I’m sorry that this chapter has taken so long to post. It’s difficult at times to get a good signal to upload the pictures and text. Data usage is a glutton, we keep running out of airtime! I hope that things improve as we move along!
The Great Eastern road was calling us once again and we sadly said goodbye to Lusaka. We had contemplated visiting northern Zambia on this trip, but because we wanted to travel through Malawi and the rift valley we, have put that off for a later visit. Yes we will be returning!
The road is in good condition with cell phone reception all the way as can be confirmed by all the recharge kiosks in every village. The villages make the day so much more interesting and colourful and break the landscape of continuous beautiful woodland. They also all share another similarity, they all sell tomatoes stacked in pyramids!
The road East has an absence of any real towns, instead villages are in abundance. Each one of them has a church or two of different denominations. There is a strong missionary influence in the area. The buildings and businesses often have names like “God is Able, Favour of God, God Gives, Peace and Love, Blessings from God”…..
After many stops we eventually arrived at Bridge Camp on the Luangwa River. We missed seeing the two interesting owners who unfortunately were in Lusaka. The camp is very rustic and built mainly from local stone with quirky showers. What is it about camp owners that makes them try to outdo each other by designing the weirdest ablutions.
We met a very interesting fellow traveller from Newbury in England, Brian Harris. He is also doing our route through Africa, but travelling the other way. We’ve gained so much useful information and so many contacts from him. He is travelling alone, but is joined now and again by members of his family. He’s also taken more than a year to reach Bridge Camp, but spent a lot of time in various places along the way.
This is another wonderful thing about our trip. It’s the camaraderie that exists amoungst fellow travellers. We chatted till midnight about our encounters.
The next morning we had breakfast together before we each went our own way. We really enjoyed his company and I felt he enjoyed his time with us too. It must be lonely travelling by oneself through Africa. Solveig and I get so much satisfaction from sharing our feelings about our daily encounters.
Before we turn eastwards once again we stopped at Luangwa Bridge village back at the main road to buy cokes for some cyclists we expect to meet on the way.
We also spent some time with the vendors selling dried breem and capenta. Many of the vendors were selling baskets and other woven products too. George was an ice breaker once again, making it easy to take photographs of the vendors.
Soon after crossing the huge bridge over the Luangwa river and climbing steeply out of the Valley we came across the intrepid cyclists. Brian told us he’d met them on the way and we’d probably see them. They were both from England and had ridden from Egypt. They had special tyres and had only one puncture between them. And no broken chains either! We gave them their coke and chatted awhile and wished them luck on their way. They were going to Cape Town.
The road was very similar to the previous day with the occasional pothole. I could not afford to take my eyes from the road at any time. We really missed the table and chairs roadside rests we had in Namibia. We stopped at them so often for Solveig to have a smoke and to stretch the legs. The road also had no verge and the vegetation grew right to the roadside. Near villages the residents used pangas to cut the long grass back. Every now and again we’d come across some branches in the road which indicated that you were about to come across a broken down truck. The potholes caused lots of blowouts and breakdowns.
The terrain was very wooded. We’d never seen so many beautiful trees. Every now and again we’d come across very unusual rocky Outcrops rising out of the otherwise hilly terrain.
After only two towns and numerous small villages we finally arrived at Chipata, about 350kms from our morning start.
You could tell you were in a border town the minute you climbed from the car. We were surrounded by money touts who were all trying to sell us foreign money. The town is very magical in an African way with its disarray, taxis, bicycles, broken pavements and colourful people everywhere.
There are traders wherever they can erect a stall.
After our usual visit to the local supermarket, in this case, the Spar, to buy ice, bread and a few essentials, we set off to find Mama Rula’s.
It was about 10 km out of town in a secure treed and grassed property with the usual bar restaurant. Being a Friday it was frequented by a number of non residents too. Fortunately they didn’t stay too late, although they kept visiting the toilets right next to where we’d parked for the night, somewhat comprising our privacy.
In the morning we returned to town to stock up before going off to South Luangwa. We spent most of the morning in town, such an amazing and exciting place.
We bought some of our vegetables and fruit from the sprawling market in the middle of town. We took many lovely photographs of the vendors. They didn’t mind because we were customers. After a lovely coffee in an eating area at the Spar, we finally left town.
We were overjoyed that the road between Chipata and Mfuwe had been tarred since our last visit. What a difference it made. We were able to enjoy the trip instead of negotiating the awful potholes of last time. When we reached Mfuwe we went in to an establishment that advertised curios, coffee shop and Dental surgeon. We had to investigate. Sure enough, a Dutch Dental Surgeon applied for residency in 2008 and got it in 3 months. It usually takes a few years, that’s if you can get it at all. Because he had special qualifications and wanted to settle in the eastern province he was approved almost immediately. The coffee shop made the best coffee we had found in Zambia as well.
Revitalised, we soon arrived at our destination, The Croc Valley campsite, one of our favorite places in Zambia. We camped at the site next to the one we’d been in before as another couple were there too and we wanted to be further from them for more privacy. It was wonderful to be back. We realised why we’d loved the place so much before. It’s wonderfully peaceful and we just loved the hippos and the monkeys.
The river was a lot higher than before even though we learnt that it had dropped by a meter since the previous week. That night we had a some visitors. Just before we turned in we heard a noise at the river bank below us. It was a huge crocodile jumping back into the river. Later the same night we had a hippo exit the river right next to us and start eating the lawn and shrubs in the campsite. The night guard quietly persuaded the hippo to return to the river. The next night there was a repeat performance!
In the morning we introduced ourselves to the other couple, who were Dutch, and compared notes about where we’d been.
The game reserve at South Luangwa has changed the fee structure regarding the entrance and visitor fees. This, coupled to the fact that the charges are US $ based, has resulted in a substantial increase. We had spent two days there 18 months ago so we decided not to go into the reserve on this trip, but to spend more time between Croc Valley camp and Wildlife camp. We’d not been to Wildlife camp before. It was also recommended to us by Brian Harris.
We were not disappointed. It’s far wilder than Croc Valley as the name suggests. And less expensive too. We spent a wonderful few hours chatting to Conrad, the manager at Wildlife. The Dutch couple we’d met the day before had also decided to give Wildlife a try and stayed there too.
It was very hot and we both enjoyed a swim in the pool before relaxing at the lapa bar for a sundowner and to celebrate my birthday.
On our way back to Chipata we stopped at Tribal Textiles in Mfuwe. We’d bought fabric from there on our previous visit. It’s an incredible setup.
A textile designer from England came out a number of years ago and has taught all her employees their craft. All the steps in producing hand painted fabric, and sewing the fabric into bags, garments, table cloths, table runners, bedspreads and numerous other products. The business employs more than 100 people in an otherwise very poor rural community.
We returned to the same camp, Mama Rula’s, in Chipata to spend our last night in Zambia. The following morning after visiting the bank to change some Rands into Malawi Kwatchas we bid farewell to Zambia and set of to the border for an effortless crossing into Malawi.
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