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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I spent two days at the wild camp east of Kafuri. I didn’t see any crocs, hippos, or Kilimanjaro. Yesterday it was thick cloud, and it rained two or three times during the day. I had a child cattle herder come past. Maybe he was 10 years old. He had this dog helping him. You would think the dog (and the boy) would get tired all day guiding these cattle. However, no. The boy played with the dog, he threw things for the dog to chase, and the dog ran up and down chasing things. Levels of energy I wish I had. Then the boy playing with the dog in the (crocodile infested) water, catches a fish with his bare hands, and tries to sell it to me.
Later a fisherman came along on the river in his canoe.
I got going early, my battery levels were low, because there had been almost no solar the previous day. Amazing fact of the day. I went through 20+ police stops and did not get pulled over once! The reason for this I think is its tourist central. There are Landcruiser Troop carriers all over the place ferrying white people around, so maybe the police are under orders to leave the white tourists alone.
Then it was onto Arusha. Arusha is big, 400,000+ people. I headed for the Shoppers supermarket to get some more apples. I tried getting more small denomination USD for the Zambia border, but again it was too hard.
I have decided I am going to take a detour, to see if I can drive through the Hadza lands. I am bit bit fascinated with the Hadza, some of the last hunter-gathers left, especially the double labelled water experiments. The Hadza live near Lake Eyasi, so tomorrow I will see if I can pass that way.
So I am camped at a campground at Migungani. First hot shower in five days.
Leon at African Bush Backpackers told us about Manyeleti and recommended it as a good place to spent a couple of days. It’s just west of Kruger’s Orpen Gate, but can also be accessed from the south via the R40 and some side roads. Our host at Hippo Waterfront Lodge recommended that we avoid the R538 between White River and Hazyview as it’s busy, may have a lot of livestock wandering across the road and can take long time to drive a short distance . We’ve learnt to listen to advice from locals!
After we left Marloth Park, we spent a night at Panorama Rest Camp, a lovely campground near Graskop. It had a horizon pool overlooking the kloof gorge, good facilities including coin-operated washing machines and dryers (which we made very good use of) AND beautiful azalea hedges that were in flower when we visited. Some were 3+ metres high! We were planning on driving north to Blyde River Canyon, then to Manyeleti, but when we got up the next morning it was so foggy we could barely see a car length in front of us. So going sightseeing seemed a bit pointless, and we’ll add Blyde River to our ‘to do’ list.
We crawled down the R533 and heaved a quiet sigh of relief when we were low enough to be able to see a decent distance in front. Headed north on the R40 to Acornhoek where we stopped at a shopping mall and stretched our legs and met a very dapper Car Guard … bow tie, shiny shoes and a lovely man. When we got back to Clancy, he was standing close by, talking to a young Austrian woman. She took a photo of us with the guard, his son and his son’s friend.
Then along the R531 to Orpin Gate. The entrance to Manyeleti is on the right, just before the gate. We paid the day fee of R55 per person, got a map of the reserve and drove south to Main Camp. Manyeleti Gate is about 4kms south of Main Camp.
There are several private lodges/tented camps/other accommodation in the Reserve in addition to Main Camp, which offers cabins, rondevals, campsites and Senate, a tented camp area. We parked Clancy on one of the campsites, which is a large area with a cold water sink, braai and paved area. Ablutions nearby were okay and people staying at Senate share those. We paid R250 per campsite per night – they charge per campsite, not per person. We only paid the day fee for our first day there.
The day we arrived, we went on an afternoon game drive, being very mindful that the camp’s gate closes at 6pm. Saw a huge herd of cape buffalo and wildebeest, antelopes, a couple of elephants. Next day we went out earlier in the afternoon and found a big group of elephants in some scrub. Largest group we’ve seen! There were 4 or 5 babies including one very tiny one, and I guess the rest of the females are pregnant. They weren’t too bothered by us, or rather, by Clancy, and we sat and watched them for ages.
Poor Clancy has had a bit of radiator trouble, a small leak, nothing too serious, but we’ll be bringing a replacement radiator to add to the spare parts collection. Greg bought a bottle of Bars Leaks when we were in Malalane, just out of Marloth Park, so he added the contents to the radiator …. problem solved. Magic stuff.
We spent our second-last night at Elangeni Holiday Resort, just off the N4 west of Nelspruit, then drove the 250ish kms back to Joburg to the place where we store Clancy and camp when we’re here.
I’m sure that we will both remember our day with Lilli and Christa as one of the highlights of this trip.
Christa lives in Marloth Park and Lilli has been staying with her for the last week or so, having a break from camping, enjoying some home comforts and making a lifelong friend. We visited them at Christa’s on Thursday morning and spent several hours swapping stories and getting to know more about each other.
Christa’s place is a beautiful bush haven and she has so much wildife on her doorstep, it’s incredible. At this time of the year, before the rains start, getting enough to eat is very hard for herbivores, so she feeds them pellets which are approved by wildlife experts. They smell like grass, and probably have added extra goodies in them too. Many of the animals come right up to Christa’s back verandah and she hand-feeds some of them. The smaller antelopes are shy and hang back, but some of the larger varieties can become very friendly when there’s food involved!
Christa invited us back later in the afternoon to have ‘sundowners’ overlooking Crocodile River and Kruger, then back to her place for a braai. Fantastic, we’d love to! The previous day, they had seen some lions across the river, so we were hopeful that we might see some too. Christa belongs to a local Whatsapp wildlife spotting group that shares information about what is where. No messages that afternoon and we didn’t get to see any lions, but it was lovely to sit with our drinks and snacks and watch the sun go down. On our way back to Christa’s, we saw giraffes, and then so many different animals visited the back verandah, I’m sure I won’t remember them all. At one stage there were 4 different types of antelope there all at once. I even hand-fed a young Nyala buck! He’s the only one in Marloth Park and likes to hang out with the Impala girls. We saw tiny bushbabies, zebras, a genet (small nocturnal cat that we had never seen before), and warthogs which Christa chases away as they are already fat and don’t need extra feeding. She makes a noise like a leopard and the warthogs run away!
We shared a lovely braai, more stories and left feeling like we now have 2 more like-minded friends. Lucky us!
I left a bag there and we had to go back and collect it the next morning. As we were leaving, Christa had a message from her Whatsapp group, letting people know that there had been a lion kill near the lookout. We had been there the day before, so headed back there to find a large crowd looking across the river at a group of 5 lions lying on some sand in the shade. Earlier in the morning, the lions had killed a kudu right on the fenceline separating Kruger from Marloth Park. The electric fence was wrecked and the dead kudu was lying just on the Kruger side. Because of the cars and people, the lions had gone back across the river, but would return to the kudu later. And then the scavengers would come when the lions had finished.
I am beginning to think that Greg and I are the opposite of lion whisperers – we just don’t have much luck seeing lions. The day after our sundowners with Lilli and Christa, they saw 7 lions!