Thorn Tree Safaris Zambia to Johannesburg South Africa

I left Karen at Livingstone airport, and drove back into Livingstone, and then headed south. I got to the Zambian border, with the fixers trying to stop me at the beginning of the bridge at Kazungula. Over the bridge, into the combined border crossing on the Botswana side. It was about 15 minutes, paid my bridge toll to the Botswana customs, and had my vehicle checked, then I was out to Kazungula. I went to the supermarket, then headed south towards Nata.

I saw an elephant and baby not far south, and a few giraffes. However it was all pretty dry compared to when I had travelled south a bit more than a year ago. At the wild camp, which I had camped at a year ago, 200km down the road, I stopped about 30 minutes before sunset.

I had a quiet night, but even though I was 500m from the Nata road, I could still hear the traffic.

Next morning I got going about 7:30am.  I stopped at Nata for more fuel. Then continued south. The road south of Nata is a bit narrow with broken edges, so I wasn’t going fast, maybe 65kph. Eventually I got to Francistown, which was busy. I thought about headed to the shopping mall on the main street, but it was way too busy, and jammed with cars, so I continued on south. I was going to stay at a campsite at Palapye, but the latest iOverlander review said someone had got robbed their. So I decided to turn off earlier and head to an iOverlander wild camp, east of Palapye, that had got good reviews. I got to the quarry just before dusk, and it was a great quiet place to camp.

Up and going at 6:30am I headed for the border at Martins Drift. I tried to get fuel at the servo near the border, but their network was down, and they couldn’t take a credit card. I cleared the Botswana border, and then managed to weave through the trucks on the South African side. I managed this time to get a TIP (temporary import permit), after about 30 minutes of waiting. Then old though the Police check at the exit to the border crossing. I stopped amongst the dozens of trucks on the South African side and put up the starlink dish, and added data to my Vodacom sim, and then heade south-east. I got more fuel, and kept driving until I got to the Weesgerus campsite near Modimolle. I was jammed in with lots of other caravans, because it was school holidays.

Its an OK campground, and the next morning I got going around 7:30am. It was 10km to the N1, where I hit a police checkpoint. I managed to get though that and worked my way down the N1 for 180km to Johannesburg.  I arrived at Airport en Route around 1pm in the afternoon. Total trip around 5,000km.

stopped on the Nata road
First wild camp, around 200km south of Kazungula
Camped at the quarry east of Palapye
Weesgerus campsite near Modimolle


Kwalape Safari Lodge Botswana to Thorn Tree Safaris Zambia

It was another warm night. As Karen has pointed out we have had about 3 weeks of 35C+ weather.  We got everything ready for the Botswana to Zambia crossing. I knew this crossing could be difficult. When I crossed from Tanzania to Zambia last year, it took me more than 3 hours, and I had to employ a fixer to assist me.

We loaded up with fuel at Kazungula, and headed across the bridge over the Zambezi River to the combined Border facility. We had to go through the gatehouse and get a gate pass, something we didn’t expect, possibly because we have an Australian registered vehicle. We then went to the main passenger terminal building. The whole border process took 90 minutes, which was faster than I expected.

Then it was the 60km drive to Livingstone. We got to Livingstone and stopped at the Shoprite supermarket and got supplies. Then down the road to Thorn Tree Safari where I had stayed at a year earlier.  We suffered from the large number of mosquitoes at Thorn Tree overnight.

The next day Karen suggested we go to the Royal Livingstone hotel where we had drinks at the riverside deck, and could see the spray from Victoria Falls in the distance.

Then on Monday I dropped Karen at Livingstone airport, and she headed to Iringa Tanzania while I headed south towards Johannesburg.


Crossing the Kazungula Bridge into Zambia
Camped under the big tree at Thorn Tree
Zebras in the street in Livingstone
Royal Livingstone Hotel with the spray from Victoria Falls in the background
A Giraffe on the way out from the Royal Livingstone
The local Hippo at the Thorn Tree camp

Moorings Farm to Livingstone

Campsite at Moorings farm was good, because it was 2km from the road, and thus very quiet. Everyone left before me, I got to the main road by 9am. It was 350km to Livingstone.

Pretty uneventful drive. I passed a town around lunch time that advertised a Steers, which is a South African burger chain. I thought a chicken burger would make nice lunch. It cost 75 Kw and I handed over 100Kw, but as is typical of Zambia they don’t have enough change. It takes an extra 5 minutes to come up with 25Kw change (just over $A2). The campsite at Moorings charged 140Kw, but they cannot change 150Kw I gave them (less than $A1), so I paid 150Kw. Same with Wildlife Camp at Mfuwe, it cost me an extra 20Kw because they could not give me change. I find it interesting that the supplier of the service is never willing to take the loss.

I stopped at the side of the road for a stretch, then went to start the car, and nothing.  I had no ignition at all. I thought this is not good, as the battery failed already? A bit of investigation showed a broken fusible link. I think the link probably stretched under load with all the temporary cabling putting the AGM battery in. I temporarily fixed the link and everything was good.

I got to Livingstone, stopped at the Shoprite, which was the most supplied one ever. I bought some pink lady apples. Then off to Thorn Tree lodge, about 2km from Victoria falls. There are elephant droppings everywhere, the lady who greeted me said they were here a few minutes ago. I can hear the helicopters making flights over the falls. I will go and see the falls tomorrow.  I have seen the falls from the Zambezian side, tomorrow from the Zambian side.

After that its 75km to the Botswana border.

Broken down not starting, but I find the faulty fusible link
Camped at Thorn Tree lodge about 2km from Victoria falls
A motto to live by, at the bar at Thorn Tree lodge


east of Nyimba to Lusaka to Moorings Farm

I got woken up a bit before 7am at the wild camp east of Nyimba to someone outside saying “hello” many times. I looked outside through my peephole and saw someone across the clearing. I got everything packed up inside then went outside said hello, continued to pack, threw everything in the camper that was loose in about 2 minutes, then started the engine. He said he wanted to talk about mining. I said I didn’t understand, jumped in Clancy and drove off. I have no idea what he wanted.

I stopped in Nyimba for fuel, and bread rolls at a Bakery. The road started to get hilly as we got close to the Luangwa River bridge. I waited in a queue at the bridge, because it was one vehicle a time over the bridge.  When I crossed I talked to two Italians who were riding a KTM motorbike. They had been doing it for 7 years. Storing the bike and coming out for a few weeks each time to tour Africa.

I continued on the hilly terrain. The road was pot-holed, and there were so many broken down trucks. I estimated there was a broken down truck every 3km of this section of the T4.

I aimed for a lodge about 50km out of Lusaka, because I wanted to get in and out the same day. I stopped at the lodge, recommended on iOverlander, but they seemed to have no idea about people camping at the lodge, they only wanted to sell rooms. I gave up and continued on. I got to Malangano Camp, which was 25km out of Lusaka. It didn’t have great reviews on iOverlander, but I thought it was fine.

Next morning I got going into Lusaka traffic about 8am. No traffic further out, but as I got close, it was bumper to bumper.  I got to TyreKing, and as promised they had the battery and were helpful. It was about $A235, which seemed fine. I then drove to the adjacent mall, with the Builders and installed the battery and put the AGM battery back with the other one, and cabled it up. I went to Builders as well to see if I could get a piece of Aluminum angle to replace one that ripped off. However their range was a bit limited, I will have to get one in South Africa.

So then I headed south to the Pick and Pay supermarket. Pretty much a disappointment, not much range. I picked up a few things.

After the Pick and Pay I went to an Engen fuel station opposite where I was the victim of an attempted scam. I pull in and ask the attendant if they take credit card. Yes they do (so much better than Tanzania). So I tell him to fill it up. I know my tank is close to empty. So I look at the pump to see what the price is, and do notice that there is 500Kw for the previous sale. The attendant puts the nozzle in and I idly look away, and after a minute he says you only wanted 500Kw didn’t you. I am surprised and say, no I want the tank full. He says sorry and puts the nozzle in again and starts pumping. At this stage I think something strange is going on, and tell him to stop. I turn on the ignition and look at the fuel gauge, and of course the tank is still empty. If he had really put in 500Kw the tank would be half full. I say to him, you did not put in 500Kw and he looks sheepish and says no that was the previous car. I had caught him in a scam. I had heard of this scam, but this was the first time it had been tried on me.

Then it was south towards Livingstone. I targeted Moorings Farm, as it was about 150km, and would knock the trip to Livingstone in half. I got there about 4:30pm, with 2 other sets of campers already there. I had a nice shower via a donkey boiler, and I had 240V power. All was good.

The queue for the Luangwa Bridge, only one vehicle at a time
Sellers trying to find customers in the captive queue
The two Italians riding a KTM around Africa
Yet another broken down truck
Kids begging for money because they “filled in” a pothole. Maybe they did maybe someone did it last year.
Camped at Moorings Farm


Mfuwe to east of Nyimba

I stayed two nights at Wild Camp. The Elephants came and went. I was rotating the tyres when an Elephant approached and a staff member told me to be careful. When I came out of the shower block the second night, the night security warned me of an elephant hiding in the trees next to the shower block. I sat on the Luwangwa River both nights to watch the sunset and animal show. Definitely a good campsite, I hope to return.

So I emailed a couple of battery providers and one came back with a branch in Lusaka that has the replacement battery I want. So I loaded up with water, rotated the tyres, and greased the universal joints, ready for the 700km to Lusaka.

I got going by 8:30am. Stopped in Mufuwe for fuel. Got caught up in some enormous gathering with 100’s of people on the way to Chipita, that I had no idea what it was about. Once I got on the T4, all went pretty smoothly. A couple of toll booths, where they wanted to check my border purchased road toll plus pay 20Kw toll.

I stop just on dusk at an IOverlander wild camp east of Nyimba. I had to get the fibreglass gear out. I had to re-fibreglass the latch on one of the flaps, and the aluminum strip at the back of the camper, that has partially ripped off when I went down a steep embarkment and also broke the hose connection. This is the seventh month that Clancy has been travelling in Africa, so some wear and tear is to be expected.

Elephants helping rotate the tyres
Sunset on the Luangwa River
Driving the quite nice T4
Camped off the T4


Luangwa River to Mfuwe

The fishermen (about 10 of them) were around early to see if I could get started. So I skipped breakfast connected one of the Aldi batteries to the AGM deep cycle, and filled the air cooler with starting fluid, and the engine started. I thanked my helpers, and I drove a couple of km south and then stopped for breakfast (with the solar panels in the sun) and the engine was warm. and had breakfast.

I went through a couple more checkpoints. I was basically transiting national parks as I headed south. I stopped in a park to take a panorama, and while I was taking the panorama I noticed a herd of elephants. They gradually got closed and passed me 100m away. I also looked the other way and saw some zebras. I am sure I saw some Cape Buffalo as well.

The road continued south with a long river crossing and a very steep exit bank. I sure the villages gathered at the top of the bank thought they would have to push, but I had my hubs locked and low ratio, and I got up.

This is a more tourist area because I have problems with kids chasing me, which is very dangerous. They are either yelling out for sweets or money, but they chase me as I pass, and it happened in Mozambique where kids hung off the back. It hasn’t happened this trip, but its a dangerous habit.

I got the the bitumen, to the west of Mfuwe. Four days of dirt track. I drove into the centre of town, where there was a supermarket, and a market. I bought some fabulous bread rolls from a seller in the market. I need to get some more on the way out.

Then it was 6km to Wild camp, very popular according to iOverlander campsite. I rolled up to a group of elephants standing outside the entrance. They were fully booked, but they found me an overflow spot with no power. I haven’t had power for two weeks, so that wasn’t a problem. I told them I was going to stay 3 nights, but then I analyzed my route. I have to get a new battery and that is probably in Lusaka, and that’s 700km away. So I told them only two nights I have to get going Saturday. I will have to come back here and do this area again properly. I would like to do a game drive in the park, but my battery situation is too precarious.

A passing herd of Elephants
The Elephants standing around at the entrance to wild camp


Camped next to Elephants
Elephants at the back of Clancy




north of Chitete village to Luangwa River north Mfuwe

Well things went from bad to worse. I measured in the morning the battery voltage. O.02V. I started rigging up the solar panels to see if I could get the battery voltage up. I tried and tried for hours, got close to starting, but never actually got it going. I decided it ws time for plan B and see if I could gt one of the AGM storage batteries out, and get it to start the engine. Removing the battery was easier than I thought, but it is very heavy. It would not start it straight, but if I added the solar panel, plus the DC-DC charger and one of the Aldi 20V batteries it started.

Then down the road, leaving at lunch time. Still no internet. I went through three park check points. The second was the north end of Luambe National Park, with no fees if you are just transiting. In front of me at the checkpoint was an ordinary sedan car with 10 passengers! It was an interesting drive through Luambe National Park I saw one Elephant just of the road. I went through the exit checkpoint, where there was meant to be an iOverlander wild camp, but I looked for ages and could see no sign off it. I saw about 6 Giraffes just outside the park. The sun was going down so I headed for a camp right next to the road, but also the Luangwa River about 9km away. I made it just before dark. I got talking to some local fishermen, who told me to be careful because someone locally had got injured by a Lion that very day. They told me if I needed a push tomorrow they would give me a push-start.

Multiple attempts to connect different batteries nad solar panels to get the voltage up
Inserted and jury rigged cables to install one of the AGM deep cycle batteries
An Elephant by the side of the road on the D104
Giraffe by the side of the road D104
Another Giraffe
Passing another Giraffe
Camped by the Luwagwa River, I could hear the Hippos at night


south of Chimphamba Village to north of Chitete village

My cranking battery problems continue. It took two hours this morning to get started. I tried attaching solar panels all sorts of ways to the cranking battery that read less than 10 volts. Eventually I decided to cable the DC-DC charger in reverse, charging from the house batteries to the cranking battery. It needed all the solar panels and a bit of sun to get the house batteries up to enough voltage to charge the cranking battery, but eventually it worked. I stopped it a couple of times during the day, and it did restart when the engine is hot.

The problem is, this is all very remote. I think I have passed three vehicles today. There is no way I will get a battery anywhere out here. I might have a slim chance of getting one at Mfuwe which is about 140km away. When I stopped today the cranking battery was very hot, and I could hear it bubbling, it is definitely in a very bad state. I am not sure if I took one of the AGM deep cycles out it would work as a cranking battery. I haven’t had internet for two days so I cannot look that up.

After starting so late, it was nearly 11 am, I continued south. Almost every village I pass people just stop and stare. Not many white tourists out this way. I have had to drive past several burn-off fires. It seems people start fires all over the place to burn-off the grass. A couple were right next to the road, so I rushed past, then checked underneath afterwards to make sure I had not snagged any burning vegetation. I saw some springbok or similar later in the afternoon. In between the villages its pretty much just scrub and forest. I really wonder whether I have seen Elephant tracks, but I am not sure. I probably only made 80km today, it was all such slow going. I stopped at 4:30pm because there was a village about 20km in front, I don’t want to get caught up around that looking for a camp.

Another river crossing
Connecting solar panels to the failing battery to get it started
Cotton fields along the road. People grow cotton, I have see a few trucks with cotton bales on them
Passing villages
The longest river crossing, that the GPS didn’t even show the road
Roadside fires
Collected thatching materials
Another village building
Camped with a battery that is bubbling and boiling

road to Chama to south of Chimphamba Village

A great night camped in the quarry. No cars in the morning, its a pretty quiet road. I get going 8:30am. Within about 2km I come across a minibus down the side of an embankment, with the passengers waiting by the side of the road sitting on the seats removed from the minibus.

The road just got worse and worse. It became a 4wd track with me doing about 15kph. Areas of thick bulldust, ruts, creek crossings. I was somewhat dreading 100km of this all the way to Chama. I passed a couple of vehicles coming the other way, and minibus very slowly going my way. Then after 50km of this, there was a bridge crossing a river, and suddenly it became an excellent bitumen road. Not the first time I have hit this in Africa. A good road, then it doesn’t get finished and there is a section of terrible road, then back to a good road. The terrible road never gets fixed and so the whole road carries hardly any traffic.

I get close to Chama and the road goes past a dirt road intersection with lots of traffic on it. I keep going, someone waves and makes a hand gesture and it dawns on me that this good bitumen road goes nowhere, they never built the bridge across the river. I turn round and go back to the guy that gestured to me and yes the road goes nowhere. I go back to the intersection with the dirt road, and follow it into Chama.

Chama is a well built town, with nice bitumen roads, even roundabouts, and almost no cars, nearly all bicycles. I find the market centre and park. Someone comes up to the window and wants to fix my bicycle, which of course is fine, I just store it with the front wheel off so it fits. He then wants to “help” me. I have come across this before they want to “help” so that they can get some money off me later for their “help”.

I find the bakery, and buy some bread rolls. I walk though the market, but cannot find any bananas, mostly people are selling the tiny fish that are a like whitebait in New Zealand, and are sold in Malawi. The Malawi border is only about 100km away. Considering the lack of water around I wonder if that is where it comes from. As I drive out of the market I pass one of the rare cars. He yells out asking where I am going. I say I am heading south on the RD105. Keep in mind I have not seen another tourist for more than a day now. He stops gets out and asked for 20Kw (about $A2) to fix his tyre. I reply why is he asking random strangers he passes for money. The I say you must be one of the richest guys in town, you have a car. He half grins, and I drive off. I struggle finding the RD105 but after a misstep I head south on the track that is mostly used by people, and hardly used by cars.

It is a slow drive south. The road is narrow, but there are dozens and dozens of bicycles. Guys transported goods out of Chama south, people riding between villages, its a busy busy road, but just with bicycles. I come across two cars, and then further south I pass a few trucks. At 5pm I pass Chimphamba Village and find a clearing in the forest south as a camping spot. A few motorcycles and a truck pass before dark, but after that it is quiet.

The bad bit of the road to Chama
Bridge over the river to Chama, almost at the end of the bad road
Broken down truck blocking the RD105 south of Chama
Bicycles on the RD105 south of Chama
So many loads carried on Bicycles to villages south of Chama
The river crossed by the bridge on the bad road to Chama
Camped of the road south of Chimphamba Village


Kings Highway Zambia to road to Chama

I spent 3 nights at Kings Highway campsite so I could fix the broken things. I fibreglassed the wheel arch back together. Then I reconnected the broken cables and routed them lower from the body so they would not get cut again by the severe motion of the camper body. I found in the end one broken rubber mount that I decided to leave for now because it will be tricky to replace (I have spares). I had problems with the cables trying to figure out which was which. Especially a cable that I had put in that I had never used.

So with all the packing up, I had spread out again, I got going about 9:30am. First stop was Isoka, about 60km down the road to go to an ATM. I was down to about $A15 left. The road to Isoka was new, and very easy to drive. I however have got so used to driving slowly, that I rarely go over 70kmh. I went through a Police stop outside Isoka where the policewoman interrogated me for quite some time, and also asked for a cold drink. I then turned into Isoka, drove the 3km to the township and found the ATM. The ATM refused the card. Darn I thought, ATMs in Zambia where not going well. It was 80km to the next bank. I was ready to drive off when I thought, what if I try my credit card? I did, and it worked, and I withdrew the maximum of 6,000Kw (probably too much).

Flushed with money I went on a spending spree in town. One thing I like about Zambia is that many more people speak English, its easy to do business. I wandered the main street and found a little market. I bought some peanuts, and some potatoes. I was offered tomatoes. I have to rant a little about tomatoes. I don’t dislike tomatoes, but they really don’t travel very well, but I probably should eat them more. However it is amazing in East Africa that Tomatoes are everywhere. You can guarantee as some roadside stall there will be tomatoes on offer , if not anything else. Anyway I also bought some bananas and crossed the road to a bakery I had seen and bought two bags of bread rolls.

So I hit the road down to towards Chinsali the last town with fuel. The good road ended some time out of Isoka and I was back to road works. I got to Chinsali ,I filled up the tank with another 33l. It was then 40km down the T2 to the turnoff to Chama. I was really surprised the road to Chama was bitumen. It went on for maybe 80km before deteriorating to dirt. I went through another military checkpoint, and then drove another 2km and found a disused quarry at the side of the road. Quarry’s are my favorite place to camp. No scrub, usually hidden from the road. This was really quiet. I must be a fair way from villages I heard no noise during the night, and only two vehicles came past earlier in the evening.

Roadworks on the T2
Truck town with lots of stopped trucks on the T2
Quarry camp