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June 5, 2013 / samwilson60

Back to Africa

Before leaving Zimbabwe we took a detour up to Kariba Heights to check out the views and potential for souvenir shopping. The shopping turned into more of the window variety but the views were indeed spectacular, both over the lake and over the dam we’d soon be driving over into Zambia.

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Once down at lake level and at the dam wall itself we were pleasantly surprised by the exit formalities and quite amused by the Zambian entry. We hadn’t felt particularly out of Africa of late but from the minute we got to Zambia we felt firmly back, if that makes any sense. It was like the border crossings of old – highly convoluted, absolutely incomprehensible but ultimately fairly amusing. Instead of gendarmes we had Interpol but, just like the gendarmes, he was a handful. Cat got told off for shouting at him when he tried to stamp the Guinea page of our carnet, and again when she snapped at the money changer shoving a random selection of Zambian notes in our faces. But by the end of the proceedings we were both on good terms with everyone, we had a properly stamped carnet, road tax, carbon tax, car insurance and (new!) Zambian Kwacha.

The first town we hit in Zambia maintained the ‘back in Africa’ feeling. The women were all in colourful prints, the meat was all alive and the shops were all shacks. We had a great time people-watching on the doorstep of one such shack but eventually dragged ourselves away to find somewhere to stay.

The campsite we found was fully at odds with its surrounds but really rather pleasing too. It was vast and just down to earth enough. It was also right on the water, with hippo and crocodile warnings all around. We had a small croc in camp before we’d even put up the tent and moved pitches when we realised we were in a well-trodden hippo thoroughfare but despite our best efforts saw no evidence of the big beasts. We had a great dinner of fish and chips, collected our first Mosi bottle tops (Anthea, you’ve got us hooked) and savoured the nightly ritual of sunset and sunrise.

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Moonrise over the lake

 

The following morning it was time to move on. We’d had three nights by Lake Kariba in two different countries and we were due at South Luangwa national park in two days’ time. It being a Sunday we did very little stocking up but did manage to bypass Lusaka with amazing ease. Nonetheless, we were ready to drop when we arrived at Luangwa Bridge, the only place to stay, it seems, on the entire Great East Road. A full day’s drive was clearly a bit of a shock to the system but the campsite we ended up at was the perfect tonic. It was still miles from South Luangwa national park but, quite fittingly we though, was located on the river that gave the park its name.

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We camped in amongst the trees, keeping a close eye on all the monkeys who themselves were keeping a keen eye on us, then stretched our legs the next morning to get a view down the river and into Mozambique before hitting the road again. We half hoped we’d make it all the way to South Luangwa. We’d been looking forward to this particular park for a very long time, it having been pegged as one of the best places to spot leopards, and we now knew our friends, Ben and Jen, were already there. By the time we’d made it to the turnoff, however, the sun was setting and we were, once again, done in. We needed to restock for an indefinite period of time and didn’t want to ruin an otherwise uneventful but pleasing day, so we settled for a ‘lodge’ in Chipata and agreed to save the last 150km for morning. The lodge was actually eerily reminiscent of the hotels we’d camped at in West Africa – it boasted of bar, restaurant and pool but seemed to offer only a mediocre patch of grass next to a car some locals were hopelessly, but loudly, trying to fix. We felt a little deflated, and only more so when we heard Ben and Jen were sharing their sunset with a pod of hippos, but then decided we’d been a bit harsh on our hosts as they shooed the mechanics away, subjected the bathrooms to a whole bottle of bleach and stocked the bar with cheap beer.

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