Travel Report from Zambia (15 March 2004)

Hello from Zambia!

We spent our first few nights in Zambia at Shiwa Ngandu Lodge, en route from the Tunduma Border direction Lusaka. This place is a magical old colonial estate, which is now shared by the two grandsons, one of whom runs an upmarket lodge in the old house, and the other who offers camping next to hot springs situated in a different area of the property – the option we chose. The original owner wrote a book about the history of the place which has recently been published: “Africa House’. We camped next to the river and a few meters away from the hot springs, which form a natural pool. The most relaxing part of the day was spent sitting in the springs, surrounded by mossy boulders, and trees and vines which form a natural canopy over the springs.

From Shiwa we left for the Kundilala Falls, where we spent a night. We had the falls to ourselves, and made the 70m descent to the bottom the following morning. The top of the falls gave us a panoramic view of the Luanga National Park. Rainy season is in full swing, necessitating that washing be hung up to dry inside the limited space of our truck which soon resembled a Chinese laundry. Shortly after leaving Kundilala we were stopped by police, at the first of several roadblocks, who wanted to check the drivers license, insurance, passports, lights, reflectors and triangles. We did not have the white reflector stickers required by Zambian law, stuck onto the front of our vehicle. We were also informed that our reverse lights were not working. The fine was set at 100 US Dollars. After negotiating for some time, 8 US Dollars was accepted, no receipt was given in return, and we were told to drive onto Lusaka and have our reverse lights fixed there. We stopped at the nearest village, bought the reflectors and displayed our two triangles in the front of our vehicle, as all trucks do here. We had barely left that town when we came across the next road block, not 10 km further down the road from the roadblock at which we had been fined. Here we had to go through the same process again: drivers license, passport, vehicle papers, lights etc. We informed the police that we had just been checked and fined by the roadblock further up the road, who had given us permission to drive on to Lusaka and have our reverse lights fixed there. They insisted on checking our lights. Having observed all necessary lights, they told us that our reverse lights were working perfectly.

En route from Kundilala to Lusaka, we gave a lift to Shedrick who is in the Zambian military. Shedrick has done many manoeuvres with German soldiers as Zambia and Germany co-operate closely together in terms of military training. Having established that the people from Christian’s village in Germany eat sausages and beer, Shedrick recommended the best sausages in Zambia (and he was right!), and the tastiest beer: Shaky Shaky. So called as it is sold in tetra packs which need to be shaken before opening. A Shaky Shaky point of sale is easy to spot in Zambia. Every now and again on the side of the road, many upturned Shaky Shaky tetra packs are positioned over the ends of bush and tree branches to advertise the product. Shedrick also showed us the Children’s Village in Lusaka, set up by Kenneth Kaunda for orphaned children of Zambia, and the Old Age Home, for those elderly who do not have an extended family in Zambia.

In Lusaka, we spent a few days at Eureka Campsite. Although the campsite is only 10km from the city centre, impala, zebra and waterbuck are present, and every night we were treated to hundreds of impala, quietly crossing the lawn just a few meters from where we sat with our mandatory gin and tonics. Interestingly, in Zambia, the distinctive white ring on the hindquarters of the waterbuck is filled in with white, so that the animal does not have a white ring, but a white circle on its hindquarters. Again, we proved unsuccessful in applying for Angolan visas, as in Lusaka only Zambians may apply. We stumbled across an unofficial route which involves contacting someone after hours on a mobile number, negotiating a fee, and then relinquishing passports and money to the said person for a period of 14 days minimum; six weeks maximum. Tourists have managed to get visas via this route, although American’s and South African’s are routinely denied, and all other nationalities are hit and miss.

We decided to leave it and headed for Livingston, where we camped at the Zambezi River Waterfront and enjoyed sundowners at the edge of the river, where we could watch the crocodiles swim past. We visited Victoria Falls, which drenched us! The Falls are almost at maximum water volume, (rainy season), making visibility hazy owing to the amount of spray that comes up. It is still an awesome sight! In terms of adrenalin sports, Christian opted to body board through the rapids of the mighty Zambezi, and I stuck to the raft. As the river is so full (rainy season…), many rapids that are normally class 4 and upward, have been downgraded to class 2 or 3. The high level of the water creates swells over the rocks as opposed to waves, making the river far easier to raft. However, where there are still waves, (e.g. at The Terminator, The Mother and Oblivion) they are well over 2m in height, and still impossible to get through without being tipped into the water and hauled back on board by guide and surviving team mates. No casualties resulted, and we managed the walk up the gorge at the end of the day, although our legs still hurt from the effort three days later. We also visited the Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park where we were lucky enough to see Rhino, despite the rain. The Rhino have full time guards with them to eliminate the risk of poaching. The guards told us that they know the animals so well and visa versa, that the Rhino will now follow them when called.

I spent our last day in Livingston riding a domesticated African Elephant alongside the Zambezi. My elephant was called Madjibu after a Zimbabwean football player, and to mount him I had to climb onto what resembles a look-out platform, so that I could reach the saddle. You can’t help but feel daunted when you are standing right in front of elephants this size. When you approach them, they make deep, rumbling noises that you feel rather than hear. As a snack, Madjibu tore off the occasional tree branch during the ride, yet despite this tremendous strength, all that was required to halt him was a scratch behind his right ear. After our ride, I sat on his knee and fed him pellets. If you don’t get the pellets out of the bag and into his trunk fast enough, you find yourself strapped to the elephants’ leg by his trunk, which wonders over you looking for the pellets. Really great fun!

We left Livingston for Zimbabwe, where we are experiencing the wettest rainy season in Zimbabwe for 23 years! This and further adventures will be in our next report.

We hope you are all well!

Julianne and Christian.