Tag: Lake Tanganyika

Tanzania Zambia Sep Oct 2021

In September and October 2021, I travelled 7,000 kms through Tanzania and Zambia in 40 days. I started my trip in Arusha in Tanzania, headed down the eastern side of Tanzania as far as Nyerere National Park and then travelled west across the width of the country to Lake Tanganyika. I crossed into Zambia at the Zombe Border Post, travelled down the eastern side of the country through North and South Luangwa National Parks and then headed west through Lusaka to Kafue National Park and finally headed south to Livingstone, where my trip ended.

COVID-19 has been a dominating factor in all our lives for the last eighteen months. I had driven my 4×4 vehicle from Cape Town to Arusha and left Tanzania as the world closed down in March 2020. The intention had been that I would have since done a few trips in my vehicle with family members in Tanzania and Kenya. In the end no one travelled with me in Tanzania, entirely because of travel restrictions and health fears arising from COVID. I managed a five day trip through Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Natron in October 2020. I planned and cancelled several other trips, one of them because I caught COVID myself in the UK. Fortunately, that illness did not last long, and I was subsequently twice vaccinated against COVID. I was due to fly to Arusha on Monday 20th September and woke with a very sore throat. We had attended an eleven-hour wedding celebration, three days previously, which could be a super spreader event. The downside of arriving in Tanzania with COVID and without travel insurance (none was available from UK insurers) was so high that I cancelled my flight. Over the next four days I tested myself using lateral flow tests four times, had an NHS PCR test and paid for a private PCR test, all of which were negative. I did have a common cold which made me miserable for a while and was gone in a week. I then flew to Amsterdam on Thursday 23rd September and flew on to Arusha, the next day. Our plane arrived at 20h00 in Arusha. We each had been required to complete a health declaration before arrival and then had our temperature taken. My £179 private PCR fit to fly test, which I had been told was required, was ignored. I was selected, at random, to have a lateral flow test (which I know should take at least fifteen minutes) and was given a negative certificate three minutes later. Once away from government officials and my international Arusha hotel, no one else in Tanzania was wearing masks and it was as if COVID did not exist.

My vehicle is a Toyota Fortuner (more details at the end of the article) which has all the 4×4 controls, but which Toyota classifies as a SUV rather than in their 4×4 range. I understand I have pushed the vehicle further than Toyota had intended, which has led to a high number of repairs, although I have never been stranded by a mechanical breakdown. By absolute luck, I found Zee Suleman of Pitstop Service Centre in Arusha, who did the following work for me on my Fortuner:

  1. Conventional service
  2. Welded the core body of the vehicle, below the windscreen, which had come apart
  3. Refitted the windscreen which was sitting loosely in the frame
  4. Fitted two bonnet hinges
  5. Built and fitted a wheel carrier, which had ripped off the vehicle, and been lost
  6. Replaced the air conditioning condenser
  7. Collected a new wheel rim from Toyota and fitted my second spare tyre to it
  8. Replaced the two power connectors to the trailer
  9. Replaced the auxiliary vehicle battery and the trailer battery
  10. Replaced front and rear cross bearings
  11. Bought two fire extinguishers
  12. Cleaned and aired the trailer tent and both fridges and prepared the vehicle and trailer for my arrival

He also dealt with the Tanzanian officials when I overstayed my Temporary Import Permit and travelled to the border with Kenya three times to extend the validity of the Temporary Import Permit. This exercise proved to be expensive but without Zee I would have been in a lot more trouble. Zee’s parting words to me were ‘When you can afford it, buy a Toyota Land Cruiser!’.

Calculated on a daily cost this was my most expensive trip when travelling by myself. I justified this to myself in a few ways. I had not done two trips that I would normally have done and had thus saved some money. Many of the places I stayed at, had initially been chosen, because I was going to travel there with my wife, when we would normally stay at better places. I decided to spend more than I have ever spent when travelling alone, on visiting the Busanga Plains, as that was the only way I could see them. Of the 43 nights on the road, only ten were camping and most of the rest, were in comfortable lodges or hotels.

I am using new technology on this trip. (Skip this whole long paragraph if you have no interest in technology.) Travelling alone in remote areas might be risky. I have historically carried a satellite phone to call for help if needed. The one time I needed it, the battery was flat! I recently learnt about the Garmin inReach system. Garmin has several hundred devices intended to help a wide range of sportsmen, including hikers, runners, boaters and overlanders, to monitor different aspects of their activity, often including the route that they follow. Many of these devices use the GPS satellites, just like the Garmin in your car, to track your route. Garmin developed the inReach system which allows one to communicate with those at home, using text messaging, using the Iridium Satellite network. The most important feature is a SOS function which sends a message to a Garmin operated emergency centre in the USA, which then tries to exchange messages with the sender of the SOS and begin coordinating a rescue. They also have details of your emergency contacts who are advised that you have initiated a SOS signal. The inReach facility is integrated into some devices, particularly those used for hiking and marine activities. They also have a device called an inReach Mini which has minimum functionality (besides the satellite communication) and is cumbersome to use alone. It can, however, be Bluetooth paired to other devices, which makes it very powerful. I purchased both the inReach Mini and the Garmin Overlander. The latter is a very fancy GPS device providing all the normal Garmin vehicle routing and guiding facilities but also providing other information useful when off road. I have set my inReach Mini to send my location (when on) every five minutes to my Garmin MapShare page and internally log my position every 30 seconds. The MapShare page is a website page which others can see, and which includes my current location (when my Mini was last on and out of a building) and my track using the locations sent every five minutes. In an emergency this will be enough for rescuers to find me. When I have access to the internet, I can sync my Mini with my MapShare page allowing the 30 second logs to fill out the track of where I have been, thus providing a full record of my trip. In my opinion a lot of the Garmin technology is not intuitive and is very clunky. They have a huge website providing information of how their products and devices work. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to find the answer in this mass of data, and when one does, it is often not informative enough, or assumes other knowledge. There is, as a result, a huge Garmin Forum website and countless YouTube videos on how to use the technology. One can spend days down this rabbit hole and still not understand it all. Fortunately, the technology seems to be working as I had hoped for me. To use the inReach facility one needs to subscribe to a Garmin satellite communication package which has three different levels from emergency use only to unlimited messages. (On all the plans there are unlimited SOS messages.) One must then choose between an annual plan, paid monthly, or a plan which is only activated for the months when needed. The cheapest emergency use monthly plan is £12.50 per month and the most expensive unlimited messages, occasional use plan is £65 per month. I used the latter plan for the two months covering the period of my trip.

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 20.20, Zambian Kwacha 22.50, Tanzanian Shilling 3,188 and US$ 1.37. I have used these rates throughout this report, irrespective if rates changed or the actual conversion rates differed.

Day 1 – Arusha to Lushoto 334 kms

After some last minute adjustments to the vehicle and the late purchase of third party insurance for the trailer (I had thought that third party insurance was only needed for the Fortuner) I left Arusha, later than I wanted, at 11h30 on Saturday 25th September 2021. As I left town I stopped at an ATM. Although all government departments only accept credit cards most other places, including many purchases of diesel, are paid in cash. The biggest denomination in ATMs is TZS10,000 (£3) which means that one carries big wads of notes. I drew TZS1.6 million (£500) and promptly spent TZS 270,000 (£85) on diesel.

As I left town in an easterly direction, I knew that Mount Kilimanjaro was just to the north of the road I was driving on. As is normal the mountain was not visible because it was covered with cloud.

Because I had lost four days of my original plan, I was no longer visiting Lake Manyara and Tarangire National Park. I was now taking the shorter route south, on the direct road to Dar Es Salaam. But first I had to travel east, the 85kms from Arusha, through Moshi. This road has people and houses along the full length, and it took me over two hours to cover the distance. Police were present at fourteen places along the route and although they were bothering many others, they left me alone.

As I turned south, hills appeared on my left which built into a mountain range along the Kenyan border for the next 300kms. This is one of the best roads that I have travelled on in Tanzania. It is in good condition and flat. Trucks, buses and motorcycles amounted to about 60%, 20% and 10% respectively of the traffic. The absolute number of vehicles on the road was not high so it was easy to pass slower traffic. However, the curse of Tanzanian roads, is that a 50km zone is created wherever houses are close to the road. Huge traffic humps within those zones required me to slow to first gear to avoid having the trailer bounce uncontrollably. These zones vary from 300 metres to 3km long and one seldom travels more than 5km before coming upon the next zone. I knew that the traffic police were constantly speed trapping at the 50km signs so one had to reduce speed below that before passing the sign.

I passed through the town called Same which is the junction for the Mkomazi National Park. My Bradt guide describes the reserve as an extension of the Tsavo National Park in Kenya. I would have liked to have visited the Park, but my schedule was now too tight.

The countryside I was travelling through was very dry, almost arid. I assumed that the clouds from the sea dropped their rain on the mountains and did not get this far.

At Mombo I turned off the main T2 road into the Usambara Mountains and climbed for 34km into the mountains to Lushoto. What a delight! The road is reminiscent (but shorter) of the road to Shimla in India. The road curves and cuts back presenting different, but amazing views. Small clumps of house would appear. A tailor was cutting cloth at a table by the road. Two women were hanging their laundry on a line by the road. Trees had been planted at the edge of the road where it falls away, thus providing a corridor to drive through. Every tenth tree is a Jacaranda with beautiful purple flowers. This is a glorious drive.

I arrived in Lushoto at sunset and went directly to my hotel. As I settled in, I heard the call to prayer from the mosque.

Day 2 – Lushoto to Bagamayo 303 kms

I was woken at 06h00 by the ringing of church bells. By 07h30 I had checked out of my hotel and found that a service was being held at the large church in the town. The church was overflowing with people as lovely hymn music rose in the air.

I then discovered that the church was the best maintained building in the town. The rest of the town was run down. The journey to Lushoto was more exciting than the destination. The town appeared to spread over the valley, and I could see houses on the hillside that appeared to be modern and well maintained.

The road beyond Lushoto continues for a further 65km on a circular route through Gologolo, Viti and Mabweni which I would like to do. The road is, however, a cul-de-sac, and I now retraced my route along the lovely road, back to the T2 national road.

About two hours later I was pulled over by a policewoman who showed me a photo of me doing 89kph in a 50km zone. I was frustrated as I had been trying to keep to the speed limit and must have missed the 50km sign. I jollied her along and she was entertained by my wife’s views that she did not want to travel as much as me in Africa, did not want to prevent me from travelling, was content for me to travel without her but would not be happy for me to take a lady companion with me. With a laugh I was warned to watch my speed and sent on my way.

Half an hour later the policeman, who showed me doing 81kph as I passed the 50km limit sign, was not going to be charmed and fined me TZS 30,000 (just less than £10). He also refused my request to photograph the picture of my vehicle exceeding the limit and was certainly not agreeable to me taking a photo of him!

The vegetation was now lusher with palms appearing.

After five hours of driving, I arrived in Bagamoyo. There have been important settlements in and close to Bagamoyo for 1,400 years. For many years it was the main port for access to the interior of Tanzania. I have previously written about the slave trade in East Africa. It went on for a thousand years, accelerating in the 18th and 19th centuries and was only abolished fully in 1909. Most of those slaves passed through Bagamoyo, some only going as far as nearby Zanzibar. Adventurers like David Livingstone and Henry Stanley arrived via Bagamoyo. David Livingstone’s body was carried 1,000 miles from Ilala, southeast of Lake Bangweulu, in present-day Zambia to Bagamoyo from where it was shipped to London for internment in Westminster Abbey. Bagamoyo was the capital of German East Africa. I expected to see an historical city. There is certainly a conservation area, but nothing is being conserved. Ancient buildings are in ruins. There was clearly a plan to revitalise a German fort but the notice boards announcing the work flap in the wind, as funds must have run out or been diverted. It is clearly a big fishing centre with many fishing boats visible and an active fish market. Two small car ferries waited. It was Sunday afternoon so perhaps not surprising that the rest of the town was quiet. I left disappointed.

I headed along the coastal road for a few kilometres south to the Mbegani Fisheries site where I parked my car and boarded a small boat, sent to fetch me, from Foxes Lazy Lagoon Island Lodge. This twelve bedroom lodge is based on the Ras Lwale Island, which is accessible from the mainland at low tide, although there is no road there.

Day 3 – Foxes Lazy Lagoon Island Lodge

I spent the day catching up on admin both for my trip and for unfinished business back in the UK. I swam in the pool, walked a kilometre along the beach and exchanged messages on my inReach system with my daughter, Juls, as I familiarised myself with my new equipment.

A jockey wheel is a wheel on a pole that is used to hold up a trailer when separated from the host vehicle. Yesterday I realised that my jockey wheel had been dented and the struts holding the wheel had been twisted. It would not support the trailer, when needed. I surprised the staff of Lazy Lagoon by arriving with my jockey wheel. I asked them to try and fix it. Earlier in the day the boatman had taken the jockey wheel to the local village on the mainland and when that did not work to Bagamayo. He returned with a battered but serviceable jockey wheel. I was delighted. The cost of the repair was the equivalent of £14.

In the evening I spoke to the only other guests, a group of five Germans. They were finishing a three week tour of the southern national parks and had visited many that I was planning to see. They mentioned that they had stayed outside many of the parks and gone in as day visitors. I suspect that  they did this to reduce the length of time they were in the parks and thus reduce the high level of park fees.

Day 4 – Lazy Lagoon to Nyerere National Park 234 kms

I caught the 10h00 boat to the mainland and as I landed, I was assisted by a guide from the Dar Es Salaam office of Foxes Safari Camps, who was waiting to transport the five Germans back to Dar Es Salaam. He warned me about the traffic in Dar and then gave me advice which made perfect sense to him but left me more confused. ‘Three kilometres past the first airport sign, cross the sea bridge, ignore the first exit but take the second.’ He was clear that I had to cross the city because I needed to pick up the B2 road to Kibiti.

As I reached the main road my SatNav told me to turn north towards Bagamoyo rather than south towards Dar Es Salaam. I checked the route and it appeared to be taking me on a route via secondary roads which would avoid Dar Es Salaam. I hesitated and concluded that if such a route was sensible the guide would have mentioned it. I turned south and quickly joined the slow moving traffic on the outskirts of the city.

I turned into a modern looking shopping mall and tried to buy a local SIM card for my mobile phone. The assistant at the Airtel shop advised that foreigners could not legally buy a SIM because they did not have an identity number. She suggested (completely illegally) that I persuade a local to buy a SIM for me. I asked her to do me that favour, but she said that she had already purchased the maximum of five. The person next to me seemed interested in helping me but it then transpired that he had no ID number. I was directed to Vodacom. They told me (as I expected) that I could buy a SIM if my fingerprints matched those taken at the border when I arrived. My problem was solved! Except that the fingerprint system had been down since yesterday. It was suggested that I return later. I asked if the system might still be down tomorrow and was told that was entirely possible. I was not going to get a SIM today.

I popped into the modern looking supermarket and bought basic provisions and was shocked at the high price of cheddar cheese, butter and muesli mix. These products all seemed to be imported.

I was now ready to speed off, except that it took me 90 minutes to travel 8km along Nelson Mandela Road. There was no obstruction causing the delay. Just a lot of traffic was using this main road which had several junctions and where the change of signals took a long time. Vendors had built businesses based on this never ending traffic jam. They moved up and down the stationary vehicles offering their wares. Some of their products were logical and included water, cookies, potato crisps, nuts, samosas, car phone chargers, sunglasses and steering wheel covers. Other vendors had concluded that this was a good time to buy sun hats and tarpaulins. I must assume that they sold those products in sufficient quantities to continue offering them.

Every time the traffic inched forward a vehicle would appear from left or right and want to push in. One motor cyclist decided to travel in the opposite direction between the stationary vehicles.

Desperate to escape this never ending traffic jam I was seduced by my SatNav which offered me an alternative route on secondary roads if I turned onto Julius Nyerere Drive. The traffic immediately eased, and I was soon making good progress. I was slightly worried that the late anticipated arrival time shown on my SatNav was not consistent with the speed I was doing. And then it became clear why that was.  150km from my objective the road turned into a gravel road. It was a lovely road, running along a ridge for 75km. However, I was now lucky to maintain 60kph. Villages sprung up. Children were returning from school. Overloaded motorbikes carrying three large bags of charcoal approached me on the road every minute.

Charcoal is another curse of Africa. It 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 sold in towns.  I had previously seen large bags of charcoal being sold in Angola and in Zambia near the Kariba Dam. Of course, it is another source of deforestation.

I was not sure what time the gate of the Nyerere National Park would close but I expected it would be close to 18h00 which was my likely arrival time. When I arrived at the gate, I was told that they remained open 24/7 to accommodate the never ending trucks that were supplying the construction of the new dam in the Park. My happiness was soon overturned when I was charged $424 for myself and my car for two days in the Park! The daily charge was made up as follows:

Description – all amounts in USDChargeVATTotal
Entrance fee701282
Vehicle fee50959
Concession fee for staying in the park at an hotel601171
Total18032212
GBP equivalent of total£155

I checked into Foxes Rufiji River Lodge. At dinner, the only other guests, a German couple, who were finishing a tour of Tanzanian Parks, told me that their best Park experience was Tarangire. This was the park I had eliminated from my schedule when I had started four days later than planned.

Day 5 – Nyerere National Park 187 kms

I was woken by the grunting of hippos in the Rufiji River, below the camp.

Selous National Park is described as the largest game reserve in the world. That does not mean a lot when about 85% of the Park is a hunting reserve. The northern 15% has been recently renamed as the Nyerere National Park and is available to clients who prefer to use a camera than a rifle. Unfortunately, the government is now building a dam on the Rufiji River, principally for hydroelectric generating purposes. Construction has been going on for two years and the forecast is that a further three years are needed. A ninety km long, fifteen metre wide gravel road now cuts through the Nyerere National Park with five huge trucks an hour traversing it 24/7. This has undoubtedly pushed game south away from Nyerere National Park towards the hunting area.

My first objective for the day was to view game. I spent a few hours along the banks of the Rufiji River and saw a huge number of hippos (as much as one ever sees hippos), two herds of buffalo, two sightings of ground hornbills, a pair of colobus monkeys (never seen these before), at a distance in the bushes, two sleeping lions and plenty of impala, giraffe, zebras, water buck, kudu and baboons. There were lots of young animals which is always endearing. The game viewing area is now confined by the river in the south and the road in the north. The riverine area is, however, delightful to be in. I saw no other private vehicles doing game viewing. I probably saw thirty game viewing trucks from lodges. I suspect that most of them were from lodges based outside the gate who were doing day drives. I was in my air conditioned car but most of the guests on these game drive vehicles looked unhappy as the 34 degree Celsius temperature wilted their enthusiasm and their forays onto the main road resulted in them being covered in dust by the construction traffic.

My second objective was to get close to the dam wall. Tracks4Africa is a community contributed mapping company whose maps on our Garmin Satnavs are essential for off road travel in Africa. When they heard of my trip, they asked me to travel to the dam wall and pinpoint its location for their map. I failed in this objective. Twenty kms from the likely place of the dam wall I was stopped by a security gate and no use of my charm was going to get me through.

On my way back I returned to the riverine area which really is delightful. It struck me that I had seen no elephants. I was later told that the area used to be full of elephants but the traffic from the dam had caused them to move away, probably into the hunting area!

On my return to the camp, I was pleased that management agreed to sell me 60 litres of diesel. I felt that I needed a full tank for tomorrow’s drive and my unexpected route yesterday had no filling stations once I hit the gravel.

During the day there had been a conference at the lodge of about twelve people focused on the management of Nyerere National Park. Four of them were not from the Park and stayed over and I chatted to them in the dining room. One individual had been employed by Tanzanian National Parks (TANAPA) for much of his life, and more recently as a consultant. A second individual was from a game reserve management organisation, I think African Wildlife Foundation (AFC). They said that they were exploring how AFC could help TANAPA make Nyerere National Park more successful. They were not very open about their plans. I suggested that they not bother doing anything until the dam was completed and that they look to reducing the entrance fees.

Day 6 – Nyerere National Park  to Morogoro 302 kms

I woke to a beautiful view over the Rufiji River.

I was on the road by 08h00 and in the next hour I passed ten lumbering trucks fully laden generating huge dust clouds. I pitied a game drive vehicle that came the other way as their passengers must have been coated with dust.

I passed through the Matembwe Gate

I reached Kisaki at 10h15. As I approached the village, I crossed the main rail line from Lusaka to Dar Es Salaam. I was intrigued to see that the line, on my Michelin map of Tanzania, was annotated with the words, Rovos Rail. Rovos is a South African luxury rail holiday company. They do an annual return trip to Dar Es Salaam, which doesn’t seem sufficient to give them special status on the line. More mundane things were happening near the Kisaki station. A very long freight train carrying steel bars, was stationary. People were loading bags of charcoal on top of the steel. I wondered how this transaction worked. Presumably someone related to the train, possibly the driver, was facilitating this loading. Would the owners of the charcoal now travel on the train, for a carriage fee, or had they sold their charcoal to the train intermediary? I did not stay to find out.

In the village a roadside vendor was selling warm doughnut like cakes which cost GBP 3 pence each. They were greasy and wonderful.

I was ready for my next adventure. The Bradt Guidebook to Tanzania mentioned that the management at Hondo Hondo Tented Camp, near the Udzungwa Mountains National Park, had said that a road existed directly between Hondo Hondo and Kisaki. Such a route would be five or six hours shorter than going the longer route through Morogoro. I had asked 99 people about this road, and all said that it was not possible to proceed along it – but none of them had ever tried! This morning I spoke to the guide/driver of the German couple, and he said that, before COVID he had travelled on that road about twice a year. He warned that the road was in poor condition but quite possible to do the 100 odd kilometres in four hours. I arrived at the main (and only) junction in Kisaki and there was a huge sign pointing due west and saying that the Mahondo Ranger Post of the Mikumi National Park was 105 kms away. My SatNav told me that there was a road for 113kms to Hondo Hondo that I could do in four hours. Why should I hesitate? All the signs were clear that a road existed.

Just out of town I came across a sign saying that the Tanzanian Road Fund had awarded a contract for the Tanroads Engineering Consulting Unit to maintain, from November 2020, the next 50kms of road and do major repairs to the Mgetakafa Bridge. I drew comfort from this that the first 50kms of the road would be in good condition. (A few days later I identified the location of the Mgetakafa Bridge, which is on the road to Morogoro. This sign was erected on the wrong road!)

Five kms later I had a rude awakening as I approached a riverbed with a very difficult exit on the other side up a high bank. I walked up the bank and worked out the best approach. This was going to need all my technical knowledge and a good performance from my vehicle, all complicated by the fact that I was pulling a trailer. I deflated all my six tyres. I engaged low 4×4 range and approached in first gear. Everything worked to plan, and I emerged at the top of the bank. This was a worrying start because if further challenges were more technical than this, I doubted that I could be successful. I now had three choices. My SatNav said to turn immediately right and follow the river, except that there was no track there and only thick bush. There was a track going straight ahead and a track going left. I took the track going straight ahead which arrived at a hut in 300 metres and then faded out. My SatNav was still showing the route as running at right angles to my right, so I did a cross country drive across some harvested fields and found no track. I returned to the river crossing and took the track going to the left which I followed for about a kilometre, but it resolutely continued in the wrong direction. I became very concerned that I might travel for hours in the wrong direction and have to backtrack. So, I abandoned my plan to go directly to Hondo Hondo and instead returned to Kisaki to pick up the road to Morogoro.

The road north from Kisaki towards Morogoro was relatively busy but was an interesting road. It curved through mountains and interesting villages. It was difficult to average more than 30 kph but I was relaxed.

I lost concentration on the road as I pushed my fat fingers into the lunchbox that the lodge had given me that morning. Suddenly I noticed that my arrival time at Morogoro had moved on an hour on my SatNav. My route seemed to be doing a big loop which I didn’t understand. Instead of stopping and working out what had happened I chomped on a delicious piece of chicken. Eventually I realised that I had taken a wrong turn but as I was approaching the apex of the loop, I took the view that I might as well finish the loop. Immediately thereafter the road deteriorated to a small track which was clearly mainly used by motor bikes. There were many villages and many people on the route. They looked with fascination at my trailer on these small tracks. I came to a place where water had washed away part of the track. I engaged low range and easily passed the obstacle. Similar damage to the road caused me to engage low range several times. This route was getting more challenging. Suddenly my SatNav told me that I had missed an important turn and that I should retrace my route for a short distance. However, I was on the side of a mountain with no turning space for my trailer. The road widened and I thought to attempt a turn. A local man on a motorcycle stopped and guided me as I reversed my trailer towards the cliff edge. It was soon apparent that I could not turn here. My new acquaintance led me another two kilometres to a village where I was able to turn around. I now took very careful note of my SatNav to ensure that I did not miss the turning. I stopped at the point when it said to turn. There was no track there, just a cliff edge. I resolved that the safest solution was to backtrack on my route.

I arrived back at the ‘main’ road three hours after I left it. I could see why I made a mistake. At a junction I had gone straight on, but the correct road was at a 70 degree angle. Both roads looked the same size. If I wasn’t digging in my lunch box as I approached this junction, I would probably have recognised that I needed to take the road off at an angle.

It was now 16h00 and any hope of getting to Hondo Hondo by nightfall was lost. I consulted my Bradt guidebook which told me that the New Acropol Hotel was on the road into Morogoro. I drew up to an hotel that was closed and looked in urgent need of repairs. I next chose the Simbamwenni Lodge across town where I was welcomed by Annie and installed in a lovely comfortable chalet.

Day 7 – Morogoro 20 kms

Mike McEnery arrived in Tanzania, from Ireland, forty years ago to do volunteer work and soon thereafter met Annie, from the UK, also doing volunteer work. Their work took them to different parts of the country, but they did long train journeys to meet up. They married and took on paying jobs as an infrastructure consultant (Mike) and a maths teacher (Annie). They have five children whom Annie home schooled until the need for good secondary schooling forced them to move to Ireland for a decade. As soon as they could, first Mike, and then Annie, returned to Tanzania, the country that they loved. They particularly liked Morogoro and bought a 99 year lease on a five acre plot, well out of town, from the local university. The plot stood empty for a decade and then they started adding buildings, to eventually include two chalets, four covered tents and a camping area. They have now retired and Simbamwenni Lodge & Camping that they have built, is their pension. Unsurprisingly they were closed for a year during COVID and are struggling back to life. I was the only guest.

They asked their local mechanic, Ethan, to come by and fix my trailer connector which had broken during one of my low range experiences yesterday. Ethan did that and then pointed out that my new wheel carrier was coming apart. He took my vehicle and trailer to his workshop to fix it. As I watched my vehicle leave the gate, with a person I had met 30 minutes before, I wondered if I was being sensible to let my vehicle, trailer, British passport and over USD1,000 be driven off. In the end my trust was well placed, and my vehicle was returned eventually with everything intact.

Mike, Annie and I chatted for a while and they then took me to the Vodacom shop where a 45 minute session, including the checking of my fingerprints and comparing my passport photo with the real person, resulted in me emerging with a local sim card.

Mike and Annie dropped me at Ethan’s yard, and we wished each other well, knowing that we would never see each again.

To my dismay the welding job on my wheel carrier had made little progress and was to proceed very slowly for the next three hours. I looked around me at this yard filled with vehicles that would never move again. In a country where new car parts take weeks to arrive many repairs are done by taking parts from vehicle that have been taken off the road. There were piles of discarded parts everywhere. The yard had once been the pride and joy of Ethan’s father with interesting wall decorations and a mounted buffalo head. Ethan had five employees and used sub-contractors to do jobs like painting. Everyone, including Ethan, worked hard and got dirty. However, every time a tool was needed or a mat to lie on under the car, a junior was sent to fetch the item. And when the lifting was particularly heavy or the job was particularly awkward or dirty, the junior was given the job. He may have been junior in status, but he looked to me that he was about 35. He did all that was asked without hesitation, but I wondered what went through his mind. I will never know. I made a point of thanking him.

The job was finished, and I was content to pay TZS 150,000 (£47).

I emerged from the workshop at 15h00 and realised that it was foolhardy to drive three hours to Hondo Hondo only to leave first thing in the morning. I filled up with diesel and drew TZS 400,000 to cover the cash I had outlaid during the day for my accommodation, SIM card (and airtime and mobile data), Ethan and diesel. At traffic lights I was intrigued to see ten sheep, without an obvious shepherd, walk along the main road and cross a street with determination. I have no idea where they were heading.

I then presented myself back at Simbamwenni Lodge. I was invited to join Mike and Annie for dinner, and we talked about travels, careers and children.

Mike told me that the Selous hunting area is divided into about twenty concessions which are auctioned annually. The successful bidders then work out how many 21 day slots they can use for their clients and then offer the remaining slots to others. In addition to the right to hunt in an area, hunters must pay the government in advance for the smaller animals they plan to hunt. Larger animals are only paid for if shot. Mike said that only large (presumably older) elephants can be hunted and that all smaller elephants may not be hunted. Mike thought (but confirmed that he was not up to date in these matters) that a hunter would probably have to pay USD 30,000 to the government for shooting an elephant. Mike said that there were once 100,000 elephants in the Selous and that the current number is probably in the few thousands. The hunters are principally Americans, Russians and people from the Middle East. Mike said that as the government received income for every hunted animal, officials require anyone with animal trophies or horns to have a certificate of origin. I always have difficulty with the hunting of animals, although I have developed a real admiration for the art of taxidermy.

As the evening progressed Mike broke into his Irish Whiskey collection and a few drams were drunk.

Day 8 – Morogoro to Mikumi National Park 180 kms

I was on the road by 08h30 for the two hour drive to Mikumi National Park.

A village that I passed through had roadside displays of basketwork for sale. Towering stands displayed baskets of every kind. There were probably twenty basketware stalls. The same happened in the next two villages. I had not seen basketware offered for sale anywhere else in the country and here were three villages devoted to the craft. Presumably one person arrived with the skill, which was then copied by all his neighbours. I did not buy any baskets.

I was travelling on the Tanzam Highway. The Tanzam Highway leads from Lusaka in Zambia to Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania. After Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence of Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) from the UK, in November 1965, the roads to South Africa were not available to Zambia. The 2,400 km Tanzam highway was built from 1968 to 1973 in several stages and was intended to provide seaport access for Zambia and to expand the transport options for Zambia, Malawi and the then Zaire (now Democratic Republic of the Congo). The main rail line between Lusaka and Dar Es Salaam was also built at that time. Not surprisingly the Tanzam highway was busy, mainly with trucks. The route to South Africa is now also open. Today there are hundreds of trucks on the road, at one time from South Africa to Zambia.

The road passes through the middle of the Mikumi National Park for about 50km. The speed limit is reduced to 70 kph and signs warn of heavy fines if animals are killed by vehicles, ranging from $75 for a hare to $1,900 for a buffalo. On two occasions, when I was travelling very slowly, impala darted between the cars from one side of the Park to the other.

I arrived at the entrance gate of Mikumi National Park and parted with USD 224 for two days which was a lot better than Nyerere NP. The daily charge was made up as follows:

Description – all amounts in USDChargeVATTotal
Entrance fee30535
Vehicle fee40747
Concession fee for staying in the park at an hotel25530
Total  112
GBP equivalent of total£82

As always printed copies of maps had run out. I was invited to photograph the wall map.

I looked at the register that I was asked to sign and counted an average of fifteen new arrivals in each of the past three days. People who bought multiple day permits did not have to sign the register again. Nonetheless these are low numbers for a major park. I think that the numbers may be higher today because it is a Saturday.

As I waited for my permit, four buses arrived with ninety singing primary school pupils from fifty kilometres away. Excitement was high. The female teachers had put on their party frocks.

I drove into the Park and immediately noticed that it was a flat plain, with little vegetation and very dry. (The annual rains commence in six weeks’ time.) I saw very few animals until I came across the large dams called Hippo Pools. 200 buffalo were drinking water. Small herds of elephant were immersing themselves. Lots of other animals were there as well. One was able to leave one’s vehicle at a safe edge of the dams and I discovered that most of the visitors there were on day trips from Mikumi Town, 20km away. (These people did not have to pay the concession fee for an overnight stay.) I noticed that the elephants were small. I could not work out if they were different from the elephants in Southern Africa or that they were all younger?

A few hundred metres away two lions were mating a distance from the road. (Lions mate very ten minutes for several days.) Another two lions were sleeping under a baobab tree.

This was certainly a wonderful baptism.

On my way back to the gate I noticed a small passenger plane on the airfield advertising the carrier as ‘Coastal’.

Two hours after entering the park I crossed the main road and travelled 7km into the Park to Foxes Vuma Hills Lodge where I arrived in time for lunch.

The dining terrace was busy with seven groups of people. This lodge was the busiest I had seen yet on my trip. I noticed two pilots having lunch and introduced myself. They told me that they were from Coastal and had left Zanzibar at 07h30 and delivered their passengers to waiting game drive vehicles at 08h30. They would depart again at 15h30 so their passengers would have seven hours in the Park, as an excursion from their beach holiday.  They do this flight twice a week. On other days they do day trips to Nyerere and Ruaha National Parks. They also drop passengers off for multi day trips to Serengeti.

At 16h00 I went out again. Workmen were erecting a telcom tower in the Park. It looked like precarious work.

As I entered at the main gate the four busloads of pupils exited. I hope they had a good day. I was game driving for 2.5 hours saw no animals at Hippo Pools, saw the lions still busy and came across a large herd of buffalo.

At dinner I met Patrick von Kaenel, a 26 year old Swiss who described himself as paraglider test pilot. He believes that there are only three such pilots in Switzerland and very limited numbers in France and Germany. The company he works for, Advance Paragliders, only sells paragliders and keeps a factory with 500 people in Vietnam fully occupied. I expressed the fear that being a test pilot is a risky occupation. Patrick said that he participated in the computer design of the gliders, which were conceptually tested by the computer. He said that the moment he picked a paraglider he could feel if it was properly balanced. He acknowledged that the oldest professional paraglider that he knew, was a young 40 and that he may not be able to be a sixty year old test pilot. He supplemented his income by sponsorship deals (in his view not a material amount) and motivational talks. He and his Swiss Air cabin crew partner, Nicla, were spending two days in the Park before spending ten days each on Mafia Island and Zanzibar where they will Kite Surf, on their equipment, which they had brought from Switzerland. They expressed interest in going to Cape Town where kite surfers sometimes jump 30 metres in the air with the high waves and strong winds. I remember seeing such boarders near Misty Cliffs on the Atlantic road to Cape Point. There is more information about Patrick at https://www.patrickvonkaenel.ch/

After dinner I worked on my laptop. Everyone had left the open sided dining area when I looked up to find a bush baby looking at me:

Day 9 – Mikumi National Park 141 kms

I woke before 06h00 to the sound of the lodge staff having a discussion some distance apart from each other in Swahili. They were happy. I was less so.

While the lodge is in the Park and the Park extends for a further 30km south it appears that in this dry season there are very few animals on the lodge side of the main road. I turned northeast when inside the main gate and travelled for about 35kms. The flat plain changed to rolling hills with bushes and trees. This was a far more interesting environment. I saw elephants a distance from the road. I stopped the car and opened my windows, and twenty tsetse  flew into my car and attacked me. I fought back but was left with bites on my body in my defeat. Every time I slowed or stopped for the next few kilometres an army of more flies hammered on the windows wanting to join the party. It must be terrible to be in an open game truck in such an environment.

Wikipedia says: ‘Tsetse  are large biting flies that inhabit much of tropical Africa and live by feeding on the blood of vertebrate animals. The word tsetse means “fly” in Tswana, a Bantu language of southern Africa. There is therefore no need to add fly after the word tsetse . They have a prominent economic impact in sub-Saharan Africa as they cause human sleeping sickness. Tsetse are long-lived, typically producing about four broods per year, and up to 31 broods over their lifespans. The areas occupied by the tsetse are largely barred to animal husbandry. Sleeping sickness has been dubbed “the best game warden in Africa” by conservationists.’ It was easy for the government of the South African Republic to first protect areas of the Kruger National Park in 1898 because farmers did not want to farmland infested with tsetse, as those areas were.

Most game reserves in South Africa have eradicated the tsetse but they remain a real issue for tourists in Tanzania and Zambia. It is uncomfortable to be bitten by a tsetse  and even worse when several are attacking you at the same time.

I arrived at the Mwanambogo Dam and was pleased to see that the tsetse had been left behind. There was water both sides of the dam wall, so I parked on the wall and sat for 2.5 hours. The dam was busy with buffalo, eland, zebra, impala, baboons and many types of birds. It is always interesting to watch giraffe drink. They are always very cautious before they drink. Three approached the water. One drank but the other two were fearful and took two hours to find the courage to drink.

I became aware of a reed buck, largely hidden in the grass thirty metres away, who was watching me. She would duck out of sight and then emerge again. It took her a long time to conclude that I was not a danger. She eventually emerged from the grass with three members of her family and drank from the dam.

Part of the reason I sat there for so long was that I could see five elephants approaching the dam. I have never seen elephant approach water so carefully. They stood for almost an hour, about three hundred metres from the water. They stood on the edge of the dam but did not drink. Most elephants at this stage are running into the water. Eventually they entered the water, slowly and one by one. They drank their fill, cooled down by spraying water over themselves and one rolled in the water. They turned to leave. Accepting that the show was over I turned my car on to leave. The elephants bolted as fast as they could run. They must associate the sound of a car engine with a traumatic event.

I took a side road that would quickly deliver me to the main road. I came across the mothballed Foxes Stanley Kopje Lodge which was looking bedraggled. The tsetse were drumming on my windows. I wondered whether the flies had caused the camp to be closed. (The manager at Vuma Hills, later told me that the tsetse at Stanley Kopje Lodge are normally kept at bay by blue tsetse mats that the park officials hang out. The flies are attracted by the blue colour and when they touch the chemically treated mats, they die instantly. He was lobbying the park officials to rehang mats at Stanley Kopje Lodge.)

At lunch I met a sixty six year old German, his younger wife and his forty year old son. They live about 100km from Munich near the Austrian border. After the fall of the wall in 1989 he managed a newspaper business that quickly extended the publication of newspapers into Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. To mitigate his high taxes, he invested into a VW car dealership. When the owners later advised that the business was failing, he took it over and developed it to a business that today sells 10,000 vehicles a year from sixteen branches. Two thirds of the sales are used cars although about 1,500 of those are less than a year old and are from VW staff who are entitled to buy a new car at a discount each year. Most sales are on a lease basis which he thinks makes a lot of sense with electric cars, where the technology is bound to be very different in three years’ time. His son and two daughters have been running the business for five years and he has just given his shares to them. They visit Tanzania every year to oversee the development of a private monastery school located 100 km south of Dar Es Salaam. They have introduced management processes and have organised a foundation in Germany that provides funding of agreed objectives. Their objective is to make the school profitable so that it can offer scholarships to local children who could not afford to attend the school.

In the afternoon nothing was happening at the Hippo Pools, so I continued driving for another 15km on a road that became wooded. Even though there were few animals the drive was poor joy.

When I returned to the Hippo Pools, I was told that the mating lions were nearby. I was able to park 10 metres from the sleeping lions, who then woke, mated and went back to sleep.

As the sun was setting, I returned to the Hippo Pools to find it a hive of activity. Elephants were in three places in the pools. There was a kerfuffle as a hippo suddenly exited the water disturbing the equilibrium of elephants in his way. A very small baby elephant was delighted to be able to roll and play in the mud. A buffalo tried to get to the water’s edge to be chased away by an elephant. And so, my experience of Mikumi National Park ended on a very positive note.

Day 10 – Mikumi National Park to Ruaha National Park 350 kms

As I passed through Mikumi town a phalanx of police stopped vehicles and approached them with card payment machines in their hand. This was an out and out revenue raising exercise. I assume that the truck drivers are fastidious about the 50kph limit so they must be fined for something else. This must make trucking a far more expensive business that it needs to be.

The Tanzam Highway was busy, In the four hours it took me to reach Iringa I must have passed 200 trucks. Single and double continuous white lines in the middle of the road are probably created assuming that traffic in both directions is travelling at 100 kph. The relevance of the lines changes completely when most traffic is moving at less than 30kph. Official looking vehicles completely ignored the continuous white lines in the middle of the road and raced past me when I was complying with 50 kph speed restrictions.

My compliance with the 50 kph speed restrictions was not absolute and the moment I did 60 kph when entering a 50 kph zone, I was pulled over by the police. The corporal in a sparkling white uniform told me, in answer to my questions, that she had worked in the police force for fifteen years since she was 18, accepted that her job was to maximise income for the government, had three children and hoped one day to escape the police force and become a businesswoman. I diverted her sufficiently for her to let me go without the threatened fine.

Almost the complete route was through attractive mountains.

My comfort was compromised because my front passenger window had stuck halfway open. On arrival in Iringa, I took myself to the Toyota dealer. After my problem was considered by the receptionist and two service advisors the mechanic fundi was called. He undid six screws, removed the internal door padding and disappeared into his workshop with my window. He returned 30 minutes later and put everything together. I was told that he had glued the underside support clip to the window so I should not activate the window for three hours to allow the glue to dry. I wondered whether the promised bad roads to Ruaha would be a risk. I was delighted that all this work resulted in a low bill of TZS30,000 (less than £10).

The road to Ruaha was not as bad as reputed and I arrived at the gate in two hours. I was told that this was the only gate into Ruaha National Park, that while only two cars a day seemed to enter, most visitors arrived by plane. I was allowed to photograph a dog eared map as no copies were available. I was charged USD 236 for two days. The daily charge was made up as follows:

Description – all amounts in USDChargeVATTotal
Entrance fee30636
Vehicle fee40646
Concession fee for staying in the park at an hotel30636
Total10018118
GBP equivalent of total£86

I arrived at Foxes Ruaha River Camp to find it spread along the river with a beautiful outlook from both the dining/lounge area and the individual rooms.

Day 11 – Ruaha National Park 138 kms

I woke early to the sound of three lions roaring. They were not together and different distances from the camp but wanted everyone to know that they were around.

Six weeks before the rains are due the rivers in the Park are not flowing and the Ruaha River only has stagnant pools of water. One of the guides, Mereso, advised that the best place to see animals would be near the confluence of the Ruaha and the Mwagusi Rivers. I spent five hours on a game drive and saw plenty of (small again) elephants, a herd of buffalo and small numbers of various antelope. I was frustrated that it was impossible to stay driving by the river as the road was mainly away from the river, coming close from time to time. The bush was tinder dry. I enjoyed the driving despite the relative lack of animals.

At lunch the only other guests were Rita and Jeff Rayman from Toronto, who have been married for 37 years. They made their money in film finance and, on a holiday to Rwanda, began charitable work assisting people living near game reserves to live better lives. Their work has extended to include Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania. Because of their regular travels to East Africa, they became familiar with interesting lodges and Rita now also has a business designing holidays for people in the region.

In the afternoon I took a road in a southwest direction following the course of the river. Mereso had warned that there were few animals in this direction, and with a 37 degree C heat, my expectations of seeing animals were low. My expectations were met, but there was a lovely sunset.

I later discovered that three days before I arrived at Ruaha River Camp, a game drive from the lodge, with four Germans, had been attacked by bees, resulting in the death of one of the party. While we all understand that our risk profile increases in game reserves, one never thinks of bees as one of the dangers.

Day 12 – Ruaha National Park to Foxes Mufindi Highland Lodge 298 kms

In the morning, Stephanie, the acting camp manager, showed me around chalets that were being renovated. It was interesting to see how they were improving the buildings.

I returned to Iringa, travelled down the Tanzam Highway to Ufinga and then turned to the highlands. I had not been given directions to the Mufindi Highland Lodge and my SatNav did not have it listed. I kept stopping and asking for directions with most people not speaking English. I called the Lodge and from my description the receptionist thought I was at a different junction than I was. I headed off in the wrong direction for 17kms down the escarpment, out of phone range. Realising that I had gone wrong I retraced my route, called again and finally found the right road. I was irritated because if I had had directions, I would have saved two hours.

You might have noticed that this is the fifth lodge of Foxes Safari Camps that I have stayed at. I had found them in the Bradt Guide to Tanzania, realised that they were at many of my planned destinations, found that they had a UK booking office and discovered that their rates in a COVID world were quite reasonable. As I travelled stories began to accumulate about the Fox Family. I bought and read a book by Evelyn Voigt called ‘Flying Snakes and Green Turtles’ which told the story of Geoff and Vicky Fox. I had now arrived at their home.

Geoff Fox arrived in the Mufindi area of Tanganyika in 1959, aged 21, as an employee of the British firm, Brooke Bond, to help manage their tea plantations. Three years later he married his childhood sweetheart from near Middlemoor in Devon in England, Vicky, who returned with him to Mufindi. Geoff worked for Brooke Bond for 28 years and managed a cattle farm on the Tanzanian coast for a further eight years. They both became fluent in Swahili. They embraced the wild and different things that the country offered them. That included twelve annual two week walking and hunting safaris where they slept without tents. The last such walking holiday was in 1976 when they were joined by their three sons, the youngest only being six, and walked an average of 17 miles a day. I was an adult in South Africa in 1976 and been to many game reserves, some very remote. I would never have considered doing a walking safari. In 1981 Vicky negotiated with the Tanzanian National Parks Board to be allowed to build a lodge on the Ruaha River in the Ruaha National Park. She, friends and her sons built a lodge which was the kernel from which the current seven lodges, the six plane bush airline and several thousand hectare farm in Mufindi developed. Geoff says that the motivation for establishing the lodge company was to give his sons the ability to live in Tanzania. Although the oldest three were all born in Tanzania, they have no long term right of residence unless they are working in their own business. The sons have all contributed in different ways to the success of the company. Geoff and Vicky have largely retired although their farm produces a lot of the food eaten in the lodges. The company is run by son, Peter, in Tanzania and by son, Bruce and his wife Jane, from their booking office in England.

I was welcomed by Geoff and Vicky, who had no reason to treat me as a special guest but certainly made me very welcome. From the next morning I was the only guest at the Lodge. I delighted in hearing about their experiences and questioning them about their decision processes.

Day 13 – Foxes Mufindi Highland Lodge

After breakfast Geoff arranged for his maintenance man to fix the cover of the electrical connector between my car and trailer. I was shown several of the twelve UK Army, ex Afghanistan campaign, low mileage, armoured Land Rovers that they had bought for just over £4,000 each in an Army surplus stock auction. The vehicles had been shipped to Tanzania (100% duty paid on arrival), stripped of their armour, had their wheelbase extended and were in the process of having game viewing seats added, before being sent to their lodges.

I was invited for morning coffee to the home of Geoff and Vicky which Geoff had built as a copy of a 1925 house in Middlemoor. They talked about the schooling, health facilities and orphanage which they sponsor on their farms and in the surrounding communities. They showed me the home that is being built by their son, Chris, who manages his own lodge in Ruaha National Park, in the most amazing location overlooking a lake and forest. I was delighted to have been made so welcome by people who have lived an incredibly interesting life.

Geoff is of the opinion that the relatively low elephant numbers, especially in Nyerere and Ruaha, and the lack of large elephants generally, has very little to do with commercial hunting, and everything to do with decades of poaching. Even today, all types of ‘bush’ meat are available for sale in Mikumi Town, without any sanction from the authorities.

Day 14 – Mufindi Highland Lodge to Sumbawanga 588 kms

Soon after leaving Mufindi Lodge I came across a tea plantation with the tea being picked.

A long day. A hard day. I knew this was going to be a long driving day. It took me seven hours to get to the border town of Tunduma and I then travelled on for a further four hours to Sumbawanga.

Initially the tar road was in poor condition with lots of potholes in the tar. I did not want to create a puncture by hitting a pothole too hard at speed and had to be careful not to swing away from a hole, into the face of incoming traffic.

Trucks and trucks and more trucks. Repeated 50kph zones. I was stopped for doing 56kph on entering a 50kph zone. I diverted the policeman by asking him to WhatsApp me the images of my transgression, which he did. He then let me go. He later thought better of it and deleted the images from the message.

It took me 45 minutes to get through 15kms of the town of Mbeya with roadside stores on either side of the road and traffic approaching from every direction. I wondered why they did not create a bypass until I noticed a sign to the city centre 2.7km away. This crawling, heaving road was the bypass!

I reached Tunduma at 16h00 and was not attracted by spending the rest of the day in a poor quality hotel (which is all that is on offer in Tunduma). I saw that I could get to Sumbawanga by 20h00 and decided that the small amount of night driving was worth it. This was the best road I have been on in Tanzania and there were hardly any trucks. Daylight disappeared and the night enclosed me, later than I expected, at 19h00. Just before, in the twilight, I was reminded why night driving in Africa is dangerous, when I rounded a bend at speed, to find three donkeys in the road. One might not see them quick enough in the dark. I drove the last 50km at a slower pace and had to quickly brake a few times in the outskirts of Sumbawanga, as people crossed the road with almost no regard to the traffic.

Last February I had stayed at Holland Lodge (which was miserable) in Sumbawanga when I had been advised to stay at Holland Hotel. I made sure that my SatNav took me to Holland Hotel. It started well with a secure, guarded car park. I walked into the hotel, and it felt identical to Holland Lodge. There was a power outage, so people were moving round with torches.  I was quoted TZS 50,000 (£17) for the night which lowered my expectations. I asked to see the room and going up the stairs and the room was identical to Holland Lodge. I accepted my lot and took the room. I finished off my lunch box and was asleep by 21h00 convinced that I had returned to Holland Lodge, by mistake.

Day 15 – Sumbawanga to Katavi National Park 246 kms

Music thumped until 04h00, at which point the revellers returned to their rooms on my floor in a very noisy manner.

I paid my bill and circled the area and quickly confirmed that I had stayed in Holland Hotel and that Holland Lodge was two blocks away in the bus station.

I drove to Katavi Wildlife Camp in three hours. I had visited the Park last year February and had got stuck in the sand. I now left my trailer at the camp and drove along the ten kilometre stretch along the Katuma River where, I was told, all the animals were to be found. I saw several hundred hippos, many clustered in pools, where the water was low. There was also a selection of elephant, giraffe and antelope. Three times I was directed to lion, which I did not find.

At the camp I met Peter Fox, the son of Geoff and Vicky, who is running the lodge group on the ground. I enjoyed our chat. I have now stayed at all six of the camps of Foxes Safari Camps, which are open. The group was started by Vicky Fox and with help from husband, Geoff, and her three sons and their wives, was built piece by piece, over thirty years, whenever money was available. When times were good, they were able to acquire six planes to help ferry guests between the camps. This is a considerable achievement. However, it is clear, that this hodge podge development, by people without hotel training, has resulted in lodges that are in spectacular locations but are not good enough. The company must have taken a huge hit in COVID times. I hope that they recover and get help to make their lodges, truly spectacular.

Day 16 – Katavi to Lake Shore Lodge on Lake Tangynika 162 kms

I woke to the sound of hippos grunting and a distant lion roaring.

I drove back along the Katuma River to the airstrip where I had arranged to meet the ranger to pay my park fees. I paid the following for the night:

Description – all amounts in USDChargeVATTotal
Entrance fee30636
Vehicle fee40646
Concession fee for staying in the park at an hotel30636
Total10018118
GBP equivalent of total£86

I drove slowly out of the Park without seeing anything new.

I reflected on my game viewing experience on this trip in the four National Parks that I visited in Tanzania. On balance I was disappointed. Despite their reputations, none of the parks had offered the variety of game and extent of true game viewing that is offered in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. At this time of the year all the animals were concentrated on the river areas which were themselves short. Katavi effectively only has a 30km road along the river. Ruaha has a road along the river, but it keeps moving away from the river. Nyerere has a wonderful patchwork of tracks near the river, but the length is no more than about 15 kms and the area is hemmed in by the dam construction road which has also chased all the elephants away. Mikumi has Hippo Pools which attracts thousands of animals every day but is also packed with vehicles. Except for Ruaha the other three do not have networks of roads of any substance. Despite these shortcomings these parks are also far more expensive than any parks in Southern Africa.

At Lyazumbi village I was stopped by an immigration officer who inspected my passport. I asked him why he was stopping me. (I understand that people may cross Lake Tangynika illegally from the Congo but are unlikely to do that with a South African car and trailer). He told me that I would be surprised how many illegal immigrants there are. He asked to see my yellow vaccination book which he glanced at and returned. I was intrigued. As far as I know there are no requirements for arrivals in Tanzania to have any vaccinations. I asked him which vaccination he was seeking in my book. He mumbled that I needed to have the yellow book without identifying which vaccination he was seeking. He released me to continue my journey.

I turned off the main road and drove at a comfortable speed down to Kipili Village on the shore of Lake Tangynika, and specifically to Lake Shore Lodge. Two South Africans, Chris and Louise, have created a wonderful lodge in paradise. I have previously written about both their lodge and Lake Tangynika in my blog posting when I first arrived in Tanzania. See Days 23 and 24 at: https://bobview.com/2020/04/cape-town-to-tanzania-feb-mar-2020/

I sat on the terrace, five metres from the lapping waves, drinking a cold Kilimanjaro beer, and delighted in the wonderful setting and excellent WIFI. I spoke to other travellers. This was certainly the lodge with the greatest cross section of travellers. Chris had just returned from a two week trip on their 50ft lake cruiser with four guests who were scuba diving and birding. They had three staff members with them and camped each night on shore. They also visited the chimpanzees in Mahale National Park. There was a couple who were in the campsite, who have been travelling for a year and were waiting for a replacement shock absorber to be delivered to Mbeya. Another South African couple are working on a project in the town of Tanga but were planning their route overland back to South Africa. A British couple who had taught in international schools in Uganda and Tanzania for 18 years, were approaching retirement, and working out how best to structure their forthcoming freedom. A British couple, where he worked for the UK Government Department for International Development in Tanzania, have done similar work in other places in Africa, for the last twenty years.

An issue for all communities around the lake is the increasing water level. Only one river drains from the lake, and it has limited capacity. Evaporation is the main way rainfall is dissipated. In the last two years the rains have been higher than normal, and the water level rose to a record 2.5 metres above the normal high water mark. That has been disastrous for the lake side communities with many houses, shops and community buildings being flooded. In many cases the buildings are not solid enough and with their foundations and lower walls wet, they have collapsed. The water levels have now dropped but are still 1.5 metres above the norm, and with the wet season about a month away, there is a fear that last year’s record high may be matched this year.

Day 17 – Lake Shore Lodge 19 kms by boat

At 07h30 I was sitting on the terrace reading my downloaded copy of the London Times. The lake was completely still. I was at peace.

I learnt about the MV Liemba, formerly Graf von Goetzen, a passenger and cargo ferry that used to run along the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. Graf von Goetzen was built in 1913 in Germany and was one of three vessels the German Empire used to control Lake Tanganyika during the early part of the First World War. Her captain had her scuttled on 26 July 1916 in Katabe Bay during the German retreat from Kigoma. In 1924, a British Royal Navy salvage team raised her and in 1927 she returned to service as Liemba. The ferry has been a crucial cog in the travel and transport infrastructure on the Lake and a welcome addition for tourists. Unfortunately, the ferry has been out of service for three years with confusion as to what is needed to make it operational again.

I spent a few hours in the afternoon reorganising my trailer. I also erected my tent to make sure that it was still in good order for the forthcoming ten nights of camping. I noticed that my table, which was mounted under my roof carrier was no longer there. That is a nuisance.

Chris showed me his recently acquired Unimog which had been acquired in a whisky fuelled evening when a barter deal was struck with the owner of the Unimog gaining the right to use Chris’s 50ft lake cruiser for one week each year in perpetuity. Chris is still working out how he is going to use the vehicle but is delighted to own something so unique.

At 17h00 five of us guests went out on 19km two hour sunset cruise. We cruised along the coast and saw how the high water levels were impinging on lake side buildings in villages. We stopped for me to have a swim. The depth of the lake under me was 100 metres but a few kilometres away the depth is 1,500 metres.

At the communal dinner table, Pam Chin, one of the participants in the two week boat trip to Mahale, told us about her fish collection. She lives near Sacramento, California and has a building at her home, dedicated as a private aquarium. She has 80 species of fish in 150 tanks using 27,000 litres of water.  She can travel because her husband, in her words, is a hermit, who seldom leaves the property for long. He has another reason to stay at home because he has a collection of several hundred homing pigeons.

Day 18 – Lake Shore Lodge

At 08h00 I joined a couple from the lodge and walked twenty minutes up the hill to the Jiweni-Kamba church that was part of the Kipili Mission. The Mission and Church were built by the White Fathers and Congolese slaves between 1890 and 1895. The Missionaries of Africa, commonly known as the White Fathers is a Roman Catholic society of apostolic life. During the 1940s the mission was a busy place of religion, education and health but was then abandoned and each year deteriorates further.

There was excitement in the camp because the London Natural History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards, the previous evening, had announced that Angel Fitor was the Winner, in the portfolio award category. His photo was of two male cichlid fish fighting over a snail shell in Lake Tanganyika. Inside the half-buried shell is a female ready to lay eggs. For three weeks, Fitor monitored the lakebed looking for such disputes. The biting and pushing lasts until the weaker fish gives way. Lake Tanganyika is home to more than 240 species of cichlid fishes. Fitor has often stayed at Lake Shore Lodge when photographing underwater in Lake Tanganyika.

The day was spent relaxing, catching up with admin and writing this record.

The guests clubbed together to pay the TZS100,000 (£31) needed for the Kilili Choir to perform for us before dinner. Nine singers, two drummers and a baby on a singer’s back kept us entertained for 30 minutes. They sang hymns in Swahili, which we did not need to understand, to appreciate the beauty.

Day 19 Kipili in Tanzania to Mbala in Zambia

I was on the road by 08h30. I had been keen to cross the border into Zambia at Zombe rather than Tunduma which was several hundred kilometres further and a far busier and more complicated border crossing. Zombe had been closed to foreign cars for most of the COVID period. Chris at Lake Shore Lodge sent a WhatsApp to the head of the Zambian station at Zombe enquiring if I could cross. I was told to come.

So, at Sumbawanga, instead of retracing my steps to Tunduma, I turned off to Zombe. I turned at the wrong junction and travelled 20kms on a deteriorating road and then track before joining the correct tarred road. The tar road did not last for long and the road became a gravel road. I had travelled this road last year in the other direction in the rain and dark and it had been a nightmare. However bad this road was it was a dramatic improvement on my last trip.

I waited twenty minutes for the Tanzanian Customs official to come from his house. He stamped my carnets and kept my Temporary Import Permits. I asked if foreign cars could now cross into Tanzania at this border post and he told me that it was no problem. The immigration officer was surprised that the customs officer had said that but made clear that the decision to allow foreign vehicles was down to customs. I was required to meet with a health officer who wanted to see my yellow fever vaccination certificate and my certificate of double COVID vaccination. The former is very confusing because government websites say that Yellow Fever vaccinations are not needed to enter (never mind leave) Tanzania and I was not asked for the certificate both times I had flown in. When I said that my COVID certificate was in the car, he said not to worry.

I then passed through the gate to the small office of the Tanzanian border officials. Immigration was cleared in a flash. I waited an hour for the customs official to take his time from his home in Mbala, about 20kms away. When he arrived, he had the grace to be embarrassed because he had forgotten the keys for his cupboards. A youth was sent on a motorcycle to fetch the keys. With keys in hand the stamps were brought out and my carnets were stamped. I was charged ZKW 660 (£29) for carbon tax. The official said he wanted to inspect my vehicle and contents but then did not bother. And I was free to go. There was no mention of COVID, no concern if I had third party insurance and council and toll taxes were not levied (although they were collected on the road the next day). The crossing of both borders had taken three hours.

The road to Mbala had been transformed since last February and was now a good quality gravel road. The origin of the change became clear when I passed a Chinese road construction camp. I assume these works are part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative where loans are advanced to poor countries for infrastructure projects which Chinese companies then fulfil. Often these are white elephant projects, but this road work was certainly worthwhile.

In Mbala town I drew Kwachas from one of two ATMs in town, bought diesel and presented my passport at an Airtel shop to buy a sim and load data. I was confused why the Airtel shop was staying open later than their advertised closing time, until it struck me that Zambian time is an hour behind Tanzania. I was now on the same time zone as South Africa.

I took a room at Chila Lake Lodge for ZKW300 (£13) which only had one cockroach. I asked for a towel and was given a damp towel direct from the laundry. I booked a dinner of chicken and chips. This was no chicken. More likely an aged cockerel who was not going to let me separate meat from bone without hard work. The chips were delicious.

Day 20 Mbala to Kapishya Springs 295 kms

I was on the road by 06h00 and was surprised by the number of teenagers walking to school at that early hour.

The tar road was badly potholed in sections. I would drive at speed for five kilometres and then be faced with bad potholes, not always slowing down enough before hitting them. I heard a pop and in my rear view mirror saw one of my wheel carriers somersaulting in the air. The force of hitting a pothole had cause the supporting pole to snap. Someone helped me carry the wheel and carrier back to my car and pack it into the trailer. Fortunately, no one was hurt.

In the next 100 kms there were two roadblocks where I was required to pay ZKW50 (£2.22) for council tax and US$20 for road tolls – both valid for as long as my vehicle remained in the country.

Kasama was the only significant town on my route today. Knowing that I will see no filling stations for the next 700kms I topped up my diesel again, bought provisions for breakfast and lunch for the next ten days at Shoprite and bought third party insurance (ZKW278 (£12) for six months) from a shop advertising themselves as an insurance broker.

I was about to join a group which I will travel with for ten days through North and South Luangwa National Parks. The group is led by Simon and Des Steadman of Ultimate Adventures. They will lead the group, pay park fees and provide dinner each night. Including me, there were seven guest vehicles. The others had met at Nata in Botswana and had been travelling in convoy for five days. (Some guests from Cape Town and Knysna had been travelling for several more days.) There is limited road access into these parks. North Luangwa is a lot less developed than South and there is some uncertainty about routes and campsites. These factors plus the company and dinner and the perfect timing and destination of this trip for me, had caused me to sign up.

I turned off the tar on to the D53 44km gravel road to Kapishya Springs. This was another road that I had done in February in the dark and rain and which I had hated. It was still a bad road but with no time pressure I enjoyed the drive.

I arrived at Kapishya Springs at 14h00 to be told by Simon that the group had voted to stay an additional day at the Springs (and give up a day in North Luangwa). I spent the next three hours repacking my trailer, laying the wheel on the trailer floor above the trailer axle and packing everything else around the wheel in the trailer or in the back of my Fortuner.

We gathered for pre-dinner drinks around the fire. I was introduced to all the other guests and promptly forgot their names. After too many whiskies and dinner I was ready for bed and headed for my tent for my first camping night of the trip.

Day 21 Kapishya Springs

I woke to the sound of the fast running Mansa River just 5 metres from my tent.

I was up at 06h00 and at 08h00 I joined Garth Collins, from Cape Town, in his vehicle for the 20km drive to Shiwa Ngandu Estate and Shiwa House. The land for the house had been bought from the local chief in 1914 by a British surveyor, Stewart Gore-Browne. The building of the house was interrupted by the First World War and commenced in 1920 and was added to from time to time. The house and farm are today owned by the grandchild, Charles Harvey. The property extends to 10,000 hectares, includes a large lake, has 1,000 employees, principally farms animals (although they will soon start growing coffee) and has a large collection of antelope including rare sitatunga and blue duiker. An important source of income is hunting parties (mainly from Germany and the USA) who want to add sitatunga antelope and blue duiker trophies to their collections. The hunting parties stay at the house. We were guided round the house by Jo, the wife of Charles. As far as possible the décor has been left untouched and is in the style of the early 1900s with many family photographs, citations and animal trophies. The thick walls make the house very cold in the winter and, even today when the temperature outside was already over 20 degrees C, there were fires in the hearths of the main rooms. The heavy roof tiles and regular earth movement from earth tremors raise challenges in the maintenance of the property. The maintenance battle is being lost. The two children of the current owner, both live in Lusaka, and have no interest in running the farm. The future of this big farm must be in doubt.

When Stewart Gore-Browne came across the hot springs at Kapishya he arranged to buy the surrounding land from the local chief. He used the springs as a weekend retreat. The property is today owned by Mark Harvey, the brother of Charles at Shiwa House. There is a hot pool, a rustic restaurant and pub, six chalets and camping. I arrived here in February last year, after dark and in the rain and stayed overnight in a chalet. I left early in the morning, without trying out the hot pool. While many people love the place, I hated it then. Now that I have spent more time here, I am still unimpressed. In my view the bare minimum has been spent on developing and maintaining the buildings.

As Garth and I drove back from Shiwa House he told me that his career had been in hotels and gaming with Sun International. I subsequently discovered that he was with the company for 46 years and, just before his retirement in 2013, was the acting CEO for eighteen months. He is now the non-executive chairman of the Vineyard Group of hotels in the Western Cape. I told him about my disappointment in Foxes Safari Camps. He confirmed that many people with a passion for hotel hospitality, but without the relevant training, start hotels and either do them badly or fail. He quoted the Red Carnation Group (Oyster Box, Twelve Apostles Hotel and Bushmanskloof in South Africa) and The Royal Portfolio (Silo Hotel, Royal Malewane, Birkenhead House and La Residence) as successful family hotel groups with strong South African links.

After I wrote the above paragraph about Kapishya Springs I took a dip in the hot spring. Crystal clear pool with hot water continually bubbling up. Absolutely delightful. Pity that the lodge is not at the same standard.

Day 22 Kapishya Springs through North Luangwa 205 kms

The convoy of eight vehicles and three trailers left at 09h00 heading east on a bad gravel road to the Tanzam Highway. We stopped when we got to the Highway as my fellow travellers sought out beer, whisky and water at the village. Thirty kilometres down the Highway we turned off it in an easterly direction. An hour later we came to the entrance of the North Luangwa National Park. Excitement was high as this was one of our prime objectives and we know very few people who have travelled there. We soon discovered why. Just a few weeks before the rains are due, the park was tinder dry with no greenery at all. There was nothing for animals to eat and thus they were not there. Periodically a blue tsetse  mat was hanging in a tree along the road. Twenty kilometres in we came to a barrier where there was a signboard with a strong warning that we should proceed through the park without delay. We were told that this was a high security area which contained both white and black rhino. Our cars were sprayed against tsetse. We were in this enclosure for forty kilometres and saw nothing – no green leaves, no impala, no warthogs, no birds and certainly no rhinos. We came to a Y junction where the right fork seemed to run past a, now defunct, tourist camp. We continued on the left fork, passed out of the secure area and after 66kms in the park reached the other side of the park at the Luangwa River at 15h00, six hours after leaving Kapishya Springs. All we had to do was cross on the pontoon and the camp at Chifunda Lodge was only 3kms away.

Little did we know what lay ahead. It took us six hours to get eight vehicles and two trailers across. The first problem was soft riverbed sand for about 150 metres. Garth’s wife Sue, pulling the largest trailer got stuck in the sand. It took twenty minutes to dig the car and trailer out.

The river crossing itself was about 40 metres. The approach to the water was another 40 metres of long logs for when the water was higher. This was a very crude approach area which we had to use low range to move along. The pontoon was about 6 metres long made up of five 44 gallon drum diameter metal tubes, with two tracks running the length of the vessel. The pontoon was moved from bank to bank by the operators pulling on a cable that was fixed to either bank. A vehicle crossing took about five to ten minutes with heart stopping moments as the weight of the vehicle first hit the pontoon, as the operators winced when one did not turn your wheels fast enough and risked falling off the track and then the bounce of the pontoon behind the vehicle as the front wheels touched the far bank. Getting vehicles across the pontoon felt risky but happened. The essential problem was that the pontoon was only big enough for one vehicle at a time, which meant that a car had to be separated from the trailer. Simon and Des, the expedition leaders, were first in the vehicle queue and their trailer contained all the food and cooking equipment needed for the full trip. The challenge was to get the trailer onto the pontoon. The trailer could be unhooked from the host car on the edge of the log ‘dock’. To move the heavy trailer from the dock onto the pontoon became the challenge. Even eight men pushing could not move the trailer on to the pontoon. Eventually Simon strung his winch rope and a towing rope across the river and pulled the trailer on to the pontoon from across the river, using his winch. The team around the trailer had to lay a metal rail over the drums so that the jockey wheel of the trailer could run on this rail, rather than drop between the drums. This process resulted in the trailer eventually being pulled onto the pontoon. This was the theory. The practice proved to be more challenging. Simon was coordinating everything on the short wave radio, although there were moments of great frustration. After three hours of slow progress night fell making the job even more difficult. The last four vehicles in the convoy, including me, could not fit on the approach dock, so we waited on the far bank listening to the progress on the radio.

While we waited, we became aware of a pack of twenty wild dogs drinking at the river, about three hundred metres from us. The dogs left the river and the group behind me saw them kill an impala and devour it in moments.

Fifteen minutes after we arrived at the river, another couple drove up behind our group, and were faced with the frustration of waiting six hours for us to cross. About an hour after we arrived at the river, the manager of the lodge where we were due to camp, Robinson, arrived at the back of the queue, rolled up his sleeves and plunged into helping with our work.

My offer to leave my trailer overnight on the wrong side of the river was accepted with joy by the group. I eventually drove on to the pontoon in the dark. I was very scared of driving off the tracks on the pontoon, especially as I seemed to be getting contradictory signals from the pontoon staff. I was delighted to be over the river and was quickly followed by the last three vehicles of our group.

Master P, the chef, had been sent on to the camp, when the first trailer had crossed. And so, at 22h00 we sat around a fire, ate our dinner and bonded over our experience.

Day 23 Chifunda Lodge to Kumokonzo Camp 121 kms

At 08h00 Simon, Master P and I returned to the pontoon and met Robinson and a team he had pulled together. I accepted Simon’s offer for him to take his vehicle over the river to fetch my trailer, thus saving me the challenge of doing a double crossing on the pontoon in my vehicle. My trailer was the lightest of the three which made things easier. After an hour my trailer was over the river.

I had been surprised yesterday when I discovered that Simon and Des had never driven through North Luangwa. One normally signs up to a guided trip because the guides have done the trip and are experts. Occasionally a convoy tour company will advertise a trip as an ‘exploratory trip’ which means the organisers have not done the trip before and participants accept the risks that implies. This trip had not been so advertised, although Simon and Des had clearly done a lot of desk research. Even at the entrance gate of North Luangwa the park officials had told us that we could cross the pontoon with trailers. I signed up for experts, who knew the way, to guide me in an area where I was unsure. That was a sensible thing for me to do because if I had arrived at the pontoon alone, I would not have been able to cross and would have had to retrace my steps. Given the physical location of North and South Luangwa such a reversal would have cost me many days to get back on route. In the event, the fact that I was with the group meant that I eventually got my trailer over the river. Simon’s 4×4 expertise and experience, meant that I could proceed with the holiday as planned.

One of the pontoon staff, while waiting for things to happen, threw a line into the water and caught a Tiger Fish

The group left the camp at 11h30 and spent five hours doing a long loop away from the Luangwa River and back to it. We initially drove through the game management area but still didn’t see any animals. We passed through villages. These people are living in abject poverty. They live in mud huts with grass roofs. There are no facilities or electricity. A little girl came to my window and when I opened the window the first thing, she said to me was ‘I am hungry’. I gave her an apple and was immediately surrounded by twenty other children all wanting food. One wonders whether the situation will be any different in 100 years.

There was an election two months ago. I was intrigued that many people were wearing T shirts and skirts with political slogans and the face of the new president.

We arrived at Kumokonzo Camp to find that a mobile safari (eight clients and eight support staff in two vehicles) had arrived before us and taken the prime camping spots along the Luangwa River. Two other vehicles arrived later making this a very crowded camp site, with only one toilet and one shower.

We did the best we could and had sunset drinks outside of the camp on the riverbank.

Day 24 Kumokonzo Camp to Zikomo Safari Camp 97 kms

I had finally got to the stage of remembering the names of my fellow travellers. They are all South African or related to South Africans. They are (in order in which we drove in the convoy):

Simon and Des Steadman from Modimolle, Limpopo. Driving a petrol series 200 Land Cruiser and pulling and Echo 2 trailer. Sleep in a roof top tent on the trailer.

Master P from Bushbuckridge. The chef and camp assistant who travels with Simon and Des and sleeps in a ground dome tent.

Michelle from Knysna. Driving a diesel series 200 diesel Land Cruiser and sleeping in a roof top tent on the vehicle.

Garth and Sue from Cape Town. Driving a petrol Land Rover Discovery 4 and pulling a trailer. Sleeping in the trailer.

Peter and Tish from Johannesburg. Driving a diesel Toyota Hilux and sleeping in a roof top tent on the vehicle.

Me, driving a diesel Toyota Fortuner and pulling an Echo 2 trailer. Sleeping in a OzTent on the ground.

Renee and Romy (Austrian) from Kitzbuhel, Austria and with a holiday home in Knysna. Driving a diesel 79 series Land Cruiser with all the possible additions and gadgets added. Sleeping in a roof tent.

Mark (Renee’s brother) from Johannesburg driving a diesel short wheelbase Land Rover. Sleeping in a ground tent.

Mike from Johannesburg driving a diesel Defender Land Rover – the only vehicle without air conditioning. Sleeping in an OzTent on the ground. Mike had previously done ten trips with Simon and Des, but his health had deteriorated. The extreme heat of close to 40⁰C most days also took a toll. He was not fit enough to participate in many of the game drives, had arranged with Simon for Master P to erect and dismantle his tent and needed assistance to get from his tent to dinner. He spent hours sitting next to his tent doing nothing. This trip must have been misery for him.

The age of the guests ranged from 45 to 74 with most being retired.

Despite the poor consumption performance of petrol compared to diesel, both Simon and Garth had elected to buy petrol vehicles because of fears of poor quality diesel in countries outside South Africa. The same quality issue apparently does not arise with petrol.

Soon after leaving camp, we entered the Luambe National Park for about 30 kilometres. We took a diversion along the Luangwa River and saw our first game. There was a herd of elephant on the far side of the river and a pod of hippo immediately below us in the river. This was a joy after the disappointment of North Luangwa.

We passed through another area with villages and then entered the Nsefu Game Management Section of South Luangwa National Park, where we stayed for the next three days at the Zikomo Safari Lodge Campsite.

Day 25 Nsefu Game Management Section of South Luangwa National Park 127 kms

By 05h45 we were on our four hour game drive following the course of the Luangwa River. Fairly quickly we came across the amazing sight of 100 pelicans swimming together and feeding off fish in the water beneath them. There was a hive of activity around the water. Giraffe, zebra, impala, hippos were all busy.

An hour later we stopped at a place where thousands of Carmine Bee-Eaters were nesting in the riverbank. As we approached the bank they flew out and circled above us showing us flashes of carmine (deep-red and very slightly purplish) and blue colours. Some of the birds settled on a tree allowing us to see several of them together. This was another lovely sighting.

Because the lodge had no guests in their chalets, they allowed us to use their pool which was a delight. Most of us ordered lunch and got to know each other better.

Earlier in the day I had noticed that the top part of my remaining wheel carrier was cracked. I visited the lodge workshop where the crack was welded, and a plate added. It is easy to find welders in this part of Africa because so much gets fixed that way.

At 15h00 we went out for a 3.5 hour drive. The area where the pelicans had been, was quiet. We saw plenty of hippos and many elephants. The highlight was pelicans roosting in trees.

Day 26 Nsefu Game Management Section of South Luangwa National Park 149 kms

Another 05h45 start to a six hour game drive with only five of the vehicles participating. The area where the pelicans had been, was quiet except for a dead hippo in the water. Nearby was a tower of giraffe. There were several small giraffes and one very young one. They were fun to watch. Two hippos grazed grass in the distance.

We stopped to look at the Carmine Bee-Eaters but were quickly distracted by Michelle who made Bloody Mary’s for all of us, from the back of her car.

We pushed further along the river. There were many sightings of elephants. The ground below us was often dried mud. It is impossible to drive in this area in the wet season because most of the area will be mud.

Again and again, we came across pods of hippo. There must be thousands of hippos in the Luangwa River. No wonder there is so little grass near the river.

Peter was attracted by a particular part of the river, brought out his fishing rod and went to the riverbank to fish. Seven crocodiles within 200 metres of us, on the riverbank, dived into the water. We were concerned that the crocodiles were making their way to Peter. He cast a few more times without success, and to our relief, returned to us.

There was no enthusiasm for an afternoon game drive so Simon, Peter and I did an abbreviated drive to check if a dead hippo, that we had seen earlier, was yet of interest to other animals. It was not so we returned to camp seeing a few large kudus en route.

The ladies of the group had started talking and drinking at 13h00. I was working at a nearby table and could hear that the subject was the problems with ex-wives of their husbands. All the white wine bottles in the bar were soon emptied. The barman, Sergeant, offered them the remainder of a box of white wine, which had lost its’ box (how old was that box?). His offer was accepted, and Sergeant decanted the contents of the box into empty wine bottles. The subject had moved on to the difficulty of bringing up and maintaining the discipline of the children of the husband from the previous marriage, when the biological mother was so unreasonable. Next the sparkling rose bottles were attacked. I went on my game drive so did not see or hear what followed. The ladies returned to camp at 19h00 and Romy found a supply of Jägermeister bottles. The ladies slept well.

Day 27 Zikomo Safari Camp to Mfuwe 91 kms

An easy hour long drive brought us to Mfuwe Town where we all filled our fuel tanks and miscellaneous supplies were purchased.

We checked into the campsite at Wildlife Camp which overlooked the river and had a small pool which invigorated us all. Camping is not permitted in South Luangwa National Park so were based about 7kms from the Park gate.

We left at 15h00 and entered South Luangwa National Park. This is a pretty park. The river is the most important element, made more interesting by the way it has oxbow curves. There are several other pools of water, left over from the wet season. There are plains and forests and lots of byways. This is the most interesting park I have seen on this trip.

We saw a dead hippo floating in a pool which was being eaten from below by crocodiles, which surfaced with full mouths. Game drive vehicles passed us at speed and with intent, so we followed them and came across three lionesses resting in the setting sun.

Day 28 South Luangwa National Park 82 kms

We entered the Park as a group soon after 06h00. Yesterday’s drive had been dusty and frustrating for the vehicles at the back of the convoy, so we quickly split apart and went our own ways. I returned to the site of the lion sighting yesterday but they were no longer there. I continued northwards opposite Zikomo Safari Camp and came across a lovely, wooded area which I enjoyed. I left the park at 09h00, not having seen any animals of significance except for two hyenas at a distance.

I relaxed on the veranda of the Tribal Textile Café and enjoyed a salmon and cream cheese bagel and filtered coffee. As I sat on the veranda of the café cars passed and some waved, being members of our group or others I had met in the campsite. I like this Mfuwe town. Most vehicles are 4×4 and people are continually moving between the wild of the National Park and the comfort of places like the Tribal Textile Café.

As I pondered my good fortune, I was brought down to earth by four women walking along the road each with eight, 2.5 m long and 80mm thick, logs on their head. They had clearly collected the wood from the bush this morning and were taking it to use in their nearby homes. They live a hard life.

I drove through town photographing the interesting shops.

I returned to camp and spent the next few hours in and around the pool. Lots of interesting people wash up in a campsite like this one. A Mexican and his Dutch wife were travelling as long as they could afford it with their two children aged six and four. Two families were travelling together, the one couple with a five month old baby.

Simon and Des had organised a game drive vehicle, for ZKW2,000 (£89) which is permitted to stay in the park until 20h00. Eight of us signed up and left at 15h30. We saw some pleasant sights, but nothing significant, and then we received a message of a lion sighting. The driver knew the approximate location but not precisely. We went down a few dead ends. Darkness was approaching. It didn’t seem worth it to find lions after dark. I was advocating that we stop the search for lions and rather enjoy the last of the daylight having a sundowner drink. I was ignored. As dark fell we came across two male lions sharing a meal under a bush. They were lit by the spotlights from the game drive vehicles, but our view was partially blocked by a bush. We decided to move off the sighting and return later after having a drink close to the river. As we were about to leap off the truck and open the cooler box we got a message, from one of the other game drive vehicles, that there were also lions near the river. We turned the spotlight on to the river and there were two lionesses, in the water, eating a hippo. What a sighting! The lionesses were tugging and tearing. We were on a small cliff above them and had an excellent view with the spotlights. Mike got out of our vehicle to relieve himself behind it. One of the lionesses instantly left the hippo and the river and came up a gully to our level, albeit about fifty metres away. She stayed there. The remaining lionesses was determined to get her fill of the hippo. About ten crocodiles, mainly small ones, were also keen to share. We could see them shimmering in the water, getting closer. One got too close and was snapped at by the lioness. The lioness near us called and called. One of the lions came over to her. The spotlights allowed us to see what was happening but as it was full moon, the night was not very dark. We were ready to stay for hours more at this unique siting, but our driver started worrying about meeting his 20h00 park exit deadline. Eventually at 19h00 we left the siting and headed back to the gate, very happy. Our joy was compounded when a genet and later, an African civet, crossed the road in front of us.

Day 29 South Luangwa National Park 96 kms

I woke at 04h30. Having heard that the gate officials were allowing entry before the 06h00 official gate opening time, I left at 05h20 and entered the Park at 05h40 as the sun was rising. A hippo was still grazing. A fisherman was in his boat. A vulture waited.

I now had a challenge to find my way back to the lions. Homing pigeon Bob did well and an hour later I arrived back on site. What a sight! All four lions were now eating the hippo. I was there by myself. I could position my vehicle to suit myself. I was amazed that the lions were still eating. They were all trying to get the best piece.

A lioness got in the way of the lion and there was a moment of fury. The other lioness came round and consoled her sister by rubbing necks.

With such a special experience there was little point in looking for other game experiences this morning. I wandered slowly back, taking side roads, and exited the park three hours after entering.

An enterprising greengrocer with his stock in a box on a bike had taken my order yesterday and returned with two mangoes which I enjoyed for lunch.

I had a discussion with Master P and learnt that he was 28, unmarried without a girlfriend but saving for his bride price or lobola. He believes that he will have to pay four cows to a future father in law which will cost him R8,000 (£396) per cow. (He should get cows from Tanzania as they seem to cost the equivalent of £100 each there).

There had been reports of wild dog sightings, so we went in search of them in the afternoon. We eventually found a pack of about fifteen lying on the bank of the river below us. They had no intention of moving for us. They nearly moved for a herd of elephants, but the elephants were focused on getting to the water, so the dogs stayed where they were.

Day 30 South Luangwa National Park 112 kms

Last night was unbearably hot. The daytime temperature in South Luangwa has normally been 40⁰C dropping to about 25⁰C during the night. Last night the temperature did not drop, and I had a restless night.

I did two game drives today which, on balance, were a disappointment. The wild dogs had moved on. Perhaps I need a break from game viewing because I am not even stopping to look at a herd of twenty elephant, having seen so many. My highlight of the day, game wise, was watching ten elephants approach the river on the other side of the river, walk across the river and exit right in front of me. (Simon and a few others found the wild dogs again in the afternoon, but they were too far away for me to pick up their radio calls.)

As I was driving around, I saw signs to the ’05 Road’. This is a notorious road that runs through the middle of South Luangwa National Park and then climbs the escarpment on a road that most describe as exciting. It is not possible to take a trailer on this road. I had considered making a day long drive of driving up the escarpment and back and I was now disappointed that I had not done that.

While my final few game drives were disappointing, I am impressed by South Luangwa National Park. It is the best of the seven parks I have seen on this trip. The river provides endless viewing opportunities. There are many other areas of water. There is a huge network of roads and tracks. The scenery changes from plains to forests. There are thousands of elephants and hippos, several prides of lion and a few packs of wild dogs.

I went for breakfast at Flat Dogs Lodge which has a lovely setting on the river.

I did some maintenance work on my trailer tent and then, with the help of the local camp attendant, packed the trailer tent away. It is a job to pack away all the flaps of canvas under the cover and so is normally only worth using if two people are staying in the tent.

Almost the whole group met at Track and Trail River Camp for lunch. Another beautiful setting on the river. There was an air of nostalgia as people are starting to head home tomorrow.

Elke, the wife of Mike, arrived by scheduled flights from Johannesburg via Lusaka. Simon, knew her from previous trips and had told her that Mike was incapable of driving himself back to Johannesburg, including the border crossings. Her luggage included a camp bed. Mike had worked as hard as he could to tidy the tent and his vehicle. (I subsequently learnt that an important element of the steering of Mike’s vehicle failed as they left the camp next morning. Mike’s condition had also weakened overnight. Mike and Elke were flown to Johannesburg by their insurers the following morning, where Mike spent three weeks in hospital. The insurers also recovered his vehicle to Johannesburg.)

We had a final dinner together and I bade my new friends farewell as I was leaving before them in the morning.

Day 31 Mfuwe to Lusaka 687 kms

I had arranged with the lodge, that instead of camping on my final night, I would stay in one of their chalets at the discounted price of US$40. When I got into the chalet, I wasn’t sure that it was worth $40. I had set my alarm for 05h00 but woke at 04h00. I tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep and eventually got going. As I stepped out of my chalet the way to my car was blocked by a hippo grazing fifteen metres from me. I circled round two other chalets to stay out of her way. By 05h00 I was on the road, seeing a beautiful big red sun rise. It took me ten hours of driving to get to Lusaka. The road was good with some bad sections and 30kms of potholes. At Chipata I joined the Great East Road which runs from Lusaka to Lilongwe in Malawi. For about 150 kms the road curved through beautiful mountains. The road had done a 470 kms loop away from and back to the Luangwa River. I stopped for lunch at Bridge Camp on the Luangwa River. The river there is the border with Mozambique, and it flows into the Zambezi River about 80 kms further south near the start of the Cahora Bassa Dam. The Zambian side of the Luangwa River is close to the Lower Zambezi National Park that also runs along the Zambezi for about 130 kms.

About 25kms from the centre of Lusaka I came across The Orchard Farm Shop and Café which was the perfect place to catch up on my emails and messages.

I checked into Pioneer Lodge, about 25kms from Lusaka. (Their slogan ‘Out of Lusaka. In Africa’). It is well known amongst overlanders as it is a big property offering camping, tent rooms and chalets and also offers long term parking.

Day 32 Lusaka to Mukambi Safari Lodge in Kafue National Park 283 kms

I sat in Lusaka rush hour traffic for an hour. At the Toyota dealer on the Cairo Road, I bought a new air filter and changed it on their forecourt. I have travelled in such extreme dusty conditions over the last few weeks that I felt it best to change the filter. The old one did not look as dust filled as I had feared.

As I drove brick built signs, 1500mm high, would appear on the side of the road, advising that a primary school was down the side road. I had seen these signs since arriving in Zambia. Besides advertising the name of the school the motto of the school was also present. I suspect that schools were not free to use any motto but probably have to choose from a list. Here are a selection that I saw.

Four hours later I arrived at Mukambi Lodge on the Kafue River in the Kafue National Park. Tomorrow I will travel north for about 150kms to their sister lodge, Busanga Plains Lodge, on Busanga Plains, still in the Kafue National Park. That camp and the Busanga Plains are only accessible for four months of the year, as the rest of the time the roads are under water. No camping is permitted on the Busanga Plains and thus the only way to see them is to stay in one of the few lodges there. I had decided to spoil myself and splash out for these four nights. The normal price is $700 per person per night including all meals and game drives. I had managed to negotiate a reduction to a rate, still expensive for me, of $350 per night. They had agreed to that rate because they are desperate for guests. I will be the only person in the respective camps on the nights that I am resident. (I later heard that the low rates are attracting guests who live in Lusaka, four hours away. Both the previous weekends had been long weekends, because of public holidays, and the lodge had been full both weekends.)

At 16h30 I went out for a two and half hour, 12 kilometre boat cruise with Malcolm, the guide. He told me that there are 73 tribes and 73 languages in Zambia, although many of the languages are similar. The eight presidents since independence have come from six different tribes, so there is no dominant tribe governing the country. His father was a soldier on a UN peace keeping mission, when Malcolm was born in 1976, and named him after a friend from the British Army. He was previously a guide in South Luangwa, near his home in Chipata. He lost his job during COVID, did not want to be employed in South Luangwa as the lodges are all about to close for the wet season so had applied for, and recently been employed by Mukambi Lodge.

The Kafue River is about 300 metres wide near the lodge. We saw a solitary puku and a solitary crocodile, a few birds and some hippo eyes. The one side of the river is a Game Management Area (GMA) which is a buffer area between residential areas and the Park. A low number of people are permitted to live in the GMA. We passed by a fishing village.

Malcolm told me that at the Creation, God had allocated environments to all animals when he finally came to the hippos. He told them that they would be land animals. The hippos protested that their skins were so sensitive to the sun that they needed to stay in water. God said that if that happened the hippos would eat all the fish. And so, a compromise was reached whereby the hippos would live in water but would need to leave the water to eat on land. And that is why hippos seek out grazing on land every night.

We drifted on the river and watched a pretty sun set. As we headed back to the lodge, the sound of our propellors changed and Malcolm pulled them out of the water. They had become entangled in nets set out by the fisherman. Malcolm began cutting the nets from the propellors. Two fisherman rowed over to us. A discussion ensued, in a combination of languages, where Malcolm argued that the fisherman had seen us go upriver so should have waited for our return to set out their nets and the fisherman arguing that their nets had floats and were visible and thus Malcolm should have avoided them. They were seeking compensation. I suspect that they will arrive at the lodge tomorrow to make a claim.

Malcolm and the fisherman had been focused on cutting the nets from the propellors, when I warned them, too late, that we were about to get entangled in the overhanging branches of trees on the bank. We did get lodged between trees. Other villagers appeared and together, pushed us away from the bank.

In the dark Malcolm now headed back to base at a speed. I queried whether we might hit a hippo as we were passing over the area where we had previously seen them. Malcolm was certain that when they hear the boat they get out of its way. We arrived safely, if late, back at the lodge.

Part of the excitement of wildlife lodges is that they are built without fences and so wild animals can roam between buildings. It is, therefore, normal practice, for the night watchman to accompany guests back to their room at the end of an evening. My tent was a good 300 metres from the lounge area and so I was accompanied to my tent. His torch lit up a hippo grazing at my tent door. Instead of moving to the far side of the tent, the hippo moved to the nearside of the tent, getting closer to us. She then turned and faced us about ten metres from us. It was not clear if she was inquisitive or angry. My protector was not taking any risks. He stamped his foot and threw gravel from the pathway at Mrs Hippo. She exited stage left.

Day 33 Mukambi Safari Lodge to Busanga Plains Lodge in Kafue National Park 150 kms

Also travelled 50kms in four hours on game drive

I was woken before dawn by baboons alarming in the trees around my room. I went out on the balcony, but it was too dark for me to identify the source of their concern.

I left the lodge at 06h00 and after crossing the Kafue River bridge turned north to the gate to that section of the Park. I had been told that the park officials would want to see my receipt for my park fees. No park officials were present. Isaac, a guide from, Chisa, another lodge up north, was waiting for his guests to arrive. He collected the gate key from under a rock near the small Park office and opened the gate for me. I wonder how long I would have had to wait if he had not been there. In future such situations I will be sure to check under the nearby rocks.

The track north was in a good condition. I saw elephants (very skittish), hippos, puku, red hartebeest and ground hornbills. I arrived at Busanga Plains Lodge at 11h00 to be met by Edjan and Robyn van der Heide, the owners of this lodge, Mukambi and Fig Tree Lodge. The lodge has only four rooms and sits on a small hill that becomes an island in the wet season. (I later discovered that there are six other similar sized lodges on Busanga Plains.) As I sit, writing this, in the open sided lounge area I can see several hundred antelope out on the plain. This is truly wild Africa.

I had lunch with Edjan and Robyn. They have owned Mukambi since 2002 and developed the other two lodges since. They have suffered in COVID times. They are both Dutch although Robyn grew up in Zimbabwe. Their children grew up in the bush and are now all at university in the Netherlands. They have a passion and a flair for maximising the lodge experience for guests.

Robyn mentioned that they have a policy of not having children at the lodge for a good reason. A diplomat recently stayed at Busanga Plains Lodge and asked if he could bring his children. Because of his status they agreed. Ten lions arrived at the lodge and stayed all day. Robyn is convinced that they were there because they had heard the children’s’ voices and thought that they might be easy prey.

Africa Parks came up in the discussion. 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 19 national parks and protected areas in 11 countries covering over 14.7 million hectares in: Angola, Benin, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, the Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. They currently have a one year interim contract to manage Kafue National Park.

Edjan and Robyn returned to Mukambi after lunch as they were hosting a meeting of Park officials and Africa Parks this evening as those parties try to determine what is crucial if Africa Park’s short term project of managing the Park, is to be extended to a twenty year contract. Anti-poaching is high on their agenda. Africa Parks has a helicopter to deliver anti-poaching teams to identified poaching events. (My drive up today was also made easier by Africa Parks who have recently done maintenance on the road.)

At 15h30 it rained for five minutes cooling the day down. This is the first rain that I have experienced since commencing this trip in Tanzania. It is a harbinger of what is due in the next few weeks. Edjan and Robyn have scheduled the seasonal closure of the camp after their last booked guest leaves on 11th November. They need to protect all the buildings with extra tarpaulins and transport all linen and soft furnishings to Mukambi before the roads are too muddy to drive. The camp will be surrounded by water for several months after that.

From 16h00 we did a four hour 50kms game drive. My guide, Boyd, was assisted by a trainee spotter, Meshach (whose real job was as the lodge waiter). We saw antelope that I do not see often elsewhere including lechwe, puku, roan and reed buck. The plains were teeming with antelope. The ride was very bumpy because all the tracks we drove on have previously been under water. As darkness was falling Boyd turned off the track and we came across a pack of eight lions not doing much. Afterwards I asked him how he had known to turn off the track at that point. He said that the lion researchers had tyres with a distinctive tread, and he saw that their vehicle had recently turned off at that spot. I find that amazing. On the way home, in the dark, a genet and an African civet crossed the road ahead of us (just like our night drive in South Luangwa) as well as two scrub hares.

After dinner I was told that my bucket shower was ready with warm water. I am used to bucket showers in the wild camp sites in Botswana, but this was a luxury version with three times as much water as a normal bucket and filled by someone else. It did the job well.

I fell asleep to the sound of lion roaring.

Day 34 Busanga Plains Lodge in Kafue National Park

Travelled in their game drive truck in the morning (8kms 3 hours) and evening (15km 3Hours)

At 05h45 Boyd and I went looking for last night’s roaring lion. They were well hidden in the brown grass of the plain, but Boyd found them. The pride was nine strong with two large males and four juvenile males. The main lion has been named Scarface by the guides. They had killed two puku and the seniors of the pride had full bellies. The youngsters were trying to get every last piece of meat from the few remaining bones. Forty vultures were scrapping for scraps. This was a great sighting. I reflected on the fact that, even though I knew that the lions were in the area last night, I would not have found them this morning. The difference of being with an experienced guide like Boyd must not be underestimated. He found the lions when I would not have.

I have seen almost no jackals in East Africa, but we now saw two side striped jackals. In theory they stay in woodland and scrub areas but here they were in the middle of the plain.

We stopped for coffee on a shaded and raised ‘island’ and had a beautiful view over the plain, with hundreds of lechwe and puka and birds around nearby water.

We came across a hippo midden which is a place where a male hippo has sprayed his dung to mark his territory. Boyd told me that there was a second reason why the hippo sprayed his dung. Boyd told me that, after Creation, when the hippo arrived in the river the crocodile complained that the hippo would eat all the fish. Hippo retorted that he was a vegetarian but agreed that he would spray his dung so that anyone could check if fish bones were present.

On the way back to the lodge we came across Isaac, the guide who had opened the park gate yesterday, a colleague of his, a parks guide (with his rifle) and two guests – all on bicycles, just a few hundred metres from where we had earlier seen the lions. I understand that people do walking safaris but the situation on cycles is far more difficult to manage, especially given the poor condition of the tracks. This is a very foolish and dangerous activity.

I spent the next seven hours catching up with admin and writing this record. Periodically I looked up and marvelled at the sight of the plains stretching away, packed with antelope. What a wonderful office. Lunch was served with a view of the pool and the plain.

The task for the afternoon drive was to find the elusive sitatunga antelope. I was pleased that I was in the hands of an expert. Boyd told me that we would find them in the papyrus forest which is several kilometres square. As the papyrus plant grows in water it is difficult to get into the forest. Boyd said that they would not emerge if our engine was running or if were clearly visible. So, we parked behind tall grass and turned off the engine. A short while later he said we should move to a better vantage point which we did. He then moved us again. As we waited and chatted, he revealed that in all his years of guiding he had never seen a sitatunga! He did not improve his record because we did not see a sitatunga!

Wikipedia: Cyperus papyrus, papyrus, papyrus sedge, paper reed, Indian matting plant or Nile grass, is a species of aquatic flowering plant belonging to the sedge family Cyperaceae. It is a tender herbaceous perennial, native to Africa, and forms tall stands of reed-like swamp vegetation in shallow water. Papyrus sedge (and its close relatives) has a very long history of use by humans, notably by the Ancient Egyptians—it is the source of papyrus paper, one of the first types of paper ever made. Parts of the plant can be eaten, and the highly buoyant stems can be made into boats. It is now often cultivated as an ornamental plant. In nature, it grows in full sun, in flooded swamps, and on lake margins throughout Africa, Madagascar, and the Mediterranean countries.

On the way back to camp we saw lechwe jumping over water and sixty vultures finishing off a kill.

I slept the night in the lodge’s star bed which is a bed on a six metre high platform, open to the skies. It is about 300 metres from the camp. I snuggled down, watched the stars and fell asleep. A distant lion, roaring, woke me at 03h00. There was a bright, waning half-moon which crowded the stars out of the sky.

Day 35 Busanga Plains Lodge in Kafue National Park

Travelled in the lodge’s game drive truck in the morning (15kms 3 hours) and evening (25kms 3 hours)

Boyd and I found the Scarface lions about three kilometres from where they were yesterday. They had eaten and were settling down for the day. I was surprised by the number of hippo still grazing out of the water. Boyd (he is good) spotted a leopard crossing the plain followed by two cubs. She changed course as we approached and hid in the bushes on a small island. Her cubs scampered up a tree hunting a bird which flew off. Mother and cubs then did a runner for the next island with more substantial bushes, so we stopped bothering them. We had a coffee break overlooking the plains and I marvelled again at what a wonderful place this is for game viewing. The open plains are constantly filled with antelope. There are pools and small streams of water at regular intervals. The islands of slightly higher land are covered with large, beautiful trees. And the animals are used to vehicles and ignore them completely, which is ideal for game viewing. We came across a large water monitor just before getting back to camp.

Goh (pronounced Jo) originally from Malaysia and now from Seattle arrived at 12h00. (Her arrival surprised me because I had been told that I would be the only guest.) She has just spent six days in South Luangwa, three days in Lower Zambezi and is now spending six days in Kafue. She is taking a break from her research career in pharmaceuticals. This is her third safari holiday this year. She has a huge knowledge of Southern Africa parks and when we went out for a game drive, demonstrated a huge knowledge of the animals. I feel that I am missing some information about how she as accumulated all this knowledge from Seattle, but I am moving on in the morning so will never know.

In the afternoon we found the Scarface pride hidden in trees on an island. We had previously not seen elephants on the plain, but now had a lovely view of a herd at a distance. We found two other lionesses several kilometres away who were boringly lying asleep until one of them rolled on to her back like a domestic cat.

We went looking for wild dogs and failed but had four roan antelope cross the road in front of us. Heading back to camp in the dark we came across a game drive truck pointing their spotlight into a tree. The mother leopard from this morning was lying fast asleep on a horizontal branch three metres from the ground. As we watched she woke, stretched, yawned, looked at us with disdain and disappeared further into the tree canopy. What a lovely sighting.

Day 36 Busanga Plains Lodge to Kasabushi Camp in Kafue National Park 244 kms

Travelled in the lodge’s game drive truck in the morning (15kms 3 hours)

Scarface roared at 03h00 waking everyone in the camp.

We found the pride in the morning, but they were content to sleep on the plain. We returned to the reported location of the wild dogs and heard them in the thicket, but they were not tempted out. The leopard was not to be seen. And so, I finished my viewing on the Busanga Plains delighting in the lovely scenery and views of hundreds of antelope.

I had been told that a faster way back to the main road was to take the western perimeter road. Boyd had not travelled that road but had heard that a game truck driver had been caught in the soft sand, which was not a good omen. By email, Ntanga, from Mukambi, assured me that the road was acceptable but that I should ensure that I took any detour offered on the road from the camp to the perimeter. Boyd led me the 9kms to the edge of the plain to the road that I travelled up on. Instead of turning east and south, I now turned west for the 28km run to the ranger post on the Park perimeter. I concentrated exclusively on how I was driving on the road, for fear of grinding to a halt in soft sand. If a leopard and a cheetah had been standing on either side of the road, I would not have seen them. There was a detour around a dead tree and the another, for no apparent reason, because the road seemed perfectly fine. I remembered Ntanga’ s advice and took the detour path which ran parallel and close to the main track for a kilometre. Sure enough, there was a lot of soft sand on the main track which I avoided. I was pleased to get to the rangers’ post, who told me that their principal responsibility was anti-poaching. They also told me that the road I was about to take would have the unfenced Park on my left and the game management area on my right, which was filled with hunting concessions. I saw several of the farm entrances as I progressed southwards. The road itself was a delight, as it was wide and either graded or partly graded. I passed the grader at work and made good progress. (Robyn later confirmed that all the grading work to the perimeter road was being financed by Africa Parks.)

I reflected on my visit to Busanga Plains. It is a magnificent game environment and an absolute joy to visit. However, it is only a place for the rich. Accommodation is restricted to the seven very expensive lodges on the plain or on the edge of it. The nearest camping is two hours from the plain which means that a marathon day of driving will leave one game viewing in the heat of the day. It is a pity that the joy of the plain is so restricted. On the other hand, if the plain was easily accessible it will quickly be overwhelmed by game drive trucks and become a Disneyland.

I arrived at Mukambi after 3.5 hours, had separate chats with Robyn and Edjan, collected my trailer and headed 40 kms further south into the Park from the main tar road, to Kasabushi. At the Park gate I paid $15 for myself and $15 for my vehicle for each day I was going to be in the Park. A further $30 was payable for every night that I stayed in a lodge in the Park which was either collected by the lodge separately or was included in the rate I paid.

I first visited Kasabushi in August 2017. Andy and Libby, both close to 60, have created a wonderful camp on a beautiful part of the Kafue River. Andy grew up in Zimbabwe, moved with his parents to the UK when he was fifteen, attended agricultural college and had stints working on farms in Zimbabwe and Venezuela. Libby grew up in the UK and grew to love Zambia from trips with friends who knew the country. They met in the UK, have been married for fifteen years and established Kasabushi. They studied Google Earth to determine a good place for a camp on the Kafue River and backed it up by physically exploring the bush and river. Upstream from them, including at Mukambi, the river is 300 metres wide. It splits near them into three channels filled with granite rocks. Further downstream the river splits into more channels which are too shallow to be navigable. Their core activity is a campsite on the bank of the river with the best campsite ablutions in Africa. They have also built two tent chalets on wooden platforms at the water’s edge plus a large, very attractive dining, living area overlooking the river. They have fashioned a swimming pool in the rocks.

I was greeted by Libby, and we chatted for a while before I had a swim. The three of us had dinner and chatted into the night about events that had happened in the camp, the Park generally and their hopes that Africa Parks will stop the poaching and corruption that is undermining the Park. As we chatted, we heard a snuffling just outside the open fronted dining area. A torch revealed a hippo, ten metres from us, determined to keep the lawn short, despite our presence.

Day 37 Kasabushi Camp in Kafue National Park 254 kms

I was woken by thunder and at 06h30 it rained softly for thirty minutes.

Andy took me out in his flat bottomed aluminium boat. He had to navigate carefully because the navigable channels are not deep this late in the dry season. The river was delightful early in the morning. Our objective was the carcass of a hippo, lodged on rocks about a kilometre from the camp. As we approached two other hippos seemed to be guarding the dead hippo. We tied up to nearby rocks. There were hippo teeth punctures on his head and neck indicating that he had died in a fight. His stomach was deflated but we could not ascertain whether his body had been punctured by crocodiles under the water. There were a few crocodiles nearby but none of them were feeding on the hippo. After about 30 minutes we headed back to camp.

After breakfast, I walked with Andy, the 500 metres, through the bush, to their office in the campsite to access the internet. Andy showed me their very basic bedroom. I marvelled at the dedication of Andy and Libby who applied all their resources into improving their camp while keeping their own living environment, extremely minimalist. I had seen the same at Lake Shore Lodge, where Chris and Louise did not have their own room for most of their time since building the lodge. They lived in chalets or bandas when clients were not in them and at times, even slept in the dive centre. They are now building a small house.

The hot water in my chalet was produced by a donkey boiler. Designs of these boilers differ slightly but fundamentally a small fire heats the water, which is then held in a tank, that is hopefully insulated, until used. There is normally one boiler for each chalet or safari tent as well as one, in this case, for the campsite. The water in the tank cools over time and so the fire must be made and lit again. Across Africa thousands of attendants rise in the dark to light the fires in safari camp donkey boilers so that hot water is available before people go out on game drives. The process is repeated in the late afternoon. The fires are efficient and so a minimum of wood is needed. However, the process in general, is hugely wasteful of wood and manpower. I asked Andy why he did not use solar heating instead. He said that it was principally aesthetics in creating a safari experience, but also because their camp is wooded, it is difficult to find a place close to each chalet which will receive enough sunlight for solar heating. Having said that, the kitchen was deliberately situated in the sun and solar panels on the kitchen roof provide all the electricity used by the camp.

At 15h30 Andy, Libby and I went in the boat back to the dead hippo. The largest crocodile in the area was at the body. The skin of the hippo above the water was still intact but there was clearly access from below. We watched as the crocodile dropped under the carcass, entered the body and pushed the whole upper side of the hippo into the air, as he took his next mouthful. Lots of smaller crocodiles waited in the wings hoping that there would be something left for them. We headed downstream and had drinks on an island as the sun set. We returned to camp after a 9 kms 3 hour boat ride.

Day 38 Kasabushi Camp to Nanzhila Lake Camp in Kafue National Park 109 kms

Travelled in the lodge’s game drive truck in the evening (41kms 3 hours)

I bade farewell to Libby and Andy and drove at a relaxed pace down the main road, called the Spinal Road.

There was a game viewing loop soon after departing but Andy had advised that there are two places where the road twisted between rocks and it was doubtful that I would get my trailer through, so I skipped it. There were no other side roads, except to camps, which is a downside of viewing in this part of the Park.

An important feature of the southern Park is the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam. The Park was established in the 1950s. The Itezhi-Tezhi Dam was completed in 1977 as a reservoir for the Kafue Gorge Upper Power Station 260 kilometres down river. A separate hydro electric power station was built at the dam in 2015. The dam forms a reservoir of 390 square kilometres when full – which it is most years.

I stayed at Nanzhila Plains Camp in 2018 and had met the owners, Steve and Cindy. Since then, they have built a new camp on the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam. I was met at Nanzhila Lake Camp by Sean and Lauren, the children of Steve and Cindy. The family is still building the camp although the guest dining/lounge area and three chalets are finished. The camp is situated at the southwest corner of the dam where the Musa and Lwanganduz rivers discharge into the dam. Water levels are low now so the view from the camp is of shallow water and sand banks which has attracted hundreds of birds, making it a birder’s paradise.

The other guest in camp was Mike from Frankfurt. We went out with Caesar, the guide, unfortunately driving for 45 minutes on the Spinal Road before turning off to the lake side. There, to my horror, the eight buffalo were outnumbered by twenty fisherman and litter every 100 metres. People emerged from the tree line carrying firewood. Sean later told me that both the government and the Parks officials have been reluctant to expel the fisherman, who were all voters in the recent election. This situation is clearly a nightmare for the nearby Konkamoya Camp. We returned to the tree line and came across a herd of eighty buffalo who were attractively framed by a tree and a dark cloudy sky. We returned to the lakeside further along, had a sundowner drink and as we left, something frightened the buffalo who charged onto the open area about 300 metres from us – quite a sight.

The skies by now were heavy with rain and lightning lit the horizon. We felt a few raindrops. Close to the camp, in the dark, we came across a very small elephant and her mother. The mother immediately prepared to charge us so we accelerated and left them alone. We got back to camp to find that they had a heavy rainstorm with puddles of water on the pathways. Sean was distracted from dinner by a herd of elephants between the kitchen and the staff quarters.

During dinner a lion roared nearby, and Lauren responded with a fear that I did not expect from someone who has spent so much time in the bush. It then transpired that she had had an experience with an elephant that had left her traumatised. (Her father, Steve, later told me that the elephants have got used to the fact that the fisherman keep mielie meal in their dome tents, which the elephants like. During construction of the Lake Camp the family were camped on site and Lauren was on her own in a dome tent. The elephant lifted the tent with Lauren in it and carried it a few metres and then stood on the tent while he tried to tear it open with his trunk. He was distracted by Steve, Cindy and Sean and chased after them, but then returned to the tent. This process was repeated four times by which time he had carried the tent thirty metres. The fifth time that he was distracted Lauren looked through a hole that the elephant had made in the tent, and when she saw that he was distracted tore the tent sufficiently to escape from it and ran away, before the elephant returned to find no mealie meal.)

The lion had a lot to say until 03h00

Day 39 Nanzhila Lake Camp to Nanzhila Plains Camp in Kafue National Park 101 kms

Travelled in the lodge’s game drive truck in the evening (35kms 3 hours)

I took it slowly to Nanzhila Plains Camp. Most of the distance covered was on the new Eastern Boundary Road which is an excellent road. There was, however, a veneer of mud on the road surface so I had to be careful that I did not skid, particularly because I was pulling the trailer. A sign indicated that I should turn west towards Nanzhila Plains Camp on a small track. Immediately the odds were raised. I kept coming across pools of water on the track, some as long as twenty metres, which were intimidating to drive through, especially pulling the trailer. Once mud grabs your wheels it is difficult to escape. I drew comfort from the fact that these pools had been created overnight and that the underlying road would not yet be clawing mud. A few pools were too long for me to be brave enough to tackle so I went off the road for the length of the pool.

At Nanzhila I was greeted by Cindy, and we spent an hour talking about the weather, the Park, the development of the Lakes Camp and the hopes and expectations of Park management being improved by African Parks.

Steve warned me that the rains had meant that the animals could now find water all over the bush so they would be difficult to see on our afternoon game drive. And so, it proved to be with our main sightings being two lions and a tortoise.

Day 40 Nanzhila Plains Camp in Kafue National Park to Livingstone 257 kms

Just after 06h00 Steve led me on the track south for about fifteen kilometres to make sure that the road was not waterlogged. In fact, all the water had soaked away. I had an easy run on a good gravel track to Dundumwezi Park Gate, on a good gravel road to Kalomo and a good tar road to Livingstone. And so, I arrived in Livingstone just before 11h00 on Wednesday 3rd November 2021 having driven 7,000 kilometres in 40 days.

Postscript

Immediately on arrival in Livingstone I had a COVID PCR test done at the Medprof clinic (US$100) and received a negative result, by email, at 09h00 the next day. I organised and cleaned my car and trailer and then left them with Nick Selby at Foleys Africa. He will service the vehicle and trailer and fix the items that have gone wrong and will have the car and trailer ready for me when I return in April. I am carrying a Carnet de Passage, issued by the AA of SA, for both the car and trailer which guarantees to the Zambian authorities that if I do not remove the vehicles from the country by 6th September 2022, they will pay the import taxes. Nick required me to have the carnet so that he can show it to the authorities if he is inspected. I then flew to Johannesburg to meet Tibby, before we both went on to stay in our Cape Town holiday house.

Conclusion

I am pleased to have done this trip but am unlikely to repeat it. I have already explained why I was disappointed with the four Tanzanian parks that I visited. In Zambia, North Luangwa was devoid of life. Kafue, south of the Busanga Plains, was disappointing. Busanga Plains was certainly a highlight but, in non-COVID times is too expensive for me to visit. The highlight of the trip is definitely South Luangwa with its abundance of game, variety of scenery, established network of game viewing roads and overall size available to tourists.

The best game lodge that I visited was Mukambi’ s Busanga Plains Lodge (it was also, by far, the most expensive). In terms of hospitality, design and location the prize is won jointly by Lake Shore Lodge on Lake Tanganyika and Kasabushi on the Kafue River.

Descriptions of Accommodation 

I was travelling at a time when COVID was inhibiting many people from travelling. Lodges were heavily discounting their rates and waiving single premiums. This expensive trip would have been significantly more expensive pre-COVID. The assumption is that decent Wi-Fi was available in the lounge/ dining area at no cost unless mentioned.

A concession fee or bed levy was charged by all the parks when I stayed in a lodge in the Park. These were sometimes collected at the gate, sometimes collected by the lodge and sometimes included in the rate of the hotel. To be consistent I have included these all as park fees and not as accommodation.

Four Points by Sheraton, Arusha, Tanzania. US$150 (£109) per night including breakfast. Good WIFI in the bedrooms. Very modern, comfortable with a central location.

Lawns Hotel, Lushoto US$70 (£50) per night including breakfast. Weak WIFI in communal areas. Long standing well regarded local hotel now mainly used by budget tour groups.

Foxes Lazy Lagoon Island Lodge, near Bagamoyo. US$110 (£80) per night full board including laundry and boat from mainland. Easy going relaxed and comfortable, if dated, in stunning location.

Foxes Rufiji River Camp, in Nyerere National Park. US$200 (£146) per night full board including laundry. Somewhat dated, dark room and lounge area and unexciting food.

Simbamwenni Lodge & Camping, Morogoro. US$50 (£36) per night bed and breakfast. A delightful oasis.

Foxes Vuma Hills Lodge, in Mikumi National Park. US$170 (£124) per night full board including laundry. Lovely accommodation and food.

Foxes Ruaha River Lodge, in Ruaha National Park. US$150 (£109) per night full board including laundry.

Foxes Mufindi Highland Lodge. US$100 (£72) per night full board including laundry. No WIFI. Not worth going out of the way to get here unless one wants to meet Geoff and Vicky Fox.

Holland Hotel, Sumbawanga. TZS50,000 (£16). Basic but clean. No WIFI and for a while, no power.

Foxes Katavi Wildlife Camp, Katavi National Park. US$175 (£128) per night full board including laundry.

Lake Shore Lodge, Kipili. US$85 (£62) on a dinner, bed and breakfast basis for a banda, with communal ablutions, per night. The best WIFI so far on this trip but only in the dining area. Magnificent setting and communal area and top notch hosts. This is a favourite of mine.

Lake Chila Lodge, Mbala, Zambia. ZKW300 (£13) bed only. No WIFI. Free cockroach

I stayed at the following five campsites with the group. My holiday price included the cost of these campsites:

Kapishya Springs Campsite. Shaded sites besides the river. Horrible ablutions.

Chifunda Lodge Campsite. Because the ‘toilet’ (only one) at the campsite was broken we were allowed to camp near two of the chalets of the lodge and use the bathrooms of the chalets. So, I do not know what the campsite is like.

Kumokonzo Community Campsite. Small camp with even smaller grassed river frontage. Very dusty. One toilet and one shower.

Zikomo Safari Campsite. Small camp with small river frontage. Three open air showers and three toilets with head height thatch. Nicely done. The boon for us was that, because of the lack of lodge clients, we were allowed to use the pool and bar area, which made a huge difference and which included WIFI.

Wildlife Campsite. Large, shaded campsite with large, grassed area but vehicles not allowed on the grass. Good number of functional toilets and showers. The real winner was having a pool and bar in the campsite.

Wildlife Camp Lodge. US$40 (£29) bed only. Very basic room. No idea if WIFI was available.

Pioneer Lodge and Camp, Lusaka. US$80 (£58) for a chalet and breakfast. Last minute walk in discounted rate.

Mukambi Lodge, Kafue National Park. US$350 (£255) per night full board, game drives, local drinks and laundry. COVID discounted rate. Good satellite WIFI in the dining area. Beautiful room.

Mukambi Busanga Plains Lodge, Kafue National Park. US$350 (£255) per night full board, game drives, local drinks and laundry. COVID discounted rate. Good satellite WIFI in the dining area. Beautiful room.

Kasabushi Camp, Kafue National Park. US$165 (£120) per night full board, boat ride, local drinks and laundry. Good satellite WIFI at the office in the campsite, 500m away. Beautifully crafted room, magnificent setting and communal area and top notch hosts. This is a favourite of mine.

Nanzhila Lake Camp, Kafue National Park. US$170 (£124) per night full board, game drive and local drinks. No WIFI. Attractive setting.

Nanzhila Plains Camp, Kafue National Park. US$170 (£124) per night full board, game drive and local drinks. No WIFI. Attractive setting.

Protea Hotel, Livingstone. US$139 (£101) per night including breakfast. Comfortable with large parking area allowing repacking of vehicle and trailer. Good WIFI in bedroom.

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 190,000 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 a Garmin inReach Mini.

The vehicle carried me comfortably all the way with no breakdowns en route. Unusually I had no punctures. The work that I had done to the body of the car, under the windscreen, seems to have solved the problem of my bonnet hinges breaking. None broke on this trip. I serviced the car in Arusha, and it must be serviced again before my next trip. I spent time in Morogoro having the wheel carrier welded, but otherwise did not lose time because of the car. Damage to the car included:

  • The bracket containing my spare wheel fell off and needs to be refixed to the back bumper
  • The other bracket containing my spare wheel was welded twice
  • The front passenger window was glued back to its fitting
  • The front of the sump cover was ripped from its bolts but remained on under the car and needs to be refixed
  • The trailer electrical light cable connector was ripped from the vehicle and needs to be replaced.
  • The jockey wheel of the trailer was bent back into shape but needs to be replaced.

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. In 2020 I took it from Cape Town to Arusha. 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 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 but that never happened. I pulled this trailer for 15,000 kms without it being used (except that I used it for three nights to air it and check its condition,)

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 32 nights on the trip and the two nights in Livingstone waiting for my flight, but excluding the cost of my guided trip with Ultimate Adventures for 10 days£3,444
Cost of my guided trip with Ultimate Adventures for 10 days including park fees – in retrospect this was too expensive for the benefit received of a guide, help across the pontoon in North Luangwa (important), dinners for 11 nights, camp site fees of about $220 for 11 nights and game park fees of about $210 for seven days£1,663
Fees to enter and stay in national parks excluding those included in Ultimate Adventures fee£1,023
Diesel. I travelled 6,826km, consuming 1,026 litres, with an average consumption of 6.65 kms per litre. The average cost per litre, in £pence, of diesel, in the countries I travelled in, was  Tanzania 73p and Zambia 69p£729
Carnet de Passages at R4,800 each x 2£475
Fees at borders£46
Total of above£7,380
Excludes: meals not included in hotel cost, tips, vehicle servicing, repairs, insurance and storage

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