Overland trip to East Africa June – July 2012
A trip that had been in the planning for some time. A huge amount of research had been undertaken and much help was received along the way – which makes all the difference. Special thanks to Louis Van Der Merwe & Deon Kotze whose insights proved to be invaluable.
I know that a lot of people would just like to get into their cars and go see where they end up but for comfort and a stress-free trip some good planning is, in my opinion, essential.
This report is from Paul & Lin – “The Lostshepards” and the opinions expressed herein are ours alone.
CLICK on photos to enlarge – double click for very large
We were away for just over seven weeks and covered a distance of 14,920 Kms without any punctures or broken windscreens (for once!) in fact no mechanical problems at all – considering where we went and the state of the so-called roads this is a testament to the quality build & durability of Toyota Landcruisers.
Day 1 Cape Town to Aus
Left Cape Town 4.00 a.m. in the mist, but still made good time. Crossed the border at Alexander Bay to Oranjemund and with a time change gained an hour. Arrived mid-afternoon at our all-time Namibian favourite – Klein Aus Vista and camped here. Bit chilly over-night but so nice to be back in Namibia. Camping R 180.
Day 2 Aus to Windhoek
Up the magical C13 – wide open spaces again – beautiful vistas – across to Helmeringhausen and out onto the B1 at Kalkrand and into Windhoek – nice drive, roads empty. Stayed at our usual B&B “The Guesthouse” in Klein Windhoek with the obligatory game steaks that night at Joes. B&B R790.
Day 3 Windhoek to Kalkfontein Farm just North of Grootfontein
Easy drive no rush but again very cold. We stayed in a room here and ate in their restaurant – again great Game steaks. D.B&B R790.
Day 4 Kalkfontein to Camp Kwando (Caprivi) on the Kwando River.
Another favourite of ours, campsite empty, staff changes again – always seems to be new staff here ! Wonder why. Private camp site R300 plus R 30 for 2 braai wood packs.
Day 5 Camp Kwando short distance to Katimo.
Very leisurely drive around the road past Mamili – this whole road is now being tarred so encountered major muddy road works. Camped next to the Zambezi on the lawn of the Protea Hotel – great ablutions. Did a bit of shopping in town and filled up – long range tank 270 litres. Camping R 170.
Day 6 Border crossing to Sesheke in Zambia & on to Livingstone
They are building a new, all in one, customs post here, but in the meantime it’s the same old, same old, along with the broken down insurance caravan. We had taken out a carnet (worth every penny R 2750-) so the formalities were much less than usual. We still paid R 314 carbon tax, R414 for insurance, Council tax $50 US, Road Tax $ 20 US. Glad to be away from there but all very pleasant; we crossed the Longspan Bridge over the mighty Zambezi River straight onto bad pot-holed Zambian Roads – what a shocker. Slow going with some areas not bad, made Livingstone in the early afternoon.
Went to the Campsite of The Waterfront Hotel – beautiful position on the river (for the hotel not the campsite) Campsite OK but lots of tour groups and the campsite is not big. Went down to see the Falls from the Zambian side – have wanted to do this for a long time – $ 40 US for us both to enter the park and 5000Z Kw to hire a raincoat to get though the rain forest (v wet!). Glad to have seen this finally from here, but I have to say that the Vic Falls are better viewed from the Zimbabwean side. Bought the usual copper stuff from the relentless touts who are all incredibly friendly. Very cold over-night. 50,000 Z Kw R 78 each
Day 7 Livingstone to Lusaka
Up early and off to The Falls Mall shopping Centre to buy our Comisa – you have to buy this from the same company that you bought your Zambian insurance certificate from at the border post. Comisa for Tanzania & Malawi etc. cost $29 US valid for three months. Went to exchange some money and found that the rate was better for Rands so changed R10K = 6,300,000 – Z Kw !!! Cardboard box of money – those noughts, those noughts ! Someone should do something about those noughts !! What a mind shift that was.
The roads in Livingstone itself are also bad, but once out on the main road to Lusaka it improves as far as Mazabuka – large town, sugar cane & cotton – but then it’s back to poor condition. At the junction of the roads at Kafue Gorge you join the road from Zimbabwe and the road then becomes very busy with lots of trucks & taxis. Very tiring driving. But very beautiful scenery. Due to the late get away from Livingstone we arrived in Lusaka in rush hour traffic and made the wrong decision to go to Pioneer Camp on the NE side of town. We should, in retrospect, have stayed at Eureka camp in the south. Very busy with lots of police misdirecting the traffic flow. The dirt road off the Gr Eastern Road to Pioneer Camp is awful and Pioneer camp is nothing to write home about. No elect, very few level stands, warm not hot showers, rather run down. Good steaks however in the bar/dining room.
Took a while to get going in the morning, finding someone to pay….Camping 50,000 Zkw R 78 each dinner 135,000. R210.
Day 8 From Pioneer Camp to Forest Inn on T2 just after the split T3/T2
Managed to get to the Great North Road from the Great East Road by not going back into central Lusaka – through Rosa Suburb – I had noticed yesterday that a lot of the garages were full of people waiting to fill up & sure enough there was panic buying for petrol – but not diesel – fortunately we found a garage that had no petrol (so was empty) but had diesel.7600 Z kw (about R12 a litre). The road north of Lusaka is good but again lots of trucks. Got pulled off for speeding (radar) I wasn’t – and she clearly did not know how to operate the machine; kept my cool but demanded to see when the machine was last calibrated and they very quickly let me go ! In any event you rarely know what the limit is and the road markings are non-existent. Lots of police blocks, all very friendly, but endless speed bumps: 7 small 1 big one 7 small. What this must cost the country in transport repairs is beyond imagining. 50KM north of Lusaka we dropped in at Fringilla Lodge – George Woodley – what a place. Bought some wonderful steaks & wors here plus fresh veggies – this would be the place to stay rather than in Lusaka. Basic campsite but all very neat. Lovely setting. In any event we travelled 300Km to Forest Inn just south of Mkushi. (60000 Z kw R 48.00 each) Nice setting, central boma but with only 2 electric plugs (square UK type NB). Had the campsite to ourselves, all very nice but a bit noisy with trucks tearing up the road all night. One other thing; where the T2 & T3 separate great care needs to be exercised – it’s a very busy but confusing turn off. Has accident written all over it. Camping 60,000 Zkw R93.75 in total
Day 9 Forest Inn to Kapishya Hot Springs.
The road north continues to be quite good to Kalonje where it becomes very narrow & dangerous thanks to the trucks – they are starting to tar the hard shoulder but extra caution needs to be taken here; the truck drivers just come at you and you must get out of their way. Scenery changes here with escarpments & beautiful hills 1600 metres up. At Mpika we re-fuelled – busy little town – and managed to find a wholesaler to buy water in large bottles. The road North from Mpika is mixed, some dreadful places with HUGE potholes then fine again. We travelled 90kms and then were pleased to get off this busy main road to the road down to Shiwa Ngandu and Kapishya. The road down to the estate is like an enchanted forest – read up about Sir Stuart Gore-Brown and his English folly of an estate of Shiwa Ngandu – more on this later – The estate is now run by one of his grandsons – it is very run down. At this stage we just drove past the gate house and continued on the gravel road to the Hot Springs also owned & run by a Gore-Brown descendant. The springs are an oasis, really lovely and the decision was made to stay here for two days. Camping next to a fast running river on good grass – no electric – good ablutions – peace & quiet. Cold night.
Day 10 Stay at Kapishya.
Decided to take the tour of the Gore-Brown Estate – I like old houses – Took the gravel road 20kms back to Shiwa Ngandu – viewing 9-11 a.m. $20 pp – This is the quintessential English, white man’s country house, transported to Africa, that has turned into a white mans folly. Built in 1932 Africa is already reclaiming it quickly – far from being an inheritance this is an encumbrance – you could chuck a million rand at the place and wonder where it went. They charge visitors $400 a night for full board – reckon you’d feel a bit short changed for that. However it has to be said that it is in the most beautiful setting and one feels very sad about the place and for the owners, Charlie Harvey – it can’t be easy. His brother definitely has the better deal at Kapishya. Got back there and spent 3 hours just sitting and reading in the hot springs. Had dinner in the restaurant that night, OK, but nothing special. Total bill for 2 days 570,000 Z Kw (R900). Camping $10 pp pn
Day 11 Kapishya to Mkipi Lodge Mpulungu
Road out of Kapishya good gravel and onto the tar on M1 north to Kasama where again we topped up with fuel. From here we travelled on a narrow tar road, not bad condition but some pot holes – maybe we were getting used to them by now ! – Arriving in Mbala (Abercorn in the old days) we went to check out the customs office – much thanks to Louis VD Merwe who advised us exactly how to deal with this. Arranged with the Customs chap that he would be in the office for us first thing in the morning, got the phone number for the bloke who opens the gate some 25 kms further down the road and phoned him – he has a Zambian as well as a Tanzanian cell phone number – got him eventually on his Tanzanian number – yes he would be there for us. Mbala up at 1700 metres. Very cold.
Took the pass road down to Mpulungu on Lake Tanganyika (still in Zambia) down to 600 metres 29 degrees & very humid. Went to the port office – SS Liemba was in port – port office very busy but got our carnet stamped by customs and told them that we were only crossing the border the next day. Customs bloke didn’t know how to deal with a carnet and in the event stamped it in the wrong place – I was worried that this might cause problems later but in the event it didn’t matter, The one customs guy had a jersey on with the motto “Pay Taxes Not Bribes” – they should hand those out to the Police :-). So far so good – had a look around the port and then tried to find Lake Tanganyika Lodge – Mrs Garmin took me everywhere except where I wanted to go and at one stage we were on a hill in the middle of an out of control fire – decided to get the hell out of there and followed the track which promptly bought me out back at the petrol station outside Mpulungu – yawellnofine – it was getting late so we looked on T4A and wound up at Mkipi lodge just up away from the lake. It was getting dark when we set up camp – not good. Place was fine, empty like most places we had been, but a bit noisy from the village. Cold showers in the morning – the mystery of the African donkey – how difficult can it be to provide hot water twice a day ! Grrrr. Camping $10 pp pn.
Day 12 Cross border into Tanzania to Sumbawanga.
So off we go back up to Mbala; on the way there is a police block and for the first time I am asked to show my licence – I asked as a matter of interest why he was the first person to actually request this – to which I received the answer “Because I take my job very serious”! Back up at Mbala we go to the immigration hut and lo and behold the Passport guy is there waiting for us and stamps our passports, the road out of town, 25Km to the gate, is in very poor condition so going is slow but eventually we come out at a gate and yes the gate opener is there at his house to greet us and let us go though – no hassles, no money to pay, hello, goodbye. Thank you Louis !!!
The road continues on in its bad state and then we come to some very smart buildings that are the Tanzanian Border post. What an experience this turned out to be. We had “Fred” the Landcruiser Club Mascot – a toy dagga boy – in SA rugby outfit – with us, and he proved such a hit that all three of the customs guys insisted on writing in his “passport” in Kiswahili. Visa $ 50 US each plus $ 25 road tax plus wanted to see yellow fever cards. So formalities over, email addresses exchanged, we were wished bon voyage by this incredibly friendly post – gate opened – we were in Tanzania ! Lost an hour when crossing the border. East African Time.
Continuing on the road north it is 90Kms to Sumbawanga but the 90kms was hell on wheels – the Chinese are there big time and the “road” was shocking – an introduction to what was to come. We had hoped to go back down to the Lake at Kipili but could not get an answer from any of their phones and due to the lateness of the day and the distance that we would have had to travel decided to give this a miss and get to Sumbawanga where we camped in the carpark of the Forest Inn Country Club Hotel. This was on the outskirts of what is a very busy town – 30,000 Shillings (about R160 – included in the price the use of a room with a loo & shower) – the loo was IN the shower so the room looked like little Venice from time to time ! This otel (lost the H a while back) is owned by an elderly Asian man Mr Amir Mitha. He was born in Tanzania, parents having been brought out from India for the railways a generation before. What a character, he is a raconteur of note with lots of stories about Kingsley Holgate who has stayed there too. Ate in the restaurant. 30,000 shillings incl breakfast R 150
Day 13 Sumbawanga to Sitalike (Katavi National Park)
Word of caution, we found in Tanzania that you must confirm and re-confirm everything otherwise you get the Tanzanian “mistake” which you pay for one way or another. I had to get Mr Mitha on the phone to get his staff to understand that breakfast was indeed included in the bill and the night before the bill came back to us for dinner as there was a “little” mistake. So check and double check everything. Also when we arrived his help said 13000 shillings each, this suddenly changed to 15000 – I am so sorry – yeah right. Leaving Sumbawanga the 65kms to the Kipili turnoff took almost 2 hours – good job we abandoned that idea the night before. Dreadful road. Then a bit better but it still took us the whole morning to 1.30 to cover the 200 km distance through the Park to Sitalike. Very little to be seen from the main road through the park but the Tsetse are there in force. The trucks also just head straight for you too. Welcome to driving Tanzanian style. At Sitalike the Hippo Garden lodge is a dump and virtually closed down. Mr Mitha had told us to go to his friend next door; Riverside Camping Mr Juma. Nice site right on the river with huge pods of Hippos everywhere. Very welcoming and knowledgeable. 10,000 shillings to camp (R 50pp) – Cold water shower but on grass and electricity 7-11 pm. Nice place to rest.
Day 14 Katavi National Park
Our introduction to the National Parks system of Tanzania. $ 20 US pp to enter for a timed day. $ 40 because you have a foreign registered car. Saw lots of hippos – really staggering just how many there are there. Fought with the tsetse – nothing seems to help even though we went prepared with all sorts of precautions. Plus if you get them in the car on the windscreen you virtually need a sledgehammer to get them to die. In Moz you do the Mozambique waltz when driving – here you do the Tsetse slap with some interesting results. Didn’t see any predators and the bird life was also a bit disappointing but plenty of the usual suspects. Went back to camp and slept listening to the fighting of the hippos. R50 pp camp.
Katavi National Park – Tanzania
Day 15 Katavi Park to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika
We had been dreading this all along – 332 Kms – Louis took all of 11 hours when he did it in 2009 – the road is still bad – indescribably bad – but the last 55 kms is now tarred and we did it in 8 and a half hours. Average speed 35/38Kmph. This road is beyond bad and at this point I want to make the following statement. Tanzania has the nicest, kindest, most open & generous people you could ever want to meet. What is it that turns them into homicidal maniacs when they get behind the steering wheel of a vehicle ? When asked this question they look all bashful and giggle. But it’s not funny. In Angola you see a wreck every km or so stripped right down to the chassis. Tanzania should be re-christened “The land of the Near Miss” – Cars / Busses etc. coming towards you, put on their right indicator and thus you become like a ship heading for the lighthouse, just missing it in time. Eventually we worked out a way to correct this some of the time. We would just stop dead, in the middle of the road. They would then, hopefully, have to do the same, and then to their annoyance you could pass each other in an orderly fashion. Dangerous and not always to be recommended – you have to make a judgement call. On roads where we simply could not travel any faster than 35km per hour these trucks would bear down on you at 60 plus – they show no mercy – but here’s the amazing thing, you don’t see the wrecks like you do in Angola – yes you see containers that have come adrift from their trucks – surprise, surprise, – and trucks that have fallen over but few if any smaller wrecks. Amazing. Also there are bicycles & pedestrians everywhere – these poor people just disappear into the bush off the road when they see something coming, it’s almost comical. Anyway having made it in one piece to Kigoma we headed out to Jacobsons Beach Camp on Lake Tanganyika. Arriving and setting up camp again quite late. 10,000 shillings = R 50 pp pn
Day 16 Jacobsons & Livingstone Museum at Ujiji
Jacobsons is a paradise – very basic but right on and above the beach – cold showers only but loo too. It’s secluded and totally private. Owned by some people from Norway who only live here for a few months of the year. The lake is crystal clear and the water warm enough to enjoy. Magic place, could have stayed here a week easily. 10,000 shilling pp.(R 40). We went into Kigoma which is a relatively busy town, bought some supplies – Kigoma Bakery opposite Ally’s Restaurant – easy to find and more than just a bakery. Went to visit the end of the line “German” railway station donated by the Kaiser, like the one at Istanbul. We then went & did the short distance down to Ujiji and visited the museum and memorial to when Stanley met Dr Livingstone with those immortal words “Dr Livingstone I presume” It’s a very small museum; pay to go in, can’t remember how much but not that cheap but very interesting all the same. Went for lunch up at the Hill Top Hotel – golf carts from the entrance to the restaurant – beautiful views over Kigoma and the Lake. Met an English chap who is travelling around East Africa by bus, he had just been in Burundi & Rwanda and said that both were safe these days – had an interesting chat with him and met up again at Iringa later. So back to Jacobsons for sun-downers, a cold one, on the beach. Camping R 50 pp pn
Day 17 Kigoma to Geita
488Kms to do – what a prospect. Early start – sad to leave nice comfortable Kigoma – Road was very poor but made the half way mark by lunch time. In the afternoon the road got really bad and the stretch from Bwanga was worse. We had come via Nyanatahara & across, I have a feeling that the longer way might have been better. In any event the last 70kms into Geita is all good tar. What joy. We had travelled up the border of Burundi and had been cautioned about so doing, possible bandits. What we did see was an occasional police & army presence but never felt or experienced any danger at all. On arrival in a very security conscious Geita (Gold Mines); where we were quizzed about where we were going and which company did we work for etc. – it was after 5.00pm – another 8 hour drive and it was getting dark. We rocked up at Louis recommendation “Lakeshore Lodge” only to discover that this was no longer a public lodge but a company barracks. No amount of pleading would convince them to just let us pitch our RTT in the corner, not even for money – no way Jose – so the result was that I had to leave Lin there (two seater cruiser) and take a local girl to guide me to another crappy run down hotel where we might be allowed to park in the carpark. You can just imagine the looks I was getting driving through town with this young African girl next to me !!! She wasn’t that charmed either I’m sure ! Anyway we made some arrangements and then I took her back to collect Lin. Arriving back, what luck to find a European man – one Gordon – wandering around – he wanted to know what the problem was so I explained. He was Welsh, so I very quickly told him so was my Mother ! (First time that has ever come in useful I can tell you) So says he, you can stay here – to which I said but we can’t they won’t let us – the bloke in charge says no way. Yes says my new Welsh best friend, you can ! cos I’m the main man here. What joy AND he would not let us pay. He also let us have the use of a room to be able to use a loo and shower. What incredible kindness. Sidebar; The Lakeshore lodge is a bit of a misnomer – there is no lake – standing on the roof of my car looking over the wall you can sort of see a large puddle in the distance 🙂 The theft problem is such an issue in Geita for supplies & diesel that Gordon has imported Masai warriors in all their colourful glory to guard the mine stores at night and we got to see them going off out on duty that night. Camping was free !
Day 18 Geita to Mwanza across Lake Victoria
Slow start in the morning another night of noisy dogs. Short trip on tar to Busisi where we boarded the ferry that would take us across to Mwanza; 6500 shillings for the car and 400 for Lin as passenger – ticket printed with your registration number on. They run two ferries and they constantly go back and forth. Large ferry in good condition. Very beautiful area with rock formations like N Transvaal & Zimbabwe. Arriving on the other side at Mwanza – wow big town – quite a shocker – traffic everywhere. Major traffic jams. Very slow going. Set Mrs Garmin to take us to the Mwanza Yacht club which is the only place where you can camp in Mwanza – stopped off to fill up first.
On arrival at the “camp” we found a Belgian couple pushed into the very far corner of the grassed area – reason – they were setting up for a wedding and no we couldn’t stay. Eventually after much persuasion they relented and we were allowed to go to the other side of the bar area where they launch the boats from and set up camp there. Went into town to the Mwanza U-Turn store – on T4A – best place to get supplies even got some Chivas at the same price as Ultra here. Got pulled off by the police for going through a red light – in fact I simply could not work out how the intersection worked – Mrs Garmin wanted me to go down a one way street, the wrong way, and having got to grips with that I found myself in an empty inter-section and hadn’t noticed that the traffic lights are not at a normal height but way above your head. Lots of jabber jabber and he let me go.
Getting back to the camp site a rolling hotel circus had arrived 42 people all crammed into their little slots – parked right up next to the young Belgian couple – I felt very glad at this stage that we were the other side of the bar. The wedding was due to start and already the noise levels were rising. Retreating to our camp we suddenly realised that we were the goldfish in the bowl as the bar area was full of South African Ex-Pats mostly from the Reef so we were treated to stories about life in Tanzania and their home sickness for good old SA – it was a good night however. The Party went on until about 1.00am and then quiet arrived ! Just the usual noisy dogs to contend with. Camping 10,000 shillings = R 50 pp pn
Day 19 Entry into the Serengeti at the Western Gate to Pembi Camp Seronera
Leave Mwanza quite early and went via the Serengeti stop-over camp near the gate – not a bad place to stay – 10,000 pp per night – but the road to get there was poor in places. Some facilities not functioning due to recent fire. Carried on to the entrance to the Park – easy to miss, not exactly hitting you in the face. There are other tented camps in the area outside but they look expensive.
Entering the park area we arrive at the offices. In a country where nothing is really new or in good condition it is incongruous to see a bank of 8 shiny credit card machines all lined up in a row ! Downside, only one bloke to operate them ! So much for progress. Exchange of wealth time arrives. $200 per couple to enter for a timed 24 hour period. They want a credit card. Now me I’m difficult. I don’t want to use my credit card as there is nothing worse than coming back from a holiday to find a bill waiting to be paid. And so far I have not used my card at all. So says I… Eeesh this is going to be difficult – the ATM machine in Lusaka stole my card I’ve only got dollars – wait – info sinks in – Oh OK then that’s OK. They give you a receipt where they record all the serial numbers of the notes on the permit so use big notes ! We did this at all the parks we went to and had no difficulty at all and thus arrived home to no bills to pay !!
Leaving there and heading into the park proper you suddenly realise, hey ! I’m in the Serengeti ! This is what this has all been about.
We enjoy the journey; for us this is what it is all about – yes it’s nice to see animals but then again we can see them a lot closer to home as well on David Attenborough. The Serengeti, yes it’s nice, yes it’s pretty and dramatic in places, yes it’s good to go there, but is it value for money? absolutely not. It’s a huge rip-off. As Deon Kotze said from his trip – “The more you pay the less you get” and I think this is particularly true. The closer you get to Seronera the busier it gets, the roads, if you can call them that, are atrocious – the fly-in tourists are whisked about in Cruiser touring vehicles driven my maniacs at well over the speed limit from viewing to viewing – they drive at you, into you, even over you if they could. It is not a pleasant experience. Again we did our trick to avoid getting covered in dust as we much prefer to drive with our windows down. You see them coming towards you so you stop dead, in the middle of the road, and both of us gaze intently into the bush. Result – they scream to a halt and do the same thinking that you must have seen something that they had missed. Once stopped you negotiate your way calmly around them and smile. Just smile and smile and smile. Works every time.
Getting close to Seronera where we were to camp at Pembi camp we were rewarded by a viewing of tree climbing lions – how strange to see this, almost like a fish out of water. A lucky viewing. The Camp site was OK, new ablutions, but again only cold water – a large group in residence – Americans – how one loves to hear that particular strain of voice in the bush and their endless questions – never mind, its only one night I hope. Its 1300 Metres up so its chilly and just as we sit down to eat and yep, it starts raining ! Luckily for us the ranger was not in evidence when we arrived in camp as they have a total frothy if you park on the grass with an RTT; only tents may camp on the “grass”; the bloke who seemed to be in charge said it was OK for us so we settled down as close as we could to the Ablutions and as far away as we could from the tents and no one said anything so all was fine. The alternative is that you would have to park out in the carpark which is a long walk to the loos. A noisy night and woken VERY early by the antics of the African staff with the tour group. Camping $30 pp pn for cold showers !
Tree Climbing Lions – Near Seronera – Serengeti – Tanzania
Day 20 In Serengeti up to Lobo Camp on Border with Kenya
Up early and out viewing in and around the Seronera area – Fuel is available at Seronera if you require it but the pumps are in poor condition and leak. Large quantity of Wildebeest doing their migration thing and loads of Zebra, but what with the tour vehicles and the dreadful state of the roads we decided that we would escape from this and head on up north towards the border with Kenya to Lobo Camp. The further we got away the better & the quieter the roads became. Saw a leopard in a tree and generally enjoyed the much easier drive. Getting closer to Lobo Camp & Kleins Gate the landscape changes dramatically with beautiful rocky outcrops and is simply stunning. The actual turn off up to Lobo is a 4×4 course – cross-axels galore. The public camp site is positioned high up – good (cold water) ablutions – fairly new too – with stunning view over the Serengeti plains. Now this was worth coming for – big time. At 1750 metres it’s a bit chilly and we had some rain again too, but to sit there and gaze into the far yonder and only have the noise of braying wildebeest was an experience to savour.
OK Question again: Serengeti what to think ? At $200 (R 1700) a day for a couple to visit, it’s expensive. BUT coming up here to the far north is just soooo beautiful you will want to do it once in your life. We came knowing all this from other people so we had no expectations, but I have to say it was a wonderful experience. It was not as crowded as I expected but I suspect that the current world economic situation has played into this; certainly on the way north we had seen very few independent travellers. Camping $30 pp pn cold showers.
Day 21 Exit via Kleins Gate and down the Eco-Route towards Lake Natron
Heard many Lions in the night and a lot of rain but awoke to this amazing view over the Plains – allied with the rock formations – a vista to remember always. Hell it was difficult to pack up and leave but on the way to the gate we were rewarded with a pair of Leopards in a tree – we still had a little time until our exit time of 12.15 so we went almost to the edge of the park 1 degree 40 below the equator.
Arriving at the gate we ran into some National Parks top brass on an inspection. We spent a long time chatting with them about this and that and again exchanged email addresses – they have asked me to send them my views on the parks and how things can improve – I won’t hold my breath here but one came away feeling that one had made real contact with real people. The Tanzanians are so super friendly.
We had been advised not to undertake the Eco-Route for a few reasons. 1. The road is bad…….umm all roads are bad here. 2. It’s very dusty – no comment 3. It’s dangerous 4. There are rip off toll charges all the way down. Well do the Maths.
If you stay another day in the Serengeti it will cost you a minimum of $200 and if you exit through the Ngorongoro Reserve they will charge you to do that before you can get out. We paid 3 toll charges $50 just after leaving the park, $40 a little further down and $10 further on = total $ 110. Plus a stopover at a campsite overnight. So in fact it was cheaper to exit this way after all. The route is very interesting, some flooded areas, some cross axels, some dramatic scenery, yes lots of dust ! But very little traffic, 2 or 3 bakkies I seem to remember. We were told to head for Loliondo / Wasso where the Dutch are helping to build a power plant – at the far end of this village is a campsite owned & run by one Simon Kamakia who is 80 years old and a laugh a minute. “Oloolera Masai Campsite” 0786-562617 – In no time at all he had the donkey going, insisted on having his photo taken and plied us with stories of his life. What a character. The land around here is totally over-grazed, what a contrast to the Serengeti, but his camp site is on grass and it has all you need. He made a fire & we had a guard who watched over us all night – we tried telling him it was not necessary but Simon wasn’t having anything of it – the guard stayed. All this for $20 a couple. The camp is in a garden of Fever trees and Candelabra Euphorbias – there are a lot of these in the area, many very large. So off the road for a good night I am very pleased we followed this route.
Day 22 Wasso to Karatu
Some rain overnight and we eventually managed to get away from Simon and his son Joseph from Arusha who seemed a little too interested to talk about “minerals”! I just played dumb. Tanzanite me thinks.
The road south towards Lake Natron is very bad and it’s a pity that the tolls extracted do not find their way back into the communities or for road improvement. On the way down we met a tour guide taking a couple up to Lobo so I think that the government have worked this out and that’s why you have to pay to travel on this road as otherwise many more people would exit that way to save money. Which you do anyway so there’s no problem. Further down this road you come to a river crossing and there are a couple of campsites there – nice grass – Water Falls Camp ask for Mama Lulu (Simons wife) – but it was only lunchtime so we decided to press on – had we known what was to come I think it might have been brighter to stop there for the rest of the day. Hindsight and all that. In the event it took a long time to get off the trail and with stopping at the smelly lake and photos of the mountains etc. the day was slipping away. This road hits the tar on the main road from Arusha to Karatu at Mto Wa Mbu – this is a major tourist afro-trash shopping area but very close to the entrance to Lake Manyara. We pushed on the 31kms and up the mountain pass to Karatu to Kudu Lodge. 1400 Metres a bit chilly.
This was a recommendation from Deon & Louis & I guess there is not much choice but it is not really very good. They are in the process of building a recreation hall so the camp site has shrunk – There are few electricity points. There is only hot (ish) water at night – again the mystery of the African donkey – no litter bins, no kitchen areas, lights not working in the ablutions – very little interest taken plus they had upped the charge to $15 a day pp – they did reduce this after I complained about the state of things and as we ended up staying there for three nights & booked a tour they only charged us $ 10 a day pp. On the plus side it was out of town and relatively quiet.
Day 23 into Arusha 140Kms on Tar – for shopping and oil change
Travelled down the mountain pass and did some tourist shopping on the way; was disappointed by “Deons” T-Shirt shack as they had poor stock and would not negotiate on the prices for bulk purchase so we left without buying anything !
The road from Karatu to the T junction is a good condition 70Kms; but having made the left turn for Arusha on the A104 the road is a bit iffy. Arusha is another large, dirty, crowded, littered town. Why no one picks up the rubbish is beyond me. Found Shoprite, not that it was lost ! Lots of Mzungus in evidence. Quite funny being back in a large town in a large shop with choices. Not that good a store so we also went to Sakima Supermarket (on T4A) much better shop. Better selection of wines & beers & spirits.
We couldn’t find the garage as recommended by Philip Sackville Scott in his book and it wasn’t on T4A; he said it was a BP but at the location he gave the closest was a red Gapco station. It was not the garage he spoke of but it didn’t matter as they changed the oil which we had brought with us along with our own oil filter for 25,000 shillings R 125 – done quickly and efficiently whilst we waited.
Leaving noisy Arusha not a moment too soon Mrs Garmin had another of her turns (pun intended) and took us out via the back roads through plantations on a dreadful road where we eventually came out at the airport. It was an interesting detour. Out through the backstreets lined with hovels on appalling roads to magnificent (now Asian owned) manicured, large coffee plantations. Back on the tar and the 140 Km back to Karatu. Steak braai to-night.
Day 24 Into the Ngorongoro Crater
Both Louis & Deon had mooted the idea of rather not taking your own cruiser into the crater and that it would be better to stay outside and take a tour viewer in instead. Had we gone in self-drive, it would have cost us more, and we would have spent a bad night in cold & wet conditions. By taking the tour with another couple it worked out at $50pp for timed 24 hour period although you can only be down in the actual crater for 12 hours 6-6. $200 per car access. & $220 for hire of cruiser & driver split 4 ways = $310 per couple. No brainer.
We were up at 5.30am and had arranged for the driver to collect us at 6.30 – one Harry arrived at 6.00 ! Good start. Neat, smart, pleasant, wide awake and full of good info. Macho Halisi Ltd – www.machohalisi.com Harry Benedict Temba +255- (0)784-276-226. His English is perfect, his sister is married to a Swede who is a motor mechanic in Tanzania and he is a real mine of useful information.
Formalities at the gate over, we set off; it’s cold & misty, 14 Kms climbing all the while into a different micro-climate. We enter. Boy am I glad we didn’t spend the night up at the top of the crater. It’s like Scotland on a bad day. The park is shrouded in mist, freezing cold and wet. We had already briefed Harry as to what would happen to him if he drove like the other tour guides – Pole, Pole – he laughed but DID listen. Going down into the crater the weather improved and we spend a nice day being driven around not worrying about our shocks for a change. The weather improved after lunch time and the sun came out. We saw lots of animals but not the quantities that you are led to believe. Was it worth it – as Deon said…..”well you can’t just go by, if you don’t go down you’ll never know” – he has it in one, and I think that the way we did it is the way to go. Have a day off. Harry dropped us off back at Kudu in the late afternoon and I reckon that it was just about the right length of time.
Day 25 Karatu to Lake Manyara
Finally got away from Kudu Lodge and travelled down the pass back to Mto Wa Mbu and into Lake Manyara – $170 – $35 each to enter $40 for the car and $30 x 2 for a banda. Camping is now the same price; the bandas used to be cheaper. The campsite is not that great anyway – take the banda. Basically a rondavel with 2 beds & a luggage stand with a square concrete attachment at the back with a loo & shower with drain in floor; all well and fine but the floor slopes the wrong way – little Venice time again – made in Africa. There are 10 Bandas, they are at the top of the park so the Storks make a lot of noise plus you can hear the trucks grinding their way up the pass to Karatu. One other thing, go outside to the back and check the electric geyser – turn the control to 4 to ensure maximum hot water !!
The park is truly wonderful and very beautiful. Sadly we saw no more tree climbing lions and the Tsetse were out in force. The forestry is magical and the lake where we had lunch, having beaten a path to get down to it, was spent with giraffes that like to lie down. Really glad we came here.
Day 26 our planned half way mark – we are a bit ahead of ourselves which is quite nice.
Lake Manyara to Tarangire National Park
70Kms to Tarangire – the usual exchange of wealth. $35 x 2 entry $40 car. We decided to stay outside the park at Zion Camp – very close to the entrance. 30,000 shillings per couple. Good facilities and HOT showers – better than the parks offerings. They cater more for ground tents but we found a corner to put ourselves in – very few people anyway.
Tarangire is a very different park to Manyara but Tsetse as ever in attendance. We saw a lion kill of a zebra at the river – dozy Zebra – however the park is badly sign-posted, poor map – Veronica Roodt and T4A not much better. This is a large park which caters for people who want to spend a few days here and will pay the price to stay at the expensive lodges – again the tour viewers have no consideration at all. Camping 30,000 shillings R 150.
Day 27 Tarangire to Iringa 600kms
For no particular reason I wanted to head south this way and the info-map now re-christened Mis-info map assured us that there were two campsites below Dodoma, which is the Capital City of Tanzania – well they lied. One camp is supposed to be about 50 kms south and the other on a river about 150km south. Nope gone – the first thanks to the Chinese digging the whole place up for the new road and the 2nd is placed right in the middle of a hydro-electric power station and the staff there said that there was no campsite there.
We left Tarangire just before 8.00 a m. The road south is not bad and you travel through some very pretty scenery. Some thick forests, mountain passes, not a very busy road at all. Gravel – the Kolo pass is very bad but improves at the bottom outside Kondoa.
I have come to the conclusion that there are three types of Tanzanian road. 1. Not bad. 2. bloody awful and 3. Indescribable – but in fact there is a 4th: Wherever there are Chinese road builders and there is a detour, there are not words enough in the English Language to describe the horror of the travel.
Dodoma must be one of the few Capital cities in the world where the tar road commences 4kms from the north approach and peters out before you leave the Southern Suburbs. Dodoma in fact doesn’t look a bad town at all and again, in retrospect, we should have made a stop there. Leaving by the south road you endure another 80kms of hell before getting back onto the old, merely dreadful, un-improved road.
One of the saddest things we saw is the number of Baobab trees – swathes of them – that have been just pushed over to make way for the new road. It’s like seeing fallen elephants by the road side. Not nice. The villages have also been knocked about and in sections the houses are now metres either below or above the new road being built. The noise and the dust must be dreadful to endure. The mountainside has been destroyed by the making of gravel pits, destruction in all directions. Sunday 6.00 pm and they are still working, watched over by Chinese foremen. So it starts to get dark: do we make a bush camp or push on. Its dark; people in the middle of nowhere walking, walking; where are they going ? We’re on a mountain pass – oh joy – but eventually we descend into Iringa 13 hours to travel 600 Kms – not bright. We hit tar 21km north of Iringa – Mrs Garmin hasn’t a clue – in the dark she nearly takes me the wrong way but my own judgement knows she is wrong; we want to get down the hill to the river – stop and turn in time – traffic everywhere – Down the steep hill – horrible speed bumps every 50 metres – we make it in the end and pass a police road block and eventually turn off in to the Rivervalley Camp site $40 for a chalet per night – dog tired and hungry.
Day 28 Iringa
There does not seem to be a word for maintenance in Kiswahili – Rivervalley, as not recommended by Deon, is a glowing example of this. This is another Tanzanian example of a European owned or managed establishment where they are seemingly totally hands off and leave everything to their poorly trained staff but do not allow them to think or act out of the box – It’s the way it is. The staff, all very pleasant, are patently not properly supervised. This is a beautiful setting but the place needs serious maintenance and as when Deon was there last year the water and getting thereof; not to mention hot water, is yet another African mystery. Damn it they are right on a bloody river.
Went off down to the Isimila stone age settlement – of mild interest and some very attractive eroded cliffs – Road works stop/go on this road – it’s the road south to Mbeya. After this ventured into town – not bad – busy and noisy and the usual litter but not that bad really. No big shops just endless small ones. 1000 shillings to park !
Went into the Anglican Craft shop – Neema Craft – recommended in the Bradt guide too. For once the church is actually doing something really worthwhile and not playing at bleeding hearts. Neema crafts, close to the centre of town near the tall memorial tower – what to ? Probably some famous German massacre of long ago. The centre takes in handicapped people who have been shunned by their own communities, the mute, the deaf, the crippled: and are teaching them sewing and weaving skills on very rudimentary looms. Lin as a weaver herself was over-joyed to see this and we spend some considerable time discussing what could be possible to improve the situation. They get their cottons locally and do their own dyeing but what they need are patterns. Lin is going to get her weaving guild here to support this very worthwhile cause. The people themselves were just so happy and positive in spite of their, in some cases, serious afflictions.
Day 29 Iringa to Ruaha National Park
Bradt Guide says an hour and a half to the park from Iringa – nonsense, it takes 2 and a half to three hours – seriously bad road – it also says that where the road splits there is no difference – there is – take the right fork it’s a better road and unless you wanted to go to one of the lodges outside the park there is no need to brave the roadworks either. We only discovered this when we left and took the other road. On the left road there are major corrugations. Entry to park $20 pp pd plus $40 for the car and $20 pp pn for a banda. Metal banda with some thatch thrown on top to make it look better. Would be far too hot in summer to stay in. The campsite nearby is very open and exposed and if on your own you might find that you have lions as sleeping companions. Lots of Lions here. The showers (cold natch) are nearby but the loos are a walk away and they don’t want you to park at the banda but I got around this.
The park headquarters are the largest that we have seen so far and they have an organised airstrip for the fly-ins. We saw very few people. This park is lovely, the bandas are near the river and there is a beautiful river trail through forest land which we drove a number of times. Fish-Eagles calling much of the time.
We spent two days here and really could have stayed much longer. Magic setting.
Day 30 Ruaha Park
The next day we went on a long drive down to Makinde spring which actually proved quite difficult to find and many of the roads were very overgrown with lots of detours around fallen trees – didn’t see another car all day. In the afternoon went back to the River trail for sundowners.
We had a resident Elephant in camp – very cheeky. Lots of Ele’s here and did I say lots of Lions !
Day 31 Ruaha to Kisolanza Farm AKA “The old farmhouse”
Getting up in the morning we sense something is going on near the baobab tree over the way and sure enough there is a huge pride of lions making their way back to cover after a hard nights roaring (we heard them) – they come back very close to the camp in order to cross the river and escape to the other side. We make a dash for the river bank so that we can watch the progress – what luck – what a sight. The Meneer kept stopping to check on the others progress.
Sadly we packed up and left the park. Again we met a high ranking lady official and spent a long time chatting – really fantastic & interesting people. As said before took the left hand other road from the park – this was much prettier and better going. One other thing: coming from Iringa when you get to the split in the road there is a sign saying Ruaha Park either 59 or 60 Kms depending upon which one you take. It is in fact only 39 or 40 Kms ! Stopped off at the Art Boma on the way back for some more tourist shopping – local handicrafts and once back in Iringa filled up before heading on south for the short trip to The Old Farmhouse. Roadworks on this road stop/go – Arriving and looking at the camping we decided to take a rondavel at $45 with good hot water showers nearby also the largest and cleanest long drop I have ever seen – mind you don’t fall in ! The farm is at 2000 metres so very cold that night. We ate in their restaurant which was excellent – very generous portions. Ripped me off $3 for corkage – we always travel with our own wine and their selection was not good and very over-priced. Also they have a set exchange rate of 1500 to $1 to encourage you to pay in shillings. This would have been nice to know – we were on our way out of Tanzania so I was short of shillings. We also bought some fresh meat here – word of warning – go and see what you are getting – there was some confusion over how many lamb chops we wanted and what quantity of steak – by the time the pack arrived we were ready to leave. Maybe the regular butcher was on holiday but whoever prepared this meat pack was a hacker of note. Unbelievable. That said the meat was very tasty.
Also here we ran into a Dutch couple with a disco who were marooned there as he had changed his wheel bearings in Mwanza and they had over-tightened everything – he had questioned this at the time and was told “This is the way we do it here”; we ran into him again at Chipata later – he said that he had been told that the generic bearings are better to use than the LR originals and had cleaned out what little were available in Iringa. At Chipata he was busy replacing the rest.
Day 32 The Old Farmhouse to Utengule Lodge Mbeya
Left at about 9.00 am, the road south has more roadworks to Mafinger then tar road to Mbeya – much better than was expected but road very busy with lots of large trucks, police roads blocks and a radar trap at Igawa – seems like a regular spot so beware – we were fine going slowly along. On leaving this town an old man, policeman, all in smart whites flags me down – you can see that he was just looking to find something wrong. Eventually he sticks his head through the window and spies that I am driving in slip slops – SHOCK HORROR – This is laughable in a country of homicidal maniac drivers – anyway I keep my cool and tell him that I am disadvantaged and have no shoes – in fact I need a new blanket too 🙂 So he laughs and says I’d better buy some in Mbeya (yeah right) and lets me go on my way. What a joke.
Getting into Mbeya is an event – this is one very long town of endless small shops with a speed limit of 30 KM ph not that they need to worry as its one long traffic snarl-up. The place is crowded and as usual full of noise and litter. We pass the turn off to Malawi and head out of town south the 20 odd Kms to the turnoff to Utengule. This is in what appears to be another village and you can’t believe that the turnoff is the turn off but Mrs Garmin is insistent so I make a right through a thick crowd of people and bicycles and goods everywhere onto a really bad tar road which I follow until yes I come to Utengule.
I suppose if you are continuing south this is not a bad place to stay but seeing as we had to travel all the way back to the Malawi turn-off, the other side of town, the next day, through the same chaos, I would not have bothered had I known what to expect. However had we not done so we would not have bumped into Toast Coetzer from GO/WEG magazine and this was a great meet up and sharing of knowledge and info even if he was driving the company condom!
Utengule Coffee lodge – another example of a place not really cutting it. The “Manager” Greenaways – well what can I say. There is no “Campsite” as such – there are some tennis courts with a shower block 2 showers and 2 loos – this is in the corner of the property up against the fence. There is then a small piece of worn grass that can accommodate maybe 3 cars max – it was just us and Toast. Then there is a long narrow strip next to the courts that if anyone camped on you would not be able to pass easily. The helipad is next and I guess they only allow you to camp there if there is no one expected. Later that day 3 other cars did arrive and they were put right down at the other end of the helipad a long walk to the loo.
This place is the kind of place which has framed photos and letters of thanks from minor diplomatic staff with the usual smiling faces in the photos. But can they think out of the box – like hell they can’t.
So we arrive – 1700 metres up – going to be cold – what’s the story ? $10 p p per day for camping. OK – do you have any rondavels or chalets ? The Bradt guide says you do. Yes – a room in the hotel is $125 B&B – Umm but the chalets ? Oh yes they are $45 but only for long-term guests. Are you full ? No. Soooo then wouldn’t you like us to take a chalet at $45 ? No. It’s company policy. Oh gawd. So off we go and camp.
Dinner time, I walk up and Greenaways is talking to Toast. Will you have a heart-attack if I bring my own wine into the restaurant say I ? (they have Bellingham, Bellingham and Bellingham) I don’t drink Bellingham; I’ve got a good bottle of Glen Carlou. Oh no that’s not allowed, it says so on the bottom of the menu. Oh pity you didn’t tell me that when I checked in. I’m quite happy to pay the usual corkage. No its not allowed, company policy. End of story.
Ok but here’s the thing, if I don’t eat in the restaurant and go back to my camp and cook my own you lose out totally but if you let me drink my own wine you win. Don’t care its company policy. Why ? “Well we have lots of Asians here and if we let them they’d bring their own food too” Yes well I can see what your mind-set is! Thanks !
Long story short the misery eventually decided that he would make an exception in this case – oh thank you, thank you kind sir (vomit) – but greed got the better of him over-night and he charged me 10,000 shillings corkage R50 instead of the usual – everywhere else – R25. He was conspicuous by his absence at check out and payment time.
The meal was in fact very good but the service shocking – another poorly managed establishment. I do not have a problem with corkage if it is reasonable – but the selection of wines is usually so poor and over-priced that it’s just not on. Good wines are available locally – we re-filled our stocks along the way – and if you pay corkage you are still paying less than their inflated ideas about their establishment.
Day 33 Mbeya to Malawi
Anyway moving on we did the long slow drive back to the Malawi turn-off. Good road and the scenery very beautiful – terrace farming, very lush. Stunning views – like Scotland on a really good day. I can see why so many Scots went to Malawi.
Border Post a real doddle everyone very friendly. Changed money at the bank on the Malawian side in the border post – avoid the touts outside. R1 = 35 M Kw or 275 M Kw = $1
Hey we’re in Malawi. The road south from the border post to Karonga is very good, usual police blocks but no problems. I look in my rear-view mirror (I can just see out the back!) and I am aware that there are four or five cars sitting patiently behind me as I doddle along at 50/60 Kmph doing the tourist thing – I felt so bad that I pulled over for them immediately. What a change from Zambia & Tanzania. The Malawians are totally relaxed and laid back and for the most part seem to be law-abiding – even the Tanzanian truck drivers seem to behave themselves here – must say something about law enforcement.
We go through Karonga and head off to Mikoma Lodge down on the magnificent lake (as recommended by Deon) – It’s a picture postcard sort of day – it’s perfect. B&B in a newly built room with aircon etc. is 24000 M Kw = R 720 what luxury. We had reached a peak of 2300 metres crossing down here at the lake at 400 metres is was hot and sunny and the lake was like a duck pond.
They have a restaurant there but it is not up to much, better to have a braai – stands are available. Time to chill out and relax.
Day 34 – 100 kms down the road to Hakuna Matata (nr turn-off to Livingstonia)
A slow leisurely drive along the lake. At the police block we go down and check out Camp Chetembi – don’t think much of it but think we may come back there – cold showers only and run by a Dutch guy, wife a bit stand-offish we think. 1200 M Kw to camp, not great.
Having read about it previously in a 4×4 mag we decide that we will first go up to Livingstonia and see what that is all about. This is a switch back set of roads for 15 Kms that is in fact only 5 km as the crow flies. It’s a marriage tester. The road is horrible – narrow, huge holes nasty edges and lots of cross axels. We meet a bus and a car wanting to come down – Lin is not happy (English under-statement) she gets out of the car. I manage to get past the bus and the car – we continue in silence.
Livingstonia is an “English” or Scottish if you will, village right down to the miniature Cathedral set up on the hill top – 1300 metres up – over-looking lake Malawi – the brainwave of the late Dr Laws, built late 1880’s – you would honestly think that you were back in the British Isles – it is still a busy community. We took a look around but decided against staying up here – there are a couple of campsites – but at that height it was cold and we knew the lake would be warmer. Which way to go down ? There are two other options, one quite a long way out of our way and also both unknown unknowns. Well we came up so lets go down. Low range 1st & 2nd. It was OK, we did meet one other car on the way down but it was no real problem we also encountered some mad folk from New Zealand on a bicycles doing a tour of Malawi – can’t have been comfortable.
Glad to be back at the bottom and into the warm again we went back down the road to Camp Chetembi – at the last minute we swung a right to go to Hakuna Matata – check that out – and the clincher was hot showers and cheaper at 750 M KW pp. The site is quite basic – Willie, an older man from the OFS and a bit old South Africa is very welcoming and is building the place around himself; he has been there two years and is only now getting around to building a house for himself. There were other campers there and generally it was a good relaxed place to stay. We actually would have liked to stay longer but the days were passing and we still had things to do and places to see.
Day 35 – To Chictheteche to Makuzi Lodge
Off South along the lake to Chiweta where the road moves away from the lake and you climb 800 metres over a serious mountain pass – beautiful view but a coal mine at the top. The road is quite narrow in places and very twisty. Saw another speed trap (radar) near the turn off to Rumphi and eventually arrive in the quite large town of Mzuzu. Went to the Peoples Market – shop – but not much that we wanted to buy – lots of touts so we got out of town. Carried on to Nkhata Bay but we were not staying here so we pushed on to Chictheteche and down a sandy 4 km lane to the truly wonderful Makuzi Lodge run by South Africans Richard & Lauren (Thanks again Deon).
What a wonderful place this is. Your own private beach. Nothing is too much trouble for these over-facilitative people. Camping or chalets. We were told that JJ was arriving with a tour group later so we opted for a chalet down at the far end. The chalets are really very nice with electric and hot hot showers. The campsite is also very nice it has to be said – JJ arrived with a group of about 7 cars – families with children so all was fine.
At night they set up individual candle lit tables on the beach and serve you a first class meal.
Day 36 Makuzi Beach Lodge
It was a no-brainer not to spend a 2nd day here doing absolutely nothing except lounging around on the beach, swimming and reading. A repeat of the first day really. At 5.00 pm some birds arrive in a tree on the rocks – this happens every day and they stay for about half an hour before going off for the night. Quite a strange thing to see. Total cost for Makuzi for two days with 2 dinners 44,100 M Kw about R1300 – good value.
Day 37 Makuzi to Fish-Eagle Lodge 11 km south of Nkotakhota
It was really hard to leave Richard & Lauren we really wanted to stay, but well, we will go back there really soon I hope. This trip was about going to Tanzania and coming home via Malawi was just going to be a look-see. People say that Zambia is the best kept secret of Africa. I disagree, I think Malawi is.
Drove 150Km to Nkotakhota, road OK but very narrow after Dwanga with worn away edges and pot-holes caused by the lorries carrying sugarcane. There is also a rubber plantation where we bought a rubber ball for our grandson.
In town we got some supplies and then 11 kms later we went down another sandy lane to the Sani Beach camp – drove in – dump – drove out – decided to look a little further on and came across Fish Eagle Lodge, owned & run by Francois Jooste who comes and goes from Cullinan. Really nice. Chalets, bar restaurant etc. We decided to camp on the beach under a tamarind tree with boma with electric. Showers & loos nearby hot water. They charged us a total of $10 – quite a bargain. They even came down in the evening to check that we were alright and have a chat – really nice place. Spent the afternoon lazing around on the beach.
Day 38 – To Senga Bay
Making tracks in the morning we headed off to the much heralded Nkotakhota Pottery. Note it is the last turn, off not the next one which only takes you to the lodge. Grrrr. A sign would have been useful. You could actually walk there quicker along the beach from Fish Eagle Lodge if you wanted to. Never mind.
Very nice pottery and wooden toys – pleasant people – bought an ark stuffed with wooden animals for the Grandson – very clever – plus some pottery too which managed to arrive home safely. These Guys all want to come to Cape Town – I pointed out that they merely had to look around them to re-consider why on earth they would want to come and squat in a camp, catch TB and be hated by the Xhosas. They have everything they need right here in Malawi it has to be a better life.
We then travelled on slowly for another 100km to Salima – another dirty, litter strewn town. Very busy and the inevitable police block. Thence the 16 km to Senga Bay.
Didn’t think much of Senga Bay – it is the “Durban” of Lilongwe – tatty & dirty. We went to check out Cool Runnings thinking that we might stay in Senga for two days. CR is OK but very small and the campsite is set back from the beach – didn’t really think much of it at all. Pushed onto The Steppes – Deon had warned us about staying here over weekends as the locals all arrive with their music. This was a Thursday so we reckoned that we’d be safe. The campsite is big and quite nice, there is a bar and the ablutions are not bad. Unfortunately we had a group of youngsters up for a day trip from Lilongwe so we endured the boom box all afternoon until they pushed off for home at 5.00pm, after that it was quiet and we could again hear the Fish Eagle. They also left the showers in a mess. At this stage wishing we had stayed longer at Makuzi ! 1500 M Kw pp pd. Went to check out the hotel next door on the beach, 2 star I think – nothing to get excited about. Really could not see any reason to stay in Senga any longer so made the decision to push on.
Day 39 – Fat Monkeys Cape McClear
Back through Salima – put in some diesel 445 M kw a litre R 13.10c – and then south down and around the bottom of the lake. Road not bad but some potholes. Went up to Monkey Bay first and did some shopping and looked at the port and then onto the horrible rough road to the Reserve and Fat Monkeys. After 6km you reach the entrance to the reserve and are on good tar thereon.
Fat Monkeys is on the beach of a busy, litter strewn, fishing village – it is enclosed but opens obviously onto the lake. The touts are only allowed at the edges and may not come into the camp. It is a large camp but the actual camping area whilst under good Mango shade trees is not that large. Electricity, good ablutions with hot water, bar, restaurant, chalets. Camping 1590 M KW pp pd or $6 pp pd.
On the way into Cape McClear we stopped off at the famous “Toys R Us” – nearly missed it in fact as these guys operate under a shelter below the road – I later discovered that they are on T4A under “shopping” – when I showed the guys this they were gobsmacked by their fame ! You could buy everything, it’s all so great, but space is always an issue. I wanted a copy of my Cruiser so the bloke gives it the once over and says right come back in two days. I paid a deposit and hoped that all would be fine – I need not have worried.
TOYS R US – Malawi
Day 40 – Fat Monkeys.
Walked around the village and up the beach to check out the fishermen and their nets. Lin bought some material and the local tailor with his old singer sewing machine ran up a pair of trousers in a matter of a few hours. Can be a little noisy at night here as there are some clubs nearby operating without the necessary licence, the resorts are doing their best to get them out or closed down.
Whilst at the camp we met a young couple from Claremont CT in a Landy. They had two small children with them. They were the couple who were held up and robbed two weeks before at Vic Falls in Livingstone. Whilst he played it down as the children were around it was not a pleasant story. They had got out of their car to go and look at the section of river where the rafters are collected from and returning to the Landy were held up at knife point. Wiped them out of everything they could and took the car keys too. Fortunately they had a spare set. They set off for the local police station – no, they have no car, maybe we can go in your car to look – like hell he says. Well then phone the main police station – we don’t have a phone ! Can’t be true, everyone has cell phones. A rather depressing story. Witness this against when we were back in Livingstone a week or so later and driving down to the road to the falls again we see a massive police presence – Oh think I, they must be doing something about the crime ! NO – there is a delegation in town and they are visiting the falls. Such priorities. Lights flashing, taking up the entire road, everyone else has to stop and pull over. Democracy, African style.
Anyway back to fat Monkeys – FEB in the morning – I think we had to wait whilst the chicken laid the eggs – took quite a while – 1800 M kw – not bad but not that great either. Whilst we are there, in the early evening, there is rugby on the TV and the bar is full of noisy South Africans who are working in the area or in nearby Mozambique. They do what so many of them do – behave badly – Lin tells them to shut up – you can imagine how that went down. Disgrace.
Day 41 – Back to Zambia Chipata
Time to pack up. Sadly we leave, we’ve really enjoyed being in Malawi. Looking at the map we decide that we will not take the road back to Salima & Lilongwe but that we will rather head south to the Mozambique border at Dedza. Good decision.
Firstly we go past Toys R Us and collect my magnificent cruiser – hell these guys are good. Smiles all round. I tell them that they need to make an oil leak for under the landy’s. They laugh.
To get to Dedza there is a wonderful mountain pass – newly tarred – it is a very steep climb from 550 to 1550 metres over 20 kms. What views. Lots of switch backs, quite an engineering feat. The approach to Dedza is very busy with police blocks and three radar traps – the going is VERY slow, everyone obeys the law. 50 KM ph MEANS 50 KM ph. But in a way better than Zambias lethal speed bumps. This is a very long stretch and they obviously police it all the time. No one tries to overtake. Continuing on we eventually find ourselves in the large town of Lilongwe and get out the other side as soon as possible. Architecturally there is nothing that I saw of any interest, a real mix of ugly buildings with the inevitable SA chain stores much in evidence.
Getting to the border the Malawi side was fast and efficient, the Zambian side slow and chaotic but having a carnet helped me get out sooner than others. Having crossed the border, bang! I hit the first set of un-marked speed bumps – I had forgotten all about them ! Oh yes, back in Zambia.
Into Chipata and to Spar – like being a child in a sweet shop. SHOPPING ! – Filled up with diesel and headed off to Mama Rulas. Nice elderly couple Wynard & Andrea ex Zimbos – relaxed and friendly. Camp site not full. Ran into the Dutch couple with their disco again, still sorting his wheel bearings. Good meal but not that great, no peanuts available either. Showers not that hot in the morning. Place looking as though it needs a bit of maintenance but as I say friendly all the same. Not a bad place to stop. Camping $7 pp pd.
Day 42 – 350 Kms to Bridge Camp Luangwa River
We decided that if possible we would prefer to avoid staying in Lusaka so in spite of Deon saying that he did not recommend Bridge camp we reckoned we’d give it a go. Road East not bad with occasional pot hole.
Bridge Camp 350Km from Chipata – 90kms above the confluence with the Zambezi opposite Mana Pools. 50,000 Z Kw to camp $10 pp pd. Owned by a Dutch guy and his English wife. We were warned about his high bar prices. So no problem we’ll keep to our own National Luna Bar. The place itself is OK, campsite down at the bottom of a steep hill. Climb up to reception and the bar area, take some photos, and only go back there to pay. Hot water in the showers at night but not hot in the morning – same old same old – Oh says the Mrs they are supposed to light the fires early – yep well a bit of supervision might go a long way. There is electricity but generator goes off in the afternoon and over-night. Did I mention he was Dutch ? Really as a stopover it was adequate and quiet.
Day 43 – 400 Kms To South of Lusaka to The Moorings nr Monzi.
Carrying on, The Great East Road much better than I expected. It would have been nice to take the tour up to the park but that’s for another trip. The road was not very busy at all. We found a way to route around central Lusaka that brought us out South near Eureka camp and carried on as quickly as possible. The Great North Road was as bad as ever in all respects.
The Moorings is on a farm 2 km off the road on good gravel – so very quiet – Really nice camp on good level lawn – plenty of shade trees and really good clean ablutions plus use of a fully equipped kitchen should you so require. A lot of attention to the detail has been taken here. Excellent value 35,000 Z Kw pppd = $7 each. A very good place to break the Lusaka – Livingstone run and get off that mad road.
The farm is now managed. Well managed. The owner is a Doctor who works in nearby Monzi – her husband was murdered on this farm some time back. Seems like a robbery gone bad. Sad end.
Day 44 to Livingstone.
Cold last night and early this morning my shower was tepid, Lins boiling hot – go figure. Packed up and headed out on the 300 Kms to Livingstone. Dreadful road in places, until the last 70 Kms, newly tarred and what do you know, actual road markings !
Back in Livingstone we looked at other camping options but in the end went back to the Campsite at the Waterfront hotel on the grounds that at least we could spend the afternoon on the banks of the lovely Zambezi River. Noisy evening with overlanders, my favourite strain of American voice. No consideration at all. Camping 50,000 Zkw R 78 each.
Day 45 – 202 Km to Sesheke Border Post
The Roads in Livingstone are not good – very melted in places. Road out of town not bad until you hit the Kazangula turn off then the section 80 -130 kms from Livingstone is hell. Then it improves until you get a good-bye present 20 Kms from the border post. Total disgrace. Easy crossing on the Zambian side, still not moved into their new premises. Ditto the Namibian side with the bonus that you can now buy the cross border tax there and not have to go to the place in Katimo.
Went back to the Campsite at the Protea, R170 to camp on the Zambezi River. Bit busier now. In fact we have seen more independent travellers in the last few days than previously was the case. It is now July 20th so I guess it’s more into holiday time for people without children.
Went into town and filled up with diesel 10.06c – cheapest it has been for a long time. Went to Pic N Pay and stocked up – nice to back in Namibia. Always is.
Day 46 on the home run – 145 Kms to Camp Kwando.
Short trip down the Caprivi strip and back to Camp Kwando – again, 6 weeks later, new staff ! what goes on at this place ? private camps sites are full so take general one R200. Lovely place.
Day 47 – 670Kms To Kalkfontein Farm nr Grootfontein
The road good but some roadworks south of Rundu – the usual farce at the vet fence – Back into a room and a bed at Kalkfontein and the usual Game steaks for supper = D B & B R720
Day 48 – 470 Kms to Windhoek
Easy drive on good roads. I particularly like the section from Grootfontein to Otavi, very beautiful viewing. No speed trap at the cross roads at Otavi – no they’ve hidden some 15 Kms out of town today and caught a woman in an ML who came roaring past us again very much later!
Can’t get into The Guesthouse in Windhoek, full, so we have to take our 3rd choice Vondelhof which has gone off in a big way. Yvonne is mean! – she now wants to charge extra for an FEB and there is not enough coffee or sugar in the room, which is like a cold prison cell – I have to go and ask for a heater – I asked if there is wi-fi – yes R25 a day and the password changes every morning at 6.00 am – nice that – what I call mean; it’s a wonder she doesn’t charge to park in the carpark. Went out to Joes for supper – great as usual. Will not go back to Vondelhof again.
Day 49 Windhoek to Aus
Back down the main drag and off at Kalkrand and then across country, Maltehohe and stop for lunch at Helmeringhausen – apple tart and coffee – don’t do bratworst. And then the lovely C 13 to Aus. Klein Aus Vista – Piet Sweigers – welcomes us as usual – camp site full, chalets full but has a bungalow down at Eagles Nest and with our Gondwana Card it only costs us R 830. Love coming here. We decide to cater for ourselves as we don’t want to do the long drive up to the restaurant. Huge sand roadworks taking place on the farm due to the major flooding of last year so the place is a bit un-tidy at the moment but can’t be helped. Fantastic sundown – did I mention that I love coming here ? It’s my all-time favourite.
Day 50 Aus to Vanrynsdorp via Oranjemund.
Sad to leave – could spend a week up here at this bungalow. We went down to the restaurant for breakfast and with heavy hearts started the penultimate leg of our journey for home.
Down to Rosh Pinah, we have a long way to go today and we lose an hour when we cross the border. At Rosh Pinah they want to charge you $2 to have a pee never mind that you put in R 2000 in fuel – I ask you – don’t like that garage they are rip-off artists.
Easy border crossing at both Oranjemund and Alexander Bay and then head off south to Port Nolloth and up to the N7 and head for Vanrynsdorp. We left at 8.00 am, lost an hour at the border and arrived at the farm on the road to Nieuwoudtville at 5.00pm not bad going when all said and done.
Clear Water Clear Water Oasis – Marilyn Lloyd. I have spoken of her before but really anyone wanting to open a B&B should make a detour to this place to see how it should be done. She has chalets on the farm – no camping – and D B&B was a TOTAL of R750 fantastic value for money especially when you see the variety and quantity of the food she provides. The rooms are also beautifully appointed. Anyone going to see the spring flowers should try and use this place as a base, I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Day 51 – To Home in Cape Town
Back on the N7 – Was surprised to see that they are starting, at last, to widen and improve the road from Clanwilliam to Citrusdal. The roadworks on the Piekenierskloof pass are finally over. Also not before time they are starting to extent the dual carriageway north of Cape Town at the weigh bridge towards Malmesbury. My, they have been busy whilst we have been away. I saw on the sign that they reckon this will take place for 30 months – I reckon more like 3 years. It will be a great improvement when done but I think the N7 may well be best avoided for the foreseeable future.
Home at lunch time – unpack car, turn on all the heaters. House freezing.
So Just over 7 weeks away – 14,920 Kilometres – No cracked windscreens for a change. No punctures, in fact no problems at all. A wonderful experience, hard at times but worth it all the way. We have been to some places and seen some sights.
The Nitty Gritty:
Highest price paid for fuel: Malawi R 13.11c per litre
Lowest price paid for fuel: Katimo R 10.06
Average paid in Zambia: R 11.83
Average paid in Tanzania: R 11.07 (big decrease whilst we were there)
Total number of litres used 2132.87 Litres for 14920 Kilometres
Total cost of fuel R 23,545.03 = 7 km to 1 litre or 15 litres per 100 average
Estimate total cost of trip R 58,545.00c for just over 7 weeks.
Minus Fuel = R 34,979.00c for Parks, accommodation, food, gifts etc.
Bear in mind that 6 parks Katavi, Serengeti, Manyara, Tarangire, Ngorongoro Crater, and Ruaha cost $ 1310.00 = R 11,226.70 (with fees, $1 cost us R 8.57 at this time, beginning of June 2012) So in fact we spent only about R 23,752- on other accommodation supplies etc. – we travel with the freezer full of pre-cooked meals plus most wines & some beer and full supplies.
Then over and above one must factor in Malaria & emergency mutti for the period. Having the car serviced before & after, fitting all new shocks prior and changing the cam belt etc. Carnet de passage. Cost of oil & filter taken with us plus some other spares. Lots of “hidden” costs here. (I estimate just under R30K) But that said the whole trip cost less than I thought it would – can’t be bad. 🙂
What’s next – Zambian parks I think and then back to Tanzania via Mozambique and Malawi.
Where did I put the maps…………………. 🙂
When can we go Travelling again ?
Albums for this trip at:- Google+: Trip Photo Albums
More trip photos at:- Google+: Trip Photo Albums