Samstag, 3. Mai 2008

South Luangwa to Lake Malawi

We met Lynn’s parents at the Zambezi Sun around midday and had a nice lunch there while waiting for them. After they have checked in and settled down we were off to see the mighty Victoria Falls which we could only hear so far. The place that thunders definitely does justice to the falls. We sneaked into the park by using the room number of Lynn’s parents which worked perfectly fine and got finally our first glimpse of the falls. It is truly amazing how much water comes down those falls and the spray comes back down from the sky in form of a pondering rainfall. If you do not have a proper raincoat you will get soaked completely.

To round off the afternoon we went for a sundowner drink on the deck of the Royal Livingstone Hotel and enjoyed some nice South African white wine before we headed back to the Zambezi Sun for a huge dinner buffet.

The next day was pretty chilled out and we spend the time around the Zambezi Sun and our campsite where we showed Lynn’s parents how we are living at the moment. Our camp was not in the best state since we had our tent completely flooded two nights before and were still busy drying out everything. Moreover there was a troop of monkeys which raided the campground the day before and used our tent as a jumping castle and stole some of our laundry. Late in the afternoon we enjoyed another sundowner, this time in form of a cruise on the Zambezi Queen. The cruise was not as nice as the one on the Chobe but we still had a good time and were quite amused by an old American who was telling the local ladies how rich he is and that he is travelling around to find the right woman since he does not have any relatives to whom he could give all his fortune. We did not find out if he could land with the ladies with that one but it was a good amusement. The cruise was followed by another excellent buffet in the Zambezi Sun and a good rest in a finally dry tent.

Lynn’s parents left for Botswana this day and we were making our last arrangements before we headed off for Lusaka the next day where we had to go for our Malawian Visa. The ride to Lusaka was pretty easy except the potholes after Livingstone and we arrived at the ChaChaCha backpackers (Kwacha 20000 pp) in the afternoon. The backpackers has a little garden in which one can pitch his tent. Nothing to write home about but at least it was located in Lusaka’s city centre so that we could walk around town a bit. Since we arrived on the weekend we had to wait until Monday to go to the Malawian embassy and spent our time with reading and a nice pizza feast at Debonairs.

On Monday we got up early so that we could walk out of the embassy with our visa in hands but this proved to be a wrong assumption. First we had to fill out the usual paperwork and then wait for the lady which was sitting in a little glasbox and doing nothing. When she finally came she informed us that we would have to give her one passport pictures, which of course we did not have with us. So we were on to find a place to get our pictures. First we stopped at sort of a local marked and asked our way around. Unfortunately no one could help us there so we went on to Cairo Road, the busy main street of Lusaka. There it did not take long to find a Chinese photo shop which could do the photos for us in like 15 minutes. Back we were at the embassy to hand in the pictures where we were informed that it takes three days to get the bloody visa. In the end we managed to get the visas the next day which was reasonable since we did not think about leaving Lusaka the same day anyways.

We were packed and going early since we had a stretch of more than 500 km to tackle to get to South Luangwa National Park, our next destination. We drove all day and the road was very good for the first 300 km but after that the potholes started and our speed was reduced drastically. Since we still only have the MapStudio map which is not exactly the most accurate we did miss the turn off to South Luangwa and decided not to take one of the small side roads as it already started to get dark by this time and we did not want to get lost in the dark. Therefore we changed our route and decided to go via Chipata. We stayed in a local rest house along the road. The mattress was terrible and it did not help that we put our own camping mattresses on it either. Moreover there was loud music playing until late at night. It was not the most comfortable place to stay and we were gone early in the morning.

It was about 100 km’s to Chipata where we refuelled (luckily for the last time considering the fuel prices in Zambia). From Chipata to South Luangwa is about 130 km’s on dirt road. Most of this stretch is in a good condition but there are about 20 km which are riddled with potholes. One check point and two hours later we arrived at South Luangwa National Park. Since it is not allowed to sleep inside the park we decided to stay at Flatdogs Camp (US$5.00pp for camping) which is just at the opposite side of the entry bridge to the park. The camp is situated on the banks of the Luangwa River overlooking a hippo pool and there is no fences so you can see elephants and other animals wandering around the campsite. We slept at one of the most basic huts of the camp since we did not sleep a lot the night before.

Another early morning wake up lead us into the park (US$30.00 pp 1 US$15.00 for the vehicle) and right upfront: It is a stunning place. The park is filled with boks such as Impala, Puku, Waterbuck, Bushbock, Kudu just to name to most common and has it’s very own kind of Thornicroft Giraffe and Zebras which are only to be found in the Luangwa Valley. We spend the whole day exploring the park with it’s rivers, lagoons and lakes. During the day we came along some guys of a Wild Dog project. They told us that the wild dogs where around this area the night before and so we started to look out for them as well. Unfortunately we did not find them the whole day. Later that day the guys from the Wild Dog project pointed us to some lions (two adults and two pups) we spend some time watching them before went for another unsuccessful search of the wild dogs. We went back to the lions before we left the park and got a good show by the youngsters. After just lying around they started playing and ended up climbing up a tree which was a really funny sight since the branches were not really strong enough to support them and the two lions were having a hard time not to fall from the tree.

Unfortunately it was already late and we had to leave the park. This night the whole campsite was full of hippos which were grazing peacefully between all the people which I suppose did not have a very peaceful sleep with these massive neighbours around the tiny tents.

The next day we wanted to go up north to check out what this area of the park has to offer. The track went through thick bush and besides the attack of thousands of Tsetse flies there was nothing to see. Our plan was to go up north until we reach a big river which was indicated on our map. After an hours drive we could make out the river in the distance. Before we reached however we came to one of the remote bushcamps and had to find out that there was no way that we could get further on. A bit disappointed we had to backtrack the same route which we were coming up already. Once back at the Mfuwe core area we spent the whole afternoon in this more or less tsetsefly-less area.

Beside the more usual sights we did come along a huge hippo family which was eating its way through a pool of water cabbage and later in the afternoon we hit the jackpot again. Not the wild dogs but a lion pride of 11 individuals.

We spend a long time with them before we headed back to our camp at around 5 where we cocked a nice dinner and enjoyed the sun set over the Luangwa River.

Our last day in Zambia arrived and we drove back to Chipata and towards the Malawian border. This border post is pretty easy and none of the dodgy scenes which you might come along at Kazangula was around. We exchanged our last Zambian into Malawian Kwacha and went through all the paperwork at the border post. Just after the border there is a little building in which you have to buy the 3rd party insurance which cost us 4000 Malawian Kwatchas (for one month) after some negotiating. From the boarder it is a drive of about 130km to Lilongwe. We thought that the roads are in a sad state in Malawi but that was not the case at all and it took us a bit more than an hour to get to Lilongwe. We checked in at the Mabuya Backpackers in town since it was the weekend, we had to wait until Monday to apply for our Mozambique Visa.

The Mozambique High Consulate is very straight forward and we received our visa the very same day. We did not do lot beside stock up on groceries and hang around the garden of the backpackers where we met a German couple which we were taking along to the lake the next day. It is an easy ride through a nice hilly terrain to get to Salima and Senga Bay on Lake Malawi. We went to Steps Campground (Kwacha 1000pp) which has it’s own private beach, where you can pitch your tent. There are huge boulders on one side of the beach and on the other side is the old Livingstonia hotel building. Beside the two of us and the German couple there was no one else on the campsite which was quite idyllic. We came along a fisherman when we wanted to get for a drink at the hotel bar and bought two butter fishes which came directly out of the lake. This evening I learned how to prepare and more importantly how to take out all the guts of a fish. The dinner was absolutely great. The only downer was that a 30 PAX strong overlander truck arrived and those guys swarmed out like the bees and pitched their tents all over the place. The idyllic atmosphere was gone a bit but luckily the overlanders just started their trip and have not yet been too much of a noisy group. After a very windy night on the beach we had a full day of relaxing in front of us some swimming in the lake, shopping in town and reading on the beach was all that we had on the itinerary. For dinner we had again fresh fish from the lake.

From Senga Bay to Monkey Bay/Cape Maclear is a drive of about 130 km from which half of it is on a good tar road. There is a seventy kilometre long stretch that goes along a road project which apparently does not see enough funding. There is a huge graded dirt road which is waiting to be tarred. Unfortunately one is not allowed to drive on the spotless stretch of dirt road so you have to go along a bumpy ride just next to it. Before you get back to the lake one has to drive through a beautiful terrain of hills and subtropical fauna. There is a small marked in town from where we got fresh fruits and bread before we checked in on the campsite of the Funky Monkey Backpackers (Kwacha 400pp). The view from the campsite is stunning with the huge lake and two big islands in front. After we had pitched our tents we had good fun by watching some South Africans. They came up to Malawi in two 4x4s and a big truck which was their luggage vehicle. Needles to say the truck had a tough time on the sandy campsite and got stuck pretty quickly. Those guys however new their game and the truck was recovered in no time and tons of mattresses and more braai equipment than you will find at an Outdoor Warehouse was unloaded and set up. Those guys were quite a funny group and we had a good time chatting away the evening. Apparently they are on a business trip and want to buy forest from the Malawian government which they then want to cut, send to South Africa and replant again.

South Luangwa to Lake Malawi

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