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.

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

south of Kambikatoto to escarpment Forest camp north-east of Luala

My wild camp south of Kambikatoto was great. I heard nothing, not even anything driving down the road. I had my normal barley breakfast, and headed down the road, about 280km to go to Mbeya. The road was definitely worse. It was rocky, basically single lane, so I would have to squeeze to the side in the ditch to let trucks and buses pass. There were not many villages, and no mobile reception. About mid-morning I came to a rope across the road outside a village. This is a common practice with the Police, and most villages have some sort of barrier, but it was always up. I stopped at the barrier, and said a friendly hello to the your man who came up to the window. He spoke zero English. He tried telling me in Swahili why there was a rope, but I kept shrugging no understanding. Then it was the rubbing of stomach, and I knew this was extortion for money. I mentioned the word “Police” several times, and “illegal”, but this didn’t stop him. So I said I can wait here and block the road as long as I want. I switched of the engine, and wound up the window and starred forward, ignoring him. He went over and removed the rope and let me through. This might be inconsistent behavior with me paying the villagers to cross the river. However I was on much stronger ground in the bigger village. A truck or bus would come along some time and have to get past me.

I stopped for lunch then continued what was a punishing road, with corrugations and rocks. I was worried about fuel. I had not really bought enough fuel 200km+ north of me, so it was a sight for relief when I pulled into the first service station for about 200km. Except that it was closed because it had no Diesel. So off down the road, about 1km away, where there another servo, this time with Diesel.

I eventually got close to Makongolosi, where there was a Police stop and praise be, a bitumen road. I was heading for a iOverlander wild camp at the look-out about 34km form Mbeya. Outside Makongolosi as I had got 3g internet for the first time in 6 days, I stopped and uploaded the blog posts and pictures I had done. This timed the arrival at the look-out camp a nice 5:15pm. Unfortunately, the look-out camp was having a fence built and had a security guard, so that campsite was a bust. I turned back down the road, because the area was all pine forest (I was at 2000m+), and within 500m I found a forest track. About 300m down it I found a good spot, out of view of the road. I set up the shower tent for another hot shower, draining the hot water from the roof hot water tank. This was the 5th night of wild camps in a row.

Yet another broken down truck
Bee hive traps, these are all over the place made of different materials designed to trap bee hives
Camped at 2100m+ in a pine forest

south of Unyambwa to wild camp south of Kambikatoto

It was cool when I got up. I guess I am getting further south, and I am at about 1500m altitude. I added the wild camp to iOverlander. I was only getting minimal internet, EDGE or GPRS. There was not much I could do with it, it really only worked on my phone.

I got packed up and left, still not seeing any people until I got onto the T22. About a km away there was another truck crash. The prime mover had become separated from the trailer carrying timber. I stopped for a minute to talk to the locals, but they just wanted me to give them cigarettes.

At about the 10km mark I came across a reasonable service station. However they would not take a credit card, so I gave them 100,000Tsh (about $65) for 30 litres of fuel, which was half the cash I had. I also filled up the water tanks and filled the roof hot water tank so I could have a shower when I stopped for the day.

The road wound south. It went though plenty of villages, but as I got further south the villages got further and further apart. There was not much traffic. Buses, and a few trucks, and occasional cars. I went through a military checkpoint, but they were all friendly. I passed several broken down trucks, cars and buses, as I headed south. I stopped for lunch by a river, and kids from a nearby house played near the river watching me the whole time. When I left they ran and hid. I have seen this before with rural kids and white people (or maybe its just me?).

Later in the afternoon I drove past a village where dozens of people were walked down the road out of the village. About 500m away were lots of trucks and vans pilled with goods that I squeezed past and I saw lots of stalls set up selling goods, and dozens of villages shopping.

At 5pm I turned on the heater element for the hot water and started seriously looking for a campsite. I spied a track of to the side. I left Clancy parked by the road. The track was good, but there was no evidence that anyone had walked or driven down it for a while. I drove down and set up camp. I got all the shower stuff out and had another nice hot shower.

Filling with water at the servo
Village Market
Roadside stop heading south
the corrugated road heading south

Lake Eysai to south of Unyambwa

I packed up at Lake Eysai. It had been a good campsite. My new solar controller and solar panel connection improvements showed with power soon after dawn.

I followed my tracks back to the road and headed south. The road was no large but it was well graded. Very little traffic, a few motorcycles, no cars. I suddenly ended up at a dry river bed and I could not figure out were the road went. I took a track and asked a lady washing where the town was on the main road. She sent me east, and I drove between piles of mud bricks to eventually see a crossing of the river. The road then got very vague. I was following my GPS, but I would often be 200m away from the road as shown on the GPS. A motorcycle went past and I followed his track for a while. The road just meandered through the scrub. There were little village compounds every now and then, surrounded by spikey african thorn bush. I don’t know if this is to keep animals out of keep animals in. I was all very primitive, and every village I went past, people stopped to stare at me.

After 20km or so I came across another river, this one with water in it. There was a barrier across the road and a couple of locals standing around. I got out to talk to them figuring they wanted money. They just put their hand out. I asked “how much”, but they didn’t understand. I went back to the car and got 1,000Tsh. I offered this, but another older man came along and shoke his head and held out a fist. I didn’t get this, eventually he counted out 5 fingers, so I gave him 5,000Tsh (about $A3). They took the barriers down, I walked the river just to check the bottom, but it was sandy and no deeper than 30cm. I locked the hubs, engaged 4wd, and easily crossed the river.

The road continued to meander. I passed a couple of villages who were pulling water out of wells dug in dried sandy river beds. This was definitely not Dar es Salaam. I got close to the town on the main road. Here I crossed another dried river bed with wells dug in it. There were dozens of people carted drums of water on two wheeled carts away from the river bed. It all looked pretty grim.

I got on the main road, which was still dirt. I headed over a newly build bridge over a river and flood plain.

It was then a wander around different side roads, all dirt until I got to Singida. About 20km out of Singida was the first police stop I had been through in 3 days. However they were friendly and let me go quickly. Once through Singida it was down the bitumen of the T3 looking for wild camping opportunities. I decided as it got closer to 6pm, I would wait for the turn-off from the T3 to the T22 that headed to Mbeya. I turned of and was very surprised that the T22 was dirt. This meant I had 518km of dirt road to drive down to get to Mbeya.

Only about 1km after the turn off I saw a track to the side. I backed up drove into the track, then walked further down. It looked like an abandoned field. I drove about 150m down and parked on the side. It was pretty invisible from the road, and I didn’t see anyone all night.

 

Negotiating the price for the extortion barrier across the road
Checking the bottom of the river
Crossing the river
The faint track meandering around south of Lake Eyias
Sunset at wild camp south of the T3 T22 intersection