• TRIP REPORT - Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana 2014 part 1.

    My wife, Meyrene, and I did an 8-week trip through Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana from Cape Town, starting on the 26th of July 2014. We drive a 2006 GLX Pajero and have a Mini-Metalian fitted with a Bushwakka tent. The first part of the trip, we had 4 couples, meeting up at Ngepi, this then reduced to 2 couples and we in fact did the northern part to Ndole Bay alone and then had 3 couples again from Hwange onwards. I will file the Zimbabwe and Botswana reports in the relevant sections and leave Namibia with the Zambia report as it is just transitting Nam to get to Zambia. We normally try to break the camping with a lodge stay every now and then but due to the costs of the Zambian lodges this turned out to be a mostly camping trip, we did however often have a meal at the lodges, lodge breaks were also much more necessary when we were using a RTT. Costs shown will normally be per couple, with a fuel and accommodation summary in part 3.

    We left Cape Town in pouring rain so instead of camping at Rondeberg, we stayed over at Oasis Country Lodge, a converted school building in Klawer. R480 for a self-catering room then R84 for a Wimpey breakfast down the road. (311km)

    27th July, stayed at the White House in Grunau, on a DB&B basis, dinner portions were huge but the dairy free meal we asked for was not really accommodated and the supplied (travel) breakfast was poor. The sleeping accommodation is a long way away from the food preparation area so it is not possible to negotiate with the chef. R800. Namibia road fund- R220 for car and R140 for trailer.(559km)

    28th July, had originally planned to stay at Daan Viljoen, but decided at the last minute to change to Urban Camp in Windhoek and have a meal in town. We started with a beer at Joe’s Beerhouse and then had a meal at, Kubata, a Portuguese restaurant, both within walking distance of the campsite. The facilities at the campsite were excellent, including free wifi, but there was the normal city noise. R240 for camping and R330 for drinks and meals. (659km)

    29th July, camped at Bush Baby camp near Grootfontein, no complaints, and had the bush babies running through the trees at sunset. R180 for the camping. (472km)

    30th July to 1st Aug, stayed at Ngepi Camp, maybe it is becoming too popular as some groups were crammed onto a camp site. Although they told us that there was a donkey boiler and solar panel at each ablution block, when we queried the lack of hot water were told that the solar panel at our campsites did in fact not work, but no effort was made to light the donkey in the morning. Their billing system is also woeful and it took over an hour to pay for our camping, a meal and a few drinks. So not on my return list as there are too, many other well run establishments in the area. They claimed there was free wifi but it never worked. R600 for the camping for 3 nights plus R344 for dinner and drinks, entrance to Mahango Park was R70, a worthwhile visit. (490km + 78km in and around Mahango Park)

    2nd Aug, stayed at Caprivi House Boat Lodge, although the campsite is very basic and not directly on the river, Silke invited us to join them at their communal braai area for supper. We all had a wonderful evening chatting to Curt (Sandbug) and Silke, great hosts. R180 for camping. (339km)

    3rd to 5th Aug camped at Kabula, large shady campsite with adequate facilities. While we were there, we did a sunset cruise (I cannot remember the price but it was very reasonable for a 2 hour cruise) and went to see the Ngonye Falls. The falls were a bit disappointing, as to see them properly one needs to go across the river, but the boat to do this has been “broken” since August last year, happy to take your money then say there is a “problem”.(Tooi) on the Forum, camping R230/night, visit to falls approx R250, plus council tax, Kw100. Entry into Zambia was Carbon tax Kw200, Road Transport Tax $20, Insurance Kw487 and Council Tax Kw60. (70km plus 148km to falls and back)

    6th & 7th Aug, Maramba River Lodge in Livingstone, camping facilities are only fair but it is in a convenient location and we had a good meal in the restaurant and there is free wifi. The road from Sesheke to Livingstone is dangerously potholed in places. Kw126 per night plus Kw260 for meal and drinks. (266km plus 9km to waterfront and back, for drinks and meal Kw260)

    8th Aug stayed over at The Moorings, satisfactory facilities with power and the birdlife around the campsite was good. Kw100. (306km)

    9th to 11th Aug, camped at Mvuu Lodge in LZNP, we had 2 nice campsites on the river, Mvuu & Elly, with a lot of personal touches and we had to wait for the elephants to move off our campsite, but not cheap.Game drive was $140/person plus Kw462 per couple, for park fees. Camping was R475/couple/night.We were expecting to pay Kw150/vehicle to cross the Kafue River on a pontoon just before the lodge but when we got there, we found a brand new bridge with no toll fee. We were keen to have breakfast at the lodge but felt that it was difficult to justify paying $20/person. There seems to be a lack of management of both game vehicle drivers and boat operators, the vehicle drivers were very aggressive towards the game, especially the elephants, and the boat operators were not concerned by the wakes they were causing. Another problem was about 13km from the lodge we had a stone thrown, and hitting our vehicle, by the local kids as we had not given them “sweets”. We discussed this with the management at the lodge but there was not much interest shown. There was no fuel at the “Turnpike fuel stop” shown on T4A so the lodge offered us 40l of diesel at a 50% premium, which we were happy to accept. The last fuel stop before LZNP will be either Kafue or Mazabuko, from the Zambian side, depending on your routing. I cannot say any of us were impressed by the game we saw, I think Mana Pools is a much better experience. (263km)

    12th Aug, Luangwa Bridge Camp, after discussing it with the management we decided to exit LZNP, through the Park and up the escarpment instead of via Lusaka. This naturally cost another Kw462/couple as a transit fee. Please bear in mind that we had 3 trailers, Mini-Metalian, Echo 4 and Imagine Trailvan between us, it took us 9 hours to do 170km including about an hour to pay the park fees and wait for elephants to move out of the road. (We did not have the aggressive game vehicle drivers with us) We then carried on to Luangwa Bridge camp and only arrived just before sunset and were told, no chalets or food were available as a large group was coming in and the supply truck was broken. (305km)

    13th to 17th Aug we had planned to stay at The Wildlife Camp and had a tentative booking but I had not confirmed it or paid a deposit. When we arrived there Conrad, the manager, said they were actually full but could fit us in on 2 sites that had no shade, he was very helpful and suggested we try Croc Valley and if they were unable to help us we were welcome to come back to him. Due to the lack of shade and 3 overland vehicles we decided to move to Croc Valley, where we had stayed previously. Found some nice spots on the river but Luke & Machteld moved to the other side of the campsite where there was better shade, they then had a bit of a walk to the communal fire every night. We had elephants around the tents on a couple of nights and as usual, the game viewing in SLNP was very good. Ablution facilities could do with a bit of TLC but otherwise no complaints and Herbert, the manager, was very helpful, free wifi also available. Our group split up here with Riaan & Lynette and Alex & Ronelle carrying on through Malawi to Serengeti and Luke and Machteld staying with us in Zambia. Camping Kw884 breakfast and drinks Kw 140. (497km)

    18th Aug, stayed at Chifunda community camp next to the pontoon. Unfortunately T4A led us astray about 7km before the campsite, the GPS showed a 90 degree turn to the right, there was also a vague track carrying straight on but T4A showed it only went on for a km or so and did not reach the river. There was also an arrow showing pontoon but it pointed between the 2 tracks, so mistake, we turned right, following recent tracks and soon found ourselves in dried out black cotton soil which the elephants had given a good workout. This was an absolute nightmare as one could only see the depth of the holes when we were right over them, needless to say wives, vehicles and trailers did not enjoy the next 1 – 2 km, there was a tree-line ahead of us and we were hoping that things would improve, not so, still some “holey” black cotton soil and fallen over trees and branches blocking the route. Eventually when we were running out of ideas and patience “a red tee-shirt” arrived welcoming us to the campsite which was now about 200m away, a very welcome sight. The campsite is nicely positioned on the river with cold showers. Camping Kw180 plus Kw276 for transiting Luambe Park. (221km)

    At Kapishya Hot Springs I spoke to 2 other people who had also followed this routing. I have mentioned this to T4A and have sent The Wildlife Camp and Croc Valley e-mails asking Conrad and Herbert to please warn future travellers.

    19th to 21st camped at Kapishya Hot Springs, this was seriously looked forward to by the ladies, this was our 3rd visit there. First step was to get across the pontoon, which only takes one vehicle or trailer at a time. We had previously crossed going southbound without trailers, so I knew there was nothing in the middle of the pontoon to support the jockey wheel and had spoken to others who had crossed (including some Forum members), some had taken channel iron along but it tends to disappear into the village so I took a plywood and angle iron construction along, but it was not needed. As you can see in the one picture they remove the jockey wheel and drop the trailer nose onto a slightly curved log that then slides on the wheel tracks for the vehicles, a bit of manpower is also required.

    First step though is a bit of price negotiation, vehicles cost Kw50 each and the trailers started at Kw250 each but we eventually settled on Kw150/trailer, the ferryman then also required a Kw50 tip.

    We had conflicting opinions about climbing out up the escarpment with the trailers but it was a complete non-event, no problem at all. Unfortunately on the climb out Luke’s Disco 3 started giving error messages with regard to its suspension, whether this was a result of the punishment in the black cotton soil or not I do not know. They had been on the road for about 8 weeks already when we met up with them, including Angola and northern Namibia. Mark Harvey, from Kapishya and Buffalo suggested a mechanic in Mpika and we had him come out to Kapishya. The end result was that Luke and Machteld had to return to Lusaka to have the L/rover’s suspension repaired at consider cost. Kw343 for going through North Luangwa Park, Kw916 for camping meals and beers.(168km)

    22nd Aug, our plan was to stay at Ndole Bay for the next 4 nights, we were now travelling alone and I knew that the 514km would be a challenge, but did not realize quite how slow the going would be almost from Kapishya.There was a tar section before Kasama, and part of the road between Kasama and Mporokosa has been tarred but the road works also further slowed our progress. We eventually ended up sleeping on the side of the road 80km short of Ndole Bay. (434km, 11h hours)

    23rd & 24th Aug, after another slow 3 hours we reached Ndole Bay. The campsite is pleasantly situated on the water’s edge with good ablution facilities. Craig and Elise were excellent hosts and we enjoyed our time with them, which included a sunset cruise and meal in the restaurant. However, the condition of the roads is such that I would not recommend it as a destination by road, particularly if you are towing a trailer. We had planned to spend 2 nights at Lumangwe Falls on the way south bound but after discussing it with Craig we decided to only have 2 nights at Ndole Bay and then go south the long way around through Kaputa instead of Mporokosa due to the poor roads, but bad is a relative term in northern Zambia. Camping Kw340, 2 nights, sunset cruise Kw280 and evening meal and bar Kw325. (80km)

    25th Aug, we set off early following Craig’s advice, he had also said that Kundabwika Falls was a good spot to camp along the way, and this was as far as we got after 11 hours. It proved to be a delightful spot with nobody nearby and no facilities either. (237km)

    26th & 27th Aug, we camped at Lumangwe Falls, these were most impressive, even if it was not in the rainy season, and certainly worth the effort to get there. There are only 2 campsites right down on the river and fortunately there was only one other couple there, it would not be much fun using the campsites further away from the river. There were flushing toilets but no water or electricity in the showers. Unfortunately, Meyrene slipped on the path at the viewing point, it was very slippery, and hurt her back so was in considerable pain and did not accompany me to Kabwelume Falls on the 27th. They were also very impressive but not quite as good as Lumangwe Falls. Kw210/night. (80km)

    28th Aug, the plan was to go to Kasanka for 2 or 3 nights but T4A led us astray again. I have my GPS set to fastest route but it did not stay on the tar road from Mansa but turn onto a gravel road about 9km after Mansa, this was another of those potholed 20km/hr roads. Unfortunately I was a bit slow in working out what had gone wrong and we ended up wasting almost 2 hours and doing an unnecessary 35km so Kasanka became a bit far and we ended up staying in a “chalet” at Samfya Beach Hotel. I have the Bradt Travel Guide for Zambia and in there it says “it could be an idyllic setting with the white sand on the lake but it is not so”. I totally agree, very 3rd rate accommodation and no electricity either for a good part of the time but options in the area are very limited. Kw300 (433km)

    29th Aug, change of plan again, instead of going to Kasanka we will head for Livingstone, so today was as far as Forest Inn, about 20km south of Makushi. They have good borehole water so we could top up our water supply. K80 (434km)

    30th & 31st Aug, our originalplan was to stop over at Eureka in Lusaka but decided a long day to Maramba (Livingstone) and then 2 nights there was probably a better option, so we set off early to brave the long drive and congestion and road works in Lusaka, we probably only lost about 45mins in Lusaka and made Maramba quite easily in the end.

    I thought we were going to get through Zambia with only meeting courteous police and traffic officers, not so. Just as we entered Livingstone we got stopped by a police officer, to be told “your luggage is too wide and you cannot see the car behind you”. I replied that I could in fact see that there were 2 cars waiting behind me. The story then changed that the cars behind me could not see past my “luggage”. It was a bit difficult after 11 hours on the road to keep a sense of humour but after a bit more discussion, we were allowed to carry on. The “luggage” in question was the trailer top tent, so I don’t know if Bushwakka, Tentco, etc. are going to make special narrow tents for Zambian police.

    We ate at the Maramba restaurant again the first night and went to Golden Leaf on the 2nd night, both good meals. CampingKw126/night and Kw250 both nights for food and a couple of beers on the deck. (747km)

    Summary and thoughts about the Zambian part of the trip; although we enjoyed our time in Zambia, I am not sure we will be returning soon. (We will certainly miss the great characters like Charlotte and Chris McBride and Mark Harvey).The parks are becoming expensive and the same applies to doing shopping, apart from the one policeman we were only met with friendliness along the way. Another concern was that the children are not only shouting “sweets, gi’mee sweets” but now it is also “gi’mee your money”. We always found diesel but it was often not at the first filling station we stopped at, there are many closed filling stations but there are also a number of new ones being built, some not open yet. I unfortunately did not mark on the GPS where we put in fuel every time. In general shopping at Shoprite was better than Spar when there was a choice.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: TRIP REPORT - Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana 2014 part 1. started by mcowell View original post