How long between Malawi (Nyika N.P.) and Isoka (Zambia)





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    Default How long between Malawi (Nyika N.P.) and Isoka (Zambia)

    Hi
    Next june, we hope travelling from Rumphi (Malawi) to Isoka (Zambia). We will visit Nyika National Park and after that we would drive to Zambia to Isoka, before going south to Shiwa Ng'andu (north of Mpika);
    My question is about the delay between Nyika N.P. and Isoka which is the nearest campsite. We have a 4X4 with a camper on, and T4A give 275km (6 hours) between Chelinda (the campsite of Nyika) and Isoka .. with the border crossing...!!!!!
    Do you think it's possible to stay at a nearest place from the border, for example in Katumbi?
    thanks for your advice
    jean michel

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    Hi Jean Michel,

    I don't have my maps with me but will check tomorrow and get back to you on this thread. Remember that the weather on the Nyika is very unpredictable and can change in minutes, so even in June, you can get heavy rain, and then the roads become very, very slow going.

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    We lived up at Nyika for a year and always planned to do this route so we made various enquiries. At the time we wanted to go (early 2010) the consensus was that it was probably not passable so we never tried. However, it is really hard to get reliable info as it is very little traveled. I will make some enquiries of people up there now and see if they know of anyone who has traveled that way recently. Be prepared for a tough slog though -I suspect over two or three days. You will also have to be carrying a lot of fuel which will be a problem coming out of Malawi.

    I'm not sure exactly where you were thinking of crossing but we went to check out Hewe just south of Nyika (I'm not sure what there is further south?). There is technically a border post at Hewe but it is just a hut and a pole lying across the road on the Malawi side. No-one could be raised when we visited. Nothing on the Zam side until you get to Isoka - you have to do immigration and customs there.

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    Quote Originally Posted by itchyfeet View Post
    We lived up at Nyika for a year and always planned to do this route so we made various enquiries. At the time we wanted to go (early 2010) the consensus was that it was probably not passable so we never tried. However, it is really hard to get reliable info as it is very little traveled. I will make some enquiries of people up there now and see if they know of anyone who has traveled that way recently. Be prepared for a tough slog though -I suspect over two or three days. You will also have to be carrying a lot of fuel which will be a problem coming out of Malawi.
    I'm not sure exactly where you were thinking of crossing but we went to check out Hewe just south of Nyika (I'm not sure what there is further south?). There is technically a border post at Hewe but it is just a hut and a pole lying across the road on the Malawi side. No-one could be raised when we visited. Nothing on the Zam side until you get to Isoka - you have to do immigration and customs there.
    Lisa, you just confirmed what I suspected but didn't want to say without consulting my logbooks and maps - JM, you won't get better advice than the above from Itchyfeet so I would rule out that route completely and plan another way around. I also remembered that border crossing as being virtually non-existent other than a figment of some map-maker's imagination.

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    Hi Lisa, Hi Tony

    I am very surprised by your answers, perhaps my question and ... my english is not at the top! ..I hope so!
    When i look on my maps, i see the M14 road from Rumphi to Isoka and i think to drive through this one and not directly from Nyika. I said that we visit Nyika and after we would go to Zambia (Isoka) but we'll go back on the M14... Do you understand like that or do you think that we would go directly from Nyika? I think that the border crossing is after Katumbi, between Katumbi and Muyombe if we drive through the M14. The T4africa (GPS) give 6 hours from Rumphi to Isoka and i asked where to sleep near Katumbi to cut this route. I hope that it's not two or three days ...!!!!
    An other inquiry is about fuel; you said "You will also have to be carrying a lot of fuel which will be a problem coming out of Malawi".
    Does the problem come from "to carry a lot of fuel" or "to go out of Malawi with fuel" ? Does it exist a restriction about fuel when you go out of Malawi?

    I hope that i have been more clear..!!!!!

    jean michel

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    That is further south than I was thinking of but I imagine it will turn into the same route.

    Sometimes neither maps nor T4A are reliable I'm afraid. People would turn up at Nyika with maps that showed a road (an S19 from memory) that went off the plateau to the east. No such road - it is a near vertical drop that you would struggle to get down on foot. As for T4A we once followed it along a road in the Wild Coast that led us to within 2km of our destination - unfortunately there was an inlet in the way. It was a 4 hour detour to get to our destination.

    However, having said all that the good news is that I just heard that some friends of ours did travel over into northern Zambia a few months back. I will find out from them exactly where they went and how it was but I know it did take them two days and they described it as "bone-rattling"!

    Malawi has been suffering from chronic fuel shortages for the last couple of years. Depending on your luck you may have to wait a few days or may get lucky. Your last available fuel before Nyika will be Rumphi or Mzuzu (Rumphi is less likely because it if off the main tanker routes and often any fuel is gone before they get there). There is no fuel available at Nyika (despite what T4A says!).

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    Hmmm, I've checked my maps and I presume the route you are wanting to do is Rumphi-Katumbi-Muyombe-Kampumpu-Luwalizi-Isoka? If so, the good news is that you can camp at park HQ at Vwaza Marsh, I'm not sure who currently has the concession there, it used to be David Foot, but I guess that expired when he lost the Nyika. The bad news is that although I don't know that road, it is likely to be one helluva rough route, over the northern flank of the Makutus (2119m above sea level) and then down into the Luangwa Valley (about 800m) on a secondary dirt road. I would do some extensive local enquiries before heading that way - I am sure it is perfectly feasible, it just doesn't feature as being a well known route. If it isn't passable, your best bet may be to go via Tanzania. Fuel, as Lisa pointed out, is a very real problem in Malawi.

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    Hi Tony
    Yes it's that way but ... if i understand it's not an easy route!
    Why not to travel through Tanzania but for only one day ...? .. Transit visa, cost at border, insurance for ythe car etc... i 'll check this.
    Thanks a lot for your answer
    jean michel

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    Quote Originally Posted by JMM88 View Post
    Hi Tony
    Yes it's that way but ... if i understand it's not an easy route!
    Why not to travel through Tanzania but for only one day ...? .. Transit visa, cost at border, insurance for ythe car etc... i 'll check this.
    Thanks a lot for your answer
    jean michel
    Hi JM, it is quite possible that this road has been upgraded recently, but if was a useable route, someone would have written it up, because a road linking the Great North Road to the Luangwa Valley and the Nyika is just too good to ignore. That's why I suspect this may be a road in name only, but I may be completely wrong. May I suggest that you send a PM (private message) to Robbie (Luangwablondes on the forum) who worked in the Luangwa Valley for a while. He may have better info. If you do find something, please post it here - it is a road that I would love to explore.

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    Sorry, to add here, the reason I said to think about going via Tanzania is that in that part of the world, the quickest route from A to B is often via C, in this case, the tar road from Rumphi/Bwengu to Karonga to Mbeya and then back south into Zambia at Tunduma and down to Isoka. I would definitely have this in mind as a backup plan.

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    We did the Rumphi-Isoka traverse July 2011.It was one of the highlights of our trip. It might be doable in one day if you start very early, but I willdefinately advise against it. Also I would not travel in a single vehicle, itis definately the road less travelled,but the scenery and the very remoteness is what makes this special.

    We reached Rumphi about mid-day after having to wait for petrol at Mzuzu. From there the road is gravel, but in a reasonable state up to when the turn-off to Nyika is. From there the traffic abruptly stops. The road is very rutted in certain areas and must be a nightmare in the rainy season. If youtake it slowly no damage will be done to your vehicle and you can admire the scenery.

    I think this is more how Malawi and Zambia looked a century ago. Due to the sparse population you see nothing of the overgrazing and charcoal industry of elsewhere.
    Suddenly as if from nowhere there is a hut next to the road and a boom, the Malawi borderpost. Your passports are stamped and you are in Zambia-more about the logistics later.At nightfall we selected a lovely spot for a bushcamp and gave some bread and tinned food for 2local herdsman to ask the chief for permission to camp.They returned later with some semi-precious stones from the area as a gift from the chief. After an early start the next morning the road gradually improved and we reached Isoka at round mid-day.I will recommend this road as a trip within atrip for it's remote beauty.

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    Some notes on the logistics and burocracy.
    Isoka is the first ''large'' village andyou can have your passports stamped,however there is no customs so no "temporary import permit" also no third party etc.The immigration officer gave us a letter stating this and since we had re-entered Zambia after touring Malawi, we had all the other documentation.
    We finally got our TIP's re issued at the raihead at Kapiri Mposhi.

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    Thanks Aries, that is excellent information, and confirms some of what Lisa and I have been saying. JM, I don't know how much African overland experience you have, but from this report I can pretty much picture the road and would say that if you are a confident offroad African driver, then it sounds on the marginal side of OK with one vehicle, if you are not experienced, go via Mbeya. Bear in mind that although June is theoretically the dry season, there can be late rains - I have had torrential rain in northern Malawi and southern Tanzania as late as the last week in June and into the first week of July. A big rain storm can change absolutely everything in a couple of hours.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2012/02/08 at 10:33 PM.

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    Thanks Aires - it sounds like you went through Hewe which was the border post we checked out but never actually crossed - I must go back and make the trip some time, it sounds wonderful.

    Tony - you mentioned Vwaza above as a possible stop over - this is a great spot and after going into decline rather is up and running again now. I will do a separate post with info in case anyone is interested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by itchyfeet View Post
    Thanks Aires - it sounds like you went through Hewe which was the border post we checked out but never actually crossed - I must go back and make the trip some time, it sounds wonderful.
    Tony - you mentioned Vwaza above as a possible stop over - this is a great spot and after going into decline rather is up and running again now. I will do a separate post with info in case anyone is interested.
    Yes please do a separate Vwaza post - it is a little known gem. It's one of my favourite spots for birding, and I also spent a couple of days collaring elephants there as part of a bigger southern African research project on migration routes.

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    Hi everybody!
    Thanks a lot for all these answers. It's clear now, i know that it's possible, i'll choose when we'll be there.
    At the question about our African overland experience, last year we stayed three months from Walvis bat to Durban, through, north Namibia (Epupa Falls) Botswana (Kasane, Moremi, Maun, francistown) South Africa (Musina, Kruger, Swaziland, Lesotho).
    We come back in May for a new trip, our camper (4X4) is in a storage near Durban. Our travel is built around birdwatching and the book "Southern African Birdfinder of Cohen, Spottiswode, Rossouw).
    We plan the new one like that:
    -Mozambique (Maputo, Beira, Tete) : 3 weeks
    -Malawi (Blantyre, Lilongwe,Mzuzu) : 2 at 3 weeks
    -Zambia (ISOKA..!!!, Lusaka, Chirundu): 2 weeks
    - Zimbabwe (Harare, Mutare, Masvingo, Beitbridge) : 2 to 3 weeks
    - South Africa ?Middle august we fly back to France, we think from Johannesburg.
    If i come back at how to cross the Zambian border, we plan to stop in Vwaza Mars (camp inside), after: Nyika N.P. (Chelinda camp). From here we'll have the choice between come back to Thazima Gate and Katumbi (where you travell Aries) or from the north gate of Nyika (somebody from Shiwa Ng'andu email me that she did it recently through Chisenga road and Isoka also) or ... Tanzania!
    Aries: do you remember where you stopped for the night?
    Thank you very much for all your advice, this forum is really great
    merci beaucoup
    jean michel

    PS: you can look at our website.. it's in french but you could see our 2011 route...and the pictures!

    http://les-moreau-en-voyage.pagesper...e_australe.htm

    http://les-moreau-en-voyage.pagesperso-orange.fr

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