Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back





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  1. #1
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    Default Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Good day, This is my first post but I have been reading plenty on the site and its certainly a fount of knowledge. My Wife and I are planning an extended overland trip next year starting in Cape Town to Uganda and back. We are completely new to this and although we have visited a number of southern African countries we have generally flown in and taken lodge holidays. Self-drive experience limited to the South African national parks. We are in parallel kitting out a recently purchased Land cruiser 79 SC 4.5 V8, I plan to do some driving and bush Mechanic courses and we are planning the route with the help of Tracks 4 Africa software.

    My questions are as follows;

    1. I have read that the Zambia roads are very poor and am concerned regards some of the distances between some of the campsites we are planning to stay at. Do any of you have advice on my route or additional stops to break some of the longer legs up?
    2. We plan to go over the border from Zambia to Tanzania at Kasesya/Mbala from there up and into Rwanda then into Uganda to do Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. We are a little stuck in planning the route up the west of Tanzania and through Rwanda into the bottom of Uganda so any advice on camps and lodges for that route would be welcome.
    3. We have not started planning the route back yet, we are lucky to not be under any time pressure and we definitely want to take in Malawi. if anyone has recommendations and tips for a route back we would be grateful.
    4. I have read much on the site regarding clean and dirty diesel. I plan to take into Zambia 40l in jerry cans on top of the 180L in the tanks. Are there any tips or precautions to take with the fuel in Zambia? Which other countries do I also have to watch for not having low Sulphur diesel?


    I have posted our trip plan thus far below so if anyone has other tips for this Newbe please do share. Thanks !


    Days 1 & 2 The Growcery Camp
    Days 3 & 4 De Hoop Campsite AI/AIS Richtersveld transfrontier park
    Days 5-7 Tatasberg reed cabins Richtersveld transfrontier park

    Border crossing at Sendelingsdrif into Namibia

    Days 8-10 Klein Aus Vista Campsite
    Days 11-15 Fish River Lodge
    Day 16 Duwisib Campsite
    Days 17 & 18 NWR Sesriem Camping
    Days 19 & 20 NWR Naukluft Campsite
    Days 21-24 swakopmund self catering
    Days 25 & 26 Spitzkoppe Community Rest Camp 1
    days 27 & 28 Ongongo falls Campsite
    Days 29 & 30 Hoada Campsite
    Days 31 & 32 Etosha Olifantrus Campsite
    Days 33 & 34 Etosha Okaukuejo campsite
    Day 35 Etosha Namutoni Campsite
    Days 36 & 37 Hakusembe river lodge Caprivi
    Days 38 & 39 Ngepi Tree house
    Days 40 -44 Mavunje Campsite
    Days 45 & 46 Zambezi Mubala Lodge

    Boarder crossing at Katima Mulilo into Zambia

    Days 47 & 48 BushBuck River Lodge Livingstone
    Days 49-51 Hippo Bay Campsite
    Days 52 – 55 Kaingu Lodge camp site
    Day 56 Malangano Campsite Lusaka
    Days 57-60 Mvuu camp Zambia Lower Zambezi National Park
    Day 61 Malangano Campsite Lusaka
    Days 62-65 Croc Valley Campsite - SOUTH LUANGWA VALLEY
    Days 66 - 68 kapishya hot springs lodge
    Days 69-72 Insanga bay Lake Tanganyika

    Border crossing Kasesya/Mbala into Tanzania

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Great trip you're planning. BUT.
    My first advice would be to tear up your schedule and throw it away. The whole point of an extended overland trip is to have a rough idea of where you want to go, and then plan it all on the fly. Shite happens, the weather interferes, nice side roads pop up, etc etc, and it is best to be as flexible as possible.
    On the specifics of your route as planned, it makes no sense to go to Lusaka from Kafue, then all the way down to Lower Zambezi, then back to Lusaka. I also have no idea how you plan on getting from Croc Valley in SLNP to Kapishya in one day! Simply not doable, even if you do the transit through North Luangwa.
    What time of year are you planning on travelling? That makes all the difference to your planning, as the rainy seasons can throw all plans out the window.
    Tony Weaver

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Martin1

    First of all, welcome to the forum. There are lots of trip reports for the countries you are planning, and a wealth of experience on this forum. Enjoy your planning.

    As Tony says, it would be good to know what time of year you are planning this trip, and also a flexible (enough) schedule is the best way forward.

    In answer to your questions, do not be too worried about the state of the roads. In fact, the Zambian main roads are some of the better main roads (with some exceptions) in the countries you are wishing to travel through. Roads are roads - and just go with the flow - but I always advocate knowing what conditions you are likely to encounter and plan accordingly. We meet far too many people (I’m sorry to say, mostly South Africans) who over-estimate the distances possible in one day both on main roads and on minor roads.

    On your second question, there is only one route up the side of Lake Tanganyika and this is (mostly) still a dirt road. However, western Tanzania is an undiscovered gem and there are many fantastic places to see - the famous (in overlanding circles) Lakeshore Lodge at Kipili on Lake Tanganyika, Katavi National Park, Kigoma and Ujiji, and a possible visit by boat to see the chimps at Gombe Stream NP. From Kigoma to the Rwanda border at Rusomo is still, I understand, a rough dirt road. There are a few trip reports on this forum about that section. And from Rusomo to Kigali and on to SW Uganda is an easy enough drive.

    There is really no need to overload your vehicle with fuel. Each litre of fuel weighs one kilogram. If you refuel in official petrol stations - and where the truck drivers and locals get fuel - then it is unlikely to be that dirty. You could always carry a filter funnel if you were concerned and/or put in a secondary fuel filter in-line in the engine. We have both, and have never really used the filter funnel.

    On your more specifics, as Tony says, you cannot make it from South Luangwa NP to Kapishya Hot Springs in one day. Depending on the time of year you are planning your trip, if during the rains, both North Luangwa NP and the infamous “05” are closed. But even if either of these are open (and please read my thread about the infamous “05”), you still cannot realistically make it from South Luangwa NP to Kapishya in one day.

    Do you have Tracks4Africa? If not, I would strongly advise you to buy this invaluable dataset. It marks places to stay or camp as well as roads, timings etc. The best paper maps for planning purposes are the World Mapping Project (Reise Know How) maps, or for East Africa the Nelles maps.

    Happy planning!
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2019/05/09 at 12:11 AM. Reason: for clarity on main roads

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Thanks to both of you for your comments. We are planning to leave Cape Town at the end of March. I do have Tracks4Africa but was concerned re the distances Thanks

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Quote Originally Posted by martin1 View Post
    Thanks to both of you for your comments. We are planning to leave Cape Town at the end of March. I do have Tracks4Africa but was concerned re the distances Thanks
    If you are leaving South Africa at the end of March, much of Zambia is still wet until May.

    North Luangwa NP does not open again until mid June, and the “05” is not open until mid to late June after the river crossing has been sandbagged (however, the river crossing is the least of the worries on the “05”...). You will have to go from South Luangwa back to Lusaka. The recommended overlanding campsites in Lusaka are Eureka on the south side of Lusaka or Pioneer Lodge on the east side of Lusaka.

    I also think that much of Kafue NP will still be wet and possibly impassable at the time you are likely to be there. Tony will know better.

    As a guidance, and T4A and Basecamp on your computer will confirm, but Lusaka to Kapishya Hot Springs is a two day drive. That is what it took us last year.

    I thoroughly recommend reading Stan Weakley’s blog posts on their overland trip from South Africa to Sudan and back in 2015. I will also repost our blog posts of our north south overland trip in 2014.

    Safari njema!
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2019/05/08 at 06:58 PM.

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    If you are leaving South Africa at the end of March, much of Zambia is still wet until May....

    I also think that much of Kafue NP will still be wet and possibly impassable at the time you are likely to be there. Tony will know better.
    May/June is very much cusp season in Kafue in terms of the rains and mud: Not sure of your planned route to Kafue, but Hippo Bay may be logistically unwieldy - you can get there in the wet season (and May is still regarded as wet season, even though the rains will have probably finished by then, but it takes a while to dry out). To get there, it will probably be possible to approach from the south via the Dumdumwenze Gate, up the Cordon Road (the River Road will be impassable until mid-June, depending on the rains), but it is hardly worth it for that amount of schlep. If you really want to go there, you will be better off coming from the central section, Hook Bridge area, and then either down the east bank of the Kafue to Itezhi Tezhi and Ngoma, then to Hippo Bay, or down the western Spinal Road (which may well be washed out in places). It's not one of my favourite spots, and I don't think it is worth the schlep of getting there. The main reason for going there would be on the offchance of having one of the biggish herds of elephants come through onto the flood plains in front of the camp; to visit the Ngoma teak forest; or to visit the nearby elephant orphanage, none of which are compelling reasons (for me, anyway, although the teak forest is very special, especially at the end of the dry season, when the trees are leafless, and the forest positively ghostly).
    I would rather spend the time at KaingU as planned, and at Kasabushi on the west bank of the river. The north will probably still be impassable, but both KaingU and Kasabushi are accessible in the wet. McBrides also stays open year round, although the approach track can be difficult if there has been recent heavy rain.
    You would have to check with Mvuu in the Chiawa Game Management Area outside Lower Zambezi if they are open then - the park usually only reopens for visitors in June.
    South Luangwa is fine in the wet, and stays open all year, although some routes in the park may be impassable still.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2019/05/09 at 10:58 AM.
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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Quote Originally Posted by martin1 View Post
    My questions are as follows;

    1. I have read that the Zambia roads are very poor and am concerned regards some of the distances between some of the campsites we are planning to stay at. Do any of you have advice on my route or additional stops to break some of the longer legs up?
    2. We plan to go over the border from Zambia to Tanzania at Kasesya/Mbala from there up and into Rwanda then into Uganda to do Gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable forest. We are a little stuck in planning the route up the west of Tanzania and through Rwanda into the bottom of Uganda so any advice on camps and lodges for that route would be welcome.
    First Rule of Overlanding: Pretty much take anything Tony, Stan and WW have ever written as gospel. They know of what they speak.

    To your questions above...
    1. As mentioned, your trip from SLNP to Kapishya needs a stop or two in there. In 2018 we managed SLNP to NLNP in one day, but frankly I wouldn't recommend it. It's about 200km (depending on what camp you go from) of slow going and we averaged 20 kph for the day. If you go this route I'd spend a day in the middle in Luambe, or you could bush camp somewhere outside Luambe also.

    If you want to cross via the pontoon at Chifunda/North Luangwa you will have a hard time learning when the pontoon is operating. We asked at the gate to SLNP, at Wildlife Camp, the park warden at SLNP HQ and at Zikomo camp and got varying answers, all vague, all qualified with a "probably". We eventually decided to just go check it out, and either double back or bail east to Malawi if it was closed. We drove to Chifunda on May 26th and crossed via the pontoon on May 27th, the 3rd vehicle to cross that year. We looked in the guest book and the previous year it opened in the first week of June, the year before that the last week of May. But it all depends on the rain, and how long it takes them to build the pontoon docks, so if you go early you risk not being able to cross. Chifunda community camp across the pontoon to NLNP to Kapishya is a most of the day drive.

    2. Stan's blog has some advice about this section of Tanzania. As you will read everywhere, Lakeshore Lodge in Kipili is a great stop. Also Katavi NP is great, and I would advise that the extra cost of the special camping permit is worth it. Riverside camp outside the park is not nice, but it's cheap!

    Further north from there there isn't much between Katavi and Kigoma. There is a road that turns west at Mpanda Ndogo which is passable to the lake, and I wished we had taken. It is supposed to be slow going and would involve bush camping on/near the lake after that. But you can take it all the way along the lake to Kigoma from there, It looked super interesting to me. I don't know if there are security concerns in this area. There is a T4A blog post about this route, check their website.

    You can drive from Katavi to Kigoma in a day. If I recall there are roadworks north of Mpanda and I don't know how far north they are going. If they're done it could be a fast drive, if they're still in progress it might be very slow. I don't believe there are any official campgrounds between Katavi and Kigoma.

    Kigoma most people stay at Jacobson's beach.

    How long do you have for the whole trip?

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Martin, it is so good to see South Africans planning to explore East Africa. The rewards are great and the obstacles nothing as daunting as many fear. I agree with all said above especially not planning according to any rigid schedule or route. However do as much research beforehand as possible and ask for as much advice as you dare to. The planning and possibilties are great fun. We all suffer from a degree of FOMO (fear of missing out) and nobody wants to unknowingly drive past an amazing destination out of ignorance. A special advantage you have is the absence of any time deadlines. Do not hesitate to take the roads less traveled, the rewards are worth the risk.

    Underneath this post you will find a link to our Slowdonkey trip through East Africa as WW has already mentioned. Although dated 2015 it is surprising how little has changed. In some cases the roads have actually improved.

    I suggest planning your trip around destinations you want to prioritize and then decent campsites for overnighting or longer stays. Other than Tracks4frica there is a lot of info about campsites and border formalities on the free http://ioverlander.com/ app. Also join this facebook group which is very active and up to date: https://www.facebook.com/groups/OverlandingAfrica/. They have an excellent folder on shipping a vehicle from Egypt and also the ultimate in details on the testing border crossing into Egypt from Sudan.

    I look forward to contribute if possible as queries arise. Remember, from a novice overlander, there is no such thing as a stupid question.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    First Rule of Overlanding: Pretty much take anything Tony, Stan and WW have ever written as gospel. They know of what they speak.
    Blush... you are too kind.
    Tony Weaver

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Gents,

    Thanks for all your comments, am I glad I posted yesterday you have all given me a lot of practical food for thought. Stan, I have started to read your blog and the preparation section is an invaluable read. I was thinking, given all of your advice, that we would perhaps insert Botswana into the plan following Namibia. We have been to the Okavango before in late June when flooded and I am thinking that early May prior to the flooding would be a different time to be there. This would push us back to crossing into Zambia in June as opposed to early May.

    Would you think that would make more sense for us?

    BTW I am a Brit, living here for the past 14 years, love it!

    Thanks
    Martin

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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Quote Originally Posted by martin1 View Post
    ... I am thinking that early May prior to the flooding would be a different time to be there. This would push us back to crossing into Zambia in June as opposed to early May. Would you think that would make more sense for us?
    Perfect sense. It would be a pity to miss out on the best that Zambia has to offer (and it is a wonderful country) because of late rains. Some years back, I wrote an article for a travel magazine on the best times for travelling Africa, including when the rainy season are most likely to occur. I've pasted an extract below - bear in mind that these are rough guides only, rainy seasons vary, especially in this time of climate change, and rains can fail altogether, or be very intense. I find that the best weather app to use is windy.com - you can zoom in to any area you want, and use the right hand panel to toggle between rain, wind, barometric charts, heat etc.
    Here's the rainy seasons extract, it probably won't format properly, so just battle through it (or cut and paste it into a document).

    Wet season travel is not a major problem in southern Africa, with a few exceptions: Northern Namibia, especially the Kaokoveld, Damaraland and the Caprivi, can experience flash floods, turning dry river beds into deadly torrents. Dirt roads in Zimbabwe are generally well surfaced, but the mountain roads in Inyanga can get very slippery. Much of Zambia, including sections of the Kafue and Barotseland, and Liuwa Plains, is impassable in the rainy season. Some game parks are closed. Dry pans in Botswana become sticky vehicle traps after rain. It is a different story in central, east and west Africa. I have generally only listed the "long rain" seasons: Short rainy seasons refer not so much to the duration as to the severity of the downpours. Travel is sometimes restricted in the short rains, but nowhere near the extent of the long rains. It is important to remember that these months are guidelines only: Rainy seasons can be early, late, shorter, longer, or fail altogether.


    • NAMIBIA, ZIMBABWE and BOTSWANA: Rainy season late October to early April.


    • MALAWI, ZAMBIA and TANZANIA: Long rains, November to April. Areas like Kafue’s Busanga Plains and Liuwa Plains only accessible from early June, exceptionally late May.


    • KENYA: Long rains, March to May. Short rains, November and December.


    • UGANDA: Long rains, March to June.
    • ETHIOPIA: Long rains, late June to early September. Short rains, late February to April, but often fail.
    • SUDAN: Very little rain in the north: Rain comes between July and September, and can be dangerous, turning wadis (luggas in Kenya) into roaring rivers. The heat is more dangerous: In the "summer" (May to September) temperatures of over 40degC are not uncommon.


    • EGYPT: Rain is not an issue, heat is.


    • WEST AFRICA AND THE SAHARA: A west Africa crossing assumes you will be heading into the Sahara, therefore your timing is dependent on getting to the Sahara in "winter", ie between October and March/April. December is the best month for crossing the Sahara -- temperatures are relatively low, and there are fewer sandstorms. West African rainy seasons are unpredictable and vary from region to region, but as a rule of thumb, the heaviest rains fall between May and October.


    The rains can be a real pain, but there are several very big upsides to travelling in the rainy season: There will be far fewer tourists around during the wet seasons, and you will often have game parks and other attractions to yourself. There is also no shortage of fresh drinking water. The best thing about the wet season is the incredible beauty of it: After months of travelling in dust clouds and heat, through landscapes turned grey and dirty brown by the lack of rain, the onset of the rains is like, well, a drink of fresh water. The landscape turns green, flowers bloom, rivers start running and the air is crisp and clean after months of haze, dust and smoke-filled days. Huge, dramatic cloud formations make for exciting backdrops to landscape and wildlife photographs and the light is cleaner and softer, giving better colour.

    Always bear in mind that the rainy seasons render many areas unreachable. Ethiopia’s Simyen Mountains, home to Africa’s fourth highest peak, Mount Ras Dashen, and to the fearsome Gelada baboons and the incredibly rare Walia Ibex, are almost totally inaccessible from June to September. When the rains hit East Africa, the Aberdares in Kenya, the land route to Ethiopia via Marsabit, even the main Mombasa-Nairobi highway, are among the routes that can become impassable. Rock hard surfaces turn to gooey, undriveable cotton mud in hours, and dry river beds become death traps.

    Probably the biggest weather-influenced event on the African furry and fluffy calendar is the annual migration in the Serengeti – Maasai Mara ecosystem. At the right time of year, the Serengeti is Africa’s most spectacular wildlife experience. Anyone who has ever been there at the height of the migration will never forget it: day and night, it is an endless cacophony of grunting wildebeest, barking zebra, and the squeals of baby wildebeest being born and being hunted down by the ever-present predators. It is impossible to predict precisely when the migration will occur, as it is entirely dependent on the cycle of the rains and hence grass growth. In a perfect world, the wildebeest, zebra and gazelle start migrating west and north in search of sweeter grazing from May through to July, moving from Seronera through the Western Corridor, then outside the park to the Grumeti, arriving in the Masai Mara in Kenya by late July through to early September. By October/November they are drifting back to Seronera, and spend the long rainy season in the Serengeti grasslands.

    Birders may be tempted to get greedy and tailor their trips to fit in with the maximum number of species present, as migrants from the north and south move through. This is hardly worth doing, as the incredible range of birds in Africa will make even the most jaded twitcher turn into a ticking maniac. Kenya, for example, has around 1 050 species, almost double that of the whole of Europe. East Africa has 1 300 species, and Africa south of the Sahara 1 750 out of a world total of about 8 600 species: Awesome. Botanists, however, will want to be around after the rains, when most of Equatorial Africa undergoes its equivalent of “Spring” (there are really two Springs in East Africa, one after each rainy season). After good rains, even the harshest of deserts in Kenya’s Northern Frontier District blaze with colour.

    While the dry seasons are usually the best time for game viewing, as the animals tend to congregate around water sources, the months after the end of the rains is when many of the ungulates give birth. And the lush greenery of the landscape makes for much better photographic opportunities after the dull colours of the dry season.

    For sporty types, the weather is again a major consideration. It would be impossible to cover all sports here, but trekking (hiking) and mountain climbing are obvious weather victims. Mounts Kenya, Elgon and Kilimanjaro are climbable all year ‘round, but the two dry seasons make for more pleasant walking. Plan your climbs for January to early March or June to early October. Between June and October on Mount Kenya, the sun is on the north face, and this is the best time for ice climbers tackling the southern ascents. Rock climbers prefer December to March, when the southern peaks are relatively clear of snow and ice. The Ruwenzoris get rain all year ‘round, with January/February and July/August the “less wet” months, prompting one wag to write in the visitors’ book at the Nyakalengija base camp that “this is where Jesus learnt to walk on water”. But be aware that groups of rebels have set up bases in the western Ruwenzoris along the border with the Congo, and it is essential to get up to date information before climbing the range.

    Divers will further complicate their schedules if they want to hit optimum conditions on the East African coast. The best dive period is from October to the beginning of April, (warm water and good visibility) with the best visibility of the lot in November and February/March. The June to August monsoons bring rougher water and reduced visibility, and reef crossings can be very dangerous. Having said that, you can almost always find good snorkelling year round on the inside reefs. The big game fishing season roughly coincides with the diving season, with the northeast monsoon winds (the kaskazi) bringing nutrients from the Arabian Sea. This is the time to go hunting for, among others, wahoo, sailfish, marlin, swordfish, tuna and kingfish.

    Most of the sub-continent is a freshwater angler’s paradise, with everything from wild mountain trout through to giant Nile perch and tiger fish up for grabs. Here the weather and season needs are so diverse that an adequate description would be impossible. For trout anglers, a good rule of thumb is that the fishing is usually best just before and just after the heavy rains, when there’s enough light rain around to keep the water fresh, but not enough to make it muddy. Probably the most important thing to be aware of when fishing in tropical Africa is to make damn sure you put your carbon-fibre and graphite rods away when there’s lighting in the air – they become lethal lightning conductors.
    Last edited by Tony Weaver; 2019/05/09 at 01:50 PM.
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    Default Re: Guidance on an Overland trip - Cape Town to Uganda and back

    Quote Originally Posted by martin1 View Post
    We have been to the Okavango before in late June when flooded and I am thinking that early May prior to the flooding would be a different time to be there. This would push us back to crossing into Zambia in June as opposed to early May.

    Would you think that would make more sense for us?
    Very much so and also for the rest of the trip.
    Landcruiser 76SW.

    “Great journeys are memorable not so much for what you saw, but for where you camped”.

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    Trans East Africa 2015/2016 Trip report http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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