Malawi, cheating touts.

Luwawa Forest Lodge

Luwawa Forest Lodge

The next day we headed east to Malawi, after doing some essential shopping in Chipata. The border crossing was quick and easy except for the many touts trying to change money with us. They first agreed on a rate of 70 Malawian kwacha for 1 Zambian kwacha and dropped it to 50 when it was time to change money. I lost my temper for the first time on this trip. After firmly telling all of them to fuck off, we entered Malawi. Kareen had the idea of coming to Malawi seven years ago and it was great thinking back to the time when we thought off it first, making great ideas a reality is so much fun. As soon as we entered Malawi the pace of economic activity slowed down a lot. The lack of big trucks on the road and organised farm in Central Malawi was noticeable. Therefore the road condition improved a lot. We drove north heading for the Viphya Highlands as Kareen wanted a holiday away from the Mosquitoes. Turning of the tar road we took a small gravel road about 10 km into the mountains.

Beautiful Fireplace

Beautiful Fireplace

The change of the landscape compared to South Luangwa in Zambia was remarkable. Mountains, thick forest and big stretches of hills covered in pine trees. Some people compare it to a European landscape; it’s a crying shame that only about 50 km² of the indigenous forest still remains. We arrived at Luwawa Forest Lodge and set up our tent and gear, Kareen checking the VW Caddy’s nose bleed. (Everything was still ok, jay!!). The night was cold and misty unlike anything we have experience on our trip and NO mosquitoes. The next morning Kareen went on a hike in the hills surrounding the lodge.  We decided to treat ourselves to a warm supper at the lodges restaurant and chilled at the beautiful fireplace.  It was fantastic for her to get a bit of exercise and fresh air after the 3 weeks and nearly 7000 km spent in the car.

Picture from lookout tower

Picture from lookout tower

 

View from lookout tower

View from lookout tower

Ants in her pants.

That afternoon we took a walk exploring the surroundings around the lodge. Lush gardens with big crystals and slate rock that they claim’s are 2 billion years old. We walked to the big viewing platform that was build between 4 growing pine trees and was about 7m high. Kareen decided that the best angle to take a photo from the lookout tower was to lay on her back. Suddenly she jumped up and started digging into her pants and throwing her clothes off, something I normal like. Her screams and face told me this was no joke but I could not stop myself from laughing. She had big ants biting her. Ants we call bal- byters (ball biters) and there where hundreds of them on her. It took us about 20 minutes to get them of her with her screams for Eina!! Indicating when more of them bite her. It was hilarious. We decide to head on the next day and hit the road north to Mzuzu, This would be the northern most point of this trip. We got Kareen connect to the internet as she was suffering from Facebook withdrawal, and headed south east to Lake Malawi and Nkatha bay about 50km away. We followed a meandering road through rolling hills down to the lake. Banana trees and a green carpet of trees as far as you can see. We arrived at Nkatha Bay, a small town set on steep downhill on the lake, and had a lazy lunch  at Aqua Africa, a Padi dive operator while arrange our scuba diving. We found camping at Njaya Lodge the flattest campsite in this hilly town.
The next morning we shopped for local art and took a drive south to get wet in Lake Malawi. The lake is a big expanse of water and with a bit of breeze that day there where even a bit of waves. But no salt.

Colourful Grasshopper

Colourful Grasshopper

The beaches were extremely clean and empty and we could swim sun tan and relax. Heaven in Africa. The scuba diving was very different from all our previous salt water diving. The lack of colour in the plant life, the contrast between the colourful tropical lichen fish compared to the brown rock and bottom of the lake bed. We saw thousands of different fish of all colours shapes and sizes. On the night dive we were followed by the weird dolphin fish all through the dive. These log predator fish have learned to follow the torches to assist them in their hunt. The dark depths were eary and a bit scary but because we have done 2 night dives before, we could focus on observing the nocturnal life and sucking in the experience. Our dive master Kelly, a South African dive master, was very professional and that meant we felt save and relaxed. We stayed below for about 45 minutes which is quite long for me using only my arms to propel myself under water.

Time for diving

 

 

 

So last time we posted was when we were attempting to leave Lochinvar national park with the bees doing there best to prevent us. We hit the bad road back to Lusaka with the right side of the radiator hanging onto three cable ties, left side still intact.. We enquired at the gate about the roads and were directed to a slightly better road back to Monze and the tar road to Lusaka.

We stopped a few kilometres outside the gate to donate our friend Michelle Louw’s books and reading aids to the Hankunkula Primary school; it was great to see the appreciation from the kids and teacher towards her small gesture.

Hankunkula Primary School, Monze

Hankunkula Primary School, Monze

Kareen took on the road with the patience and expertise of a star off-road driver. We made it back to the tar road with the radiator in tacked and cable ties still holding everything in place. Never have the sound of well functioning radiator fans cooling off the engine given us so much comfort.

So we headed North West to Lusaka. The tar road felt like heaven after the dongas and corrugated gravel of the last few days. The road north was relatively devoid of animals, but there were a lot of big trucks transporting good, which is a clear indication of a growing Zambia, unfortunately it puts a lot of strain on the infrastructure.  We ran into quite a few detours on the road with big sections being fixed by Chinese engineering firms.

We reached Lusaka around 14:00 and found someone to look at the radiator. The drivers in Lusaka are probably the most inconsiderate that I have seen. Everyone just push in, no one gives way and indicators are unused. (they probably broke the indicator leaver off when they bought the vehicle) I adopted the same style quickly, as this was the only way to get anywhere. We found camping at the Pioneer campsite and chatted to the owner Paul, whom referred us to a very reliable mechanic at a company called Henson’s.  They welded our radiator back into it’s original place within a few hours, while we chilled in the nearby mall, the Manda Hill Mall.  This mall has all the South African shops you can think of, from Woolworths to Shoprite, Spur, Wimpy, just to name a few, even the toilets are a exact copy of Tygervalley Mall in Cape Town.

With the Caddy ready for the road we headed west out of Lusaka with Kafue National Park as our end destination. Due to the near total lack of road signs and some bad advice we got lost leaving Lusaka. Realising our error after about 35 km, we reverted to using our GPS, something we don’t often do. We had to drive back to Lusaka to get on the right road out. (M4 for those who are interested)  As the sun was setting we found camping next to the road at Isha Mbingo’s kraal and settled in for the evening. The next morning, we got up  at sunrise. We stop to change money at Barclays Bank (which looked like two shipping containers with air-conditioning) and filled up the petrol tank in the small town called Mambwe.

After about 120km of tar road we took on the worst gravel road, what we called the road through hell, to Itech Techi on the border of the Kafue national park. The road was 118km of donga and pot holes, It took us 3H30 to cover it. Kareen calmly drove the road, with her main focus to keep our Caddy in one piece. We arrived at Itechi Techi without shaking any teeth loose and the Caddy still in one piece, or so we thought…. We found a fantastic camp site at the New Kalakala Lodge next to the Itechi Techi Lake.

Itechi Techi Lake

Itechi Techi Lake

At New Kalala lodge we also met Uncle Henry, the night watchmen, who made us the biggest campfire ever seen, to make a potjie. (Stew in a cast iron pot)  We mentioned to Henry that we had 100 school books (for writing) and pens that we want to donate, but do not want to give enough for just one class.  He initially wanted to introduce us to a teacher at Itechi Techi Primary, but in the end one of the school council members came along.  The primary school housed 88 students and we decided to donate all of the books.  The area again is very remote and people are extremely poor.  A tip of 5 Zambian Kwatcha means a lot to them but to us it is only R10.  It is still difficult to decided whether you want to give extra and to whom, in the end we found it best to speak to older people in the community.  We booked an afternoon game drive into Kafue national park, and discovered that our VW caddy has developed a nose bleed, also know as a cracked sump and was leaking oil slowly. This would mean we would have to add oil regularly, get it fixed in Lusaka or fix it our selves. We decided on the later option.

The game drive into Kafue was very exciting; we saw a lot of game although the majority looked quite skittish for car. This is due to years of poaching that was prevalent until recently.

Exit at South Kafue National Park - we made it in one piece!

Exit at South Kafue National Park – we made it in one piece!

As we where driving on one of the main roads we suddenly came across a couple of elephant with two babies. The elephant started chasing us, flapping their ears and trumpeting. It was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. A poignant reminder that we are visitors in their home and need to respect them. Please watch the very shaking video when we post it.  We where told that it was a mock charge, as elephants will not flap their ears or trumpet when they are really aggressive, and give a lot of warning before they attack.

Kafue is teeming with animal and bird life and we saw a wide variety of game. One lone lion male, eland, wildebeest, puku, hippopotamus, elephant and lots and lots of bird life.

South Kafue: First sight of hippo's just before sunset

South Kafue: First sight of hippo’s just before sunset

South Kafue: Fish Eagle

South Kafue: Fish Eagle

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we headed back to Lusaka, this time taking a 100 km detour through the Kafue National Park to avoid the road through hell. We traverse the national park from south to north on a nice gravel road, enjoying the natural beauty of the park, while heading back to Lusaka. We got to Lusaka, topping up on oil every few hundred kilometres, to manage the Caddies nose bleed. We slept at Pioneer lodge just outside Lusaka that night, and headed east to South Luangwa National Park the next morning.

South Luangwa, fixing the nosebleed and the night of seeing babies and more babies.

Hitting the road at sunrise the next morning, we headed east, getting closer and closer to Malawi, our most northern destination on this trip. We passed through the eastern mountain range of Zambia, with the landscape becoming more mountainous as we traveled.

Foodstalls just outside Lusaka

Food stalls just outside Lusaka

The road was in a reasonable condition or actually excellent compare to some of the roads we us in the last week. We reflected on how our opinion have changed within days on the difference between a good, bad or just close to undriveble road for a 2×4 car. Two weeks ago we would have called the road bad now we call it good, if you can travel at 80-100km/h with a few potholes here and there.

Enroute to Luangwa National Park

En route to Luangwa National Park

We reached Chipata, 35km from the Malawian border, at about 15H00 and found camping at Mamarula’s campsite just outside the town on the way to South Luangwa. The campsite was named after the owners family member that loved Amarula, the cream liquor made from the Amarula fruit. (A fruit that elephants love and that grows wild on trees all over southern Africa.) The liquor is definitely worth a try.

Luangwa National Park

Luangwa National Park

Early the next morning (read 5h00)  we headed to South Luangwa National Park, excited at the prospect of visiting one of the world’s best national parks, and wow did we enjoy it! We found camping at the Wildlife Camp on the banks of the Luangwa river that is the eastern border of the South Luangwa national park. We relaxed in the shade of the big trees and watched the hippos wallow in the water with storks, fish eagles and other wader birds. Kareen drinking gin & tonic and a cold beer for myself. This is heaven in Africa. We had a meter long water lizard, one of the permanent residents of the riverbank, coming to visit us every now and then.

Hippo FamilyShy Water Lizard, we called George

This is the LifeAppreciating the tiny ones

The next morning early we where at the gate of the South Luangwa national park and sucked in the sound and sights of African game, for example giraffe, wildebeest, eland, kudu, waterbuck and a multitude of birds.

We enjoyed a chilled breakfast in the National park and went shopping in the nearby village. I found the plastic steel that I needed to fix the Caddy’s noise bleed. That evening we went on an organised day/night game drive with the lodge. We had the  privilege of seeing baby leopard not more that 30cm big, hippo babies, a hippo that just gave birth with the placenta still showing. We also saw hyena and wild dog, these ugly but beautiful animals are close to extinction with less than 4000 left in Africa. The night life was something specia,l we saw gannet, civet, mongoose, crocodile and hippos out of the water. Something you only see at night.

Spot the spotted one (baby leopard) - hint: to the left of the branch

Spot the spotted one (baby leopard) – hint: to the right of the branch

Wilde Bees

Wilde Bees

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
On return to the campsite we found out that a small pride of lion as in the campsite while we were gone. Two Australians on motor bikes drove into the pride that night as they arrived.  Our experiences in South Luangwa exceed all our expectations. Again Wildlife camp gets a thumbs down for no disabled facilities in the camp but that has been par for the course so far on our trip.
The next morning I fixed the sump of the Caddy using steel wool, whisky and the plastic steel that I bought the previous day. I angled the car on rocks to reduce the oil leak, washed most of the all off and scrubbed the metal clean. Then applied the plastic steel, let it set and covered it with duct tape. I hope it lasts. I am typing this post on day two since the repair and still no sign of the nose bleed. The rest of the day was spent with beer by the pool watching the hippos in the river, relaxing before we head to Malawi.

Time to fix our one and only sump.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Life is not always just about the big 5

Life is not always just about the big 5

 

Livingstone to Mosi o tunyo (the Victoria Falls) and Lochinvar National Park (not for sissies)

From the border it was only 64 km to Livingstone and we could see the big cloud of water vapour of the Mosi o tunyo from kilometres away.

Why do we still call it Victoria Falls if the original name is so much nicer?  Mosi o tunyo, the smoke that thunder or the water that makes a noise, is so much more descriptive and also the original name. Much better than some pale face queen’s name from a different continent.

Livingstone is probably the most touristy place we been to so far. Everything is scattered over the small town, which means that you have to drive around to find what you need.  Since our last visit in 2009, the town have expanded significantly with new malls and shops.  We found excellent camping on the way to the Mosi o tunyo National Park at Maramba Lodge, but no disabled facilities, big thumbs down again. We spend a day visiting the markets, buying a mask for myself, and lots of material for Kareen and friends.

The local people are still very poor and it seemed that some of the traders at the stalls would not make a single sale per day in the low season. The next morning we visited the Mosi o tunyo Falls, aka Victoria Falls. What a sight to see and thunder to hear, it dwarfs Augrabies Waterfalls and the two can not be compared. Although I must say Augrabies is much more accessible for someone on four wheels and ZAWA should really improve the access to the view point, and add disabled toilets, as there were three visitors in wheelchairs while we were at the Falls. Please look at the pictures, words fail to describe this natural wonder, even the photographs does not capture the full beauty and force of the natural power.

Everlasting rainbow

Everlasting rainbow

Slippery when wet

Slippery when wet

The majestic Vic Falls

The majestic Vic Falls

Bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe

Bridge between Zambia and Zimbabwe

The sound that Thunders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lochinvar National Park (nor for sissies)

We decided to make our next stop the Lochinvar National Park en route to Lusaka, as we were informed that the park roads from Livingstone north into Kafue is only 4×4 accessible, except for driving to some campsites inside the parks.

Good morning Lochinvar

Good morning Lochinvar

So we headed north east towards Lusaka the next morning, and then turn north on a horrendous gravel road to Lochinver National Park. The road was not signposted at all and if it was not for a sign reading Lochinvar Safari Lodge, we would not have found it. We took the next turn as signposted and kept going.  A very helpful gentleman stopped us after a few kilometres, enquiring about our destination, and helped us back on the right route. The last turnoff was also not signposted.  We reached the park and found it to be empty, except for ourselves and the staff.

Stork family member

Stork family member

The park is totally undeveloped with no facilities, except some basic gravel roads and infrastructure for the staff. We camped close to the Chunga lagoon that is part of the Kafue flood plains. The abundance of bird life was astounding. Unfortunately our Birds by Colour book is one of the items that will appear on our “items not to be forgotten on our next road trip – list” we can not give exact names. We saw an enormous amount of fish eagles, cormorants, pelicans, storks and waders.

Fish Eagle

Fish Eagle

The next morning we went on a game drive through some beautiful areas of the park. Long grass interspaced by thickets of trees and a big flood plain of short grass. We saw thousands of Kafue Lechwe antelope, zebra and crocodiles. We got lost in the maze of small tracks, but again, the helpful Zambia people took the time to show us the way back. Please watch the time lapse of the game drive to get an idea of the park.  The way back was much rockier and full of potholes.  Kareen was only comforted by the fact that she could see fresh car tracks on the “road”, only to find later that it was a donkey pulling his cart.  From then on we joking referred to fresh wheel tracks as a confidence builder.

Lechwe

Lechwe

On return from the game drive, we checked our VW Caddy and found that the radiator had shaken loose from its mounting. We got to work and quickly jacked up the car and fixed it with some cable ties.  But this still meant that we would need to stop in Lusaka to fix the car before moving on to Kafue, as our repair was definitely of a temporary nature.

We got up very early the next morning to experience the astounding sunrise in this wild and wonderful setting. It was such an amazing experience waking up to the welcoming sound of thousands of different birds. Sitting quietly soaking up the slow sunrise, we packed the car to get on the road. Suddenly there was a swarm of bees around us, as if they we trying to stop us from leaving. It was a crazy experience. Two bees stung Kareen, it was a first (and immediate second) for her. At the same time she also found out that she was not allergic (thankfully). I was forced to spray her with insecticide as they refused to leave her alone, no matter what. We finished packing and as soon as the roof rack was packed and covered the bees left us alone, very weird.

Lost and found

Lost and found

Blooming cactus-like tree

Blooming cactus-like tree

Fishermen on Kafue

Fishermen on Kafue

Mokoro in dry season

Mokoro in dry season

Hollow Boad tree - Louis on left side

Hollow Boad tree – Louis on left side

Kareen inside Boab tree

Kareen inside Boab tree

Goodnight Lochinvar

Goodnight Lochinvar

The Start


Northern Cape SA

Today we start our blog Fearless on four wheels. To record our adventures together.To hopefully inspire others to get out there and do stuff. We will give you some practical information on our travels, some info for disabled travels and hopefully the motivation to go out there and travel yourselves. The Fearless on four wheels team is Kareen Broodryk and Louis Broodryk. Kareen will be doing most of the camera work and Louis will do his best trying to capture our experiences on paper.

We left Cape town in the dark on the first leg of our 10 000 km trip through South Africa,
Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Heading north on the N7 to Van Rhynsdorp and then turning towards Calvinia. I will call this traveling through Pink Floyd country side with the wide open spaces. The landscape was dry but with a lot of green in between.  As we progress we started seeing more and more quiver trees,  big birds nest on telephone poles, but it stayed greener than what I expected.  After a stop in Calvinia to buy Namaqua lambs chops and  wors (sausage) we aimed for Brandvlei. In the end we decided to stay overnight at Kenhardt. 150 KM from Augrabies as the late night packing and 800 km drive was catching up to us.  We booked ourselves in to Elma’s self catering which was great quality and value for R400 ($40) a night.  Road in very good condition with a lot of lay byes (rest stops), and people say we life in a country with deteriorating infrastructure Not so.

The next day it was a quick 150 km to Upington the biggest town in the Northern province of South Africa. We made a quick pit stop to do some shopping and then headed west to AugrabiesNational park. Augrabies is a very nice park for a short visit, well run with good amenities, Thank you Sanpark.  I must give them one tumb down  for no disabled toilets in the campsites.  We spend 2 days in AugrabiesNational park sorting out “what we forget list” and fixing a few things. We saw a lot of Dassies (hyrax), naughty baboons trying to break into people’s tents and geitjies (gecko).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA For most of the time we appreciated the barren rocks and moon landscape-like scenery and bird life. The Augrabies water fall is a spectacular sight and seeing the power of water over rock and how it erodes the landscape is amazing.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Augrabies Falls

We left Augrabies national park at the crack of dawn, after not setting the alarm the previous evening and waking up at 5:45 instead of 4:30 as planned. We had 1050 km of hard driving in front of us, Leaving Augrabies for Upington and then north east passing through mining town Olifantshoek, Kathu, Kuruman and Hotazel (pronounced Hot as Hel) and then hitting 110 km of dirt road to Mc Carthey’s rest and the South Africa/Botswana border.Die Pink Prettige PDie Pink Prettige Pikante Propvol Padstal

After passing through the border quickly, assisted by very helpful friendly staff on both sides, we hit the road to Tsabong. The road condition was ok descent tar, but narrow, without a shoulder and lots of livestock. Therefore we had to drive slowly to avoid a few potholes and plenty of cattle, donkeys and horses.

Mokopong and Werda followed to the north east and then we turned north to get to Sekoma, 130km on where we had to take the A2 Trans Kalahari highway.  We arrived in Sekoma at dusk, discovering that the petrol station only sold diesel. The helpful lady at the shop introduced us to Eric, whom sold us 10 litres of unleaded (we think) out of his garden shed for 13 Pulas a litre, just 3 Pula more than the pump price, but when in need. It was getting dark quickly and we had 160km to get to Kang, where we wanting to camp overnight.  Due to the amount of wildlife and livestock it is not advisable to drive this road at night. We decided to push on put on fast music and slow driving, with a stop for coffee to make sure we kept our eyes on the road. Kareen was very nervous and “extremely helpful” with alarming shouts of “cow-cow-cow” as soon as she saw livestock on the road.

We made it safely to Kang at about 20:00, and after a light meal and a drink each, we pitched our tent and fell asleep. We woke up without an alarm earlyish the next morning to a brilliant Kalahari cinema sunrise.

The Kang Ultra stop is ideal for an overnight stay with rooms, camping, a restaurant, shop and fuel. The staff was also friendly and helpful assisting with our questions regarding where to change Dollars to Pula etc.  See the picture of their innovative water saving techniques in the toilets.Saving water, Botswana-style

The next morning we had a hop skip and a jump of 550 km to Maun the closest big town to the Okavango delta. The drive was a breeze compared to the night drive to Kang. We took our time appreciating the changing landscape of central Botswana. The African landscape with long brown grass and trees varying in density. The big open skies that make you slow down and appreciate the great planet we live on.  We arrived in Maun a spread out town with everything a tourist would need to visit the delta. We were just passing through but decide to take a lazy  day of doing nothing after our days of hard driving.

We found camping at the Sedia Hotel after enquiring at a few places. Great camping site

Louis working hard

Louis working hard

with lots of shade. We spend our lazy day chilling, doing nothing, a bit of shopping and a late boozy lunch by the pool to get ourselves recharged for the next drive north to Kasane and then Livingston.