• Trip report : Zambia - Malawi (Zambia part)

    Saturday 27th October

    Flight Paris - Amsterdam - Lusaka

    Landing ontime, but as we are in the middle of the plane and they open both front and rear doors, we are almost the last ones at the immigration desk. Quite long...

    We are in our chalets at Pioneer Camp around midnight.

    Sunday 28th October

    Of course I get up the first one and immediately go to have a look on our Cruiser. Itís dirty, but the fixes handled there with the help of Paul seem OK.

    Breakfast. Mornings are nor cold anymore in this season.

    The garden is now green and flowry.

    A little chat with Paul and I pay the bill. But what about the carbon tax I asked him to renew for me? The receipt has disappeared.
    We are Sunday, ZRA office is of course closed. We decide to leave without the paper and he will send a copy by email when he finds it...

    Shopping at the Spar and running the ATMs. The first one gives only 800,000 ZMK in 20,000 notes. Itís far from enough! At the second one, we get twice 2 millions ZMK in 50,000 after queuing. Patience, patience...

    At the filling station Iím told that one canít fill our plastic jerrycans (though they are approved in the UE). One problem, one solution! The guy gets a steel jerrycan in the office, fills it and then transfers the fuel into our own jerries. It takes a bit more time. It overflows a bit. It stinks a bit. But he matches the rule : no fuel from the pump to a plastic tank!

    We head up to the Great North Road avoiding the city center and its jams.

    The road is in perfect condition, but with a lot of trucks overtaking anyhow without any visibility. After a quick picnic stop we reach the crossroad were: to the left, the Copperbelt and Congo. We turn right, traffic becomes lighter and the landscape more scenic. Phew...

    Wa reach Forest Inn before sunset to unfold the tents for the first time. Clean and easy spot, but nothing really noticeable. One can hear the trucks on the road just behind all night long.

    We enjoy the mildness of our first African evening.

    Monday 29th October

    The owner comes with a phone in her hand. Itís Paul! He didnít found out the receipt of our carbon tax and proposes the resend his driver downtown to pay it again. But where will I have an Internet access from now to get the copy by email? I give up. We will drive with the one weeke expired receipt and see what will happen.

    A pic of these so common charcoal bags.

    We top up with petrol at Serenje.

    Interesting things begin today with a little detour to Kundalila Falls (Crying Dove Falls, nice name isnít it ?).
    The carpark is near the top of the falls. On has to pay park fees as itís a national monument. We go down by foot. Kids are moaning a bit, thinking they will have to climb back in the heat. But the falls are worth the effort! An amazing site for us alone.

    Itís spring!

    After picnic and swimming, we climb back. Itís a bit hard, but not so long eventually!

    We find a very little change on our car with this letter.

    Kind isnít it?

    Back on the road heading Kasanka that we reach very soon, the road being excellent. At the entrance, we have to pay park fees. As often itís a bit of a headache... One of the docs says half price up to 13, the other one up to 16. What a dilemma!
    I end up convincing the ranger that both can pay half price. The last thing ist to fill the usual lots of papers.

    Before driving up to the camp, we register at Wasa Lodge. Simple and beautiful on the shore of its lake...

    Half an hour driving left and we are at Pontoon Campsite, just over an amazing marshy plain where various antelopes wander as at the begining of times.

    Bucket shower, dry loo, a barrel of water from the river and a good fire for the braii... What else?

    Sunset is amazing!

    Just a (little) pity that we must share our (large) campsite with a German group.
    (4 tourists, 1 German guide, 1 Zambian driver, 2 Zambian attendants)

    Tuesday 30th October

    Which is the largest mammal migration in the world. Wildebeests in Kenya? Mooses in Alaska or Canada?
    These are the fruit bats who every year between mid-October and end of December come from the deep of the Congolese primary forest and meet together in Kakanka for breeding. Estimations say between 8 and 10 millions bats!

    Yesterday when coming at the lodge, I asked for the best time for observation.
    Answer 1: at sunset when they wake up and go away for feeding. But there is no more light.
    Answer 2: just at dawn when they come back, the light is better. Euhhhh, at what time is dawn? You must be at the hide at 4:30am he says! Wow... The rest of the family is not so enthousiastic. I would have done it alone, but we have no other transport than our Cruiser but the tents are on it. Too bad!

    The morning is contemplative.

    We wander a bit by foot around the campsite. In a grove of trees Iím welcomed by dozens of monkeys. One can approach by foot at only few meters from impalas.

    After lunch, we drive through the parc. Not the best hour to see wildlife, but the winding tracks, the forest and reeds landscapes are nice.

    A stowaway. It took a while to get it our of the car!

    Few hours on the terrace of the lodge, chatting with Sam, the boss and itís time to head up to the bats hide.

    Bats viewing from the hide in a big tree can be done only with a guide. Itís rather expensive for us for, but the kids get half price.

    Appointment is at 5:30pm at the hide. We thought we knew where, but we go first to the wrong hire. Strange, there is not a little bat there... In fact this is a hide for sitatungas, but to observe them, one must be there in the early morning.

    Well, few minutes later a guide and an armed ranger take us to the right place: Fibwe Hide.

    And the first bats just start to leave the trees where they are resting during the day. Someones are really big, up to one meter wide. Itís swarming. More than 8 millions of bats that go for feeding now!
    Impossible to show the real effect with pictures.
    Itís also impossible to go where they spend the days. First itís forbidden! And itís a marsh where lots of predators (there are crocs) wait for food falling from the sky.

    Time to go down to the car, the night is dark. Rest 10 km driving in the night to the campsite.

    Obison and his colleague have lighten the fire and prepared hot water for the bucket shower. Nice! Tonight, we are alone on our campsite.

    Wednesday 31th October

    We have our African rythm now. We hit the road before 8:00 am.
    (I must say that at 8:30 pm, we are all sleeping!)

    First stop to buy bananas and tomatoes at the crossing with the Great North Road. We let the people convince us to try other fruits. The first ones look like plums, but have a very bad taste! Others, bigger and orange with 3 stones taste a bit better. We deny these beautiful caterpillars offered with a large smile...

    The road has been fully upgraded. There is no more any of the potholes mentioned on T4A. The 25 km track to Mutinindo Wilderness is also good and we are there before noon.

    The landscape is very nice. The camp as well.

    But the owners being out, none of the activities mentioned on the website can be done (horseriding, canoe, visit of a village...).

    All that what can do is explore the area by foot.

    Everyday the sky is a bit more overcast. Today it becomes really threatening when we go down to the Mutinondo River and its pretty little fall.

    Rains starts as soon as we are back at the camp.

    I envisaged 2 nights there, but there is not much to do and the weather is worrying me: the next step must be the North to South crossing of South Luangwa NP. Big rain could jeopardise that and force us to several hundreds kms detour via Lusaka or via Tanziania.
    So itís decided, weíll leave tomorrow morning!

    We work our English during the evening with the other guest, an English man living in tanzania and an other English couple travelling with him.
    We have dinner at the ę restaurant Ľ, just a large table under a lapa, an once more go to bed very early.

    Tuesday 1st November

    To make folding easier I had removed the double roofs from the tents. It rained a bit during the night and Sabine says in the morning that a little water dropped inside the tent. I donít care. I should have!

    Horses wandering free awake us this morning very early. Good, no time to loose!

    We have a long road and have to do a detour to Mpika (30 kms each way) to refuel, take money and bread.

    Ordinary scenery on Zambian roads...

    I thought we need only few minutes in Mpika. We will need far more! We try several ATMs first, they all refuse our cards, both Visa and Mastercard. I go in the 1st bank. Almost empty of people. But no operation is available for any obscure reason. Thatís why...
    Iím sent to another bank. This one is full, full, full. The carpark itself is full of people waiting.

    During that time, Sabine goes to what has ę bakery Ľ on front. But they donít sell bread! Sheís told to go ę in front Ľ, but we are at a corner, where is it? Eventually we can find bread in a yellow shop with no sign.

    No supermarket in Mpika for now. For how long?

    Well, I still have to go to the bank to exchange Euros. By luck (for me, not for the others!), there is a ę foreign Ľ desk where Iím the third. It took an hour and half anyway!

    The morning has gone, but we are on the road again. Just after leaving the tar, a storm is on us, but not too bad for now. We cross a family with the same Cruiser than ours. We have a little chat: they come from Mfuwe this morning, so the track is doable! Good news! ę Which condition? So so... Not too bad Ľ she says.

    A pity that the view from the escarpment is totally masked by the clouds. After a check point, a steep descent. The track is far from perfect, but a bit easier of what we had done between Leopard Hill (Lusaka) and Lower Zambezi Last August.
    At the bridge on the Mutinondo river, there is nice looking camp at first sight that doesnít appear on my map neither on T4A. We keep on driving.

    A bit of work is needed to pass after the elephants, lords of the area.

    At the gate itís the usual slow process.

    The storm is now far behind us, itís time for a late lunch. The heat is scorching. We head up again very soon with air conditioning.

    The road becomes quite easy and pleasant with some wildlife meetings and rivers crossings that Sabine doesnít appreciate too much.

    My son Gauvain drives a little while. He doesnít break anything. :-)

    Around the bridge on the Luangwa River, hippos are swarming. Guys on mokoros are fishing in the middle. I wouldnít like their place...

    At Wildlife camp we are welcomed in French by Dora, a Swiss lady. I talk abit with her of the rain on the top of the escarpment. Iím under the impression that she believes me only half. All is bone dry she says and not ready to change...

    We set up the acmp on the last free campsite along the river a go for wood. We are told that the supply is empty and we have to insist to get few branches for our braii... That will not last for long!
    After a pleasant aperitif, the rains starts when Iím braiing the meat. Just time to eat few bites and the sky falls on our heads! The thatched roof of the shelter canít do much for us again the wind and downpours. We leave all as it is and take refuge in the car. ę itís just a storm, this will stop soon Ľ...
    Two hours joking together later, itís still pouring. I go out under the flood to pack and save what can be saved. Mainly the food that stayed on the table. And we try to go to bed...
    And this is when the removed double roofs of the tents get... annoying. One of the tents is swamped, the other one a bit less, but water is dripping inside. Sabine and I will try to sleep in this one when the kids spend the night inside the car.

    Wa had been told that the rainy season starts in November. We are the 1st. On time!

    Friday 2th November

    At dawn, itís still raining, but lighter. We realise that the car is in a hollow. So we go down the ladder in a mud puddle. A creek is crossing our campsites. The flowerbeds look like fish ponds.

    We wade through the mud up to the restaurant few hundred meters from the camp for a breakfast with something hot. Good! The temperature has dropped something between 15 to 20 degrees and we are told that the rain reached between 150 and 200 mm during the night.

    Just beside us a group of Germans with 3 Hilux rented at Hemingways must cross South Luangwa NP northbound today. I think they have nerve!

    Luckily the rain stops and instead of a game drive in the parc, we have to arrange our camp, clean and dry a lot of things. Zambian fashion...

    (But why did he move the car and fit the double roofs again?)

    The weather is still not so good. Only advantage: the temperature is now very pleasant.

    A kill !!! Yes !

    Waiting at the bar for the night drive we had booked we assist to a strange scene with ę blue balls Ľ monkeys. A baby falls from a tree, how and from which height Iíve no idea. Heís knock out. A female comes (the mother?) and touches him, moves his arms and legs. Quite normal and touching, no? What is more odd is that two males seem to considere that we are responsible of the fall! They go on us growling and showing their large teeth. Quite impressive even if they are a lot smaller than us.

    When I move the arms to them trying to be threatening as well, they move back a bit. But when Sabine or the kids do, they donít. They donít seem to be scared at all. Well, eventually the little one gets up and goes away. This is over.

    Not sure this is a very good time for a game drive after such rain...

    Where is the best way is this whole new mud?

    We get almost stucked several times. Wildlife is not active at all. We are told itís too cold for them (about 23į).

    However we cross a lonely buffalo, impalas, pukus, bushbucks, waterbucks. A very big eagle. And strangely enough a very young elephant alone. Where is his mother? Something must have happened.
    A little further, we spend a while whatching from very far a piece of antelope in a tree. But the leopard doesnít show.

    After a quick sundowner, we drive in the night. An occasion to see civettes and genettes, but not much more.

    One can see lots of vehicles with big lights all around. Missing a bit of poetry...

    Just before the gate out of the parc, everybody makes a little detour to see... nothing at all!
    We understand this is the usual place of a leo but it is not there.
    Well, as usual for us, no cats.

    But another kind of small ones is everywhere: itís the night of the flying termites! Itís an orgy for men, dogs, and lots of other animals. Nodody cares anything else: one MUST gather termites.

    But from now, with the rain fallen mozzies will be more present as well.

    We ahve a nice dinner at Wildlife Camp and are driven back by car to the campsite. An hippos is crossing just in front of us.

    Luckily all is now dry and we have an well desserved excellent night.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Trip report : Zambia - Malawi (Zambia part) started by Pierre77N View original post