Bela Bela to Johannesburg

I packed up at the strange campground of Marula Oase, leaving all these Caravans jammed together. I headed south back on the N1. I had found an inverter repairer at Sandton. It was Saturday, so I didn’t rate my chances that they were there, but I had to try and see if I could get my inverter fixed.

The N1 was pretty busy. It dawns on you after travelling in so much of Africa, that Johannesburg is so enormous and so rich.

I eventually got to the inverter repairer, and with amazing luck a worker was there to do some cleaning, and I left my inverter with them. Then it was a 60km drive from that part of Johannesburg to another part of Johannesburg the campground at Benoni. At about 2:45pm I pulled in to the campground getting back to where I had started. I had four days until I flew out, so time to do some repairs, and get Clancy ready for at least 6 months of storage.

Palapye Botswana to Bela Bela South Africa

A long and eventful day. I was going out of Palapye by 8:30am. I had 350km and a border crossing to get to the caravan park at Modimolle. I could bail at the Big Fig campground near the border, if the border crossing went bad.

So down the A1 turn off towards Martins Drift. Its a 100km fairly straightforward drive. I get close to the Botswana border post, and the trucks start piling up. I get past the trucks, and the Botswana border post is nearly empty. So ten minutes and I am out. Then its across the single lane bridge that crosses the Limpopo and can be jammed with trucks. However I am in luck and I get straight across, then I hit the truck traffic jam at the RSA border. There seems to be no gate guard, different from last time. I have done this border post I think 4 times, and its always different. I manage to squeeze past the trucks to the car parking area. I go to immigration, and ask a truck driver if we have to show our vax certificates at a different building, but he says they don’t care about the vax certificates anymore.  I go to the immigration window, and explain to the immigration guy that I just need a transit visa of 7 days because I am flying out. He gives me a month, (I think) its hard to read.

Then off to the Customs window for a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for Clancy. I can see the book through the window with all the previous TIP’s written in the book, so I know I am at the right place. Eventually a woman comes in and opens the window. I pass over my rego papers and say I want a TIP. She asks where is the vehicle registered, I answer Australia. She says you don’t need one and waves me on. I am totally confused. Is this Customs laziness? or have the rules changed? or are Australian cars unlikely to be imported into RSA or what? So I enter South Africa, without a TIP.

I manage to squeeze myself into the truck queue, which is being held up by the Police inspection point further up. I have been through this inspection point before. I have no idea what the Police and looking for. I open up some flaps they have a cursory look and wave me on. This Police inspection point clags up the whole border post, for I don’t know what benefit.

I must also point out I crossed a whole country, namely Botswana, without once being stopped by the Police. Although there were police doing checks, they just didn’t check me.

So I stopped after the border post to get my MTN sim working and hit the road. I stopped at Mokopane (after getting caught in a 30minute traffic jam out of town) at a PnP to get some more supplies. Then onto the N1. I had 100km to get to Modimolle, on the N1, should be easy.

I went through one toll booth, then the second. The second toll plaza, had lots of traffic, and I was weaving around trying to get into the right queue when someone called out, and eventually I realised I had a flat tyre. So changing a tyre in the middle of a toll plaza with dozens of cars wizzing around. I shifted to a toll lane that was out of use. I got my safety triangles out, and my Hi-viz vest and got to work. It was close to dusk, but in 20 minutes I had it changed and got going. I went through the toll both, and out the other side. I turned on my lights, and the engine started cutting out. If I turned my lights off the engine was fine. I couldn’t understand what was wrong. Then down the road I stop at a service station, I measure battery voltages and try to figure out what is going on, but I can’t figure it out. I leave the servo, head south and then realise in all the confusion I had missed the turnoff to Modimolle, and I was stuck on the N1 heading south with an engine that was cutting in and out. I eventually got off the N1 at the turn-off to Bela Bela. I stopped at another servo, and figured out that my engine was cutting out because the oil pressure switch was momentarily turning off. This was still a voltage problem, but I knew I could disconnect the oil pressure switch, and at least drive with out the cutting out. So I drove into Bela Bela. It was 43km back to Modimolle, so I though I have to find something at Bela Bela. The options on iOverlander are not good. I try WarmBaths, a huge resort in the middle of Bela Bela. They want $A75 for a nights camping, I tell them no. I head up the road 6km to option 2. They want $A65 for a nights camping. I say no, but they so point me to a cheaper one about a km away. I am running out of options. I roll up and they open up reception for me. Its $A38, still enormous, but I don’t argue. I am camped amongst dozens of other caravans. Its all very strange.

The truck queue outside Martins Drift
Working through the queue at the RSA border
Changing a flat tyre at a Toll Plaza

 

north of Nata to Palapye

I covered 450km today, which was the most I have ever done. That is mostly thanks to decent Botswana roads. I had a good night at the wild camp, but no wild animals appeared. It was really cold in the morning less than 12C, so I fired up the diesel heater, and after a while it actually worked.

I got going and just tried to cover the kilometers. Went through a vet fence were they checked my fridge, but I had not had meat for ages.  South of the vet fence was a lone Elephant by the side of the road.

I got to Francistown, where maybe the last time I was there was maybe 7 years ago? Francistown had grown. It had a shopping mall, a freeway. A Builders where I got some replacement hose connections that I broke.  I headed out of Francistown for a least 20km on a dual lane Freeway. The road became narrower after that but was still good, so I covered the kms. I got to Palapye close to dark, and was even more amazed by its transformation. Palapye used to be a collection of a few tiny shops. Now it has huge new subdivision north of town, many supermarkets, fast food joints, service stations. There are traffic jams, and so many people. This is what African development should be like. I go to Mozambique and nothing changes in 3 years, I go to Botswana and everything is improving. Thats what a decent government gets you.

I am camped at Camp Itumela in Palapye. Tomorrow Martins drift and the RSA border.

Lone Elephant by the Nata road
Camped at Camp Itumela in Palapye

 

Livingstone and Victoria Falls Zambia to north of Nata Botswana

I packed up and drove down to Victoria Falls, expecting as I got close some enormous car park where I would park Clancy for a fee. Instead I ended up driving to the border building and realising this wasn’t it. I drove back and found the entrance to the falls. I parked on the road with the trucks waiting for the border. It was just me, no enormous car park. I guess not many people drive to Victoria Falls, they are driven there.

So I paid about $A30 to enter. Didn’t need to show my passport, even though the sign said I did. I took my raincoat and entered into the Falls area. Since I had already seen it from the Zimbabwean side, I knew what it was like. I think this time the falls were drier and thus easier to see. Less spray blocking the view. I tend to think though to really see Victoria Falls you probably need to go up in a Helicopter.

After 30 minutes of viewing I was off. I stopped at Shoprite for some more supplies and headed of to the border, it was 70km away. I was going to use the last of my Kw buying fuel at the border, but that was a mistake because there was no fuel station. I drove up the approaches to the bridge, with fixers trying to wave me down, and me ignoring them and driving past. I drove over the bridge, and was sent to the Health building where they took note of my vax certificate. I then drove to the main building were someone at the front told me where to go. I visited Zambia Immigration, no forms just another stamp. Then Zambian customs where he took some of the enormous number of pieces of paper I had gathered in Zambia. Then it was over to Botswana immigration where I got my visa and then my bridge toll and road tax, all paid by credit card. Botswana is so civilised. That was all down in about 15 minutes. Then it was out to car inspection, which was a superficial look, they are more interested that the car comes fro Australia. Then I was out. The whole process took 30 minutes, its the best border crossing I have ever done!

I went to a money exchange then got some Pula in exchange for Rand. Then got a sim card with some data. Then some fuel, again paid with credit card, then of down the road. I was aiming for Panda camp 100km south. However when I got there I knew I could do another 100km. So I aimed for a wild camp another 100km south. Close to sunset, with a bit of searching I found it. Since I have seen Elephants, Oryx, and Giraffe on this road, I will have to be careful tonight.

Victoria Falls looking over to the Zimbabwean side
The only visitor who drove himself to the falls, the parking outside the entrance
Giraffe crossing the road north of Nata
Some Oryx next to the road north of Nata
Elephants next to the road north of Nata

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

 

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