both Kwacha and US$. After some time we are being granted a stay for 30 days and we are on the road.
Our first stop is at Ngyonye Falls, where the Zambesi has to overcome rocks that are about 20metres high. A small National Park offers some information on the history of the falls. What a pity that we can’t take a refreshing swim in the Zambesi, at this is „only for those who are friendly with the crocodiles“. A small campground nearby is our first overnight spot and we experience Zambian hospitality at its best.
Along the road to Mongu we pass many little villages, almost each one has a school for the great number of children that are running around. It is there where we meet men in masks, and as one of the organizers invites us to the Cheke Festival (=Festival of Light) in Limalungo, we decide to attend it.
The park of a Catholic Mission in Limalungo is our place for the following nights and offers refuge from the loud, busy, impressive and exciting festival that we experience. Just look at the pictures – they tell more than 1000 words!
Full with the sound of drums and the blessings of the friendly people at the mission we venture to cross the so – called Luena Flats. This is the area near to the Zambesi River that gets completely flooded in the rainy season and can therefore only be used for farming in the dry season. This is also the time when it can be crossed by vehicle on certain pads that lead to the many settlements in the Flats. Most of them are only inhabitated periodically and have to be left when the rain comes. It’s a bit of a challenge to cross the Flats, as there are still some swampy parts that are too deep for Cappuccino. Yet, a young couple that we take with us (they have to walk 7 hours to see their relatives) guide us through the complex system of paths and pads and they know exactly which ones are safe. We stop at a little village right at the Zambesi for the night and have to learn that this is a country where you’ll never be alone. Children with hungry eyes and stomachs „conquer“ our site and we think of Gerhard’s words that he quoted from his time as an Aid Worker in Zambia: „If you can’t eat your piece of bread next to a hungry child, don’t go to Africa!“.
Via Lukulu, a little village where we buy some bottled water and get some fuel, we reach the Watopa Ferry that takes us across the Kabompo River. From there we get to Chitokoloki, where the Mission „Christian Missions in Many Lands“ has been running a hospital for almost 100 years. They have won an excellent reputation across Zamibia. It’s amazing what they are doing here in this remote spot of Zambia! We are invited to park Cappuccino within the Mission’s area, are invited to dinner and can even swim in their swimming pool. What a treat at 40°C!
About 60km North we cross Chinyingi Bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in Africa. It’s rightly called „Swinging Bridge“ as the 200m walk across the Zambesi is not for the faint hearted!
At Chavuma, the last settlement before the Angolian border and „the most remote spot in the (former) British Empire“(quote former British govenor) we again meet Christian missionaries by chance and experience their hospitality.
Our next destination is Manyinga. We’d like to attend the Lukwaka Festival there, which celebrates the tradition of how the tribe plus their chief were kept safe in times if war. We are again heartily welcome by the Senior Chief and invited as his official international guests. This means we can park next to the „palace“ and are looked after by the officials. Again we are wrapped in the sounds of the drums, the colours, the dances and the smiles and friendliness of the people.
After having been exposed to all sorts of music, sounds and dances for almost 3 days, we decide to seek some peace and quietness. We leave the Western Provinces and head for the Copper Belt. Approximately 60 km south of Kitwe, the Nsobe Game Camp and Farm offers a recreational area at a lake with self-catering lodges, a campsite and a restaurant. The farm is situated in a huge area of woodland with some game, which we enjoy during a game-drive on our bikes.
After a few days of rest we are on the road again. We take the “Great North Road” down to Lusaka. We are not used to the amount of traffic anymore, and it's especially the lorries which worry us. Some are in extremely bad conditions, and we see a lot of broken down cars and accidents on our way.
We experience Lusaka as a very controversial city: poor, loud, dirty, chaotic on the one hand and clean, chic, rich, very Western + Chinese on the other. We only buy a few essentials and are on the road again.
The “Great East Road” follows wooden hills, mountains and riverbeds along the border to Mozambique and the South Zambesi Park. From Petauke we take a pad to Mfuwe, the entrance to South Luangwa National Park. On the way there we are shocked by the amount of devastated forests we pass. We hear that this area has only just been opened for settlements and these poor villages have only just been built. Lots of children crying for sweeties approach our car, which has never happened before.
The Wildlife Camp outside the park is the perfect base for exploring the park. It is situated right at the riverbank of the Luangwa. Hippos, elefants and monkeys visit the camp regularly. The Park itself is beautiful. Woodland, riverbeds, open spaces with a lot of game and also overgrown bush areas – we experience all of this on real 4x4 trails. Elefants, buffaloes, zebras, wonderfully coloured birds, but especially hippos and crocodiles on the riverbanks are fascinating. It's definitely one of the best parks we've ever been to. It's only the costs that we find too high: 1 day in the park costs us 90 US $. Obviously the authorities know what treasure they have here, yet they don't do much to preserve it – apart from asking money from visitors. At least this is our impression.
After a few days of rest we are on the road again, heading back to the Great East Road. The pad leads us to Msoro, an old Anglican Mission Station that still runs a cathedral, a hospital and a school. Yet, there seems a terrible lack of money, as the conditions in the hospital are very poor, the cathedral's windows are broken and the lack of money is apparent at every corner. Nevertheless we meet very a friendly and optimistic staff. We are deeply impressed.
After an afternoon and over-night stay in a little village on the way, where we experience pure village life and great hospitality, the Great East Road takes us to the path that leads to one of the gates of the Lower Zambesi National Park. A friendly guard, who seems to be happy about having some company at this lonely place, offers us to stay overnight right at the gate. The next morning we again pay a lot (75US$ for the day) and are off. An incredibly bad road awaits us, yet it is the only way to get to the Zambesi Valley and to the West Gate, which we have to reach before 18:00. We climb steep hills on a track that is partly only a single track, we dive down into “jungle” valleys and cross dry river beds on broken bridges or over bumpy stones. After 4 hours we finally see the Zambezi on the haze and finally the track and the landscape change. We enter an almost paradise-like scenery: high trees, lagoons, green lush patches along the river. This is where all the animals are: a huge number of elefants, zebras, all sorts of deer, warthogs, waterbirds and hippos in the water. We are completely alone among all these animals and enjoy their company. After a few hours we take the “main road” out of the park, which is again a rather bumpy pad. We have to wake the disinterested guard at the gate, who doesn't seem to be too busy at all. After another 2 hours , just before the sun sets, we finally settle at Gwabi River Lodge, which is perfectly situated at the banks of the river Kafue, just 6 km away from the confluence Kafue – Zambesi. A river cruise and the company of a Swiss couple, who travel also in a Bremach, are the treats for the following days.
Relaxed and keen on new experiences we set out to see Lake Kariba, one of the greatest man-made lakes in Africa. In the “harbour” of a small fishing village we find a beautiful spot under a tree, and we get permission from the headman to stay. Fishing is still done in a very “old-fashioned” way here. Again we are welcome among the very friendly village people and learn a lot about their way of life.
Our last destination in Zambia is Livingstone and the Victoria Falls. Although there is not too much water now at the end of the dry season, we are impressed by the size and height of the falls.
After 4 weeks in Zambia we have to leave the country, as our permit is running out. We are very grateful having had the chance to travel here. We met so many friendly people, who expressed their true joy when we told them that we were really interested in how they live and what worries them and not only in the expensive beauty spots. We travelled trough marvellous landscapes and saw a lot of animals in paradise-like surroundings.
We only hope that the great number of young people (60% are under 20 years!) will find a way out of poverty into a better future.
English Version: Botsuana
Friday, October 27th – Friday, November 24th
The ferry boat at Kazungula carries us to Botsuana. It takes us about 50 minutes to get a permit of stay for 3 months and to pay all necessary entry fees. In the first few days we'd like to explore the North, which seems to consist only of national parks. Yet first, at Senyati Safari Camp we experience wildlife at its best: the camp has its own hide out and waterhole, and we see about 100 elefants within 2 hours walking past almost our noses. What a sensation!
Finally we decide to skip Chobe Nationalpark, as there are strict regulations for tourists driving their own cars, which makes a visit not very interesting. Chobe is well known for its elefants and hippos, animals which we have already seen in spectacular scenery (and without too many regulations) in Zambia. So we head for Linyanti Gate hoping to be able to pass the 7km through the park to the cutline without having to pay. On our way there we stop at a waterhole in the middle of nowhere and are again rewarded with visits of elefants all night long.
At Linyanti we are told that we have to pay full park entry fees, no matter where we go. So we decide to take the pad through the park to Savuti and to leave the park via Mababe Gate. The pad is very sandy and tiring, we hardly see any animals. On our way to the South, which takes us about 5 hours, we meet one more camping car and a few gamedrive cars from various lodges. Where are they all? We were told that all camps are “fully booked”, yet we only see empty pits...
Outside the park a family of 7 giraffes greets us and we meet many elefants enjoying their evening meal.
Along the River Khwai we find quite a few empty and run-down small camps, although they are located in beauty spots, the scenery is more than beautiful and wildlife excellent. We are told that many concessions have been sold to private companies and wonder if there could be a connection? Botsuana's strategy in tourism is to encourage high–end tourists, who are willing to pay up to 1600,00$ per night per person in one of the luxury lodges. “Tourists must leave a lot of money in our country – you have to go to a campsite! ” - this is what a strict lady tells us who finds us camping somewhere at the river. This explains why we've met so few individual travellers here. Strict regulations, high entrance fees, a complicated reservation system, authoritarian staff – all this makes travelling rather difficult and excludes people like us, who are not only interested in animals and nature, but also in close contact with the locals. It also excludes the locals, as the villagers don't profit from tourists that are carried in cars to expensive lodges and don't stop at their small camps or don't buy anything in their small village shops.
Well, we'll have to come to terms with all this.
In Maun, the center of the Okawango Delta, we find a good place at a campsite of a local hotel. This is where we meet travellers from Switzerland. Together we decide to spend a few days in the Moremi Game Reserve, which is one of the few areas that can be visited by car and which is described as very beautiful. And this is really true. We cruise through a landscape changing between pans, grassland, woodland and lagoons and we see many different animals, especially giraffes, buffaloes, gnus, waterbirds. We are very impressed by 2 lionesses observing zebras and who finally try to hunt one. Yet they are not successful and the zebras escape in a cloud of dust.
In our camp the full moon rises over the yellow grassland while we are enjoying a tasty braai.
Our next destination is the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, one of the largest National Parks in the world and home to the famous Kalahari lions. Originally this area was meant to guarantee the San People a place where they could live according to their traditions, but more and more tourists are attracted by the unique landscape and animals and diamonds were found in the Southern area. This is why the government tries to encourage the San to settle elsewhere – without success till now.
With a Swiss couple we spend 2 wonderful days in the park. On our gamedrives we see all sorts of game, but no lions. We experience a tremendous thunderstorm with heavy rainfalls during our first night in the camp and are happy to have Cappuccino as our dry and safe home. The rain changes the colours of the pans from yellow and grey into light green – a wonderful transformation!
We say good-bye to our Swiss friends and head for the Makgadikgadi Pans, huge salt plains North of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
In Rakops we meet John, who invites us to stay with him in his garden at the Boteti River, as he loves having travellers around. He is a missionary, founder of a pre – school for orphans (HIV is everywhere!) and a perfect partner to discuss politics in a country that is seen as truly democratic, yet has still very powerful chiefs and wants to lead their people into the 21st century as quickly as possible. In long discussions we find answers to some of the questions we have been asking ourselves while travelling through this impressive country. We learn, for example, that Botsuana is desperately trying to meet „Western Standards“ in everything, which leads to many complicated regulations for small businesses. John had to close his bakery that had been making bread for his pre-school and the village people, as he couldn’t meet the standards that where imposed on him. Now the kids have to go without bread and in the village 5 people lost their jobs. And this is only one of many examples we hear. We admire the patience and endurance of such people like John, who don’t give up and follow their missions.
We finally reach Lebkhubu Island in the Makgadikgadi Pans, a small rocky “island” in the middle of huge salt pans. We camp under huge African Chestnut Trees and enjoy the impressive view over the flat, white and yellow pans. The sun sets in a orange – red – pink lightshow and later lightning in the distance creates an almost unrealistic sky.
On our way back to civilisation we spend a day in the middle of nowhere, right in the pans and are rewarded with very impressive colours in the sky. The way out leads over “muddy islands”, which are already a bit wet from rain during the night, but Cappuccino manages every challenge bravely.
After a few relaxing days at the Sedia Hotel Campground in Maun we are on our way to D’Kar, a small San village near Ghanzi. At D’Kar the Dutch Church, now supported by the government of Botswana, has been running community projects with the locals focussing on education and on improving their financial situation. One of the projects is a lodge plus campsite, the DqaeQareSanLodge, which is run by San people. This is where we spend 2 wonderful days, enjoying the animals that we see at the waterhole on the game farm and the swimming pool at the lodge (which is a real treat at 43°C!). We also visit the Kuru Arts Project, where San artists are invited to produce their pieces of art and exhibit them in an adjacent gallery.
In our final few days in Botswana we’d like a feel the Kalahari once more. We travel South towards the region north of the North Gate of the Kgalagadi Transfontier Nationalpark, to an area outside the park, but especially beautiful and remote. This is absolutely true, as we find an almost parklike landscape, with grassy flats, woodland and only a few shrubs that scratch Cappuccino. Pans interrupt the rolling dunes that are made of yellow or red sand. Wonderful! We only see a few shy animals (Oryx, ostrich, deer), but we don’t mind.
Yet, we are a bit disappointed as even here, in this remote area, we are asked to pay just for using the sandy paths or for camping outside. Not even the transit route to the North Gate of the National Park can be used for free. This policy might be the reason that nobody visits this area, although it is especially beautiful. We camp beneath huge old trees, enjoy the pans and the plains without meeting one single person. This is where a “true Africa feeling” emerges in our hearts.
After 3 lonely days of tender morning light over light – green areas that look as if a landscape gardener has designed them, and of overwhelming sunsets that colour the sky red – orange – lilac – greyish blue, we return into civilisation.
We cross the border at Mamuno, say good – bye to Botswana and re- enter Namibia.
Back in Namibia
Friday, November 24th –Friday, December 15th
Our first night in Namibia we spend at Zelda Guest Farm. The campground resembles a beautiful flower garden and the two tame leopards have an impressive appetite when being fed in the evening.
After a few hours we are in Windhoek again. Here we get in contact with the people we already know and especially with Bente and Hans from Germany, who have been patiently waiting at Walvis Bay for their Toyota to arrive safely from Germany. We meet at Henties Bay and spend wonderful days in the Damara region. We travel the Omaruru Riverbed Trail once more, enjoy the sunset at Brandberg, elephants in the Ugab Riverbed and venture a rather bumpy and adventurous trail to the Rhino Trust Camp. We cross a stony plain and enter “Desolation Valley” (I couldn’t find out why a beautiful green valley has such a name 😊). There we find traces of the black rhino, yet we do not see one. We all enjoy the beautiful riverbed, where we meet elephants once more. Suddenly we hear a metallic click and one of our spring leaves is broken. Hans and Martin fix it so that we reach the next village. As there is no garage we drive on to Khorixas, very carefully, of course. There a friendly crew at a garage fixes the leave so that we can move on to Windhoek. It takes quite a lot of phone calls and tries at various garages till we find a place that will replace and fix everything before Christmas. Till then we have to be patient and wait a few days. We hope that our Christmas present will be new spring leaves and a Cappuccino that can master river beds and 4x4 trails again. These few days we enjoy browsing through the shops that offer outdoor equipment, camping stuff and sports items in Windhoek.
Bente and Hans finally leave for the North again, as they want to get to Etosha and Epupa before the South African Christmas holidays start, which would mean “fully booked” campsites. Martin and I treat ourselves with a few days of mountain biking at “Farm Windhoek”, where we find a great number of wonderful trails. After so many days of sitting in the car we thoroughly enjoy this exercise.