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
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
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!
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: 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.
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.
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
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.
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 right of the branch
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.
Life is not always just about the big 5