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Category Archives: Zambia

Zambia (part 3)

We had heard reports of elephants at South Luangwa National Park campsites that break into cars to steal food, so I was ready to transfer all my fruit and veges into the camp’s storage. But when we arrived we were advised not to keep ANY food in our cars or tents as one particular elephant not only eats fruit and veges, but also bread, biscuits, chocolate, milk …anything.

I took the advice and moved garbage bags of food to the elephant proof storage.

In the evenings I made sure we had dinner early so everything was packed away by night.

On our first evening, the elephant had already visited the other side of the campground. He destroyed a tent and bent the door of a car, there might have been food inside them.

About 7pm the guard came to tell us the elephant was coming our way. We closed up our car and went to watch. There were 3 elephants browsing on trees and slowly making their way towards our camping area and us. Each time they got closer, we backed away to a safer distance and kept watching.

The naughty elephant walked over to a car, stood there and examined it, sniffing with his trunk – nothing. He walked over to check the next car – nothing. He then broke into the garbage bin, and examined a bag of rubbish I had disposed of, leaving slobber all over it.

Next was our car…. we held our breath. He stood there and ran his trunk across our roof tent window, then along the windows of the car – Nothing. Phew, he moved on to check a few other bins and to find snacks around the gardens of the campground.

We watched and kept retreating to safer areas of the grounds each time he moved closer. At one point Frankie found himself in the restaurant kitchen, he thought “maybe this is not a such a good place”, so ran back out to find an alternative shelter.

In the meantime, the other elephants were well behaved, browsing on bushes, and then moved onto the next campground. The naughty elephant made his way out too.

Later that night, Frankie woke me about 10:15pm when he heard the elephants again. This time 5 had come back walking around the grounds. We spied on them and went back to sleep with a smile after they walked right by our tent.

Next night around 7pm, the peace was broken by the guy next to us banging his pots. I looked across and there was the elephant! He was right there in their camp!! We jumped up and closed our car doors.

The elephant had come up the river bank, into their site. They were eating dinner, but it went for the open doors of their car. He put his trunk in the door and swept a load of their gear out. The guy kept shouting elephant!! elephant!! The elephant got angry and charged him. He ran behind the tree, it chased him around the tree. It was so fast!! so fast!! He fell but managed to escape (where were the guards?). Someone came out cracking a whip and drove him away, back into the bush.

Third night, the elephant visited again about 7pm. It was exciting but nerve wracking as we watched him examine each car in our area again. He found nothing thank goodness, however earlier that evening he was over the other side of the campground and did some damage to an Overlander Bus.

Our last night, and we were ready as usual, but he did not come, however we did get a bonus hippo grazing around the grounds and he walked past our tent at 2am.

We are very relieved that our car/home did not get damaged, but we have met other travellers with minor damage to their vehicle, trailer from the South Luangwa Elephant.

our nightly visitor

Here the elephant has just finished sniffing our roof tent and car. He looked over at the light we were shining on him and came walking towards us. We scattered.

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Posted by on October 19, 2013 in Africa, Zambia

 

Zambia (part 2)

Say ‘remote’, ‘back tracks’, ‘less tourists’ and you’ll have Frankie’s attention. He is often scouring different maps, satellite photos, any other sources for interesting or less travelled tracks to link our destinations. They take longer to travel, being rougher and slower, but are more interesting. It is how we usually holiday travel in Oz.

We were on our way to South Luangwa National Park. Following a faint line on the map, crossing some nice country, and then dropping down a rocky mountain escarpment onto the plains.

We stopped to watch some elephants cross in front of us and had our first encounters with Tsetse Flies. They swarmed the car; we could see them following and buzzing around the windows as we slowly travelled along. The ones that came inside attacked us so we kept the windows up.

We went through a number of village checkpoints carrying the flies with us; they needed to record our details, including how many firearms and ammunition we were carrying.

Around 4pm we pulled up to camp. Setting up camp didn’t even start. As soon as we stepped out the flies attacked, biting hard and drove us back inside the car, slamming the doors behind us. We just sat there, trapped in the car; occasionally zapping the few that followed us inside. This was absolutely horrible, horrible camping!

We had to drive on, hoping to come to an area clear of them; but this place is full of Tsetse flies, and really hungry ones too. They were always out there so we decided to keep drive until sunset.

Eventually we pulled off and camped right next to the track, there was no need to move into the bush as nobody was going to be coming along this way.

I had also decided to abandon dinner. A bowl of cereal did us, and then we jumped into bed. One bugger followed us in and managed to bite me in the dark! Everything seems to be extra hungry and more desperate in Africa, even the flies ☹

We got up just before sunrise to get going before the flies, but a few had camped around our car and were ready for us at that hour! We shoveled in some cereal again and were on our way.

A few hours later we were driving through some lovely remote villages. Like the flies, they don’t get much passing traffic either so there were lots of waves and smiles rather than the usual frowns with begging hands held out (although we did not stop incase the greetings turned into begging). Some huts were beautifully decorated. There were lots of kids, neatly dressed in uniform heading to school. It was good to see there were many wells that residents could pump clean water.

The track got very slow and bumpy with stretches of track entirely of dried mud holes from elephant footprints. We crossed many arms of a river. A lot of these dry crossings were like very steep, deep dips; some were about 2 car heights deep. It looks like the water rises to the full depth in the wet.

We knew we had to cross the main river and wondered what the crossing was going to be like.

Finally we came to the main river and followed the track along it. We did not see any obvious tracks down to the riverbed to cross, but we knew we had overshot the area where the crossing was supposed to be. Further down we could see a massive group of hippos, so we went to visit them. What a fantastic sight! Lots of crocs together with them too; they’re all friends. Awesome, but it was a shame we could not stay longer to enjoy this sight, as the task at hand was how and where are we going to get across this river??? Obviously, not right here!

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We backtracked and found a very easy crossing area where we would normally just drive across without batting an eyelid, but this is croc and hippo territory. Being a lone vehicle, and there being no winch anchor points in the a wide riverbed, we would have a very tedious, nervous recovery if we happened to get stuck.

Ideally we were looking for a crossing that would be 100% ok (without walking it).

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“It looks so easy”, but we didn’t want to get stuck and have to fiddle around in the water. Standing there with these thoughts reminded me of similar situations that we have to deal with on our own, in the Top End of Australia (tho longer and deeper), in croc country.

‘Well its 99% LIKELY to be as simple as it looks’. We decide to do it and walked back to bring the car down.

Next problem, there were trees and bushes blocking car access to the river, and where there was no trees, the banks were 3 meter high vertical drops.

We are not into destroying bushes and banks so we continued driving back along the track looking for an area to access, getting further away from our crossing.

Finally we saw a track down to the river, which we had missed the first time, and this lead to the actual crossing point.

We looked at the crossings, and again we were not going to walk to check them. We just trusted the sticks marking the way; a diagonal crossing onto a sand bank; and then another crossing to the other bank.

The first crossing was fine, very shallow and firm. As we approached the 2nd crossing, 2 baby crocs scurried off the bank into the water. The 2nd crossing dropped off a bit deeper, but was also fine.

Now we were on the other side; we picked up the well-travelled main track to continue on to our destination.

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Posted by on October 17, 2013 in Africa, Zambia

 

Zambia (part 1)

“It is not safe to walk or cycle to Victoria Falls”.
“Do not stop at the viewing area (described) on the way to the Falls, you will get robbed” – says notices on the campground board.

Zambia was our first country after leaving “Africa Lite”. It was the start of a few things, which continue and apparently get worse the further north you go:

Unsafe trucks, buses and other vehicles – We drive past fresh crashes, fallen loads and broken down trucks/buses on a daily bases. Loads are not secured safely, drivers are unsafe, vehicles are mechanically unsound/un-roadworthy, and you see vehicles having major repairs done by the side of the road eg whole engine or diffs out.

Police man explain how to make mud bricksRegular Police checks along the roads/highways – They might want to check your license, rego, local insurance, safety equipment, where you have come from/going to, how much they can get from you. At one of our first checks we experienced some lovely Zambian hospitality. Not sure what this happy policeman was checking but we exchanged lots of lingering handshakes and smiles and I asked him what the peculiar large mounds we had been seeing for the last 50km were. He said they were termites, and that you make mud bricks from them, he then offered to show us. We followed walked to someone’s brick making site by the side of the road and he explained the process of how the locals make bricks from termite hills, an easy business to set up.

Victoria Falls (in the dry season)The famous Victoria Falls – It’s dry season, the falls on the Zambian side are not really running, but we still did the walks around the park. Clouds of mist did not leave us soaked, and as expected, the falls were quite underwhelming. However, because it is an unusually dry, dry season, we were able to walk right across the top of the ‘falls’ to Livingston Island. The rocks would normally be submerged in mega-tonnes of water flowing over the cliff. That was pretty surreal.

Frigella Farm Lodge – have had their post office, bakery, butchery, medical clinic since the times when a working farm had to be self-sufficient.

They offer camping, and food in the restaurant is very good and cheap

The meat and veges come from the farm or surrounding farms (rice in Zambia is good, unlike Namibia and SA where parboiled rice is served).

A cart comes around to collect the garbage every day and is pulled by 2 nice bulls. They know the routine and respond to verbal commands (like ‘come and get back under the harness’). I went and talked to the goats and chickens, and fed my food scraps to the pigs.

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IMG_3743There is a viewing window to the bakery to watch what’s being made. Fringella Pies are the best! This is the beef pie, but the chicken pie was my favourite.

 

You can also stock up on meat and smallgoods from the farm butchery.

Mutinundo Wilderness Lodge – we had a sensational camp on top of a hill with wonderful views. The huge shelter was great when a storm came through and we kept warm in the evening by the open fireplace. They have canoes to use on their river, horse riding and we walked to one of the larger granite mountains. Sensational 360deg views! You’ll want to descend pretty quickly if you see a storm coming as the many areas of burnt grass and bushes indicate lots of lightning strikes up here.

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Posted by on October 15, 2013 in Zambia