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  • Zambia and Zimbabwe Trip Report - August/September 2012 - Part 1 - Kafue

    It is time to repay my debt. After all the useful information and help I got from this forum it is time for me to try to return the favour by writing my first trip report - quite a long one too


    Details of the trip


    Dates 23 August to 16th September
    Total kms travelled: 4600km
    Car: Toyota Hilux rented from Bushlore with all camping equipment - picked up and returned in Livingstone
    Itinerary: Livingstone Maramba - Livingstone Peregrine Bush Camp - Kafue Nanzhila Plains - Kafue Mayukuyuku - Lusaka - The Bridge - South Luangwa Croc Valley - South Luangwa Flatdogs - Nsefu Zikomo - The Bridge - Lusaka - Mana Pools Chitake - Mana Pools Nkupe - Mana Pools Nyamepi - Monze The Moorings - Livingstone Chundukwa.


    23rd August - Livingstone - Maramba River Lodge


    Arrival in Livingstone in the early afternoon after flying Helsinki > Frankfurt > Johannesburg > Livingstone. We are totally exhausted and after fumbling for an hour at the ATMs and banks take a cab to the Maramba River Lodge, without any Kwachas. Quite a nice place if overpriced for what it is - just like everything else in Zambia. The Maramba river was almost completely dry which was a bit of a disappointment so we decided to have our sundowners at the Royal Livingstone Hotel - my favourite terrace in the world. Beautiful views of the Zambezi and the spray of the Victoria Falls, excellent cocktails and of course the obligatory Mosi beers After that we went to the Golden Leaf restaurant which was absolutely excellent - I never thought I would eat the best Indian food I have ever tasted in Livingstone of all places! Highly recommended if you like spicy food!


    24th August - Livingstone - Peregrine Bush Camp


    We had already seen the Victoria Falls a couple of years back so skipped the Falls sightseeing this time around as our schedule was quite tight and Zambia being a big country. The day started with the cheetah walk at Mukuni Big 5. It was a brilliant experience as you really get to interact with the cats and they purr all the time, very loud! After that we went back to Maramba to collect our car which we hired from Bushlore, South Africa and which we had delivered to Livingstone as we had limited time and decided not to waste 4 days travelling to and from Johannesburg. After the trip we both agreed it was worth the extra price for delivery as it would have been way too much driving for us. A hire from Bushlore with delivery cost us less than it would have cost us to hire locally from Zambia anyway, and I am pretty sure from the reports I have seen that the quality of car and equipment is possibly better as well. The downside is that you get hit with higher park fees with a foreign registered vehicle. The biggest concern that we had was the Police clearance certificate for the Zim crossing which we had some troubles to obtain - thanks to my stubbornness and pestering all paperwork was there and in order so it was time for a big sigh of relief. We stocked up on supplies at Shoprite - good for the basics but that's about it. We were absolutely shocked as to how expensive things are in Zambia, very close to Helsinki prices and that's saying something! We refuel at Vuma (very nice looking petrol station!) since Engen is out of diesel. No problems with the diesel purchased at Vuma - all 180L of it! We are not taking any risks After all the shopping was done it was on to our first campsite - Peregrine Bush Camp which is part of the Taita Falcon Lodge. I doubt we could have made a better choice. The location is absolutely stunning and it is so peaceful after all the hustle and bustle in Livingstone. The view overlooking the gorge is jaw-dropping, especially with the warm hues of sunset. The campsites each have their ablution facilities and are very spacious, level and private. We were still quite tired from all the travelling and we were on holiday after all so we opted to eat at the lodge, since they had no guests on that day. The food was simple but very delicious, and of course the setting is perfect since the restaurant overlooks the prime view spot of the gorge. After dinner we are entertained by Fran with all his stories and jokes - what a character! Drinks flow freely including the delicious marula liqeur he makes himself, and we are even given a very reluctant singing performance by Smiley (I think?) the Jack Russel. Our plans for an early night are completely trashed!

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/00...lcon-Lodge.jpg


    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/00...lcon-Lodge.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/00...lcon-Lodge.jpg

    25th August - Kafue - Nanzhila Plains


    We wake up to a cacophony of bird song and a slight headache from yesterday's over indulgence of alcohol mixed with malaria medications. We have a leisurely breakfast of some rolls and cake that we got from Shoprite and make our final preparations before we leave for our next destination - Nanzhila Plains in Kafue. The road is very good until Kalomo, but you do have to watch out for all the pedestrians and domestic animals. Many people and animals are alarmingly trusting of the drivers on the road! Then when you turn to the National Park the road becomes a gravel/dirt road. Quite corrugated and with quite a bit of potholes so we have to be quite careful when driving. We arrive at Dumdumwezi gate at around 2pm. It takes some time to get the paperwork sorted and fiddling around with the millions of Kwachas which we never actually get used to. Thankfully Zim has dollarized so we don't have to deal with Trillions while we are there! From the gate it's about one hour to the Nanzhila Plains campsite. The road is surprisingly good, made of very compressed sand (I think). But no game around! It is only when we take the turn off to Nanzhila Plains that we see some animals including a beautiful male sable.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...ila-Plains.jpg

    We arrive at Nanzhila Plains and are shown to the campsite - we are completely alone. The campsite is very nice, and it overlooks what we assume are the Nanzhila Plains.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...ila-Plains.jpg

    The ablutions are very clean and even have light and warm water in them and came complete with a huge 7 legged rain spider. I think the ablutions might be new as there is none of the bucket shower contraptions we heard about. We have a very brief game drive by ourselves towards the west towards the Mufuta Loop, and we encounter the first of the many dreaded tsetse flies in Kafue. Wretched creatures! A bottle of Doom with low odour (low odour paramount to use inside a hot car!) takes care of the ones that manage to get inside the car, but how to get rid of the ones stubbornly hanging on to the outside of the car when we want to go back to camp? We stop a bit away from the campsite and wait. They don't leave - if anything they are more determined to get into the car. We really don't want to introduce tsetse flies to the campsite and incur the wrath of Mike's group so the only thing we can think of is to doom the ones outside as well. Yes doom turns into a verb in Kafue with "Quick doom them!" being the number 1 phrase used during our stay in this park. Insert expletive at the beginning of sentence. I take on the task and I must have been a funny sight jumping around the outside of the car trying to avoid the little voracious missiles while trying to doom them. Eventually after some struggle where a rolled newspaper also got involved we manage to get rid of all of them. After a tsetse free sundowner and dinner at the campsite, we join a night drive where we see lions less than 1k from the campsite, trumpeting elephants, civets and genets. The night at the campsite itself was quiet and uneventful.


    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...ila-Plains.jpg


    By the way, the skin so soft works like a dream to avoid getting bitten by tsetses. but they do still land on you, or should I say crash land on you at full speed, preferably more than a dozen at a time and specifically around your eyes and mouth. We also tested an Australian product called RID which works even better against the dreaded Tsetses, even less land on you when using this product and they just try to scramble back out of the car - perfect moment to Doom them. By the end of each drive our car mats turn into tsetse graveyards, but no mourning from our side.


    26th August - Kafue - Mayukuyuku


    We have a small game drive where we have breakfast by a small pool near Kalenje and then drive towards Itezhi Tezhi. At this point we are getting a bit disappointed at the lack of game around, and the game that we do see is very, very skittish. Plenty of opportunities for pics of blurry backsides but not much else. One nice thing though is that there seems to be no one else around, so if you value the feeling of solitude and being in complete wilderness than this is a good place. We drive to Hippo Bay and enjoy our first glimpse of Itezhi Tezhi with the gnarled skeletons of the dead trees reaching out to the sky, trembling in the heathaze.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...ezhi-Tezhi.jpg

    Now it's decision time - shall we do the spinal road or not Nobody was available in Nanzhila with last moment advice. We have never strayed away from our gps in our travels but we do want to explore new options so we go for it. It is a very good decision as the road is very straightforward and in excellent condition. The only problem is the temptation to do more than the allowed 40km/h! The first half is practically finished but the second half is still under construction so you do have to zig zag around the construction areas. Lots of heavy machinery around and they are working on a Sunday which we find quite surprising. Some of the workers beg for food and drink. This is a very good transit road - it only took us about 3.5 hours from Hippo Bay to Hook Bridge. At some points it is also quite pretty especially the "autumn colours" of the mopane forests, but there is no game to speak of - just clouds of vile tsetses.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/0142--Spinal-Road.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...ezhi-Tezhi.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/0146--Spinal-Road.jpg

    We finally arrive at Hook Bridge where there is a police stop - which is quite painless except for the fact that every time we passed they wanted drinks. We are quite ok with that but after crossing to and fro 4 times a day for the next 3 days it gets a bit irritating.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...tral-Kafue.jpg

    We arrive at Mukambi at around 5pm but their campsite is a construction site for a tented camp with lots of noise and workers around so we decide to stay at Mayukuyuku instead. Mayukuyuku has a very pretty setting but is considered as being inside the park so you do incur the extra bed levy and park charges. Its also further away from the game viewing areas. The ablutions are spotlessly clean and quite nice and have warm water provided by donkey boilers that are diligently kept going all day and well into the night. Firewood was provided for free and also lit for us. We could hear the lions roar at night and of course lots of hippo noises too.


    27th August - Kafue - Mayukuyuku


    We wake up very early to make it to hook bridge by 6am. We are a bit surprised to see a young man casually walking around with an AK47 strapped to his back in the vicinity of the bridge where there seems to be a small village. But hey we just shrug and say TIA! We use our better judgement and don't try to sneak a picture of this. We head south and try to look for some animals, we see puku, impala and some waterbuck. They seem to be more habituated to cars in this area compared to the south, but are still skittish. We also have our first encounter with the Kafue elephants. These are the most agressive elephants I have ever seen. Some even mock-charged us at 200m and even the ones who didn't were clearly very displeased with our presence. We didn't see any other cars at all.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...e--Central.jpg


    For the afternoon we are back at Mayukuyuku to get a break from the tsetses and the heat. We now have a river spot which is definitely an upgrade - the Kafue river is indeed magnificent and much bigger than I expected it to be.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...tral-Kafue.jpg

    In the afternoon we decide to game drive towards Lufupa. For the first 20km or so after the gate it was very quiet. Then we started to see some animals such as impala, puku, waterbuck, elephants and birds. Then we spot a lone lioness in some tall grass, her face smeared with fresh blood. Unfortunately the area was infested with tsetses but a lioness is a good enough reason to open the window for a picture.


    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...e--Central.jpg

    We are bombarded by them and the effectiveness of the skin so soft was shown when a desperate tsetse bit me on the sole of my foot! Of course I hadn't thought of putting any there! Very painful bite so lesson learned and that was the only tsetse bite of the trip. Try as we might we could not locate the banquet which the lioness was coming from, nor the rest of her pride and it becomes quite late so we reluctantly have to turn back, as it is more than an hour to the gate. We again realise we haven't seen a single other car. On this night we dined at Mukambi, some very fine food with a lovely view over the Kafue River.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...e--Central.jpg


    28th August - Kafue - Mayukuyuku


    Today we were supposed to head up to the Kabanga gate to spend a night there before 2 nights at Mc Brides, but we realised our TIP was about to expire - still not sure why we were only given very few days. Someone suggested we go to Mumbwa and try to get it extended. So we decide to stay at Mayukuyuku one day longer and explore Lufupa again on a daytrip and then go to Mc Bride's via Mumbwa, hopefully with an extended TIP. So we set out on a full day game drive to Lufupa, hoping to catch up with the lioness we had seen the previous day. We pass the spot and there are fresh lion tracks. Many of them. Soon we see a couple of lions and spend some time watching them. The only other cars we ever saw in Kafue while game driving showed up all at once at this sighting, three of them all trailing boats. Anyway, after some time the lions disappear in the tall grass moving away from the road so we give up and move on.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...e--Central.jpg


    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...ue-Central.jpg


    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...e--Central.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...-Central_1.jpg

    The area around Lufupa is really nice and there is quite good game around including elephants.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...e--Central.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/02...e--Central.jpg


    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/02...e--Central.jpg

    At some point we see a young leopard in some tall grass. We stop the car and wind down the windows, a leopard clearly merits an open window for pictures despite the swarming tsetses. Then the leopard finds a nice spot to relax in ... obstructed by as many branches and shrubbery as possible. It keeps an eye on us but is quite relaxed. We spend about half an hour with it before it moves on into thick bush and disappears. We have our lunch by a nice hippo pool, and the rest of the day is uneventful.

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/01...tral-Kafue.jpg

    https://dl.dropbox.com/u/59368804/02...tral-Kafue.jpg


    29th August - Lusaka - Eureka Campsite


    Today we set off towards Mumbwa to get our TIP extended. We are directed to the immigration office near the police station. My boyfriend approaches an immigration official and asks about the TIP extension. Without giving any answer whether this is possible he asks to see his passport. He is so rough handed with it that the ID page is torn off, and the official just throws it back at my boyfriend and says "Now how do I know this is you"? Not even an apology feigning surprise! And he tells us they don't handle TIP extensions anyway - so now you need a passport before you ask a question? Having an invalid passport and crossing into Zim a week later, we have to abandon all our plans and rush to Lusaka to the Finnish embassy. By then we had also run out of money and had to pay a hefty amount to the embassy in Kwachas. The ATMs and banks fail to cooperate - we tried 5 ATMs and banks but no one can help us. Fortunately we have some euros and dollars in cash and exchange those. It turns out the passport pictures we had so diligently taken before our travels just in case of situations like these are not accepted by the passport software program - my fair boyfriend is too dark for a passport in Zambia! It is only later that the irony in that gives us the giggles. So we have to scramble to have some pictures taken at Manda Hill and comfort ourselves with some fast food. The day is all wasted and we arrive at Eureka camp tired and frustrated. We should have been at Mc Brides with the noises of lions roaring! But this is Zambia so we soon settle down with some beer and Amarula and play with the friendly dogs which decide we are theirs and bark at anyone who merely even looks our way.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: Zambia and Zimbabwe Trip Report - August/September 2012 - Part 1 - Kafue started by cheetah80 View original post