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.
I slept well at the Forest camp, but it was cold in the morning. I packed up and went to start the engine, and no start, battery problems again. This cranking battery is on its way out, the cold temperatures have weakened its cranking power. So I know how to fix this, and luckily it was sunny, although the sun was only just over the horizon. I got out the folding solar panel and connected it to the battery. Within about half and hour and some starting spray I had the engine going.
It was another 400m climb until I got to the top of the escarpment, with Clancy crawling slowly up the steep hills. I passed another truck accident, a dump truck on its side. Then it was a windy road down into Mbeya, with good views over the city. I tried to get fuel with a credit card at the Puma but no go. I tried to find a KCB bank which does not charge extra fees, but no go, so I went to and ATM and withdrew 400,000 Tsh (about $A250). Then stopped for fuel. I knew I was low, it took 67l, so I was down to my last 8l.
Then off through the crazy traffic in Mbeya, and the road to the border, which was about 80km away. The road to the border was crammed with trucks. Long conveys of trucks crawling up the hills, nose to tail so they are very difficult to overtake.
I had read lots of accounts on iOverlander about this border, and how complicated it was. I had decided that I would try to do it myself, but if I got into trouble I would call on Robert a fixer mentioned several times by iOverlander users. So as soon as I got to the roundabout to turn into the border crossing I was surrounded by fixers. I told them to go away, So I entered the Tanzania building, but I was soon completely confused. Someone told me I had to go to the Zambian building, which I wasn’t even sure where it was, so I went outside again to be surrounded by fixers. As it turns out one of the fixers was the famous Robert. So I engaged his services. We went through all the fees I would have to pay, and he seemed fairly reasonable. So we trudged from place to place, getting different pieces of paper. He left me to do the immigration part. So I got stamped out of Tanzania (where they wanted to scan my vax certificate – why?). Then it was getting a visa for Zambia. They had dropped the price of Zambian visas to $25USD. I had $80USD in 4 $20 notes. You can only pay for a visa in USD. They would not accept and of my 4 $20 USD notes because they were not pristine enough and suggested I go onto the black market outside and see if I could get “better” notes. So I find a dealer who will give me (under pressure) $28USD for $40USD of slightly better notes, including 8 $1 notes. So I go back with my $25USD including 5 $1 notes to get told by immigration that they don’t take $1 notes. I must have made such a fuss, that they gave in and took my $25USD.
So back with Robert, more bits of paper, until we have almost everything (we are about 3 hours in by now). We just have to drive to the gate park and he will hand over the Tanzanian road tax paperwork. So the gate area is jammed with trucks, Robert gets me to maneuver past a truck to park, and I hit a raised edge of the road, Clancy tips and I clip the side mirror of a Mercedes Benz truck, and breaks it. All my fault, but what a pain. So is a security guard, a police woman, the truck driver, the truck drivers boss and 4 of 5 other hangers on. So much discussion in Swahili about what to do. I must say it was all very civilized, and with Roberts help they decide I should pay 1,200 Kwch (about $A110). This seems reasonable to me so I hand over the money, and everyone seems happy, if not somewhat embarrassed that I paid any money.
So by now its about 30 minutes from dark. I say goodbye to Robert and head down the dreaded T2 of Zambia. The road is a terrible mix of potholed bitumen and dirt. I stop at the ABSA ATM about 1km down the road, but with two attempts I cannot get any money out of the ATM. I am down to about $A50. I have 50km to get to Kings Highway and its about 15 minutes from sunset. I overtake a truck past some pot-holes and hit a pothole really, really hard. I hear a crunch from Clancy in the back. I stop to look, but I cannot see anything wrong so I continue.
So here I am again. Don’t drive in Africa in the dark, driving in Africa in the dark. The road is terrible for a few kilometres then it becomes road works. The Chinese are building a new road, but of course its all diversions and dirt and bulldust and everything else. So its a slow (40kmh) drive to Kings Highway, and it is a welcome sight when I get there. Its a nice camping area, and I have a nice solar powered hot shower. I then notice power cables hanging down the right hand side rear wheel, and realise my pot-hole collision has caused more damage.
The next morning I find that the fibreglass wheel well, has broken as the wheel hit it, and it ripped four power cables in the process. I decide I am going to have to stay another night to be able to fix everything. I ride into the village and get a sim card, which all goes well.
I spent all day fibreglassing and fixing cables. That’s why I carry 2 litres of epoxy with me. I am 50/50 if I can leave tomorrow. I have to reconnect cables. I have this problem of running out of money, and its at least 50km to the nearest ATM.
We all have them. Those days where, if it’s going to go wrong, it does. We had that kind of day yesterday. Nothing major or life-threatening, just a day of annoyances and irritations.
We had to check out of our lovely Airbnb place and when I was thanking and saying goodbye to our host, she commented that I looked so calm and relaxed about still not having Clancy. I replied that we had been deported from Russia, so this current situation is just inconvenient, not stressful. It’s all about perspective.
We were hopeful that we would be able to get Clancy yesterday though, and decided to go and hang out near the freight forwarder’s, in case we got the call to go there. We are the only ones with keys to the car, so when the shipping container is opened, we really have to be present. We decided to revisit The Old Biscuit Mill in trendy Woodstock, have something to eat at one of the eating places there, have a wander around and wait. When we were here 3.5 years ago, we had lunch at The Test Kitchen which is located in the Old Biscuit Mill. It doesn’t open for lunch now and we just wanted something simple so we went and had burgers at Redemption Burgers. What really caught our eye about this place was their clever menus. The burgers were delicious too.
We had a walk up and down Woodstock’s main drag, Albert Road. Lots of places to eat, antique and retro shops, clothing stores and other signs of gentrification from light industrial to inner-city trendy suburb. We found a shady spot inside the Biscuit Mill complex and sat and waited for news from the freight forwarder, but by 3.30 we decided that it probably wouldn’t be happening until next week, so we extended the rental car hire again and booked another Airbnb place, only a couple of kms from the previous one.
Our potential Airbnb host had been pretty good about replying to messages, but somehow once we’d booked and paid to stay for 3 nights, everything went quiet. We got to the address and rang the doorbell as instructed … nothing. It was just on 5pm and we thought maybe he wasn’t home from work yet, so we waited. Sent a couple more messages, rang the bell a few more times, sent some SMS messages. Still nothing. This place is fairly typical of suburban homes here – very high fence, built like Fort Knox, impossible to get into. This one doesn’t have razor wire or electric fencing, but a lot do.
So while we waited, we went off to the local shopping centre to find something to cook for dinner and as he was walking back to the car, Greg noticed that one of the hubcaps was missing. Sigh. We remembered hearing a noise as we were driving on the motorway to the Airbnb, and we now realise it was the sound of the hubcap rolling away. We drove back to where we thought we might have lost it, but couldn’t find it. So, back to the Airbnb, back to no answer when we rang the doorbell. We were starting to think that maybe we’d lost our money and our bed for the night, then decided to phone the number rather than just send text messages. Answered on the first ring and things went smoothly from there. No idea why he didn’t reply to any of the other messages we’d sent, but by that time we didn’t feel like pursuing the topic, we just just glad to get inside and get settled. It’s a nice place and we’re happy to spend a few days here.
And now, today has been fine. Lovely weather, Greg took our laundry to a laundry service nearby so we now have clean and beautifully folded clothes, and we went to a different Food Lover’s store where I found packets of dried tortellini and ravioli which is a staple part of our camping pantry and which had eluded me up until now. Food Lovers has excellent produce & meat, and offers a good range of groceries, all at lower prices than the other supermarket chains here – Spar, Pick & Pay, Checkers. We’ll probably go back to that one and stock up before we head off in Clancy.
Things are progressing, but very slowly. The container ship docked on Tuesday and ‘our’ container was unloaded, then yesterday it was taken by truck to a freight forwarders depot.
Now we’re waiting for an appointment with Sth African customs to come and inspect the contents of the container, ie Clancy and Willie. Then, hopefully, we can hand over the remainder of the freight / customs / fees payment and drive Clancy away.
We are staying at the Airbnb until tomorrow, but then they have new guests booked in, so we hope to stay at African Overlanders which offers vehicle storage, a campground and other services not far away from where we are now. It offers some cabin accommodation and camping.
So, we’re feeling frustrated and powerless at the moment, but very grateful that we have comfortable accommodation. And the weather is beautiful!