Category: Travels in Africa

Cape Town to Tanzania Feb Mar 2020

In February and March 2020, I drove 8,800km from Cape Town to the Kruger Park, through Zimbabwe and Zambia to Tanzania.


When I quote prices, I use the original currency. At the beginning of my trip the exchange rates to the GB pound were: South African Rand 19.50, Zimbabwe $ 470, Zambian Kwacha 19, Tanzanian Shilling 3,000, and US$ 1.29. I have used these rates throughout this report, irrespective if rates changed or the actual conversion rates differed.
I was travelling alone in my Toyota Fortuner with my trailer (more details at end of article). It is important to note that if I say a road was good, I mean that it was good for a 4×4 high clearance vehicle and may not be good for a sedan car.

This trip took place against an escalation of the Coronavirus outbreak. When I left Cape Town on 19th February 2020 there were 74,000 confirmed cases of the virus, in the world, all in China. By the end of the trip, on 20th March 2020, there were 234,000 confirmed cases in 176 countries. I was in Tanzania for the last eight days of my trip. When I left Tanzania on 20th March there were six confirmed cases. So, the actual incidence of the virus, in the countries that I travelled through, was low at the time I was there. Life for the local people in Tanzania appeared to be relatively unchanged as I left, except that people were no longer shaking hands. However, borders were being closed, flights were being cancelled and tourists were scrambling to get home. My trip was not really affected by the virus, except at the end, I did not go through Serengeti as planned, but rather went directly to Arusha in a failed attempt to get home early. As I write this on 21st March 2020, I fear for the continent of Africa, because they will be far more vulnerable to the virus than western countries with better health facilities and less crowded living.

Day 1 – Cape Town to Beaufort West 418kms
On 19th February 2020 I left Cape Town at 14h00 with my Aunt Rose as a passenger for the next two days. The scenery on the N1 from Worcester to the Hex River Valley was lovely. From there to Beaufort West it rained most of the time producing beautiful rainbows. Over 80% of the traffic were trucks. We had a lamb curry dinner at 4 Sheep.

Day 2 – Beaufort West to Funnystone Farm on the Lesotho Border near Tiffindell Ski Resort 708km
This was a long but relatively easy drive on good roads through the Karoo via Aberdeen, Graaf Reinet, Cradock and Queenstown. The route is mountainous and that combined with green grass made this a very attractive day. This whole area has received a lot of rain and there was a lot of standing water and all farmers’ dams, visible from the road, were full. My Aunt Rose was going to spend the following two weeks at Funnystone Farm with her lifelong friend, Jessamy, and her husband, Robert.

In a discussion with Robert he said that his farm of 3,400ha carried 2,000 sheep and 110 cattle. The farm is half at an high altitude in the mountains, often covered with snow in the winter, with the remainder in the valley. His livestock use the high pastures during the summer and the low pastures during the winter. His sheep are Merino, and he farms them for their wool. A sheep gives wool for about ten years. His 800 ewes produce about 500 lambs each year. He maintains the herd size at about 2,000 as he believes that he needs one hectare for each sheep. (Farmers in the Karoo need between two and five hectares per sheep.) About eighty calves are born to cows at the beginning of summer and at the end of summer are sold to feed lots that feed them up and increase their weight before slaughter for meat. By selling them at the end of summer he saved having to feed them through the winter.

Day 3 – Funnystone Farm to Ladysmith, KwaZulu Nata 685km
Another day of fast driving on good roads as I skirted around the western side of Lesotho. It struck me that the days of mud huts in rural South Africa was generally past. Almost all houses that I saw were built of brick with tin roofs. Many were houses which had several rooms. I realised that the worst housing in the country was now on the outskirts of the major cities.

Day 4 – Tour of Spioenkop 102km
In the morning I drove from Ladysmith about 40km to Three Tree Lodge where the military guide, Ron Gold, had arranged for me to join that lodge’s tour of the Battle of Spioenkop.
The story of the battle is interesting. After several political upheavals, the Boers declared war on the British on 11th October 1899. Aware that 10,000 British troops had been despatched from India, the Boers moved quickly and laid siege to three towns in the British colonies of the Cape and Natal. The three towns and the length of the sieges were:
Mafeking 13th October 1899 to 17th May 1900
Kimberley 14th October 1899 to 15th February 1900
Ladysmith 2nd November 1899 to 28th February 1900
As intended by the Boers, this action caused the British to split their forces into three, thus diluting their strength. Five battles were fought to relieve Ladysmith, of which Spioenkop was one. The approach to Ladysmith, from the south west, over the Tugela River, twenty miles from the town, was blocked by six linked hills of which Spioenkop was marginally the highest.

The Boers were well aware of the advance of the British but were caught by surprise, on the night of 23rd January 1899, by a night-time silent ascent, along a spur, of Spioenkop, by 700 British soldiers, causing the dozen Boers on the summit to flee. Although the British had captured their objective, they were demoralised by the light rain and mist which soaked their woollen khaki uniforms, could not dig trenches deep enough because of the rocky ground, could not build the trenches higher with sand bags because the empty bags had been left behind, oriented their trenches in the wrong direction because the high iron content of the rocks caused their compasses to misread and were thus exposed when the mist rose on the morning. Spioenkop has a relatively large flat top and the British chose to dig in, in the middle and this resulted in them not being able to see Boers climbing the hill. The British were surprised by the fact that the Boers, contrary to their practice to date, counterattacked during the day, resulting in close contact fighting where the British used bayonets, causing terrible injuries. The Boers had seven modern artillery guns which pounded the exposed British position all day. The artillery fire and covering fire from Boers on the adjacent Aloe Knoll allowed other Boers to creep around the flank of the British and fire on them from behind. British battlefield communications were poor, first because of the mist and secondly because of poor lines of sight. This resulted in messages taking hours to get to their intended recipient and being wrong by the time they were received. Several of the British commanders on the hill were killed causing confusion as to who was in command as the day progressed. The British soldiers weakened from lack of hydration in the summer sun, because their water supplies had been left at base. By the end of the day other British units had secured the summits of three adjacent hills. The British had effectively won the battle when a confusion in communications resulted in the order being given to withdraw from the newly conquered hills. When the troops on Spioenkop saw their comrades withdrawing they followed suit. The Boers were amazed in the morning, to find the hills abandoned and quickly reoccupied them. Victory was theirs.

Besides the errors of leaving the empty sand bags and water behind and suffering from poor battlefield communications and a high incidence of death of their battlefield leaders the British were also at a disadvantage because they (a) Overestimated the Boer strength by a factor of ten, thinking that they were facing a large army and (b) Had no detailed maps of the area and believed that Spioenkop was the edge of an escarpment rather than the reality of being a mountain on all sides. The latter fact meant that they established their trenches on the summit about thirty metres from edge of the mountain that they had ascended fearful that the Boers would come charging at them on horses. If they had known that the back edge of the mountain was a further fifty metres away, they would have probably set up their trenches on the edge of the mountain, being able to see the Boers climbing up. The battle had high casualty figures of 243 British and 68 Boers killed with five times as many wounded. The men were buried where they fell with the British concentrated in a small area on the peak and the Boers spread around. Memorials to both armies have been erected.

The British went on to achieve their objective of relieving Ladysmith four weeks later. Contrary to the initial expectation on both sides, the war dragged on, through great hardship, until 31st May 1902.
Winston Churchill, acting as a war correspondent was captured by the Boers, three weeks after war was declared, on 15th November 1899 and escaped a month later, on 12th December 1899. Having made his way to Delagoa Bay (today Maputo) he joined the British Army as a lieutenant and at Spioenkop, principally carried messages between the battlefield and the British commanders. Mohandas Gandhi lived in South Africa for 21 years from 1893 and was at Spioenkop as a volunteer stretcher bearer on the British side. The Boers were commanded by Louis Botha who went on to become the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa from its creation on 31st May 1910.
The Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Lancasters suffered many casualties at Spioenkop. They were later remembered in 1906 by the naming of an open terrace at Anfield Football Stadium, as Spion Kop. Other football stands also use the name. The name has also been affixed to villages, hills, holes on golf courses and a ship in many countries of the world.
At my B&B in Ladysmith Dominic, a newly qualified UK trained equine vet, told me that he was working for two years, caring for horses, midway between Durban and Pietermaritzburg. I was fascinated when he told me that a difference between practicing in the UK and South Africa, in the areas he practiced, is that when horses must be put down, they are injected in the UK, but shot in South Africa. Apparently, the dead horses in South Africa are fed to lions at the Lion Park and cannot contain the chemicals that kill the horses with injections.

Day 5 Ladysmith to Mbombela (previously called Nelspruit) 611km
A day of easy driving on good roads with intermittent rain. Two things that were notable during the day (a) for a lot of the journey the mountains forming the Highveld Escarpment were visible on my left (west) and (b) the landscape was dotted with coal mines for the 210km from Newcastle to Carolina. Despite it being a Sunday, trucks carrying coal were on the move.
In the evening I drove an hour to Malelane to meet Ina and Erik Kuhn. I had ‘met’ them online on Facebook Overlanding groups. They travelled up to Tanzania last year and are planning to go to Angola this year. I had been in Angola last year and was now on my way to Tanzania, so we could both advise the other. They are retired accountants and their house is on the banks of the Crocodile River, with the Kruger Park over the river. The view from their deck is amazing. As dusk fell the hippos left the river and headed into the Park for dinner. We talked for five hours. Their blog is at:
https://2wrinkledtravellers.wordpress.com/ .

Day 6 Mbombela to Senalala 182km
I chatted with Andrew, the host at Torburnlea Guesthouse for almost an hour over breakfast. Besides running the marvellous guesthouse with his wife, Kim, he also guides people in the Kruger Park and neighbouring game farms. He is an interesting person.
I spent an hour running around town buying items that I had forgotten and then left in the direction of Hoedspruit. There have been a spate of demonstrations and tyre burning that has often closed the R40, so I had wondered if I needed to take the longer route through Graskop. Andrew called various contacts who advised that the road was safe today, and so it proved.
Senalala is a game farm in the Klaserie Conservancy near Hoedspruit. The Klaserie is a collection of a hundred game farms who have dropped their fences with each other and with the Kruger and have communally provided services to the community including gate control, main roads and anti-poaching. Senalala is managed by James Steyn and his wife Corlia. James is an incredibly well experienced game guide. I had visited Senalala three times previously. The owner of Senalala, Hilton Sessel, is a South African who has lived most of his adult life in the USA. I had met him in November, and he had invited me to stay a night at Senalala on my way to Tanzania. I was delighted to be back.
Late afternoon we went out on a game drive and as the light was falling, we were led, by radio messages from other guides, to a pack of thirteen wild dogs (or painted wolves). There were parents and eleven juveniles. They had finished off a kill and were gnawing on bones. They went to the water to drink but held back because a crocodile was waiting in the water. Three hyenas arrived and started foraging among the bones. The wild dogs attacked them, but the hyenas fought back. The wild dogs then decided that the bones were not worth fighting, and possibly getting injured, for. One of the most amazing sightings of my fifty-year period of game viewing.

Day 7 and 8 Senalala to Phalaborwa 313km
During the morning drive at Senalala we got very close to two white rhino which was special.

I then entered the Kruger Park at Orpen, took a back road to Letaba Camp and exited at Phalaborwa. I saw lots of elephants, impala and zebra and saw two ground hornbills and a few water buck.
The next day I had my car serviced, bought food, gas and wood and prepared for four days in the wilderness.

Day 9- 12 Letaba Ranch and Makuya Nature Reserve
Letaba Ranch for two days 84km
Relocation through Kruger NP 351km
Makuya Nature Reserve 42km
I had booked a tour with Johan du Plooy of Bonsai Tours for a four-day trip through Letaba Ranch and non-public areas of the Kruger National Park. Because rain had closed the relevant roads in Kruger, Johan recommended and I agreed, that we would go to Makuya Nature Reserve instead. Johan had not been successful in finding other participants, so this was a one-man trip. Johan has recently retired as a logistics engineer, with special expertise in the procedures to use and maintain military equipment. He has been a 4×4 trainer for many years and is increasing his involvement in off-road tours.


Letaba Ranch is just north of Phalaborwa and is a 42,000-hectare reserve, which has dropped its fences with Kruger Park, and is owned by Limpopo Province. Makuya Nature Reserve is a 25,000-hectare reserve, located adjacent to Kruger, between Punda Maria and Pafuri. It is owned by the local community and managed for them by Limpopo Province. Transfrontier Parks Destinations (TFPD) have concessions in both reserves to run camps on behalf of the community and run 4×4 tours. Johan uses their concession to run his tours.

In the big picture this tour was disappointing. The change of venue resulted in us spending one of our four days relocating from the one reserve to the other. I had not appreciated how few animals are in these reserves, even though they are adjacent to Kruger and have dropped their fences with Kruger. Johan is an excellent 4×4 trainer and we went through a few interesting 4×4 challenges. The scenery in Letaba was pleasant but not that special. The scenery in Makuya was more striking. Johan runs a five-day 4×4 tour along the Luvuhu River in Makuya which will probably suit me better.


We camped in Letaba for the first two nights and stayed at Mutale Camp in Makuya. The coordinates are:
Oosthuizen’s Camp, Letaba Ranch S23.45.2095 E031.08.4858
Letaba Bend, Letaba Ranch S23.40.1435 E031.05.3682
Mutale Camp, Makuya Nature Reserve S22.25.6013 E031.03.2328

Day 13 Makuya Reserve to Musina, South Africa 160km
It was an hour to the gate and another two hours to Musina on good roads. I had forgotten my phone at Senalala, and it was now waiting for me at PostNet. I bought cable for my solar panel and did some other maintenance items and then admin at the guesthouse.

Day 14 Musina through Beit Bridge Border to Chilo Gorge Lodge, Gonerezhou, Zimbabwe 403km
I was dreading the border crossing and arranged with Solomon of the Facebook page ‘Crossing Beitbridge’ to help me through the Zimbabwe border for a fee of R200. I exited South Africa in ten minutes and then met Solomon on the bridge and drove into the Zimbabwe border area. He had prefilled my immigration form and my customs form. The process was as follows:
1. Pay the R125 bridge toll and collect a gate pass
2. Present your passport and immigration form at the immigration counter and get your passport and gate pass stamped
3. Go to the Customs hut in the middle of the canopy outside and get a custom official to verify what you have declared on your customs form is correct as well as the correct engine size of your car for carbon tax. He will then sign or stamp the document. The officials checked nothing and signed the form and stamped the gate pass.
4. Go back inside and queue at the Tax and Customs pay point to pay the carbon tax of US$10 and road access fee of US$10. Normally one would also pay for the issue of a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for the vehicle. I had paid for the AA of SA to issue a Carnet de Passage where they will pay the import tax if I do not remove the car and trailer from a country within the one-year validity of the document. I had done this to allow me to leave the vehicle in Tanzania while I return to the UK for several months. It also means that I do not need a TIP and normally means a quicker processing at the border. The official made the required entries in my carnets (one for the Fortuner and one for the trailer) and removed the tear off slip (which is later matched with the second slip when I leave the country). Then confusingly he created a TIP for me. I am sure this is the wrong procedure, but I wasn’t going to argue. He then stamped the gate pass.
5. Exit the building and cross the road and climb the bank on the other side and go to the police station which is a small building. Do not go to the front counter but go to the back of the building and enter the door and knock on the first door on the left. This is where your vehicle papers are verified. Give them your passport, vehicle papers and get them to stamp your gate pass. I was also asked for my driving licence
6. Go back to your vehicle and move into the search area. Take your TIP and gate pass to the customs hut and request that they search your vehicle. They did not search my vehicle and stamped the gate pass.
7. Show your completed gate pass to the official near your car and he will move the barrier allowing you to move forward.
8. There is a stop halfway to the exit gate. Look out for it as it is just a sign on the side of the road. Stop and give them the gate pass. They will tear off the pass and return the stub to you.
9. Hand in the stub at the boom at the border exit and you are now in Zimbabwe
To my amazement the process took only 45 minutes. There are horror stories of people taking hours to get through the process. There is no doubt that Solomon’s knowledge of the process meant that I moved quickly from one step to the next. He was selective as to which counters, he accompanied me. He accompanied me to the bridge toll, TIP and customs desks. I do not know if it was his presence that caused the officials to skip the inspection of my vehicle. As advised by Solomon I started the process at 08h45 which meant that there were almost no queues. By the time I left there were queues at all the counters. The queue that takes the longest is the TIP queue because the official takes ten minutes for each vehicle, to enter the details into his computer. Solomon told me that one can complete the form online which means that you are processed more quickly but does not impact the speed of the queue in front of you.


I then had a relatively easy drive to Chilo Gorge Lodge except that over a period of four hours I was stopped at seven police check points. At three of them I was asked for my TIP and my driving licence, while at the others I was asked my destination and wished good travelling. This is a dramatic improvement on 2015 when I was also stopped seven times, but I was fined for minor issues at two. These police checks are one of the curses of Africa. From my perspective they tie up huge amounts of police for little real value.
The last 100km of tar was, from time to time, very badly potholed with some potholes being two metres across. I would be travelling at speed and suddenly be faced with potholes. A few too many jolts from hitting potholes at speed resulted in my driver side bonnet hinge breaking. This is my personal curse since I overloaded my Fortuner in 2017 with a huge roof box that somehow stressed the bonnet area. Toyota service managers tell me that they have never seen a broken Fortuner bonnet hinge. I often break three a trip. I now carry a greater stock of hinges than any Toyota dealer. The lodge maintenance man replaced the hinge the next day.
I passed through the town of Triangle. When I was an accountancy articled clerk in Durban, I audited many sugar mills and, in my final year, led the audit of the sugar company, Huletts. That was the first time I heard about Triangle. As I approached the town, familiar sugar cane fields appeared and then a big sugar mill. There was a suburb of staff houses with street names drawn from the Natal sugar aristocracy like Guy Hulett Road and Vernon Crookes Drive. There was also a sign pointing to the country club. This could have been Mount Edgecombe, near Umhlanga, Natal in the 1970s (before they were replaced by a shopping centre).
Chilo Lodge is a luxury safari lodge across the Save River (pronounced ‘saavay’) from Gonerezhou National Park. I have previously stayed in the self-catering units at the lodge which come at a lower rate. I had booked a self-catering unit but on my arrival I was told that (a) The lodge had only opened two days previously after their wet season break (b) I was the sole guest for the two nights that I was there (c) they were doing maintenance work on the self-catering units (d) I could stay in the normal lodge rooms at no extra cost. That was a delight.
As I relaxed on a cliff overlooking the Save River seven elephants came down to the river on the far bank. After drinking for a while, they started swimming across the river. A few got out on my side, but the others stayed in the water. Over the next hour, four more elephants joined them. And then for yet another hour they played in the water. Submerging themselves. Rolling about. Ducking each other. Blowing water. They were in heaven. And I was in heaven watching them.


Day 15 Gonerezhou National Park, Zimbabwe
In 1973 I first visited Gonerezhou (The Place of the Elephants) with my father when it was a wild place with masses of elephants. I visited again in 2015 and again today. It is still a wild place with masses of elephants. The Park has been devastated by poaching but has recovered since the Frankfurt Zoological Society got involved in 2007. Today the FGS jointly manages the park with Zimbabwe Wildlife. The Park is only accessible by 4×4 vehicles with most roads little more than tracks. The Runde River bisects the north of the Park and visiting that area is best done by criss crossing the river. That is a challenge because there are no bridges so one must enter the water with your vehicle to get across. To exit the Park in the north east requires one to cross the Save River, in the same way. At this time of the year, the end of the wet season, the rivers are too high to cross with vehicles. The lodge transported me across the Save River in a boat to their game drive vehicle which they had parked on that side of the river. We spent six hours in the Park and saw masses of elephants, five wild dogs, nyala, lots of birds and dwarf mongooses.


The head ranger at the Lodge told me that Park was planning to introduce rhinos so that they could be described as a Big 5 park. I was surprised that they thought it worthwhile, given the additional anti-poaching needs that come with rhinos. The response was that poaching is no longer a problem in the area as anyone found carrying a gun in a reserve in the area is immediately shot dead by the rangers!



Day 16 Eastern Highlands to Juliasdale 424km
Soon after turning back onto the tar I stopped at a small filling station with all its pumps covered up. Zimbabwe is suffering a huge shortage of fuel and most filling stations only receive a supply every fortnight, which is then bought within four hours. However, I asked for Johnson and told him that Thomas from Chilo Lodge had sent me to buy diesel for dollars. The cover was lifted from one of the pumps and my tank was filled at US$1 per litre, which proved to be the cheapest price of the trip.
A short while later I passed a fuel tanker parked beside the road next to a pickup truck. I could not be sure, but it looked like fuel was being offloaded. I wonder if the fuel owner knew this was happening?


For the next six hours I travelled along most of the 300km length of the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe. They are a range of mountains that form the border with Mozambique. Forming a link in the off-centre spine of Africa, the Eastern Highlands Mountain Range effectively begins all the way down in the Western Cape of South Africa, continues up along the Drakensburg Mountains and onwards along the Great Rift to the Ethiopian Highlands. They comprise the Chimanimani Mountains in the south, the Bvumba Mountains in the centre and the Nyanga Highlands in the north. They are very different from the rest of the country as they are forested, very green and far cooler than elsewhere. I deviated off the main road to go deeper into the mountains.



Day 17 Nyanga Highlands 146km
Today I explored the 33,000-hectare Nyanga National Park which was once the private estate of Cecil Rhodes. Its main feature is Mount Nyangani, the highest peak in the country, which has a height of 2,600 metres and is about 15km into the park on a 4×4 track. I drove to the parking area but did not hike up the final 400 metres. The Park rules require summit hikers to leave the Park Office before midday if they plan to hike to the summit.

Having enjoyed the mountains, I then visited the surrounding villages. Troutbeck and Juliasdale are very small villages, each containing a poor-quality large hotel. Nyanga Town is more substantial but of little interest for a tourist.
I saw queues start forming at the Total filling station in Nyanga in anticipation of a fuel delivery. Four hours later the fuel had not arrived, but the queue had multiplied. Thirty minutes later I saw two Total tankers pass me on the road. The filling station attendant at Juliasdale directed me to a filling station in Sanyatwe, 15km away, where my tank was filled with diesel at $1.20 per litre.

Day 18 Juliasdale to Harare 250km
I had an easy and pleasant drive descending from the mountains, listening to my podcasts, arriving in Harare at 13h00. Harare is a big sprawl of an African low-rise city. I needed my last top up of diesel so asked the Total attendant where I could find diesel for dollars. To my amazement he directed me to Abraham at another Total filling station. I negotiated the asking price down from $1.15 to $1.10 and was then filled up from one of their pumps. The auditor in me wondered if the owners of the filling station are complicit in this trade?
I then checked into York Lodge, one of my more expensive nights, but a wonderful, comfortable guesthouse. I needed to do work on our property portfolio so spent nine hours catching up on admin.
I interrupted my work to spend two hours over dinner with the only other guest, Malcolm. He is the CFO of J&J, a haulage company based in Beira in Mozambique. I was fascinated to hear that they were big enough to be owned by the private equity firm, Carlisle, had 1,700 trucks operating principally in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and south-eastern DRC, transporting principally mining and agricultural products. He told me that the difficulties of operating in the region, particularly crossing borders, was worked into the prices they charged. Drivers carry huge amounts of US dollars to pay for duties, fuel and tolls and have pick up points on regular routes to collect more cash. Despite the very real fuel shortages in Zimbabwe they have organised supplies wherever needed. He emphasised that with a US owner they were conscious of their responsibilities to the working conditions of drivers and ensured that driving hours were monitored and controlled. He said that the vehicles never drove at night because the risks were too high. The vehicles are all fitted with trackers. I could have spent hours more asking questions about this fascinating business operating in a difficult environment.

Day 19 Harare to Lusaka 500km
I had an early departure from a quiet Harare on a Sunday morning. The 350km drive to the Chirundu border post with Zambia was uneventful. I was concerned about how this border crossing was going to be. My concerns deepened when I passed three kilometres of trucks queuing to cross the border. I then discovered that trucks are processed separately from cars and pedestrians. The Zimbabweans and Zambians have created one stop buildings at this border with all traffic from Zambia being processed in one building on the Zimbabwean side of the Zambezi and all traffic from Zimbabwe being processed in one building on the Zambian side. I crossed the bridge, parked and told the clamouring touts that I did not need them. The process then was as follows:
1. Zambian port health authorities required me to complete a health questionnaire and checked my temperature with a type of heat seeking camera. This was clearly because of concerns about Coronavirus.
2. Zimbabwean immigration stamped my passport
3. Zimbabwean customs stamped my carnets
4. Zambian immigration stamped my passport
5. At the Zambian Customs General Office (in a corridor behind the Carbon Tax office) they stamped my carnets. I think this is the place where one would, without a carnet, get a TIP. I did not get a TIP which caused some confusion at the Carbon Tax counter and at the final exit gate.
6. I exited the main building and went to the adjacent building to Zimbabwean Interpol who wanted to see my Zimbabwean TIP and was confused by my carnet. He took me to the next-door office of the Zambian Interpol who told his colleague to stamp the back of the Zimbabwean page in my carnet, which he did.
7. The Zambian Interpol then stamped the back of the Zambian page in my carnet. I think that this is the office where they normally want to see a police clearance certificate from the South African police, confirming that the vehicle is not stolen. I think, but am not certain, that they consider the carnet confirms the same thing.
8. I returned to the main building. The customs official who had stamped my carnet told the Carbon Tax official that because I had a carnet, I did not have to pay Carbon Tax. He was surprised and I was concerned that a policeman on the road would also be surprised, so I insisted on paying the ZKW 480 (£25) carbon tax. (As it happened no one asked for my carbon tax receipt while I was in Zambia.)
9. I returned to the adjacent building and at a desk near the Road Tax office, paid ZKW50 (£3) Community Levy Tax.
10. In the same office, at a counter, I advised the official that I was travelling across the country to Mbala and presented my carnet and passport and paid US$20 Road Tax. The official told me that the Road Tax certificate that he gave me exempted me from paying tolls. At the six tolls that I encountered I presented the certificate, which was stamped by the toll man and saved me ZKW20 each time. This was the only document which police checks asked to see.
11. Somewhat to my surprise I was not asked for proof of third-party insurance. I had purchased the insurance online, in advance, from Phoenix of Zambia Assurance at https://www.phoenixassurancegroup.com/zambia/online-payments/foreign-3rd-party-motor-insurance/ at a cost of ZKW138 (£7) for a month. I understand that there is a place to buy the insurance at the border (but did not see it) and that the cost is higher.
12. I presented myself at the exit gate with my vehicle. The attendant was confused that I did not have a TIP and took me to the Zambian Customs General Office, who confirmed that I could exit, which I was allowed to do once I had completed and signed their exit register.
The whole process took about eighty minutes. The border post was very quiet with a few pedestrians. It may have helped that I was there early afternoon on a Sunday. I was faced with no queues at any of the vehicle processing counters. All the officials were very helpful in explaining what was happening and telling me where to go next. It also helped that I had a guide that I had downloaded from the Files section of the DriveZam Facebook page.
The road then climbed out of the Zambezi Valley with an easy 150km run to Lusaka. As I entered the city it was very clear that this was a more prosperous place then Harare with shopping centres and several South African store chains. The Wild Dogs Lodge, that I had booked at, was out of town, with a rural address not on my Satnav. I also did not have a Zambian sim card, so I wasted an hour finding the place.

Day 20 Lusaka to Kasanka National Park 515km
As I prepared to leave in the morning, I realised that one of the spare wheel holders, at the back of my vehicle, was missing. I had to conclude that the catch had been jolted loose when I hit a pothole at speed and once loose had torn off. I had been completely unaware of it. This was an expensive loss of a necessary spare wheel which also included my rear number plate. There was nothing I could do about it.
I was on the road by 07h00, skirted Lusaka and headed north on a reasonably good road. There were a lot of trucks on the road which was heading to Ndola and the Copper Belt. That traffic reduced significantly when I turned off at Kapir Mposhi. A while later I passed the point where the DRC has a peninsula pushing into Zambia. I crossed under a railway bridge and wondered if this is the railway line, my wife and I will be travelling on next year with Rovos Rail from Lobito in Angola to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.
I had felt exposed the night before without a Zambian sim, so I stopped at a roadside Airtel vendor who registered me with Airtel by scanning my passport with his phone and getting me to sign a contract on his phone. I bought airtime and data.


I arrived at Kasanka National Park. The Park is principally known for the gathering of several million straw-coloured fruit bats every November and December. They also host sitatunga or marsh buck, a swamp-dwelling antelope, which are not seen in the wet season. The park is forested and was very overgrown and green. I was not expecting to see very much, and so it proved when I walked for ninety minutes around the lake with a guide.
I had booked at Luwombwa Lodge but was accommodated at the far more expensive Wasa Lodge, because the road to the former was under water.

The only other guests that night were two authors. Tsitsi Dangarembga (61) from Harare, and Nadine Jassat (32) from Edinburgh, are part of the Outriders project of the Edinburgh International Book Festival which has dispatched ten writers (in pairs) to Africa to return and present a work at the 2020 Festival. They are following the route taken by James Chuma and Abdullah Susi with Livingstone’s body from Ilala, Zambia to Bagamoyo, Tanzania. Their works do not need to focus on that journey but can be drawn from anything they come across while following it. I look forward to reading the works they produce. (The 2020 Edinburgh International Book Festival was later cancelled because of the Coronavirus so they will presumably present in 2021.)

Day 21 Kasanka National Park to Kapiysha Springs 452km
Having been inspired by the authors the previous night I visited the memorial to the Scottish physician, missionary and explorer, David Livingstone, located at the place that he died. Livingstone was a missionary in three locations in Botswana for eleven years from 1840 and was then an explorer for 22 years from 1851. He was the first white man to see the falls we now know as Victoria Falls and he mapped the length of the Zambezi. He was determined to find the source of the Nile but never did. He felt that if he found the source of the Nile, his fame would give him the influence to end the East African Arab-Swahili slave trade. Livingstone died on 1 May 1873 at the age of 60 in Chief Chitambo’s village at Ilala, southeast of Lake Bangweulu, in present-day Zambia, from malaria and internal bleeding due to dysentery. His loyal attendants Chuma and Susi removed his heart and other organs and buried them under a tree near the spot where he died. They then salted the body, embalmed it in his sheets, created a stretcher and carried the body together with his journal, over 1,000 miles, a journey that took 63 days, to the coastal town of Bagamoyo, (in modern day Tanzania) where they were returned by ship to Britain. In London, his body lay in repose at No.1 Savile Row, then the headquarters of the Royal Geographical Society, prior to interment at Westminster Abbey.

Tombstone at Westminster Abbey


The current Chief Chitambo is the great grandchild of the Chief who supported the return of the body to England. He did that by sending villagers to guide Chuma and Susi as far as they knew the route, with instructions that, people of the village that they then reached, should accompany the body further.
On the gravel track on the way to the memorial, a few kilometres from the memorial I stopped to allow an approaching pickup to pass. The vehicle stopped and the driver got out and approached me. She said ‘You are going to the David Livingstone memorial. I am Barbara and I am the guide at the memorial. I will go with you to the site and afterwards you will take me back to the tar road where my friends will wait for me’. I could not refuse such a direct offer. On the way there she told me that she was 33 and a widow with three children. She had married a man 18 years her senior because she felt that he was more responsible than her peer group. He became a magistrate and they lived in a good house near the memorial. He had died two years previously of a stroke. She has no intention of marrying again. Life is understandably difficult for her especially as the Heritage Department of the Government had advised their employees that the payment of their February salaries would be delayed until funds were received from the government. The pickup that she had been driving, had been loaned to her by her cousin, Chief Chitambo, so that she could use it to earn money until her salary was paid. She was transporting goods and their owners when she met me.
The memorial site has a relatively large memorial, with several plaques, and a replica of the hut which Livingstone was living in, as well as models of Livingstone and his attendants. The Heritage Department of the Government had started building, but not finished, a large ticket office and an interpretation centre. This seemed to be a waste of money to me. The number of visitors to the site is very small.
I explained to Barbara that the authors from Edinburgh were currently visiting the Chief and would be arriving at the site soon. She said that she would travel with me on the gravel track until we met the vehicle bringing the authors. That happened and she transferred to their vehicle. I gave her a generous tip.
Before I met Barbara, I came across a piggery, so I stopped and engaged in conversation with Kunda Kazimbaya, the chairman of the co-operative that owns the piggery and the adjacent mill. He explained that his co-operative of 110 members is part of the Zambia Co-operative Federation (ZCF) which provided the solar mini grinding mill, borehole and solar equipment free of charge. The 21 solar panels charge batteries that provide the power for the grinding mill. Members of the co-operative bring dried kernels of corn (also known as maize or mealies) which have been separated from the cob. These are then ground three times to produce mealie meal, which is a type of cereal, eaten as a staple in much of Southern Africa. The users pay a small amount which is used to maintain the equipment. This is a vital and transformative facility for the village. I later saw ten more of these mills as I drove north through Zambia. Research on the internet reveals that ZCF, in 2015, intended to install 2,000 such units. There is no indication how many have been installed.


Kunda’s co-operative then extended the facility by building a piggery funded by The World Bank through the Livestock Development and Animal Health Project, within the Livestock and Fisheries Government Department. The piggery holds one boar, two sows and eleven pigs up to the age of 18 months. (I am no expert on piggeries but the condition which the pigs lived in was incredibly basic, being bare concrete pens.) They are fed entirely from the waste product from the mill. As the pigs approach the age of 18 months, they are sold to a member of the co-operative who then slaughters the pig and, not owning a fridge, immediately sells portions to neighbours.

The installation and use of these two facilities have made a big difference to people living very difficult lives.
The ability of the villagers, or more realistically, their children, to escape their predicament is compounded by the difficulties of schooling. I asked Kunda why the children near us were not at school. He explained that their session at school was at 14h00. The local community Chititima Primary School has seven grades, 293 pupils, two classrooms, two teachers and operates three teaching sessions a day. The headmaster later told me that, the government would fund up to eight teachers at the school, but he could not recruit teachers because they cannot provide housing. He was convinced that if had housing he could recruit teachers. (The guide at the Livingstone Memorial, Barbara, confirmed that the school nearby also had a shortage of teachers, but it was her view that teachers were in short supply and would not want to live in such a remote place, even if housing was available.) The pupils at the school were in a simple uniform. Their parents at Chititima pay an annual school fee of the equivalent of £6 per pupil and at the school near the memorial, £24. Many people struggle to pay these fees and the cost of the uniform. A wildlife ranger explained to me that he had limited the number of children he had because of the cost of education. There is no doubt that these children are only receiving a bare minimum of education and that they will have huge difficulty escaping the poverty trap that they are caught in.
In further discussion with Kunda it transpired that he was a retired road worker, was born one month after me and married seven weeks before me. He assured me that his marriage was very happy, particularly as all the children had left home. He has eight children aged between 23 and 40 and twenty-one grandchildren aged between 6 months and 15 years. He explained to me that he was the headman of the village because his father had also been a headman. His brothers are headmen of other villages. They all owe allegiance to Chief Chitambo. I found Kunda to be a man of dignity, resilience and initiative who is working hard to improve the conditions of the people in his village. I made a small contribution to the co-operative and wished them well for their lives.


When I met the vehicle carrying the two Edinburgh Book Festival authors I told them that they did not need to follow the 1,000 mile journey of Livingstone’s body to the coast, to find inspiration for their work, because there is a wonderful story to be told about the lives and history and future of the people living along the road that they were on. I wonder if that will happen.
I had had an inspiring morning and had dallied far longer than I planned. As I left the area, I knew that it was going to be a challenge to get to my overnight destination at Kapiysha Springs. And so, it proved. The Springs are located on a gravel road midway between two main roads, in a Y shape, heading north and about 50km from each road. My satnav took me to the worse of the access routes. I turned on to the gravel road at about 17h30, forty-five minutes before it would be dark. The heavens opened and rain poured down. Visibility was poor, there were pedestrians and animals on the road, the road was in a terrible condition and was getting worse with the rain. I arrived in the pitch dark at Kapiysha Springs in a bad state.
The property at the Springs was acquired and built in 1914 by the grandfather of the current owner. It is apparently well known for its unusual design in the African bush. I could not appreciate it in the dark and the rain, especially as I had no hot water in my chalet. The owner was absent, and the two caretakers welcomed me, charged me for Wi-Fi and served me a horrible dinner. They then moved me to a chalet with hot water. I think they felt that they were upgrading me to a larger chalet, but it felt like a dormitory because it had so many beds. It had dark wood pillars and poor lighting. The bed linen and the towels appeared to me to have been in place since 1914. I was not happy and was delighted to depart early the next morning, with a quick glance at an apparently warm and bubbling spring.

Day 22 Kapiysha Springs to Sumbawanga 456km
I retraced my steps on the bad gravel road which was somewhat better in the light but still slow going. I picked up speed on good tar roads with occasional potholes. At 11h00 I called Lake Shore Lodge to make a booking for that night, and Louise, the host told me that it would take five hours from the border post to the lodge. That was the first inclination that I was trying to achieve too much because I was still a distance from the Zombe Border Post. The road from Mbala to the border is about 30km of the worst public gravel road I have experienced in my life, and I have experienced bad roads. It was made worse by that fact that rain had turned the road to mud with potholes filled with water.

I was driving too fast for the road conditions and bucked and swerved and as I went through a large water filled pothole, I heard that I was dragging something. I had pulled one end of the cover of my fuel tank from its bolts and it was now bent double under my vehicle. I had also torn the connection, from the car to the trailer for lights, from its holder. I looked for a place where I could lift the front of the car so that it would be easier to access the dragging fuel cover. I turned into a group of smarter looking buildings, which had grass running up a bank. The manager appeared and told me that this was a veterinary checkpoint and that he was the vet charged with checking animals brought from Tanzania. He quickly crawled under my vehicle and recovered the fuel tank cover which I strapped to the trailer. We checked and confirmed that I now had no indicator, brake or night lights working on the trailer. He wished me well, I thanked him and drove the short distance to the border post.


Because the road is so bad there are only about 25 vehicle crossings each month. The Zambian officials were having their lunch at 14h15 but started arriving fifteen minutes later. Immigration stamped my passport and customs stamped my carnets and inspected my vehicle to confirm that I was not exporting anything that I should not.
The Tanzanians were waiting for me. I was required to wash my hands and then interrogated by the newly created health unit about where I had been and the state of my health. They took my temperature and, to my surprise, inspected my yellow fever certificate. As far as I was concerned a yellow fever certificate is not required for Tanzania, but they said that I would have been refused entry without it. Immigration stamped my passport.
I moved to Customs for a frustrating hour. I planned to leave my vehicle and trailer in Tanzania for five months, while I returned to the UK. Most African countries have high import taxes on vehicles and are fearful that vehicles will be sold in their country without the payment of import taxes. The presentation of a carnet should, and normally does, provide the authorities with comfort that the vehicle will be removed from the country within the validity of the carnet. The owner of the storage facility in Moshi, where I plan to leave my vehicle, recommended trying to pay for Road Tax for the duration of the vehicle stay in the country and being open with the authorities about the intention to leave the vehicle in the country for a period of less than the remaining period on the carnet (period from issue to expiry is normally a year). Well that was a mistake! The official told me that he believed that he should not allow me to enter the country and quoted an example, at another border post, where the driver had planned to do the same thing and was obliged to proceed by public transport and leave his vehicle at the border, until he returned and took it back to Zambia. After a period of arguing about the issues he called his superior who eventually arrived and decreed that I should be allowed to buy three month’s Road Tax, enter the country and when I fly out of Tanzania I should park my vehicle at a Revenue Office until my return. I paid US$90 for three months, had my carnet stamped and was free to depart. The clocks changed by an hour on crossing the border, so it was now 17h00 with night expected at 19h15.
I called Louise at Lake Shore Lodge (using my UK phone) who advised that I should stay at Holland Hotel in Sumbawanga, 100km away.
As I headed away from the border, on a far better gravel road, the heavens opened, visibility was dramatically reduced, and the road condition deteriorated. The roadside was busy with people and animals and cyclists. I crawled along and eventually arrived at about 20h00 in Sumbawanga. I searched for the hotel in my satnav and chose it as my destination. It was dark, rain was pouring down, I was conscious that my trailer did not have lights and the area I was entering was looking dubious. I had apparently arrived at my destination but could not see any obvious hotel. I asked one of the many people on the pavement and one led me around the corner to a building with the name of Holland Lodge clearly displayed. Everything looked very basic. The room rate was rock bottom at the equivalent of £10. I asked to see the room and it was clean but very basic. The receptionist could see my discomfort and then suggested that I was not looking for Holland Lodge but looking for Holland Hotel! I agreed with him, so he called them and then advised that they were full. I had little choice but to stay where I was. The security guard expressed concern about his ability to properly protect the car. I was issued with a covering sheet, pillowcase and towel and took my bag, water bottle and toilet paper to the room. I was not going out in this neighbourhood for dinner, so I settled in, to sleep. The tap in the basin had snapped off and there was no hot water in the trickle that emerged from the shower. There was constant noise outside all night. At one point there were loud bangs and I accepted that my car was being broken into.



Day 23 Sumbawanga to Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili 149km
I emerged in the morning to find my car completely intact and to realise that the hotel was inside a large enclosure that was the city bus station with busses arriving and departing all night. I had no Tanzanian shillings so had to persuade the receptionist to accept US dollars instead.


I drew money at an ATM. The main Vodacom shop refused to sell me a sim because I needed to match my fingerprint with a print taken at the border, although he acknowledged that the border I crossed, did not have that facility.
I then headed to Lake Shore Lodge 150km away. The first 90km was on a good tar road but I now discovered that there was a village every few kilometres, where the speed limit reduced to 50kph, for, sometimes, a few kilometres, and the road then had serious rumble strips and large speed bumps. Progress was slow. The gravel road was slow going, but pretty, as it wound down to the valley of Lake Tanganyika. My driver side bonnet hinge gave up the ghost after the jolting of the last few days.
As I drove down this gravel road which had little traffic, I came across a team of fifteen people cutting the grass at the side of the road. In South Africa I had seen teams of fifteen people cutting the grass next to roads with strimmers. I had thought then how inefficient that was. I now saw people cutting the grass with a type of slasher, almost like a golf club with an extended head. I wondered what injuries these people must incur swinging this instrument for eight hours a day, day after day. Over the next few days I saw many more teams like this one. This was even more inefficient than strimmers. I had to accept that labour was cheaper than a mower that could negotiate the uneven road sides, and this was also providing work for many people.
I arrived at Lake Shore Lodge near the village of Kipili on Lake Tanganyika and met the South African owners, Louise and Chris. They have created a paradise. There is a large living, dining building opening on to the beach they created. They have magnificent chalets on the beach (at $185 per night), what they call Bandas ($60), which are semi-detached rooms, with lovely rooms but ablutions shared with four rooms and they have camping sites. Without my wife present I could not justify the price of the chalets so settled on a Banda.


Belgium and Lesotho are about the same size as each other. Both are slightly smaller than the surface area of Lake Tanganyika. Nearby Lake Victoria is 80% bigger in surface area. Lake Tanganyika is the second-largest lake by volume in the world (holding 16% of the fresh water of the world) and the second deepest, in both cases after Lake Baikal in Siberia. It is the world’s longest freshwater lake at 670km. The lake is shared between four countries – Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania (46%) and DRC (40%) possessing most of the lake. Human activity is concentrated in the north in the largest city in Burundi, Bujumbura (1.5 million urban population) and Kigoma, Tanzania (about 200,000 urban population). There are only five other roads to the lake in Tanzania, to relatively small villages, so the Tanzanian side of the lake has relatively little human activity. That has allowed Mahale Mountains National Park to be maintained as a protected area for chimpanzees. The ferry MV Liemba (built 1913), used to be the life blood of the lake, sailing weekly from Kigoma in the north to Mpulungu, Zambia in the south. It has been in dock for three years and the government is under pressure to repair it. Twenty-six rivers (some quite short) flow into the lake and only one flows out. Given its proximity to the equator (3⁰S – 9⁰S) it has high evaporation with 90% of water loss arising that way. Chris at Lake Shore Lodge says that the lake used to rise about 500mm in the wet season and lose that in the dry season. In the last two wet seasons, however, with increased rainfall, the water has risen 1,500mm, flooding some of their facilities but causing real devastation to other resorts and buildings closer to the water.
I had hoped to do a sunset cruise, but a wind came up making the lake choppy. The same happened the next day so I never got onto the lake.

Day 24 Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili
This was a day of relaxation for me as I sorted out my photos and wrote this record. The people of Lake Shore Lodge worked very hard for me:
1. My laundry was done
2. A staff member bought a sim card in her name with my money which I inserted in my phone.
3. Louise organised with her broker in Arusha for me to buy third party insurance in Tanzania and COMESA third party insurance for Kenya and Malawi.
4. Louise photographed my front number plate and laminated it and Chris enclosed it in a hard plastic with corner holes, which allowed me to fix it to my remaining spare wheel with cable ties. This will not comply with South African number plate regulations but will do until I get there.
5. Chris rewired the connection to the trailer reinstating the lights.
6. Frankie, the maintenance man, did an amazing job of straightening the fuel tank cover, repairing and refitting it.


7. He also replaced my bonnet hinge using a hinge from my onboard stock.
8. Louise called to arrange that Katavi National Park authorities would be available to sell me an entrance ticket when I entered the park from the south.
9. Louise also called Mr Juma at Riverside Camp in Sitalike to book a room the next night, warning me that the accommodation was very basic.

A feature of both Zambia and Tanzania is that the mobile phone network is comprehensive in both countries. As a traveller it makes sense to buy a sim and a data package on entering the country, so that routes and features en route can be checked online.
Two guests had arrived late the previous evening. The American told me, in the morning, that he was a retired economics professor from Lexington, Kentucky. He told me that the city has the third largest group of Congolese in the US and that he and his Congolese professor colleague, own and operate both a retail and wholesale business, selling products to that group. He was looking into the possibility of setting up a business to buy Migebuka fish (like sardines) from local fishermen, freeze them at the lakeside and ship them to the US. I wished him well for his project. Louise later told me that a friend of theirs had built a fish processing plant further south on the lake and had been bankrupted by the failure of the venture. According to her, the volumes of fish catches are declining every year and the local manager for the venture diverted fish to his own operation.

Day 25 Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili to Katavi National Park 231km
I drove up from the lake in the morning on gravel, then tar and then back to gravel, arriving at the New Ikuu Ranger Post in the Katavi National Park at about 11h00. The ranger with his rifle took me to the close by New Ikuu Airstrip where I was met by an official who had driven an hour from the northern gate to meet me. Their normal guide at this entrance was on leave. There are four luxury safari camps in the Park and their guests normally fly into the air strip. I was told that the charge would be US$30 for me, $40 for the vehicle and $12 VAT – a daily cost of $82! (locals pay 10% of that charge). The Tanzanian Government now requires all park fees, traffic fines and some other fees to be paid by credit card. This cuts down on corruption and the handling of cash. The credit card machine could not connect to the network, so I was given a temporary pass and told to pay at the northern gate when I exited.
I ambled along the nearby river seeing about twenty elephant and a similar number of buffalo in singles and pairs, plenty of hippos in and out of the water, beautiful giraffe and water buck.

I crossed the river and took a track on the other side carrying on in an easterly direction. The track deteriorated and it was clear that it had very little traffic. My satnav told me that if I continued on this track I would eventually get to the northern gate. I crossed some soft sand and mounted a ridge about 300mm high with my front tyres, but the rear wheels resisted. My wheels spun in the sand. I reversed a short way, but my trailer started to jack-knife, so I tried again, only to get completely stuck. It was 14h00 so I had plenty of time to get myself out. I deflated my tyres to 0.8 bar and tried to clear the sand in front of the rear tyres. I tried to move again and spun in deeper. My satnav gave me my coordinates and told me that I was twelve kilometres from the main road through the park. I was carrying a satellite phone for this very occurrence, but my sim had expired, and I had not been able to get a replacement in time before I left London. I noticed that I had a signal on my phone so sent messages to the park ranger I had met a few hours previously, to all three numbers of Lake Shore Lodge on the pamphlet they gave me as I left and to my wife, asking her to call the same three numbers, for them to call the park office. The signal was intermittent, so it was a good while before all messages went off but at least I had the comfort that people knew of my predicament. I was wilting in the hot sun. The trees in the vicinity were mainly palms so their branches provided no support. I went further afield looking for logs or stones that I could put under my rear wheel, carrying my spade in case I was attacked by an animal. I found a log, dragged it back to the car and broke it into useful size pieces, to the extent that I could. I carry a saw for these purposes, but I could not get to it in the back of my car because the trailer was standing at an angle to the car. I disengaged the trailer from the car and reminded myself on how to use my high-lift jack. I used the jack to lift the passenger rear side of the car as high as I dared. (high-lift jacks are very efficient, but inherently unstable.) I dug out the area in front of the tyre, placed logs under the tyre and a sand track for the route out and a sand track to spread the weight of the car over the logs. I dug out the route out for the driver side rear wheel.

I kept imagining that I could hear the distant sound of a rescue vehicle. It was now 18h30 so if I did not get out, I would have to pitch my tent and stay overnight. I engaged low range and locked my diff. I had done all I could. The car hesitated and then lifted and moved forward. I was delighted. I packed up my tools lying about, left my trailer and headed 56km to Sitalike, the village at the north end of the park. This was the third time this trip that I was breaking my rule of not driving at night. The gravel road through the park is potholed and slow going. I arrived at 20h00 at Riverside Camp to be greeted by Mr Juma, the owner, who installed me in my basic but clean room. There was no hot water in the shower, but I was desperate to be clean and used cold water. I consoled myself that the lack of dinner was a blessing for my waistline.
I later discovered that my messages to the ranger and Lake Shore Lodge never got through. Louise explained that all their numbers had been cancelled by the mobile phone operator when they did not use them on their recent long trip to South Africa. I should have used the number I had used to speak to her before I arrived at her lodge. My wife was at a matinee theatre performance and was distraught to read my message when she turned on her phone five hours later. But she also would not have got through to Lake Shore Lodge. No rescue vehicles were dispatched to save me!

Day 25 Sitalike to recover my trailer and then to Kigoma 433km
In the morning my waistline improved with a lack of breakfast. I went to the Park office to pay my entry fees which took a long time. By the time I returned to Riverside Camp, Mr Juma had recruited four villagers who squeezed themselves into my car. It took 80 minutes to get back to the trailer, five minutes to turn the trailer 180⁰ and ninety minutes to return to Sitalike.

Somewhere en route, as I hit potholes with speed in a loaded car, both my bonnet hinges broke. Mr Juma negotiated a price with the villagers for their three hours of time, which I gladly paid.
Mr Juma told me that the shorter route (415km) to Tabora, via Inyonga and Ipole, was impassable because floods had taken a bridge down. I needed to go the longer route (540km) via Uvinza and he felt that it was unlikely that I could get to Tabora tonight, leaving as I was at 11h00. How right he was! There was a tar road for the short distance to Mpanda where I filled up with diesel and inflated my tyres but thereafter the road was gravel which quickly deteriorated as the regular afternoon rains descended. I waited while construction trucks, working on a Sunday, dumped sand on the road.

I waited for thirty minutes while two trucks passing each other, both got stuck in mud and struggled to clear themselves.

I travelled slowly for fear of losing control and my trailer jack-knifing. After 230km in five hours I arrived at Uvinza at 16h00. I checked the IOverlander app for accommodation, which offered nothing acceptable. I called Louise at Lake Shore who told me, without hesitation, that I should not consider finding a place in Uvinza but should take the tar road, 107km, to Kigoma. I would find a good hotel on the lake waterfront.
Thirty kilometres towards Kigoma, on a good tar road, my driver side front tyre shredded. I had to assume that the tyre was not damaged on the tar but had been damaged when deflated on the road from my breakdown to Sitalike. I jacked the car up, but it did not go high enough. Twice more I jacked it up on different jacking points, adding what I could underneath the jack. Still no success.

I stopped a minibus and asked if they had a bigger jack, but they didn’t. I then revolted against my 4×4 training, which said that a high lift jack was too unstable to use to change a tyre. The tar road was flat and a firm base for the jack. The car lifted effortlessly to a high height. I was now an expert on using the jack! I gingerly replaced the wheel ensuring that I would not be hurt if the jack fell. The job was done. It had taken two hours. Night was falling.
Where did all these people come from and why did they congregate alongside the road on a Sunday night? The huge number of people was frightening, especially as they did not carry lights and wore dark clothes. My fourth time of night driving this trip. The going was very slow, and I eventually checked into Lake Tanganyika Hotel at 20h30. I luxuriated in a hot shower and tucked into chicken rice and a beer.

Day 26 Kigoma to Tabora 471km
I tried to find to find a replacement tyre without success and refused to take a 15” tyre for my 17” rims. I found a workshop to replace my two bonnet hinges from my stock and do a bit of welding to strengthen failing parts holding the bonnet on the car.


I drove to nearby Ujiji to the memorial of the place where Stanley met Livingstone under the mango tree. In August 1865, Livingstone departed from England on what was supposed to be his last and greatest expedition: a quest to locate the fabled source of the Nile River. The mission was supposed to last two years, yet by 1871, nearly four years had passed with only a few unclear updates on Livingstone’s whereabouts. Many Europeans had given him up for dead.
James Gordon Bennett Jr., the editor of the New York Herald, wished to get a scoop for his newspaper and he ordered Henry Morton Stanley (28), a newcomer to the Herald, to lead an expedition into the African wilderness to find the explorer, or “bring back all possible proofs of his being dead.” Stanley departed from the coastal port of Bagamoyo on 21st March 1871 with a large expedition and reached Tabora in July 1871. Tabora was an Arab enclave with large houses and lavish gardens occupied by wealthy Arab residents. Stanley had heard reports of a white man in Ujiji on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, so he headed in that direction. The caravan travelled hundreds of miles out of its way, through uncharted terrain, to avoid the tribal fighting taking place between Tabora and Ujiji. Over the next three months Stanley suffered from cerebral malaria and smallpox. Eventually, on 10th November 1871, he arrived in Ujiji. A mile from town, Stanley ordered the American colours raised. “The flags are fluttered, the banner of America is in front waving joyfully,” Stanley wrote. The sound of muskets firing and horns blowing filled the air. “Never were the Stars and Stripes so beautiful in my mind.” As Stanley entered Ujiji, thousands of people pressed around the caravan. And so, the two men met with Stanley apparently saying “Dr Livingstone, I presume”


Despite his failing health, Livingstone refused an offer to return home. After being resupplied by Stanley, he parted ways with his rescuers in March 1872 and made his way south to Lake Bangweulu in modern day Zambia. His illnesses later caught up with him, however, and he died from malaria and dysentery on 1st May, 1873.
There was an entry fee of TZS22,000 (£7) to the memorial and museum. I was shown the memorial and told that the adjacent mango tree was a descendant of the original tree. The rudimentary displays in the museum depicted the meeting but also focused on the slave trade.
Slavery was abolished in Portugal in 1761, in France in 1826, in Britain and the British Empire in 1834, in French colonies in 1848, in the USA in 1865 and in African Portuguese colonies in 1869. It is therefore not surprising that Livingstone found the fact that slavery still existed in East Africa in 1870 as abhorrent. The slave trade in that area had existed for a thousand years, with slaves taken to Arabic countries and to the East. The trade accelerated in the 18th and 19th centuries. At the time that Livingstone was in the area, slaves were being transported from the full length of Lake Tanganyika through Tabora and Bagamoyo to Zanzibar. Zanzibar became the main slave trading centre along the east coast of Africa. Increasingly slaves were kept in Zanzibar to work on clove plantations. In 1873, the year that Livingstone died, Sultan Seyyid Barghash of Zanzibar, under pressure from Great Britain, signed a treaty that made the slave trade in his territories illegal. That decree was not enforced effectively. It was not until 1909 that slavery was finally abolished in East Africa.
The descriptions above of the meeting of Livingstone and Stanley and the of the slave trade, bring home that although Livingstone was unusual to be a white man exploring the area, the local people have been there for thousands of years and the slave traders, including many Arabs, had been actively trading in the area for a thousand years.
I left Kigoma at 11h00 heading first to Uvinza. My satnav had not been updated for a new tar road that had been built (and which I had used the previous evening) and so I wasted an hour doing the longer route on a gravel road. After Uvinza the road alternated between tar, gravel and construction with about 100km being not tar. More rain made the gravel worse. I arrived in Tabora, a relatively large city, in the rain and checked into the Orion Tabora Hotel which was a blast from the past.

Day 27 Tabora to Arusha 642km
I was surprised that I had to pay the hotel bill in cash, so running short of cash, I sought out an ATM. Generally, it has not been too difficult to find ATMs. Some did not like my card. Visa has been preferred over Mastercard in Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I resented the 3% charge to withdraw money. The biggest denomination in ATMs appears to be TZS10,000 ($5) which means that one carries big wads of notes, especially as many filling stations only take cash. Many ATMs are watched over by armed guards. I then filled up with diesel – another cash transaction.
As I drove around town, I noticed that, even in poor neighbourhoods, the women particularly, going to work, were very smartly dressed. That has been a feature throughout the country. Police are impeccably turned out in white uniforms. School children are all in simple but smart uniforms, with Muslim girls wearing head coverings.
The road to Arusha was good tar for most of the way with little traffic. I listened to podcasts and travelled as fast as one can with 50kph village segments. I arrived in Arusha at about 16h00 to find the most modern town yet. There was even a Woolworths! The main road was busy with traffic and it took almost an hour to cross the town. After enquiring at four tyre shops I found my replacement tyre at the fifth at a similar price to South Africa. But I had to pay cash!
In the evening I called Kenyan Airways and changed my flight from Kilimanjaro to Nairobi from Friday 20th March to 18th March. I was promised an email confirmation, which never arrived, which should have been a warning to me. I spent £150 calling British Airways in the UK and later in the US to similarly change my flight to London but was told that it would cost an additional $1,300 to change flights. I decided to fly to Nairobi and if I could not get a flight from there at a reasonable rate, I would stay at an airport hotel until my BA flight on Friday night.

Day 28 Arusha to Moshi and back to Arusha 100km to car storage
I bought pretty stamps from the Post Office for my daughter, Juls, and collected the originals of my third-party insurance and COMESA Insurance from the broker. On the road out of Arusha I found a car wash and sat and watched for ninety minutes while my car and trailer were hand washed for TZS15,000 (£5).

The 100km between Arusha and Moshi takes two hours because of the volume of traffic, people and speed bumps. There must have been 100 police on that route, none of whom stopped me. This must be a huge waste of manpower. I drove past Moshi and turned down a small track and bumped around for a kilometre until I reached Kilimanjaro House surrounded by a high wall. I was expected and shown where I should park my car and trailer for the next few months. (I plan to travel in Tanzania and Kenya in August.) About twenty vehicles were parked there. The German owner had fled to Germany before the virus arrived in Tanzania. His local manager helped me disconnect all three batteries and took payment to purchase tarpaulins to cover my vehicles.

My taxi arrived and an hour later I was at Kilimanjaro Airport. To cut a long and sad story short I was refused boarding because I did not have a booked connecting flight out of Nairobi within twelve hours of arrival. I would also not be allowed to leave the terminal and would be returned to Kilimanjaro on the next flight at the airline’s expense. Another hour-long taxi ride returned me to my Arusha hotel where I spent the next two days sorting through my photos and writing this report.

Day 29 Arusha
I was guided by the hotel to a shoeshine man over the road and waited while my shoes were cleaned for TZS1,000 (33 pence). A man sitting on the bench with me, waiting for his shoes, told me that he was an accountant but ran and owned a private boarding school for seventy pupils. The government had closed all schools two days previously and he had just dropped the last pupils off at the bus station to return home. While we talked, I watched a woman wash and rinse a few flasks and several glasses and cups in two bowls of water on the pavement. I asked my companion what she was doing. He told me that she sold a type of hot gruel which people would buy from her as a type of breakfast. I asked if she was finished for the day and whether she could earn enough this way. He replied that she probably earned about TZS10,000 ($5) a day which would be enough for to provide for a small family! I walked for about two kilometres along the main road and bought more stamps for Juls.



Day 30 Arusha to Kilimanjaro Airport
I started the day by messaging on WhatsApp with our son, David. He is in the British Army and was returning home from Freetown, Sierra Leone to the UK, early because of the Coronavirus. His group could not fly from Freetown to the UK so had flown overnight, via Liberia and Ghana, to Nairobi, from where they flew to the UK, on Kenya Airways, shortly afterwards.
At 14h15, Steven, the taxi driver who had brought me from the airport two days previously, fetched me and delivered me an hour later to the airport. It is no surprise that airports are places of transmission of the virus as trolleys, passports and security trays are handled by multiple people. I had already checked in online with British Airways and produced my boarding pass to prove that I had a connecting flight out of Nairobi within twelve hours. To my surprise my luggage was checked through to London despite me flying on unconnected airlines. The Kenyans really wanted to keep us in transit. The flights to Nairobi and London were comfortable and uneventful and I arrived in London, in lock down status, on the morning of Day 31, 21st March 2020.

My thoughts at the end of the trip
This trip was too long and at the wrong time of the year. There were too many long driving days and not enough time to enjoy what was available. The 8,800km distance that I travelled was the longest of any of my African trips. On the way back I must split the trip and leave the car halfway back to Cape Town.
I experienced rain, sometimes torrential, on 70% of the days. The rain happened normally in the afternoon or night and did not necessarily prevent me from doing anything on the day, but it made the driving difficult, especially on wet gravel roads. My planned trip to non-public roads in the Kruger Park was changed because the roads were impassable. Zambia has a lot of rivers and they flood almost all the national parks in the summer which cause the parks to close, so they were not available to me on my way through. A combination of being out of season and the Coronavirus meant that I was the only guest in the place I stayed, on twelve nights, and otherwise stayed in relatively empty establishments.
The temperatures were milder than I expected, seldom getting above 30⁰C. The nights were generally comfortable to sleep in without air conditioning, when available.
Everywhere I travelled had had good rains and thus the vegetation was very green and overgrown. I was surprised at how forested Tanzania is.
The roads deteriorated as I moved north. The Zimbabwean and Zambian roads were generally good with occasional bad patches. The Tanzanian roads were slow going on the tar because of the frequency of 50kph sections near villages. A lot of the roads between major towns were gravel with many being very poor gravel.
The three border crossings that I did were better than I expected. My expectations were low, and I had read up on each border so knew reasonably what to expect. In general, the officials were polite and helpful. No one on the borders or police on the route asked me for a bribe.
I might be naïve, but I felt safe during the day, wherever I travelled in Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania. They certainly all feel safer than South Africa.
In all countries people were welcoming and helpful. In Tanzania many people only speak Swahili, but one could normally find someone nearby, who could speak English.
Looking at my photos I see that I do not have enough of the everyday scenes of people living their lives. I regret that.

Descriptions of Accommodation
I was travelling alone so in some cases have paid a single supplement. Hotels recognise that if a bed has not been sold it is better to get something at the last minute rather than nothing. Some of my last-minute rates were substantial discounts to rack rates. The assumption is that decent Wi-Fi was available in the bedrooms at no cost unless mentioned.
Cape Karoo Guesthouse, Beaufort West, South Africa. R650 (£33) per night per room only. Comfortable stop for a quick stay.
Funnystone Farm, near Barklay East, South Africa. Friends of my Aunt Rose.
Buller’s Rest Lodge, Ladysmith, South Africa. R870 (£45) per night per room including breakfast. Comfortable.
Torburnlea Luxury B&B, Mbombela, South Africa. R1,260 (£65) per night per room including breakfast. This is a favourite of mine and is luxuriously comfortable.
Senalala Safari Lodge, Klaserie Conservancy, near Hoedspruit, South Africa. R7,450 (£380) single occupancy per room including full board and two game drives a day. This is a favourite of mine and this was my fourth visit. I had a complimentary night given to me by the owner.
Bushveld Terrace Hotel, Phalaborwa, South Africa R1,950 (£100) per night per room including breakfast. I had to upgrade my room to get a room close enough to the reception to get Wi-Fi, which was then free. This was poor value for money.
Bonsai 4×4 Tours led by Johan du Plooy for four days. R12,750 (£653) including guide and entrance fees. Participants provide their own vehicle, camping equipment and meals. The fee would have been lower if there had been other participants.
The Old Mine Guesthouse, Musina, South Africa R805 (£41) per night per room only. This is a functional place which I used so that I could get to the border early next day
Chilo Gorge Lodge self-catering, Gonerezhou, Zimbabwe US$110 (£85) per night per room only in a self-catering cottage. A wonderful lodge with beautiful views over the Save River.
Montclair Hotel, Juliasdale, Zimbabwe. US$140 (£109) per night including breakfast. A horrible hotel that has had little maintenance for many years. Poorly trained staff and terrible food. Only good thing was the strong Wi-Fi everywhere. The worst value for money on my whole trip. Avoid.
York Lodge, Harare, Zimbabwe. US$150 (£119) per night including breakfast. This is a magnificent lodge and an absolute delight to be at.
Wild Dogs Lodge, 11km outside Lusaka, Zambia. US$100 (£78) per night including breakfast. Wi-Fi only in communal area. Out of the way. Will not use again.
Wasa Lodge, Kasanka National Park, Zambia. US$60 (£47) green season rate with single premium waived for Luwombwa Lodge, but which was flooded, so accommodated at more the expensive Wasa Lodge at same rate. Great location but rooms basic. They are replacing the rooms. Wi-Fi only at the office.
Kapiysha Springs Lodge, Zambia. US$80 (£62) per night per room only. I arrived in the dark after a hard drive and hated this place. The linen and bed linen felt one hundred years old. Had to pay extra for Wi-Fi, available in communal area only.
Holland House Guesthouse, Sumbawanga, Tanzania. TZS 30,000 (£10). Clean but very basic hotel in the confines of the city bus station. Claimed to offer Wi-Fi but not available. No hot water.
Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania. US$60 (£47) per night for room with communal ablutions. Meals extra at $20, $20 and $25 respectively for three courses for each of breakfast, lunch and dinner. Wi-Fi weak and only in communal area. My Tanzanian mobile phone signal had a good signal because of a nearby tower so I used that mainly for my internet connection. A wonderful place with amazing hosts, Chris and Louise.
Riverside Camp, Sitalike, Tanzania. TZS 40,000 (£13) per night, room only. Clean but incredibly basic and a dribble of a shower. Definitely no Wi-Fi.
Lake Tanganyika Hotel, Kigoma, Tanzania. US$75 (£58) per night including breakfast. Comfortable.
Orion Tabora Hotel, Tabora, Tanzania. TZS 95,000 (£32) per night including breakfast (but an extra charge for bacon). Had its heyday eighty years ago. Even has a Princess Margaret room. Big room but ancient. Could not get Wi-Fi to work. Woken by caged parakeets singing in the morning.
Four Points by Sheraton, Arusha, Tanzania. US$152 (£118) per night including breakfast. Very modern, comfortable with a central location.

Description of my vehicle and equipment
I drive a three litre, diesel 2010 Toyota Fortuner which I bought in 2014 with 76,000 km on the clock. At the beginning of this trip it had done 175,000 km. I have added the following: ARB front bull bars, Fortuner bash plate, Safari snorkel, enhanced coils, springs and shock absorbers, secondary battery system, 72 litre built in extra diesel tank, Rockshockerz purpose built rear bumper and carriers for two spare wheels (reduced now to one wheel carrier), Front Runner roof rack, a pull out awning fixed to the roof rack, Front Runner stainless steel/aluminium camp table, two diesel jerry cans and a 60 litre Engel Combi fridge/freezer.
For when I get stuck, I carry a box of towing and snatch ropes, a high lift jack, two other jacks, an ARB portable compressor, two Desert escape sand tracks, a 9000-winch fixed to the front bumper, a spade and an Iridium 9575 Satellite Phone. I also have a C-Track tracker on the vehicle with the ability to send a mayday message (although did not know how to do it, when I needed it).

The vehicle carried me comfortably all the way with no breakdowns en route except for one puncture. I serviced the car in Phalaborwa, and it must be serviced again before my next trip. I spent time in Kigoma having the bonnet hinges replaced and searched for tyres in Kigoma and Arusha, but otherwise did not lose time because of the car. Damage to the car included:
• Lost the bracket containing my spare wheel and number plate
• Driver side front tyre punctured and ruptured and replaced
• Replaced three driver side bonnet hinges and one passenger side bonnet hinge
• Had the cover under the fuel tank ripped off which was repaired and refitted
• Had the trailer electrical light cable ripped from the vehicle and need to replace the fitting

The Echo Trailer was bought in 2018 and did a return trip to Livingstone via Botswana in that year. I did not use it in 2019. The reason to use the trailer is so that I can accommodate more than two people on the trip. There is not enough space in the Fortuner to carry four people, all their luggage and all the camping equipment that is needed. The trailer has two cubic metres of general storage, a kitchen compartment containing crockery, food and a two plate gas stove, two gas containers, a 120 litre water tank, two diesel jerry cans and a bed on the roof with a tent that opens up over the bed and extends to the side of the trailer. I took the trailer to Tanzania so that it would be available when I travelled with four people in the area on subsequent trips

Whenever I can, I stay in hotels or self-catering units, but if these are not available, I am ready to camp in relative luxury with an Oztent RV5 tent, camp bed, one sleeping bag for temperatures down to 7⁰C and another for temperatures below that, Oztent Goanna chairs, a selection of pots, pans and cutlery, braai grid and a sixty litre tank of fresh water.

Cost Overview
Accommodation for the 28 nights on the trip and the two nights in Arusha waiting for my flights, including the two nights when I did not pay for accommodation, and the total cost of my guided trip with Bonsai 4×4 Tours£2,150
Diesel. I travelled 8,828km, consuming 1,291 litres, with an average consumption of 6.8 kms per litre. The average cost per litre, in £pence, of diesel, in the countries I travelled in, was: South Africa 84p, Zimbabwe 86p, Zambia 82p and Tanzania 78p£1,064
Carnets de Passage at R4,800 each x 2£657
Fees at borders£135
Fees to enter national parks and museums£143
Total of above£4,149
Excludes: meals not included in hotel cost, tips, vehicle servicing, repairs, insurance and storage
If I had been travelling with my wife, the above costs would have been not much more





Zambia and Zimbabwe Sep 2019

In September 2019 I drove from Livingstone in Zambia, circumnavigated the Kariba Dam, went through Hwange National Park into Botswana, had two days in the Tuli Block, one day in Khutse National Park and then drove to Cape Town.

When I quote prices, I use the original currency. At the beginning of my trip the exchange rates to the GB pound were: Zambian Kwacha 16, Zimbabwe $ 440, Botswana Pula 13.40, South African Rand 18.20 and US$ 1.22.

I was travelling alone in my Toyota Fortuner without my trailer (more details at end of article). I had left my vehicle with Nick Selby at Foleys Africa in Livingstone in May, so the car was serviced and ready to go when I landed in Livingstone on 4th September.

Day One – Livingstone, Zambia to Siavonga

After spending a day stocking the vehicle, I drove 500km on Friday 6th September 2019 to Siavonga which is in Zambia at the Kariba Dam Wall. Unlike Zimbabwe, there are no national parks on the shores of Kariba in Zambia. In fact, there are few places where one can get to the dam. The quick route is on the T1 via Mazabuka which is a good tar road, but I did not go all the way. In 270km I was stopped at four police roadblocks where my driving licence was checked at one and otherwise was told to continue. Instead of continuing on that road I turned south towards the dam at Chisekesi on the D375 firstly on to a pot holed road and then on a gravel road which deteriorated until I reached Chitembo on the shores of the lake. I had not intended to go to Chitembo but had missed the turning. Except for a few fisherman Chitembo was quiet although I had a chat to an entrepreneur who was planning to install fish cages in the lake. I returned 33km to Fumbo, found the correct turning on to the D500 and joined a good tarmac road. At Changa I turned south on to a gravel road, that needed a high clearance vehicle, but was a pleasant road to drive all the way to Siavonga. I drove almost continually for 8.5 hours.

At every village there were bags of charcoal on the roadside, waiting for collection. Charcoal is made by heating hard wood in a controlled environment getting rid of water and other volatile constituents leaving carbon. This is lightweight, can be burned to high temperatures and a small amount can go a long way in communities where fire is the principal way of cooking. Locals make charcoal which is then collected by middlemen with trucks. This scene is the same as I saw in Angola Of course it is another source of deforestation.

Day Two – Siavonga

The small town of Siavonga probably owes its existence to the building of the Kariba Dam and the ongoing maintenance of the power station. There are a small number of hotels catering for tourists who holiday at the lake, but they all look past their renovation date. There is little reason to stop over at Siavonga except to look at the dam wall.

I visited the Kariba Dam Wall. I left my vehicle at the Zambian Border Post and walked the two kilometres down the hill to the dam wall. I got a lift back.

The Zambezi River flows 2,600km from its source in Angola to its mouth in the Indian Ocean in Mozambique. For 760km it forms the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe and includes the full 280km length of the Kariba Dam, which is located half-way down the length of the river and with the dam wall 350km below the Victoria Falls. The Cahora Bassa Dam is located 500km further down the Zambezi River in Mozambique, was completed fourteen years after Kariba and has a capacity of about one third of that of Kariba.

The dam was officially opened by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth Queen Mother in May 1960 and the dam finally filled entirely in August 1963. When full the reservoir is 32km at its widest point, covers 5,500sq km (twice the size of Luxembourg), contains 180 billion cubic metres of water and loses 8 billion cubic metres of water pa to evaporation. The mean annual inflow is 55 billion cubic metres which explains why it took over three years to fill.

It was the biggest dam wall in the world when it was completed. It has six flood gates (each 9m x 9m) and when the reservoir is at its maximum level the daily flow through the six flood gates is a total of 0.8 billion cubic metres.

Over fifty thousand people, mostly of the Batonga tribe, were displaced by the creation of the dam, who were generally opposed to the move. The name Kariba (Kariva – meaning trap) refers to a rock which thrust out of the swirling water at the entrance to the gorge close to the dam wall site, now buried more than a hundred feet below the water surface. In many legends, this rock was regarded as the home of the great River god Nyaminyami, who caused anyone who ventured near to be sucked down forever into the depths of the river. During construction, in both 1957 and 1958, the river flooded (a once in ten thousand years event), causing huge damage and delay to the construction works and demonstrating the displeasure of Nyaminyami.

As the dam began to fill, it became evident that thousands of animals were being stranded on islands. Operation Noah was launched which saved 7,000 animals including forty-four rhinos. It reflected the dominance of colonial rule in Salisbury, then in Southern Rhodesia, that most of the rescued animals were relocated to the Zimbabwean side and most of the people, to the Zambian side. That difference continues today whereby there are almost no tourist sites or national parks on the Zambian side but two major national parks and other tourist facilities on the Zimbabwean side.

Besides water retention the other objective of building the dam was the creation of hydroelectric power. Both Zambia and Zimbabwe have power stations on their respective sides of the dam wall and both power stations have been extended a few times by the addition of extra turbines, most recently, for both countries, by the Chinese. The Zambian power station has a capacity of 960 megawatts (40% of the total installed electricity generation capacity of Zambia) and the Zimbabwean power station has a capacity of 1,050 megawatts (47% of the total installed electricity generation capacity of Zimbabwe). The reservoir is currently about ten metres below the high-water mark which has dramatically reduced the water volume going through the turbines. If the level of the dam continues to fall the point will be reached in a few months when it will be below the intake level and the turbines will no longer run. This has resulted in Zambia in power not being available for eight hours a day, often during the day, for several months now with a similar, and possibly worse, situation in Zimbabwe. As I write this beside the dam, the heavens have opened with the first rains of the season which hopefully portends a wet summer in the catchment area.

On the way down to the dam wall I passed a notice board advising of a four-year project to reshape the plunge pool. On further enquiry I discovered that the plunge pool was not a leisure pool but rather the area beneath the wall where the overflow from the dam plunges into. Apparently after almost sixty years the force of the overflow is in danger of undermining the foundations of the dam wall.

On the way back to my hotel I came across a collection of fishing boats. These are flat metal boats with a large net suspended at the back and two lamps hanging above the net. Fishing is done at night when the net is dropped into the water. The fish are attracted by the light and get caught in the net. These boats cannot withstand bad weather and are as basic as one can imagine. They all emit diesel fumes as they putt-putt onto the lake. An onlooker explained the fishing process to me and then explained that fishing yields of Kapenta (also called Tanganyika sardine) were well down with most boats catching 60kg per night compared to historical yields of up to 140kg. In response to my question he explained that the problem was an excess of boats. When I asked him what his vocation was, he replied with pride that he was the boat builder! Just like the gold rushes in California and Johannesburg, the winners were not the gold miners but those who provided the provisions.

Day Three – Siavonga to Mvuu Lodge

On Day Three I drove the 150km from Siavonga to Mvuu Lodge in the Lower Zambezi Game Management Area in 2.5 hours on good tar roads to Chirundu and then a gravel road where 50kph was the highest sensible speed. A game management area is not a formal game reserve but normally has no people living in it, and acts as a buffer between the game reserve and areas where people live. I pitched my tent overlooking the Zambezi and headed for the Lower Zambezi Game Reserve, half an hour away.

The Reserve appears to be badly managed. There are few signs to it, no signs in it and no maps available. There is a high level of erosion with many bands of erosion running towards the river. A reasonably good road (for a high clearance vehicle) runs about one kilometre from and parallel to the river. Tracks run from this road allowing one access between two bands of erosion and occasionally touching the river. There is a huge population of elephants who have devastated a lot of the vegetation. The reserve is caught between a range of mountains and the river. The man at the gate told me that the mountains were in the reserve but there was no access to them. After five hours in the reserve I decided that I had seen all I wanted to see and that there was no value in returning. I paid US$30 for myself and $15 for the vehicle for access for a day.

Day Four – Mvuu Lodge, Zambia to Mana Pools, Zimbabwe

The next day I returned ninety minutes to Chirundu, which is a thriving border town, and mentally prepared myself for the expected horror of getting through Zimbabwe border formalities. Chirundu is a major border crossing, particularly for trucks travelling between Lusaka and Harare.  Zambia and Zimbabwe have created a joint building where all formalities for both countries take place. I ignored the touts who offered to take me through the process. Leaving Zambia was a ten-minute process. I treated the entry into Zimbabwe as an academic exercise and have written a separate paper for those who wish to have guidance. Getting people though these border posts is relatively easy if you have a valid passport. The difficulty always relates to the vehicle and the fear of the host country that one will import the vehicle without paying import taxes. Normally a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) is issued which gives you authority to have the vehicle in the country for a set period. There are then a variety of other charges including third party insurance, road tax, carbon tax and even council tax. Any and all these documents can be inspected by the innumerable police road checks along the way. Because I had left my vehicle in Zambia for three months while I returned to the UK I was obliged to purchase a Carnet de Passage, which is issued by the Automobile Association of SA and which guarantees that if I do leave the vehicle in the foreign country they will pay the import taxes. I need to place a substantial deposit with the AA and pay a large fee. A big advantage of having a carnet is that the border officials see the holder as a low risk. In this case it also meant that I avoided queues of people waiting to have TIPs laboriously prepared and went straight to the more senior person who dealt with carnets. I subsequently spoke to other travellers who were delayed hours by officials demanding a ‘police clearance certificate’. Other countries may issue such a certificate, but the South African police will not, so a deadlock is reached. When I was asked for my police clearance, I proffered my carnet. I suspect, but do not know, if this official understood what he was looking at it, but he accepted it. To my surprise I was through the Zimbabwean border in an hour. Another 45km and I was at the Parks Zambezi Valley HQ at Marongora at the top of the Zambezi escarpment, 7km past the Mana Pools junction with the A1. One needs to get a permit at the HQ (no charge and no logical reason why the permit couldn’t be issued at the Mana gate or reception) which is then checked at every gate and reception office. There then followed 80km of some of the worst corrugated road I experienced on my trip to get me to the Nyamepi campsite at Mana Pools National Park.

Mana Pools is one of the golden parks in Africa. It is located directly across the Zambezi River from the Lower Zambezi National Park in Zambia and the animals can move between the parks when the river is low. (As I write this at my table outside my tent, I am looking over the Zambezi River and I can see an elephant on an island in the middle of the river. She must have originated from one of the parks.) I remember my father speaking with joy about Mana after visiting it in the late 1960s. It was recently the subject of a BBC documentary called ‘Dynasties’ which in one programme focused on the wild dog or ‘painted wolves’ packs in Mana. I suspect that the road and camp site infrastructure is the same as in my father’s time. Additional self-catering units and tented camps have been added and several private safari camps have been awarded concessions. All this accommodation is located along about fifteen kilometres of Zambezi River waterfront. Access is only for high clearance vehicles with most of the safari camp guests flying in.

I needed to change my bookings and obtain a further permit, so I spent some time with the 29-year-old manager of the reception office at the reserve, Masimba. On enquiry it transpired that he had both bachelor and master’s degrees and was working towards his doctorate on ‘Competitive Advantage’. He was about to move to the Harare HQ of the Wildlife Department to do marketing and had a long-term aim of being in academia. I wish him well.

Soon after setting up my tent I was approached by an eighteen year old named Reward (so named because after two older sisters his mother felt rewarded when a son was born!), who offered to protect my tent from marauding monkeys and baboons for the fee of US$10 per day which I beat down to $5. The next day when I returned to my campsite at midday, he was there catapult in hand. I got him to help me replace the broken bonnet hinge on my Fortuner (an event with a long back story) and I asked him questions. His father died when he was nine years old, and two months before his younger brother was born. The family, with two older sisters, could not afford to remain in Kariba Town so they moved to a rural village, He had passed his ‘O’ levels and had aspiration to be a businessman. Until he could afford the education, he needed he was sharing a room with a friend who worked for the reserve and doing whatever he could to earn money. I was embarrassed by my macho bargaining down of his fee and when I left, I paid him the best daily fee ever seen by a tent protector in Mana.

This area is very much a malaria area and I am conscientious about taking malaria tablets whenever I am in a designated area. Most of the beds had mosquito nets. It may have been that I was travelling before the rainy season, but I was only bothered by mosquitoes on two of the eighteen nights when I was in a malaria area.

Day Five and Six – Mana Pools

Mana Pools has a huge amount of buffalo, water buck, eland and too many elephants. The public part of the park is stretched along the Zambezi River giving one regular views of the river. One can traverse all the public roads in about five hours so two full days in the reserve is the right amount of time in my view. Some people were spending ten days and longer. I spent five hours each morning and three hours each afternoon exploring. There was a lion kill just before I arrived and another midway through which provided good photos of lions and vultures. I was intrigued by the fact that the female elephants were generally not in herds, as one would expect, but were often found alone with a calf. It was later explained by an expert that there was insufficient food for the number of elephants in the park and thus the herds were breaking up in a desperate attempt to each find food. 

The Nyametsi Wilderness area is part of the reserve but only two cars a day are given a permit to enter. I organised a permit and drove 21km through the attractive wilderness area but saw few animals and had to drive with closed windows because the tsetse flies were numerous and biting.

Unlike most national parks, Mana Pools has apparently always had a policy that visitors are free to walk in the Park and do not need to carry a rifle or use a guide. Professional guides make a business of running regular walking trips in the Park. I was surprised by how many people were walking without guides or rifles.

As I was leaving Lower Zambezi area, I met Bernd and Conny Kebbel from Windhoek. They arrived in Mana a day after me and were kind enough to invite me to have a campfire dinner with them on the two nights we were all in camp. They ran an off-road centre in Windhoek for many years and were very interesting to talk to. They were out earlier than me one morning and witnessed the lions killing the buffalo which they managed to film. This was very exciting as it was the first kill, they had witnessed in their lives. I am still waiting.

Day Seven – Mana Pools to Kariba

On leaving Mana I, asked for and, was given a permit to exit on the ‘River Road’ which runs parallel to the river and apparently ends near the Chirundu Border Post. I travelled for 80km over three hours and must have taken a wrong turning at some point because I reached the main road 23km from Chirundu. The manager at Mana HQ who gave me the permit could not answer my route questions because he had not travelled the route. I met three people along the route who told me to travel straight but that proved difficult to achieve when I came across many Y junctions where it was not clear which route to take. I disturbed staff at the Ruckomechi Wilderness Safaris Camp when I arrived there, but they pointed out the correct route, only for me to arrive a few kilometres later at the mouth of the (dry) Ruckomechi River. There was no obvious track on the other side of the two-hundred-metre-wide riverbed and a lot of soft sand. I then spied some tracks heading upriver so I engaged low range and tried to fly over the sand. A kilometre later I came across staff of a hunting lodge collecting sand, near a more substantial track. They told me this track, heading away from the river was the right track to Chirundu. At some point I must have chosen the wrong route because for the last thirty minutes of my journey I travelled due south, rather than the expected westerly direction.

The road that I had reached was the main Lusaka to Harare road which I had travelled on a few days earlier. It ascended about 800 metres over about 50km to Makuti, where I turned off to Kariba, and descended the 800 metres again over about 50km of attractive road to Kariba.

I realised that I had used far more diesel in Mana than I had anticipated, and with a national fuel shortage, I was now very fearful of having enough to cross the country. The three filling stations that I came across all had no fuel, but I was directed to the boat marina at Marineland in Kariba where I could buy diesel for US$1.25 per litre. I filled up 77 litres with relief.

At Marineland I saw a hundred empty house boats berthed. I was later told that the houseboat business is principally a domestic holiday business with few foreigners renting them. Apparently house boats have upwards of four guest cabins and with a crew cruise along the lake side. Activities are mainly game viewing from the water and fishing. The only time the boats are busy are over school holidays.

Kariba, like Siavonga in Zambia, is a disappointing town with little cause to visit it. I, however, checked into the Hornbill Lodge, an oasis of delight in Kariba. Family run by Sunera, with only five customer bungalows, it is a joy. I was told that the only other booking that night was a UK couple. They arrived, off the overnight flight from London, via Johannesburg to Lusaka and from there by a car transfer through the border. I listened in horror as they told me that they were booked to kayak down the Zambezi and camp, with two guides, on the riverbank, for five nights followed by three nights in a safari camp at Mana Pools. They had been assured by the holiday company that kayaking and camping on the Zambezi riverbank was safe. I later heard stories of people dipping their hand into the water from a kayak and also of people standing at the back and poling their canoe, and of chefs peeling potatoes on the rear boarding platform of houseboats, and all being pulled into the water by crocodiles and never being seen again.

Late in the afternoon our peace was disturbed by four noisy men who were seeking a room for the night. My heart sank as I feared that the evening would be spoilt by this overbearing group. They were loud, but also interested in us, and were fascinating. The men, aged between forty and fifty, had collected a friend’s Land Cruiser from Arusha in Tanzania, had travelled in Tanzania, Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia and were now heading for Cape Town via Mozambique. Two members of the party were Chris Marais, born in Cape Town, and his Moroccan born husband, Samir Kabbaj, both now living in Long Island, USA. Chris explained that houses in Morocco tend to be very similar with white interior walls. A resident of Casablanca asked Chris to arrange the internal decoration of their house. He showed me photos of the result and it was magnificent and, must have been, extraordinarily expensive. He was then asked by others to do the same and the business grew to the point where he was now working on twelve projects, some of which are new builds where he had designed the structure of the house. Later that night Chris and Samir, worked on fine tuning a design. See more at http://www.brucemarais.com/. A third member of the party was, Alex Van Nes, a South African, of Dutch parents, who trained in hospitality in Switzerland and had founded and run the Cape Town restaurant, The Five Flies, loosely based on the restaurant of the same name in Amsterdam. He had sold the restaurant and was now doing a lot of travelling. The fourth member is a quieter American, David, whose story did not emerge because the others claimed so much attention. The communal dinner and afterwards proved to be fascinating. They also gave me the names of must visit places in Malawi.

Day Eight, Nine and Ten – Matusadona National Park

The next morning, I travelled by motorboat from Kariba Marineland to Rhino Safari Camp in Matusadona National Park. There was a haze over the lake which, I was told, arose from the charcoal burning in Zambia and which meant that in mid lake the lake edges were not visible. As we crossed the lake, I was told that the dropping water level was causing islands to appear as well as forests of bare hardwood trees that had been submerged when the lake was formed. The combination of the haze and the emerging islands caused the boat driver to lose his way, so the eighty-minute trip took twenty minutes longer. This three-night visit to Rhino Safari Camp was the luxury of my trip as it was more expensive than I would normally pay. The camp is a typical safari camp with seven open sided rooms on stilts looking down to the lake and a communal area including a shaded dining area and bar.

My fellow passenger, Gareth from Harare, and I, were greeted by Peter Tetlow, the resident guide. Peter, 62, born in Zambia and a lifelong guide, was one of the best wildlife guides I have ever had. His knowledge of game, birds, flora, animal behaviour and environment and his observation skills were extraordinary. A family of four adults from Cape Town were in camp for our first two days and two parties of six persons in total arrived the day before we left. Two of those who arrived were Ralph Stutchbury and his wife Barbara who were very interesting. Ralph is a professional wildlife filmmaker and photographer.

For the next three days we did two boat trips and three game drives. We descended from the game drive vehicle several times to do game walks, once following the spoor of a leopard, once because we had a flat tyre a kilometre from the camp, but generally to get closer to the bush. One sees less animals when walking but Peter kept us entranced as he explained every aspect of the bush to us. We saw lots of elephants, hippo and impala and an obscured view of a leopard up a tree. The real gem, however, was listening to Peter.

Rhino Safari Camp is a concession which has a long lease from Zimbabwe Wildlife to operate a camp in the Matusadona National Park. The camp is in the Park on the shore of Lake Kariba without any fences. Animals are free to roam through the camp and on the second night we had to delay the return to our chalets because a whole herd of elephant were moving around the chalets. South African National Parks historically has operated with all accommodation in fenced off camps and a prohibition on getting out of your vehicle except at designated picnic spots. That is still the general rule, but they have introduced short walks, multi day hikes and 4×4 multi day trails in many of their parks where one is on foot in game areas. Normally such activities include a guide with a rifle. They have also introduced a limited number of cottages in game areas where there are big signs warning that lions are about and not to wander from the cottage. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe follow a more relaxed approach with a lot of chalets and camp sites in game areas. In Mana Pools we continually had elephant in the main camp site. Some of these elephants are clearly very habituated to humans, which may be safer for the humans but is generally not a good thing with wild animals. At both lion kills at Mana people told me of seeing walking groups within a few hundred metres of the kills. Most private safari camps do not have fences to encourage the feeling of being in the wild. I have had lions in amongst my tents twice in 2018 in Botswana. I mentioned earlier the UK couple who were kayaking and camping in hippo and crocodile infested water. People quickly get used to being in areas with game which also leads to them being too relaxed. Peter Tetlow told many stories of both guides and clients not taking proper care and being injured or killed by wild animals. He warned particularly against allowing young children to be in unfenced areas because he said they were particularly vulnerable to predators. The lodges of course, try and give minimum publicity to such events.

I asked Peter what he thought about the Mountain Gorilla experiences in Rwanda and Uganda. This is where a small group of about ten people spend about an hour within metres of gorillas. The gorillas are exposed to humans once a day for an hour. There are strict rules about proximity and acceptable actions in the presence of the gorillas. I have not been a supporter of these experiences because I compare them to zoos where the animals become very habituated to humans. Peter’s response was that it was unfortunate that 100 gorillas had become habituated to humans, but these actions had saved the other 900 mountain gorillas left in the world. It is his view that because it is very expensive to view them and many people now make a living from the process, that the gorillas are now valued and protected and have, therefore, survived.

There is no doubt that Matusadona National Park has been mismanaged. Peter Tetlow, remembers the days in the 1970s when two wheel drive cars would drive into the park. Today the road is so bad it takes five hours of 4×4 driving to do the 60km from the main gravel road to the Park HQ on Kariba Lake. The park has suffered decades of under investment, bad management and poaching by staff.

Africa Parks has been negotiating to take over the management of the Park. ‘African Parks is a non-profit conservation organisation that takes on the complete responsibility for the rehabilitation and long-term management of national parks in partnership with governments and local communities. They currently manage 15 national parks and protected areas in nine countries covering 10.5 million hectares: Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Zambia.

The organisation was founded in 2000 in response to the dramatic decline of protected areas due to poor management and lack of funding. African Parks utilises a clear business approach to conserving Africa’s wildlife and remaining wild areas, securing vast landscapes and carrying out the necessary activities needed to protect the parks and their wildlife. African Parks maintains a strong focus on economic development and poverty alleviation of surrounding communities to ensure that each park is ecologically, socially, and financially sustainable in the long-term.’

After my trip on 1st November 2019 it was announced that Africa Parks had been awarded a twenty year contract to manage the park. That is great news.

Day Eleven – Back to Kariba

On returning to Kariba Town I returned to the lovely Hornbill Lodge to use their Wi-Fi before returning to being off the grid.

Day Twelve – Kariba to Chizarira

On Day Twelve, 12th September, I set off on a journey that I knew was going to be difficult. I first travelled 150km on good tar roads to Karoi, which is on the main A1 road from Lusaka via Chirundu to Harare. Seventy percent of the vehicles on the road are heavy trucks. I had been directed to the ‘GoWest’ filling station in Karoi where I filled up with diesel at US$1.20 per litre. I then backtracked eight kilometres to the turn off to the road that followed the length of the Kariba Lake. Over the next two days I spent almost eight hours travelling 438km to the Cross Roads junction on the Victoria Falls to Bulawayo A8 road. This was 150km of reasonably good tar with the rest being bad gravel roads with huge numbers of pedestrians and animals. This is the shortest route to get to Hwange National Park, but it is a hard way to go.

En route I stopped overnight at Chizarira National Park. I knew that it had been badly poached but that a charity had taken over the running of the park and that the outlook was good. Unfortunately, my experience was bad as the reception had no map of the park and the man on duty was new and knew nothing about the park. I drove 15km down a road with almost no animals and then backtracked to find my campsite. The park is situated on the edge of the escarpment so there is quite a climb to get to it. My campsite overlooked valleys below which was very beautiful. I departed the park first thing in the morning.

Day Thirteen – Chizarira to Hwange

47km further down the road I came to the junction to Binga. I travelled the 10km into Binga which is the only town of significance on the south side of Kariba Lake except for Kariba Town. There is no need to visit Binga unless you need fuel, accommodation or want to visit the crocodile farm.

A further 25km down the road I came to the junction to Maabwe Bay, so I turned off and travelled the 23km to Maabwe Bay which is run by Richard and Margot Donaldson. They have divided their long leasehold from the government into thirteen plots which they are selling. Until they are all sold, they let out two chalets and several camp sites to fishermen and birders. They are active on social media and had been helpful in the planning of my trip. I met Richard, saw the accommodation and bought 23 litres of diesel at $1.40 per litre. (Richard apparently does a 160km round trip to buy 200 litres at a time from a secure source). Another 100km on reasonably good tar roads brought me to the Cross Roads junction and shortly thereafter arrived in the vicinity of the Main Camp gate into Hwange National Park. I have prepared a separate section by section description of the 438km trip.

I checked into the declining Hwange Safari Lodge, just outside the gate, showered in a bath that was so marked that it looked forty years old, had poor quality food and received my laundry back ironed but wet. I did have lovely crisp sheets.

Day Fourteen – Southern Hwange

On 19th September, I drove 6km to the Hwange National Park, paid $15 for me (SADC rates) and $10 for my vehicle for a day pass at Main Camp. I was then faced with unattractive choices. If I was not going to backtrack but wanted to return to my hotel that night, I had a choice of two long loop drives – one 150km long and the second 75km long. I started on the long loop at 07h00 and it took me seven hours to complete. The roads were once easily accessed by normal two-wheel drive sedan cars have not been maintained, have not been graded for years and are very sandy or very corrugated for most of the time. The bush was extremely dry with almost no animals between water holes. At many of the water holes water was being pumped by solar pumps from boreholes. These waterholes are life saving for the animals. I spent thirty minutes watching a herd of eighteen elephants at one waterhole. There were plenty of impala, zebra and baboons. There were less giraffe and buffalo. There were single specimens of the rare sable and the even more rare roan. Late in the drive I came across a waterhole with very little water and eighty elephants trying to quench their thirst resulting in some elephant temper tantrums.

I took up the offer of the booking clerk at Main Camp for 25 litres of diesel at $1.40 per litre. After a horrible toasted cheese sandwich at Main Camp I then spent three hours doing the shorter loop which was not enough time and had me rushing to get back before the gate closed. I did not see much game, but the highlight of the afternoon was a martial eagle with its prey of a guinea fowl, half eaten, on a branch two metres from the ground, next to the road. He was reluctant to fly off for fear that his guinea fowl prey would fall apart so instead just glowered at me. Beautiful! At the last waterhole, between Main Camp and the park boundary, I came across two hundred elephant having sundowner drinks.

I saw very few private vehicles during the day but many safari camp game drive vehicles. The authorities have found that a way that they can earn good revenues without doing much, is to lease concessions of land, within the reserve, to private operators who set up camps and fly their clients in.

Day Fifteen – Northern Hwange

The next day I crossed the park doing 150kms to Robins Camp. I saw the same selection of animals from some useful viewing platforms at different water holes.

Later in the afternoon, following a tip that lions had been seen at Little Tom waterhole in the morning, I spent an hour there. I saw no mammals but did see two small wader birds dive bombing a fish eagle who had landed on the bank, presumably, close to their nest. Even when the fish eagle took to the air, they kept bothering it until it left the area.

Robins Camp was a delight. It was a long-standing Parks Board camp but was leased to a private operator, who runs three safari camps in this part of the reserve. The original chalets have been rethatched and renovated inside, the bar has been given a face lift, an attractive outdoor dining area has been created and a chef provides great meals. Wi-Fi access can be bought. This part of the reserve has lots of loop roads and unlike the flat area around Main Camp, has more hills. This is the place to stay in Hwange.

After the trip I came across a guide and map for Wankie Game Reserve (now Hwange) which my father received when he visited the reserve in 1952. The map is surprisingly similar to a current map with just a few additional roads added in the last 65 years. The prices are however very different!

Day Sixteen – Robins Camp, Zimbabwe to Tuli Block, Botswana

I travelled 50km on a relatively bad track to the Pandamatenga Border Post with Botswana. Only four vehicles passed through the border the day before. I exited Zimbabwe in five minutes and took ten minutes to enter Botswana. What a delight. I was met by a complete contrast to Zimbabwe with a good quality tar road leading from the border and as much diesel as I wanted a few kilometres away. I turned on my library of podcasts in my iPad, turned south on excellent tar roads and covered seven hundred kilometres in nine hours, with an hour for lunch in Francistown and arrived as the sunset at Serolo Safari Camp in the Tuli Block in the eastern corner of Botswana.

Day Seventeen- Tuli Block

The Tuli Block is a game area on the Limpopo River with Mapungubwe National Park in South Africa across the river. It is not a national game reserve but is rather a collection of game farms on long leases from the Botswana Government. Serolo Safari Camp has arranged traversing rights with the two adjacent farms which means that they do not allow one to self-drive and their game drives are limited as to where they can go and keep retracing their route. Having said that their guide, Jerry, knows the area incredibly well and on our three game drives we saw lions with cubs, hyenas with cubs, African wild cat and a good selection of other animals. The bush was extremely dry and there was one pool in the Limpopo River but no flowing water. There were four people from the UK and Belgium in on the first day and the owner’s brother and partner on the second day, who were all good company.

Day Eighteen – Tuli Block to Gabarone

I travelled 500km on good tar roads to Gabarone. I stopped at a vehicle body shop in Mahalapye for two hours where they replaced my right bonnet hinge (again) and welded some parts under my bonnet to hold the bonnet more firmly in place. (I believe that I overloaded the vehicle with a heavy, purpose-built roof box a few years ago which I suspect caused either the bonnet or the surrounding frame to bend slightly. The strain on the hinges on bad roads is too much and they break. Since then I must replace a few bonnet hinges on every trip. Several Toyota service managers have told me that they have never seen a bonnet hinge break. I now carry several spare hinges with me.) I overnighted at Cresta Lodge in Gabarone and used the Wi-Fi to catch up on my life and the chaos happening in UK politics.

Day Nineteen – Gabarone to Khutse

The next day I travelled 210km to the gate of Khutse Game Reserve and then a further 62km to Moreswe Pan where I camped. I paid entrance fees of Pula 120 per day for myself and Pula 50 per day for the vehicle so a total of Pula 340 (£25) for the two days. Khutse Game Reserve is a little pimple of a reserve on the southern border of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. This was a trip down memory lane for me as I had travelled to Khutse with my father in about 1973. The roads to the reserve were far worse, there was no sat nav and one hired a guide at the gate. Once in the park there have been almost no changes in 45 years except for the establishment of pit toilets and bucket showers. The bush was extremely dry, and the only water had been pumped by solar boreholes. I saw five elephants at both Molose waterhole and Moreswe Pan and a small selection of other animals. While distances are long there are very few roads in the park, so game drives normally mean having to return on the same road. I had planned to stay two nights but felt after one that an extra day would yield little. I met only two other parties in the reserve. To my amazement they were staying eight and nine days respectively in the park. I had taken a wrong turning on the way to the park and had travelled on very sandy tracks for the last 100km. I was delighted, on leaving, to find a wide good quality gravel road for 100km to the tar.

Day Twenty – Khutse, Botswana to Mafikeng, South Africa

On good tar roads I avoided Gabarone and arrived at about 14h00 at the Ramatlabama border post with South Africa. I cleared the Botswana side in five minutes and did the same on the South African side, but I then asked SA Customs to sign the declaration on my Carnet de Passage that the car was back in South Africa. I need that declaration to recover my deposit from the AA of SA. The manager of the department was called, and three customs officials took 40 minutes to complete the task which included writing a full report about what they were doing!

Shortly thereafter I arrived in Mafikeng to find two hotels had been besieged and were full, so settled on a room in the Mmabatho Palms Casino Hotel. To my amazement the casino was packed full that night. Where do all these people come from on a Wednesday night?

Day 21 – Mafikeng to Mokala National Park

On 26th September, I turned on my podcasts and travelled fast the 365km to Kimberley. I stopped off for half an hour at a tyre shop to swap my rear right tyre with an unnatural bump in it with one of my spare tyres. I visited the Big Hole in Kimberley.

The Big Hole is an open-pit and underground mine in Kimberley. The first diamonds here were found on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the De Beers brothers, in 1871. The ensuing scramble for claims led to the place being called New Rush, later renamed Kimberley in 1873. From mid-July 1871 to 1914 up to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,720 kilograms (13,600,000 carats) of diamonds. The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares and is 463 metres wide. It was excavated to a depth of 240 metres but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 metres Since then it has accumulated about 40 metres of water, leaving 175 metres of the hole visible.

As digging progressed, many men met their deaths in mining accidents. The unsanitary conditions, scarcity of water and fresh vegetables as well as the intense heat in the summer, also took their toll. In March 1888 the leaders of the various mines decided to amalgamate the separate diggings into one big mine and one big company known as De Beers Consolidated Mines Limited, with life governors including Cecil John Rhodes, Alfred Beit, and Barney Barnato. I viewed some of the exhibits and viewed the hole from a viewing platform.

I then headed 90km south to Mokala. I arrived at the Lilydale entrance to Mokala National Park at 16h00 and spent the next two hours driving through the park. This one of SANPs Arid Parks which are parks in arid areas of South Africa, and which all have springbok in them. This park has a strapline of ‘The place of endangered species’ as they have rhino, roan and sable as well as 150 buffalo. I saw none of them and had to be satisfied with springbuck, giraffe and red hartebeest. Others I spoke to stayed longer than me and saw much more. After a 90-minute drive in the morning I headed south again.

Day 22 – Mokala to Loxton in the Karoo

Soon after I turned on to the A12 I saw a building of the African San Taxidermy Studio. I do not support hunting but have used a taxidermist to clean and mount horns which I have obtained from game farms where the animals have died of natural causes. At Bosch Luys Kloof Lodge I have previously admired a table mounted stuffed genet, which is a small animal. The owner explained to me that he had found it dead on the road and had frozen it until he got it to a taxidermist. With this in mind I turned into my newly found taxidermist, Fritz, to enquire if he had a stuffed genet. He had a genet but it was waiting to go out to a client and so he tried to persuade me to buy something else taking me through his warehouse. What a collection! He had a few hundred stuffed animals and those in process for clients. He had also purchased a collection of about fifty stuffed shoulder mounts from a deceased estate which he was sending to China to auction. I declined to buy a porcupine, jackal and a steenbok and fought temptation to buy a pair of buffalo horns and a zebra skin mat. I was not persuaded that I should buy zebra skin mats from him to sell at a higher price in Cape Town. I left my details for the day a genet comes in.

I had sought recommendations from the Tracks4Africa forum as what to do in the Karoo. The principal advice was to get on to gravel roads and head for Loxton. At Hopetown I turned on to the gravel road to De Aar and found myself travelling a relatively uninteresting straight road beside the railway line. The trip brightened when the Blue Train came by. From De Aar I drove to Carnarvon and then on to Loxton. As I drove through these towns, I wondered what kept them going. They all, except for Loxton, seemed to be run down.  I was told that the area was suffering from the worst drought in one hundred years. Reliable sources indicate that because of the drought 60,000 farm workers have been laid off in the Northern Cape who have 250,000 dependants. Large sheep farms have sold or lost most of their sheep and over 100 farmers have committed suicide. Water related Facebook sites that I follow have been appealing for funds, food and food for livestock for these areas although I suspect that most of the aid is going to farmers rather than their workers. Every time I stopped to look at my map, I found someone knocking on my window begging.

I followed the advice I had received and on arriving in Loxton I filled up diesel at the Kooperasie, had a milkshake at Die Rooi Granaat, photographed the impressive (aren’t they always) NGK church and wandered through the collection of old trucks at the Truck Museum.

I presented myself at the Art Gallery where I settled down with coffee with the owners, Annelise Vorster Meyer and Alewyn Vorster. He had been in special forces of the South African Army for thirty years and afterwards had worked in Nigeria for three years and the UAE for ten years as a security advisor. They had now returned to the place of their childhood, Loxton, where he was setting up a campsite and she was displaying her art in her gallery. We talked about his ancestor who had ridden with the Boers from Loxton to fight the British in the Boer War, Zimbabwe and the dire straits that Karoo farmers are finding themselves in because of the drought. I spent R440 (£24) on a painting of a windmill, house and washing on the line to add to my large collection of windmill paintings.

I overnighted just south of Loxton at Jackhalsdans Farm where I had the run of a whole farmhouse.

Allow me to give some background. South Africa has a long history of rural living and exploration as people trekked northwards to avoid the taxing British. They became expert at preserving food including bottled and dried fruit, rusks and biltong. Biltong is dried meat which is salted and in recent years has been flavoured with herbs and peri peri. Sliced biltong is often presented as a snack in modern homes.

South Africa has a deserved reputation for game viewing in huge national parks and hundreds of game farms. There are also many hunting and game biltong farms. All these game farms need to find a balance in their game numbers and so there is a vibrant trade in game, where game of one sort is captured on a farm and then sold and transferred to another farm. The process of capturing and transporting game is done by experts who may include vets on their team. If a farm wishes to sell e.g. wildebeest the game capture team will set up a large funnel of canvas or similar material leading to a stockade. The wildebeest are then found by a small helicopter and driven by the helicopter to the funnel. I noticed at Jackhalsdans Farm that there was a small two-person helicopter, covered and strapped to a trailer. The owners are game capture experts who transport their helicopter to the capture farm before it takes to the air.

Linda, my host, explained that the family had spent a week camping on land that they own near Kimberley and had arrived back just before I arrived. She then told me that the principal reason for going to their Kimberley property was that they needed a new supply of biltong and so her sons (both appearing to be aged under seven) had hunted antelope that could be converted to biltong! I recoiled and then realised what a staid city dweller I am. This family lives a life that is completely foreign to me.

Day 23 – Loxton to Prince Albert

After leaving the farm I headed south on the gravel road towards Beaufort West passing over the attractive Molteno pass.

My afternoon activities can be summarised by looking at the texts that I sent to Johan at the B&B that I was staying in that night in the small town of Prince Albert:

12h15 Just arrived in Beaufort West. With you between 14h00 and 15h00.

14h06 Sorry I am running late. I am 66km from Prince Albert and making slow going on a farm road. My arrival time is now likely to be close to 16h00. Apologies.

15h41 This is getting worse and worse. I was on a public road that somewhere became a private track. I am heading across farmland and can see the N1 ahead on my satnav. I will let you know when I reach a public road and can get a distance and time to you. Sorry.

16h15 I have hit the N1 73km from Prince Albert. I should be with you by 17h15.

17h00 Arrived.

I had left Beaufort West on the A12 tar road in the direction of Oudtshoorn seeking a farm road that would take me towards Prince Albert. My satnav told me that the road to Jagerskraal was such a road. I was delighted to find such an interesting road. About an hour down that road after opening and closing eight farm gates I came to the gate to the Wilgerbos Farm with a notice that said that access was limited to emergency services, police and those chasing livestock thieves. In addition, the gate was locked (with phone numbers to get the code) and was also secured by a coil of wire that would have needed me to use pliers to undo. I got no answers from the two telephone numbers (even though I had network connection). I suspect that the farmer has illegally blocked a public road. I reluctantly turned to a nearby gate and followed tracks that merged and separated from others, sometimes backtracking and eventually (after opening and closing four more gates) arrived at the unoccupied farmhouse of the farm Uitkyk belonging to the Keith Kroon Trust, which was close to the N1 road. I was very pleased to arrive in Prince Albert forty-five minutes later.

Day 24 – Prince Albert, to Hell and back and then to The Retreat at Groenfontein

I woke on Sunday 29th September hearing rain and my weather report predicted heavy rain from midday. I headed slowly up the gravel Swartberg Pass stopping to take photos of the scenery and flowers.

The Swartberg Pass is 24km long, connecting Prince Albert and Oudtshoorn, has an overall height gain of 840 metres, was the last pass built by Thomas Bain in the Cape and was completed in 1886. The drizzle stopped, the clouds cleared, the sky was blue and at 10h00 when I was 3km from the summit I arrived at the junction with the road to The Hell. The formal name of The Hell is Gamkaskloof which is a narrow-isolated valley 32km long with a maximum width of 180 metres surrounded by the Swartberg mountain range. At around the time of the Great Trek, in the 1830s, a few families climbed the mountains to settle in the valley, away from the Colonial British. In 1962 a road was built from the existing Swartberg Pass to the valley. This road is a dead end as one must return the same way. As the weather had cleared (the forecast was clearly wrong!) this was the road that I now took. The 37km road from the junction to the valley floor has 200 bends, curves and corners, climbing a total of 1,050 metres and descending a total of 1,850 metres. The final descent to the valley floor is via the Elands Pass which drops 580 metres over 5km. The attraction for many people of this pass is the magnificent views, multiple hairpins, narrow width and steep, unguarded drop-offs. I have travelled this road twice before. I took my time, stopping often to take photos noticing the small streams that were running, probably because of the earlier rain.

I started to worry that the clouds were gathering again and after ninety minutes, as I reached the peak of Elands Pass it started to drizzle. I met up with a group of mad cyclists who had cycled down the day before but were wisely not planning to ride the route back in the rain and loaded their cycles on to a trailer behind their support van. I was fearful that the road and the going would deteriorate in the rain, especially if it was heavy.

Having achieved my objective of reaching the valley floor, I turned my car round and got the hell out of there. The intensity of the rain increased, the road back was very wet and very muddy. I turned back on to the Swartberg Pass and climbed to the summit in the mist. As I summited the wind and rain increased and I descended the pass with poor visibility at a very careful speed. I was pleased to reach the valley floor and took the road to The Retreat at Groenfontein.

During the trip the daytime temperatures had been in the range of 28⁰C to 34⁰C with night-time temperatures dropping to 15⁰C to 20⁰C. The only rainfall that I experienced was in the night in Siavonga and again on this day. Otherwise I had day after day of blue weather. September is an ideal time to travel in this part of Africa.

Day 25 – Near Calitzdorp to Sutherland

I was on the road by 08h30 on Monday 30th September first visiting Peter Bayly Wines. Peter had not returned from a weekend in Cape Town, but I recalled from a previous trip that he told me that he had to surround his half hectare vineyard with a high electrified fence to keep the baboons from eating his grapes. At times he has one hundred baboons on the cliff beyond the vineyard. His speciality is wonderful port.

I took a slow road through the beautiful Seweweeks Poort, then a good gravel road towards Laingsburg which became a good tar road and good tar then all the way to Sutherland.

Arrived after four hours and immediately experienced the coldest day of my trip.  I did a tour of the NGK church which is quite magnificent. It was built in 1900 to accommodate 1,100 and has probably never been full. Current attendance is an average of 35 each Sunday. Jenny Kruger, the very good guide, told me that the consecration of the church was delayed because of the Boer War when British soldiers were billeted in the church for eight months. She told me that having the South African Astronomical Observatory had saved the town which as a result, now has forty guesthouses.

The South African Astronomical Observatory chose to be located just outside Sutherland in the Karoo on an arid plateau, 370km inland and 1,800 metres above sea level with minimal light and air pollution, low humidity and 300 good weather viewing nights per year. Sutherland is consistently the coldest town in South Africa and has snow in the winter. The site has fifteen major telescopes some of which have been completely funded by international institutions. An example is Birmingham University in the UK which has a dedicated telescope on site which is operated from Birmingham.

The largest telescope on the site is SALT (imaginatively called South African Large Telescope) which has an eleven-metre span comprising 91 mirrors or segments. It commenced operations in November 2011. It is the fifth largest telescope in the world and the largest in the southern hemisphere. A permanent team of astronomers follow a work pattern set by a committee focusing on specific areas of the night sky for an agreed number of hours each night. All their results are recorded on computers and as a result can be studied multiple times. I did a public tour where we were shown how different gases give off different shades of the light spectrum. Observing these shades of the spectrum astronomers can therefore deduce what gas a very distant astronomical body is principally comprised of. We viewed three of the telescopes including SALT. The maintenance arrangements for SALT are interesting including the removal of two mirrors each week for cleaning and recoating. The temperature inside the SALT building is reduced before nightfall to the same as the external night temperature (8⁰C later that night) to reduce condensation on the mirrors. The roof opening and the SALT telescope are mechanically moved to align with the part of the sky to be studied that night. I also learnt that one light year is almost 10 trillion kilometres. This was a fascinating insight into a world I know very little about.

Day 26 – Sutherland to Cape Town

I had forgotten my laptop, iPad and phone at the breakfast table at The Retreat at Groenfontein so I had to return there on my final day of travel, before taking the easy tarmac road drive to Cape Town thus ending my 7,000 km twenty-six-day trip. The highlights were Mana Pools, Matusadona, Hwange, Serolo Safari Camp in the Tuli Block, the Swartberg Pass and the road to The Hell and the South African Astronomical Observatory at Sutherland.

Descriptions of Accommodation 

I was travelling alone so in some cases have paid a single supplement. Hotels recognise that if a bed has not been sold it is better to get something at the last minute rather than nothing. Some of my last-minute rates were substantial discounts to rack rates.

Green Tree Lodge – Livingstone, Zambia. US$65 (£53) per night per room including breakfast. Host is Andrew. Simple, efficient, comfortable with good food. Good Wi-Fi in dining room.

Lake Safari Lodge – Siavonga, Zambia. US$85 (£70) per night per room including breakfast. Been in decline since its heyday forty years ago. Wi-Fi only in communal area.

Mvuu Lodge Campsite – Game Management Area of Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia. US$28 per night (£23). Great location overlooking the river, but absent owner means facilities running down and staff busy on their phones. No Wi-Fi.

Nyamepi Campsite – Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe. US$70 per night (£57). Great location on banks of Zambezi. Elephants in camp. Ablution blocks not been renovated in fifty years. No Wi-Fi.

Hornbill Lodge – Kariba Town, Zimbabwe. US$115 (£94) per night including dinner and breakfast. Host is Sunny (Sunera). A very special gem with five unique chalets, great service and great food. Good Wi-Fi in communal area.

Rhino Safari Camp – Matusadona National Park, Zimbabwe. US$250 (£205) per night (US$200 for third night) including all meals, drinks and two game drives a day. Perfect location. Comfortable chalet. Great food. World beating guide. Hosts are Karl and Jenny. Paid extra US$15 for very limited satellite Wi-Fi.

Mucheni View Campsite – Chizarira National Park, Zimbabwe. US$50 (£41) Great view, no water or facilities. No Wi-Fi.

Hwange Safari Lodge – Zimbabwe. $144 (£118) per night including breakfast (last minute rate). Lovely crisp sheets but showered in a bath that was so marked that it looked forty years old, had poor quality food and received my laundry back ironed but wet. Good Wi-Fi.

Chalet at Robins Camp – Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. US$119 (£97) including full board. Wonderful improvement to this privatised camp. Very comfortable. Expensive Wi-Fi in dining area at US$10 for 500mb.

Serolo Safari Camp – Tuli Block, Botswana. R1,495 (£82) per night including four meals and two game drives per day (last minute rate). A lovely experience and the best deal of my trip. Host is Julie. No Wi-Fi.

Cresta Lodge – Gabarone, Botswana. Pula 1,500 (£112) per night including breakfast. Slightly worn but secure parking. Good Wi-Fi.

Moreswe Pan Campsite – Khutse National Park, Botswana. Pula 250 (£19) per night. Magnificent location with basic shower and pit toilet. No Wi-Fi.

Mmabatho Palms Casino Hotel – Mafikeng, South Africa. R1,550 (£85) including breakfast (last minute rate). Very worn with poor service and even worse restaurant, packed with gamblers. Good Wi-Fi.

Self-catering chalet at Mosu Lodge Camp – Mokala National Park, near Kimberley, South Africa. R1,161 self-catering (£64). Functional. No Wi-Fi.

Self-catering house at Jackhalsdans Farm – Near Loxton, South Africa. R1,200 (£66) per night (last minute rate for whole house). Farm style comfortable. Host is Linda. No Wi-Fi.

61 on Church (previously Mias Guesthouse) – Prince Albert, South Africa. R850 (£47) per night including breakfast. Host is Johan. Great host and comfortable but a lack of communal space. Good Wi-Fi.

The Retreat at Groenfontein – 25km from Calitzdorp, South Africa. R950 (£52) per night including dinner and breakfast.  Hosts are Marie and Grant. A favourite of mine. Comfortable rooms, communal dinner table and great hosts. Wi-Fi in lounge.

Skitterland Guesthouse – Sutherland, South Africa. R750 (£41) per night including breakfast, Host is Anelia. Very welcoming. Unfortunately, a bath and no shower. Wi-Fi.

I spent £2,200 for accommodation for the two nights before the trip in Livingstone and the 25 nights on the trip. I travelled 7,148km, consuming 980 litres at a cost of R14,869 (£817) and an average consumption of 7.3 kms per litre. So, I spent £3,000 in total for accommodation and diesel. Other costs were country and park entry fees, meals not included with accommodation, vehicle servicing and the cost of my Carnet de Passage.

Description of my vehicle and equipment

I drive a three litre, diesel 2010 Toyota Fortuner which I bought in 2014 with 76,000 km on the clock. It has now done 165,000 km. I have added the following: ARB front bull bars, Fortuner bash plate, Safari snorkel, enhanced coils, springs and shock absorbers, secondary battery system, 72 litre built in extra diesel tank, Rockshockerz purpose built rear bumper and carriers for two spare wheels, Front Runner roof rack, a pull out awning fixed to the roof rack, Front Runner stainless steel/aluminium camp table, two diesel jerry cans and a 60 litre Engel Combi fridge/freezer.

For when I get stuck, I carry a box of towing and snatch ropes, a high lift jack, two other jacks, an ARB portable compressor, two Desert escape sand tracks, a 9000-winch fixed to the front bumper, a spade and an Iridium 9575 Satellite Phone. I also have a C-Track tracker on the vehicle with the ability to send a mayday message.

Whenever I can I stay in hotels or self-catering units but if these are not available I am ready to camp in relative luxury with an Oztent RV5 tent, camp bed, one sleeping bag for temperatures down to 7⁰C and another for temperatures below that, Oztent Goanna chairs, gas cookers, a selection of pots, pans and cutlery, braai grid and a sixty litre tank of fresh water.

Angola May 2019

In April and May 2019, I drove from Cape Town to Rundu in Namibia, where I joined a group led by Live the Journey for a two-week road trip in Angola. After leaving the group at the Omahenene border post between Angola and Namibia I travelled into Botswana and on to Livingstone in Zambia where I left my vehicle. The total distance was 8,600km.

When I quote prices, I use the original currency. At the time of my trip the exchange rates to the GB pound were: South African Rand 18.50; Namibian Dollar 18.50; Angolan Kwanza 460; Botswana Pula 13.90; Zambian Kwacha 16.40.

I was travelling alone in my Toyota Fortuner without my trailer (more details at end of article).

This trip was built around the Angola trip. My first task was to travel 2,200 km in six days from Cape Town to Rundu in Namibia. The route was entirely on good, fast, tarmac roads with little traffic, so the challenge was to avoid falling asleep.

Day 1 Cape Town to the Namibian Border – 700km

At the end of the first day, 26th April 2019, I crossed the South African border with Namibia. The South African side was very quick. The Namibian side took about an hour. It would have been faster, but I got caught behind a coach load of people in immigration and was faced with a very slow computer and a slower operative when paying the road fund. This is the simplest of crossings with only those two actions necessary, all the requirements are clear and no corruption or fixers.

Day 2 Namibian Border, with South Africa to near Mariental, Namibia – 560km

50 km before Mariental, I came across the Gibeon Commonwealth Graves Commission Cemetery. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission was created during the First World War to honour those who died in the service of the Commonwealth. More than a million burials are now commemorated in 2,500 cemeteries in 150 countries and territories. Until the 1960’s British soldiers killed abroad were buried near where they fell. For the following forty years their next of kin were given the choice of having them buried abroad or brought back to Britain. Since 2003 all British soldiers who die abroad are brought back to Britain.

Tibby and I believe that Commonwealth War Graves Commission does a wonderful job in caring for their cemeteries and keeping records for future generations. Two of Tibby’s great uncles, who died in the First World War near Ypres in Belgium and in Northern France, are buried in CWGC cemeteries near where they died, we have visited both their graves. In April 2016 we visited the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery near the Bridge on the River Kwai where 6,842 soldiers are buried.

Gibeon is an abandoned rail station, 450 km north of the South African border, 330 km south of Windhoek and 50 km from the nearest town, Mariental. It is an arid area between the Namib and Kalahari Deserts. When war was declared in 1914, Namibia (then known as German South-West Africa) had been a German colony for thirty years. Britain asked the Union of South Africa (then part of the British Empire) to perform ‘an urgent Imperial Service’ and take control of the ports of Walvis Bay and Luderitz and destroy the wireless station at Windhoek. The South African units performed this task. However, in doing so, on the night of 26/27 April 1915 (104 years anniversary on the day I was there), a South African mounted rifle force surprised a German contingent at Gibeon. The Germans fought back in the bright moonlight killing many South Africans. The Germans fled in the morning. Thirty-three South African soldiers and six German soldiers, all who died in this battle or its aftermath, are buried here. The area is too arid for grass to grow, like in most CGC cemeteries but this small cemetery is neat and clean and a wonderful memorial.

On a Namibian autumn day at midday today at the cemetery the temperature was 34⁰C.

Gibeon was a city to the north of Jerusalem, is mentioned in the Old Testament and was abandoned after the departure of the Romans.

I stayed at the Kalahari Anib Lodge in the Kalahari Desert (descriptions of all my accommodation are recorded at the end of this article). I joined a game drive with a well-informed guide. We saw eland, oryx, springbok, steenbok, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and ground squirrels and a good sunset.

Day 3 Mariental to Waterberg Mountains in northern Namibia – 600km

On the third night I stayed at Waterberg Wilderness Lodge. The focus of the game drive was entirely on their collection of five white rhinos. I do not believe in zoos. They may have been appropriate fifty years ago when television and travel were limited but no longer. Similarly, I also do not support lion or animal parks or rehabilitation places where the animal’s movements are severely restricted. These rhinos were in a large reserve with almost no grass, so hay was left for them. They were guarded 24 hours a day and were so habituated to people that we were invited to leave the vehicle and get as close as five metres from them. I got a good photo, but this was not a happy experience. Otherwise the Waterberg Mountain rises above the plain providing wonderful views from the lodge and with spectacular rock formations. I visited the neighbouring Namibian Wildlife Reserve and was disappointed to find that the only way I could get about was on an expensive game drive.

Day 4 Waterberg to Ghaub Nature Reserve, near Grootfontein – 175km

I moved on to Ghaub Nature Reserve, a sister camp to Waterberg Wilderness Lodge. That was a waste of a day. Nothing interesting to report.

Day 5 Ghaub Nature Reserve to Rundu, Namibia – 350km

Halfway between Grootfontein and Rundu I saw the turnoff to Mangetti National Park, so I followed the sign to find a register showing a single arrival every few days. Three hours later I knew why this park was visited so infrequently. It was incredibly dry, poorly signposted with hardly any animals.

Our group travelling to Angola met that evening of Wednesday 1st May 2019 at Kaisosi Lodge near Rundu. The trip was organised by Live the Journey, with whom I have travelled before. The leader is Jakkals (English translation: Jackal), 48, Afrikaans, living in Walvis Bay, has been a guide for thirty years and guides about three weeks a month. He was to prove to be a knowledgeable, competent and compassionate leader. He was assisted by Anton and Lucky, neither of who have been to Angola before, but both have assisted Jakkals before. Jakkals told us to expect an adventure and recognise that there would be plenty of ups and downs.

I also met the group which, including me, comprised fifteen, being five couples, a father and adult son and two friends travelling together. Except for the 34-year-old son, most people were in their sixties with one at 75. Of the eight guest cars, four were from Pretoria, three from Cape Town and area and one from the north coast above Durban. The eight people from Pretoria all knew each other, had travelled together before and six of them had just completed a five-day trip with Jakkals from Swakopmund to the Kunene River mouth. The couple from the North Coast knew some of the Pretoria contingent. Except for one couple and me they were all Afrikaans although they were all fluent in English.

If we needed medical care on the trip, we were better staffed than many Angolan clinics. We had two radiologists, an ophthalmic surgeon and a neurologist with us. We also had a marine engineer, a counsellor and businessmen. Three of the men had established businesses which they had exited in the recent past. So, this was a well-educated group.

With eight guest vehicles and two crew vehicles the winner was Toyota with eight including five Cruisers, two Hilux’s and my lowly Fortuner. There was also a Mercedes G Wagon and an Iveco (more of that later). Eight vehicles ran on diesel and two on petrol.

Just before we parted for the night, at Jakkal’s invitation, Luis from Angola, and his plain clothes Angolan police friend, came in from the night with a paper bag full of Angolan Kwanzas and exchanged them for South African Rand and Namibian Dollars at a rate of 25 to the Rand (apparently better than the official rate). I fear that I was already participating in the corrupt Angolan society.

Day 6 Into Angola – 224km

In the morning two way radios were fitted into our vehicles. We used these extensively to receive instructions from Jakkals, to share information and to guide cars behind us to pass slow moving vehicles.

Jakkals had to do some last-minute tasks so we left late at 10h00 from Rundu, first doing the 135 km to the Katwitwi/Katuitui border post. On the way we were stopped at two police check points where they checked our daytime driving lights and our driving licences respectively.

It took us an hour to get through the Namibian border post principally because the officials were writing everything into big ledgers. Jakkals had warned us not to talk Afrikaans or Portuguese at the Angolan border post, to park exactly where indicated, show no impatience and open all our doors when searched. All went well and we were through in ninety minutes.

Forgive me while I give you some background information about Angola. The size of Angola is 1.25 million km². It is about the same size as South Africa and five times as large as the United Kingdom. It has an Atlantic coastline of 1,650km and stretches inland for 960km. It has a population of 31 million (2018), most of whom live in and near Luanda on the long, narrow coastal plain.

The Portuguese had a five hundred year involvement with Angola arriving in 1482 to trade, establishing a settlement a hundred years later at Luanda, then increasingly claiming more parts of the country, fighting against the local population wanting independence for fifteen years from the 1960s and abandoning the country, with little notice, to the Angolans in 1975. The Portuguese arrived seeking gold and then found slaves to be more profitable so transported four million slaves, principally to Brazil, but also to the Americas over 360 years until Portugal banned the slave trade in 1836. Slaves continued to be used in Angola for another fifty years until 1888.

The official language of Angola is Portuguese with 42 other ethnic languages spoken in their locality.

The country is a democracy but the MPLA party has ruled since 1975 and follows a centrally controlled system. The reach of MPLA is significant. Most villages that we passed had an MPLA flag flying (A few had UNITA flags). At a filling station a MPLA car arrived and gave us MPLA caps.

Angola is the second biggest producer of oil in Africa and oil accounts for 50% of GDP and 90% of exports. Other major exports are petroleum gases and diamonds.

Life expectancy at birth is 61. Angola has the highest birth rate in the world with an average of over six births per woman. Six per cent of all deaths arise because of low birth weight and a further six percent from birth trauma. Angola has the highest percentages of any country for these two factors.

A major reason for the high levels of poverty in the country arise from Angola ranking six in the world for corruption which enriches a few and impoverishes most.

As we left the border Jakkals reminded us to drive on the right. This was an academic issue for the next 220km as a road that had once been tar had now deteriorated to the extent that 98% of the tar was gone, the road narrowed at places to a single lane and repeatedly we left the road for a side track that appeared to be faster. In some place’s roadworks had started with the building of culverts which stood above the road level requiring another deviation. The landscape was flat with low bushes and low numbers of people although one never drove far without seeing someone. Since leaving Rundu we had been following the Kavango River which is known as the Cubango River in Angola. It flows from the Angolan highlands and forms the border with Namibia from the Katuitui border post and then turns into Botswana to flow into the Okavango Delta. After following it for 90km we camped in a dry flood plan of the river for the night.

I chose to travel with Live the Journey because (a) I was very uncomfortable about travelling alone in Angola on my first trip (b) Jakkals was a mine of information about all aspects of Angola (c) the other participants in the journey were very knowledgeable about some aspects with Johan being an expert on the war with South Africa (d) Jakkals took us down narrow beautiful tracks that I would have been hesitant to follow alone and (e) dinner and breakfast were supplied. Jakkals did all the cooking and produced an amazing tasty array of meals. The group were religious and each night a different person said grace before dinner.

Day 7 To north of Menogue – 292km

The night was relatively cold as the temperature dropped to 12⁰C. Darkness had lasted about twelve hours since about 18h30. The pattern for the mornings was set with coffee and rusks at 07h00, breakfast soon after 07h30 and departure from the camp site between 08h30 and 09h00.

As we continued on our way, we communicated by use of two-way radios that had been installed in our vehicles in Rundu. The radios were not only used to ensure that we all knew when to make a turn or when to stop, but also to help each other pass other vehicles when the road ahead was not visible and also for knowledge to be shared including reading extracts from the Bradt guidebook. Jakkals pointed out that all government buildings including hospitals and schools were painted pink and all police buildings were painted blue.

We stopped to inspect a camp full of abandoned road working machines. A South African civil construction company, Teichman, had partnered with an Angolan and had successfully bid to rebuild part of the road that we were travelling on. The Angolan partner diverted the second stage payment to his account, leaving Teichman without funds to continue. (Our first example of corruption). Teichman decided to abandon the contract but were prevented by the Government from taking their equipment out of the country. There are now signs that indicate that the contract and machines have now been taken over by a Chinese contractor.

The bad road ended at Caiundo and after a police checkpoint we crossed the Cubango River and found a faster tar road to Menogue a sprawling, low level, desperately poor town. We stopped at a Unitel cell phone shop, showed our passports and for KZ1,300 received a SIM and 500mb data.

We camped 40km north of Menogue in a noisy clearing next to the road.

Each night the crew set up a chemical toilet and a shower tent. If one wanted a shower you filled a bucket with about eight litres of water, heated it by pumping it through a portable gas boiler and then wet yourself, turned off the water, soaped yourself and then rushed to rinse before the water ran out.

Day 8 Through Chitembe, Chinguar and Huambo – 491km

We started to see locals selling honey by the side of the road and man-made cylindrical hive baskets measuring one metre in length with a radius of 200mm.

Deforestation is a significant issue in Angola with large reductions in forest and no replacement. Wood is the fourth biggest export of Angola. There is also a process of ‘slash and burn’ where subsistence farmers clear the land to plant crops, deplete the soil and move on. Another contributing factor is the production of charcoal. Charcoal is made by heating hard wood in a controlled environment getting rid of water and other volatile constituents leaving carbon. This is lightweight, can be burned to high temperatures and a small amount can go a long way in communities where fire is the principal way of cooking. Locals make charcoal which is then collected by middlemen with trucks. Throughout Angola, as we drove, we saw bags of charcoal waiting collection.

We stopped to inspect a burnt-out military tank from the South African war.

I, like all my South African white peer group, did national service of nine or twelve months.  I did mine in 1972. Many of those who served after 1975 were involved in the Angolan border war. On independence of Angola in 1975 the principal groups fighting for independence turned on each other resulting in a civil war that devastated the country and lasted for 27 years until 2002. The MPLA faction were supported by Russia who persuaded Cuba to send 50,000 troops. They were opposed by UNITA who were supported by the USA and South Africa. South Africa was particularly focused because the independent Angola had allowed SWAPO, freedom fighters for the independence of Namibia, to base themselves near the border with Namibia (then called South West Africa). The South Africans fought a bush war on the border and in Angola, from 1975 until 1988 when the Brazzaville Protocol resulted in all foreign powers withdrawing from the country.

Much of what happened during the South African Border War was not public at the time. The most public and well known of the battles, was The Battle of Cuito Cuanavale which was fought intermittently over a seven month period between August 1987 and March 1988, south and east of the town of Cuito Cuanavale, Angola, by the FAPLA (the armed wing of the MPLA), Cuba, South Africa, and insurgents of UNITA. The battle was the largest engagement of the Angolan conflict and the biggest conventional battle on the African continent since World War II. UNITA and its South African allies defeated a major FAPLA offensive towards Mavinga, preserving the former’s control of southern Angola. They proceeded to launch a bloody but inconclusive counteroffensive on FAPLA defensive positions around the Tumpo River east of Cuito Cuanavale. Both sides claimed victory. The Cuban and FAPLA defenders had interpreted the SADF’s campaign as part of a larger effort to seize the town of Cuito Cuanavale itself and presented their stand there as a successful defensive action. The SADF maintained that it had achieved its basic objectives of halting the FAPLA offensive without needing to occupy Cuito Cuanavale, which would have entailed unacceptable losses to its expeditionary force.

We learnt a lot from Johan who was part of our group, and who had studied the war in depth. Today there are battlefield tours in Southern Angola which include Cuito Cuanavale. The town is located 190km south east of Menogue. We did not visit Cuito Cuanavale.

Although there were elections in Angola in 1991 the civil war continued until 2002. It is thought that one million people died and 2.5 million were displaced during the civil war.

On the outskirts of Chitembo we came across a community water point and filled up our water supplies.

Jakkals had warned us to be prepared to drive 1,000km before refuelling. We were delighted that there was fuel in Chitembo, and everyone filled up. In South Africa there is a distinction between 500 and 50 ppm diesel with leisure vehicles running on the latter. There is no such distinction in Angola, so we are probably running on diesel that is not ideal for our vehicles. At the service station I bought two different types of local lager at a price of KZ200 each.

The scenery in the afternoon was like the Highveld in South Africa with rolling hills, fertile fields and few large trees.

In Chinguar we passed the HQ of Jonas Savimbi, the leader of UNITA, until his death in a battle in 2002. We also crossed the Benguela Rail Line which runs from Lobito through Huambo to Tenque in the Democratic Repubilc of Congo. Tibby and I have booked to go on the Rovos Rail journey in July 2022 from Lobito to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and we will be travelling on the Benguela Line.

We passed through Huambo, a low-level uninteresting town and camped 120 km north on big flat rocks with a view of a rock mountain.

Day 9 Through Quibala to Fazenda Cabuta Coffee Farm – 304km

We were losing track of the days but early in the day, in a small town, we realised that it was Sunday, as we came across a Catholic church with the sound of hymn singing bursting out of the open doors.

The land was flat with lots of rivers and what looked like fertile land, but there was no agriculture.

Over the next hour we descended from an altitude of 1,200m to 400m and were hit with an increase in temperature to 28⁰C and high humidity.

After lunch we turned off the main road heading east. For some distance the road was once again tar laid decades ago but not maintained so with huge potholes.

The road climbed back to 1,000m and we were surrounded by beautiful sub-tropical forest. Every few kilometres we passed a village where the poverty of the people was clear to see although the children greeted us with great joy.

We arrived at a coffee farm where Jakkals had previously camped, to be told that the farm had been taken over by an army general from Luanda and that we were not welcome to stay.  One was left with a sense that the purchase had not been an open market transaction.

Thirty minutes later we arrived at Fazenda Cabuta coffee farm who agreed that we could camp on the terraces where they dry their coffee beans. That was our hottest night to date.

Day 10 Fazenda Cabuta Coffee Farm to Pedras Negras – 138km

In the morning we toured the coffee factory. They produce 800 tons of coffee pa from 8,000 hectares with 500 staff in the field. That makes them an important employer in the area. I was left with a sense that production was down from earlier years. Coffee beans and ground coffee sold for K3,600 for 250g. I stocked up and later enjoyed the coffee.

We departed at 09h30 heading north on a very small track through the jungle, taking 2.5 hours to do 25km. The forest was overflowing with avocado and banana plants. We stopped for a while near a village in a clearing and were surrounded by children. One of our party found a rugby ball in their vehicle and gave it to the children who were not sure what to do with it, so tried to play football.

We stopped for lunch at the bridge crossing the Kwanza River, downstream from the Capanda Dam. The volume of water in the river seemed to me to be high. A few members of our party dived into the river to cool down.

We turned on to a tar road and a while later arrived at Pedras Negras, a wondrous collection of granite mountains, 250m high. The road took us into the heart of the mountains leaving us the last 100m to walk up so that we could see the magnificent views.

It was very clear that this was once a busy tourist site with many visitors. Now, however, all the buildings and paths were in a bad state. Unfortunately, this state of disrepair was to be found at all major sites that we visited.

We camped at the base of the mountains that night. Our best camp site to date.

Day 11 Pedras Negras to Calandula Falls – 230km

The previous day, as we arrived at the Pedras Negras car park, the radiator of one of the Land Cruisers blew with a spectacular show of steam. Jakkals towed the vehicle to Malange this morning where it took fours to replace the radiator in a makeshift repair, in a Chinese workshop. It did not take us long to explore this run-down city which had lots of damaged and poorly maintained buildings. Fortunately, we found an air-conditioned bakery to have lunch.

With the cruiser running again, we headed off to the Calandula Falls. The falls are very special. They are the third highest falls in Africa and are 400m wide with a 100m drop. Once again, the tourist infrastructure was visible but falling apart.

We crossed the river downstream and arrived at the Pousada Calandula, an hotel on the opposite bank giving a different view of the Falls. The hotel was being renovated. Jakkals had previously camped in the car park. Jakkals had difficulty ascertaining if the hotel was still owned by the same person. Eventually a site manager agreed to allow us to camp in the car park. A fine mist from the Falls rained on us all night leaving us with wet tents to pack up in the morning.

Day 12 Calandula Falls to Barra do Dande, north of Luanda – 392km

Fairly quickly we settled onto a long tar road towards Luanda. It was initially very potholed in the forest but then improved. We dropped 1,000m. We checked every filling station along the road, looking for fuel, without success. We skirted Luanda on a ring road and headed a short distance north, before Jakkals turned off the main road into an area of shacks emerging a few kilometres later on the beach of Barra do Dande. He knew of a quarry where we set up camp.

The reason to be here was to marvel at the sight of about one hundred ships, stranded over about two kilometres of beach and shallow water. The story is apparently that on independence in 1975, white Portuguese ship owners, planning to leave the country, were told that they could not sail their ships away from Angola. Instead of leaving them to the new government they wrecked their ships in the shallow waters of Barra do Dande. Forty-five years later the ships are still there in varying states of decay. They present an eerie sight but wonderful for photos, especially when the sun sets through them.

I had hoped that we would drive through Luanda, but the consensus of the group was to avoid Luanda.

Day 13 Barra do Dande to Kwanza Lodge 70km south of Luanda – 119km

We started the day at 08h30 by driving south along the beach, marvelling at yet more shipwrecks. We came across a group of fishermen pulling a large net on to the beach. We stopped to watch the process as they brought their catch of (what looked like) sardines in. I was surprised how small the catch was, given the number of people participating. Each person’s share must have been very small.

We inflated our tyres, skirted Luanda and arrived for lunch at Kwanza Lodge where we stayed in bungalows that night. A few of us participated in a pleasant sunset cruise near the mouth of the river.

Day 14 Kwanza Lodge to breakdown – 215km

At dawn several of us took a cruise up the river for a few hours. The banks were heavy with vegetation and we saw lots of birds, some monkeys and a few boatmen. A delightful experience.

We headed south on a reasonably good tar road when Anton called over the radio that he was having problems with his Iveco. It transpired that his model had been extended by Iveco and the extended drive shaft that they had fitted had previously broken. This seemed to be a recurrence of that issue. Jakkals towed the Iveco to a side gravel road and we set up camp on either side of the road. Johan called Iveco who dispatched a mechanic from Luanda. Locals who passed by herding cattle and carrying wood, were intrigued by us.

A group of children were initially frightened, and then fascinated by Gareth’s flying drone.

The mechanic called after sunset and it was agreed that he would stay overnight nearby and find us in the morning. We were plagued by mosquitoes all night.

Day 15 Breakdown site to near Seles – 160km

The Iveco mechanic arrived at 09h00 to find that the part that he was carrying almost fitted. Jakkals and the mechanic went in search of a roadside welder who fashioned a solution. We departed at 12h00.

Not very far further south we turned off the main road to the beautiful Binga Falls and followed that with a two-hour spectacular circular drive through forested mountains. We camped in a field near Seles at an altitude of about 1,000m.

Day 16 Seles to Lobito – 247km

We had a lovely drive descending back to the coast and then spent a few miserable hours heading south on a poor-quality tar road. We drove into Lobito through a slum and then found a city that was once beautiful but is now run down. Jakkals had arranged with the owner of the Zulu Restaurant that we could camp on the beach next to his restaurant. To fit into the space, we camped cheek by jowl in an area that was relatively busy with people. We had a lousy dinner at the restaurant.

Day 17 Lobito to Klofie, just north of Namibe – 303km

We could not find fuel in Lobito nor at the few other possible places during the day. We took photos of abandoned steam driven sugar cane processing machines on the edge of Lobito and then took the coastal road south.

This was initially good tar and then we had 90km of roadworks through the desert with fifteen bridges in different stages of construction. The going was tough, softened by the fact that the route was beautiful in a Karoo like way.

We passed by an isolated prison town and then Jakkals turned off the road taking us to a place where the desert met the beach, where we camped. This was a spectacular site with amazing red desert cliffs above the beach. Some vehicles were now very low on fuel, so others gave up some of their spare supplies.

Day 18 Klofie to Tundavala – 370km

This was a busy day full of experiences. We drove into Namibe which seemed to be more vibrant than Lobito. The bay was pretty with lots of fishing boats.

We found a filling station with fuel, so we all relaxed on that score. Jakkals took us to the local market where everything was available. I bought six pieces of colourful material for possible use by Tibby in her quilting.

We then turned eastwards and inland arriving an hour or so later at the foot of the Leba Pass. This is a marvel of engineering as the road winds and zigzags 1,000m up to the escarpment. Having reached the top there is a viewing area nearby where one can more fully appreciate the view of the road. The temperature dropped from 39⁰C at the coast to 25⁰C on the escarpment.

Near Humpata, Jakkals led us on to a private property, which contained graves of Voortrekkers who had arrived in the area in about 1860.

A little later we arrived in the thriving city of Lubango and drove to a mountain above the city where there is a statue of Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Rei) looking down over the city.

We crossed the city and followed a climbing road to enter Tundavala, which is a cliff top viewpoint on the edge of the escarpment with spectacular views to the valleys below. There are two major viewing points with one including an amazing gorge. We camped that night close by.

Camping Locations in Angola
Date May 2019Co-ordinatesDescription
2S16.45.8005 E071.54.9572Banks of the Cubango River, 90kms from border
3S14.22.6665 E017.38.7824Clearing next to main road
4S11.52.4198 E015.22.6386120km past Huambo near a rock mountain
5S09.49.1644 E014.52.0640Coffee farm – Fazenda Cabuta
6S09.40.3277 E015.34.1273Pedras Negras – the best
7S09.04.7169 E016.00.1064Hotel grounds overlooking Calandula Falls
8S08.38.3020 E013.24.7981Quarry near the beach – close to the shipwrecks
9S09.20.5260 E013.09.2155Kwanza Lodge – stayed in rooms
10S10.55.4958 E013.52.1110Broken down on a gravel road – not recommended
11S11.22.0069 E014.13.5740At 1,000m near Seles
12S12.19.0521 E013.34.7830On beach at Zulu Restaurant, Lobito
13S14.13.9707 E012.20.9760Klofie. Desert riverbed on coast, north of Namibe – Fantastic
14S14.49.1496 E013.23.1713Tundavala area

Day 19 Tundavala through border – 425km to Kunene River Lodge, Namibia – 87km

We had an early start at 07h00 for our last day together as a group. We had a long drive on tar to Xangongo where we were disappointed by a lack of fuel. We then turned off the main road and followed a bad gravel road to the border with Namibia at Calueque/ Omahenene.  (This is a small border post located at S17.39.1834 E014.32.6036, 15km east of the Ruacana Border Post). We had done 3,750km in Angola. Farewell kisses and hugs and a quick border crossing through both border posts and I was once again on my own.

Some of the group were immediately rushing southwards but most of the group had booked into Eha Lodge near the border. They were full when I checked, so I headed west along the Kunene to Kunene River Lodge. I hoped for a bit of luxury after two weeks of camping, but the room was basic. I joined a sunset cruise on the Kunene which was pleasant.

Day 20 Kunene River Lodge to Onguma Etosha Lodge, Namibia – 430km

I left early to do the 430km to Onguma Etosha Lodge on the eastern edge of Etosha National Park. I stopped off to see the Ruacana Falls to find that they were not falling. The little water that is in the river is being diverted through the hydro-electric plant. I had some concerns that the road via Oshakati might be poor quality, but after the Angolan roads it was an absolute delight. I entered Etosha at the northern King Nahale Gate, had a lovely sighting of massed zebra at a water hole, exited Etosha at the Von Lindequist Gate and immediately turned into Onguma.

Onguma is a 34,000-hectare private game farm with five lodges and two camp sites. There is a wide price range between the lodges. I had previously camped at their Tamboti Luxury Campsite where each site has their own bathroom. I now stayed at their Onguma Etosha Aoba Lodge which is one of their mid-level lodges. This was wonderfully comfortable and a chance to get my laundry done.

Day 21 Onguma and Etosha, Namibia

This was a relaxing day with a drive in Etosha during the day and a game drive in Onguma in the late afternoon with the interesting sightings being a lioness and dwarf mongooses.

Day 22 Onguma via Grootfontein and Rundu to Shamvura Camp in Caprivi Strip, Namibia – 540km

An easy drive on good roads. Towards the end of the trip, probably near the village of Ndiyona there was a police check point with a stop sign. The policeman stood two metres past the stop sign. I slowed and stopped next to the policeman. He then fined me for not stopping at the stop sign. I suspect that he does this deliberately several times a day. He held my passport until I had paid the fine at the local police station.

That night at Shamvura Lodge the only other guest was Roland Goetz, who told me that he was responsible for the Luengue-Luiana and Mavinga National Parks in the south-west corner of Angola. These parks are at an early stage of their development and still include villages in the area. The northern border of the parks near Zambia are still heavily mined from the civil war. The number of people working for the parks is still very low and animal numbers are also low. However, these two parks together are four times the size of the huge Kruger National Park in South Africa. Importantly they are also part of the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) an initiative including the five countries of Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia. The goal of the KAZA TFCA is “To sustainably manage the Kavango Zambezi ecosystem, its heritage and cultural resources based on best conservation and tourism models for the socio-economic wellbeing of the communities and other stakeholders in and around the eco-region through harmonization of policies, strategies and practices.” Roland told me that an important early benefit has been a coordinated approach to poaching so that poachers can no longer escape by crossing international borders. He also told me that the longer-term objective was to relieve the overcrowding of elephants in Botswana (particularly in Chobe National Park) by giving them a route across the Caprivi Strip in Namibia and into the above-mentioned parks in Angola. May their project be hugely successful.

Day 23 Shamvura Camp to Livingstone’s Camp, Namibia – 380km

The next morning, I stopped off at Poppa Falls which was a disappointment and then checked into Livingstone’s Camp near Sangwali around lunch time and was shown my attractive camp site. I then proceeded to the Nkasa Rupara National Park. Given that this park is across the Linyanti River from the Linyanti area of Chobe I was expecting to see lots of game and elephants. It was all quite disappointing with sightings limited to small antelope and birds. I had planned to stay three nights at Livingstone’s Camp, but I decided that it was not worth returning to Nkasa Rupara, and that I would move on in the morning.

Day 24 Livingstone’s Camp via Chobe Riverfront to Kasane, Botswana – 250km

I had an easy run through Katima Mulilo to the Botswana border post at Ngoma Bridge. There was an easy border crossing. I entered the Chobe Waterfront area of Chobe National Park and immediately noticed how low the river was. For the first while I saw little game and wondered if the animals were staying away from the river. How wrong I was. In the next four hours I saw a herd of 400 buffalo, 200 elephant and lots more game. This really is a magnificent game viewing area.

I had booked a camp site at Ihaha Camp Site on the river in the Park for two nights later. This is a magnificent camp site, often overrun with elephants. However, because I had left Livingstone’s Camp early, I was now ahead of my booking. I pushed on to Kasane to find an hotel.

Day 25 and 26 Kasane to Livingstone, Zambia – 100km

A year previously I had experienced a horrible border crossing from Botswana to Zambia through Kazangula. The bad experience was partly due to my inexperience of more complex borders in Africa and my complete lack of preparedness. Other travellers had told me that crossing at Kazangula into Zimbabwe and then entering Zambia at Victoria Falls was a lot easier, despite including a second border crossing. And so, it proved. I passed through the two borders as one of only a few vehicles (there were several pedestrians) relatively quickly. In Livingstone I had my vehicle cleaned, emptied my fridges and water tanks and dropped my vehicle off at Foleys Africa to be stored for the next four months. On 22nd May 2019, Day 26, I flew from Livingstone via Johannesburg to London.

My thoughts at the end of the trip

I will not be returning to Angola for a long while. I am pleased that I did the trip, but we did a huge amount of travelling for little payback. There were no animals. The six highlights were Pedras Negras, Calandula Falls, Barra do Donde shipwrecks, Klofie, the desert riverbed campsite on the coast on Day 17, Leba Pass and Tundavala. Jakkals was an exceptional guide and it was great to travel with this group.

Etosha and Chobe National Parks were wonderful, as always. The Waterberg, Mangetti and Nkasa Rupara were disappointing.

Descriptions of Accommodation 

I was travelling alone so in some cases have paid a single supplement.

Felix Unite Provenance Camp – On Orange River in Namibia close to Nordoewer border crossing with South Africa. Felix Unite run multi day kayaking trips from here. Tibby and I did such a trip in October 2015. R1,150 (£62) per standard cabana per night with no meals included. Accommodation adequate but tiring. Great river views and great pool. Unexciting restaurant. Wi-Fi R25 per 250mb.

Kalahari Anib Lodge – 40 km from Mariental, Namibia. Part of the Gondwana Collection which has reliable three-star hotels around Namibia. N$1,007 (£54) per room per night including Gondwana Card 25% discount. No meals or game drives included. This lodge was rebuilt in 2017 and is up to date, modern and comfortable with a good pool and good dining room and bar. Disappointing buffet dinner (but all buffet meals disappoint me). Wi-Fi first 250mb per device free; thereafter N$50 per 250mb.

Waterberg Wilderness Lodge – 250km north of Windhoek. N$2,017 (£109) per night in a Plateau Lodge Chalet including dinner and breakfast and free but slow Wi-Fi. Comfortable but tiring rondawel on edge of cliff with spectacular views of plains below. One-man private plunge pool. Minimal selection of unexciting food and staff that are indifferent, bordering on insolent.

Ghaub Nature Reserve – Near Grootfontein in Namibia. N$1,886 (£88) per night in a standard room including dinner and breakfast. This is a sister lodge to Waterberg Wilderness Lodge

Kaisosi River Lodge – Near Rundu, Namibia on the Angolan border. N$800 (£43) per room per night excluding meals. This was where I met the group that I travelled to Angola with.

Live the Journey – The fifteen-day trip including dinner and breakfast. I paid R19,850 (£1,073) which included a single supplement. The price included the guide, camping fees (the very few times they were incurred), a night at Kwanza Lodge, all entrance fees and two meals a day.

Kunene River Lodge – 46km west of the Ruacana Falls on the Kunene River. N$1,600 (£86) per night including dinner and breakfast. Wi-Fi in the communal area. Functional.

Onguma Etosha Aoba Lodge – Just outside the eastern boundary of Etosha National Park in Namibia. N$2,320 (£125) per night in a Heritage Bungalow with dinner and breakfast. A little bit of luxury after fifteen nights of camping. Wi-Fi in the communal area.

Shamvura Camp – On the western edge of the Caprivi Strip, Namibia. N$800 (£43) per night in a cottage including dinner and breakfast. Falling apart. Won’t use again.

Livingstone’s Camp – Near Sangwali, Caprivi, Namibia. N$350 (£19) per night for a camp site. No meals included.

Cresta Mowana Safari Resort and Spa – Kasane, Botswana. BP1,850 (£130) including breakfast. Last-minute walk-in reduced rate. Very comfortable. Wi-Fi in the communal area.

Green Tree Lodge – Livingstone, Zambia. US$65 (£50) per night per room including breakfast.

I spent £2,057 for accommodation for the 26 nights on the trip Including the cost of the thirteen day Live the Journey trip in Angola. I travelled 8,575km, consuming 1,063 litres at a cost of R11,778 (£636) and an average consumption of 8.1 kms per litre. The fuel cost was lower than normal for this distance because diesel was dramatically cheaper in Angola. The average cost of diesel per litre in £p was South Africa 89p, Namibia 75p, Angola 29p and Zambia 75p. So, I spent £2,700 in total for accommodation and diesel. Other costs were country and park entry fees, meals not included with accommodation, vehicle servicing and the cost of my Carnet de Passage.

Description of my vehicle and equipment

I drive a three litre, diesel 2010 Toyota Fortuner which I bought in 2014 with 76,000 km on the clock. At the beginning of this trip it had done 160,000 km. I have added the following: ARB front bull bars, Fortuner bash plate, Safari snorkel, enhanced coils, springs and shock absorbers, secondary battery system, 72 litre built in extra diesel tank, Rockshokerz purpose built rear bumper and carriers for two spare wheels, Front Runner roof rack, a pull out awning fixed to the roof rack, Front Runner stainless steel/aluminium camp table, two diesel jerry cans and a 60 litre Engel Combi fridge/freezer.

For when I get stuck I carry a box of towing and snatch ropes, a high lift jack, two other jacks, an ARB portable compressor, two Desert escape sand tracks, a 9000 winch fixed to the front bumper, a spade and an Iridium 9575 Satellite Phone.

Whenever I can, I stay in hotels or self-catering units but if these are not available I am ready to camp in relative luxury with an Oztent RV5 tent, camp bed, one sleeping bag for temperatures down to 7⁰C and another for temperatures below that, Oztent Goanna chairs, gas cookers, a selection of pots, pans and cutlery, braai grid and a sixty litre tank of fresh water.