Its a very short drive from the town of Victoria Falls to the Zimbabwe Border, (about 5 minutes), and all was completed smoothly and quickly, then all that remained was a drive over the old iron bridge that spans the gorge over the Zambezi River. Only one “heavy vehicle” is allowed on the bridge at a time, and it is quite narrow (it was originally designed as a railway and pedestrian crossing), but eventually we were waved on, and slowly drove across. The views from up there are equally stunning, so it was worth taking it easy, and watching the spray reaching far up into the sky.
Once across the iconic bridge we arrived at the Zambian border crossing at Livingstone, and after the expensive entry into Zimbabwe, we were expecting Zambia Immigration officials to be a kinder on our budget. How wrong we were! We each had to pay $50 for a 30 day single entry Visa, then there was the Carbon Tax, the Toll Fee, the 3rd Party Insurance, and even a Livingstone Community Tax! All in, it ended up costing about £160.00 for both of us and Colonel K to enter Zambia, and remember we do have a Carnet de Passage, so no temporary import fee was paid for the truck. I’m sure last time we visited Zambia (about 7 years ago) we didn’t have to pay for an Entry Visa, but hey ho, things change I guess.
This was probably our shortest ever driving day, because after exiting the border post, we drove less than 5km and stopped at a lovely campsite at Maramba River Lodge, this meant that although we crossed the border this day, we only travelled about 15km in total from campsite to campsite. We chose Maramba because after spending a few nights in the centre of Vic Falls we wanted a bit of peace and quiet, and it is actually in the National Park, so we may see some wildlife here too. We weren’t disappointed on that account, the Maramba River (which runs into the Zambezi just before the falls) is teeming with wildlife, just in front of the bar was a big “pod” of Hippos, with lots more moving under the water blowing air periodically, but remaining underwater for ages.
There were also a couple of Crocodiles, one of which was huge, lazing in the sun one minute, then disappearing under water the next. We loved watching these prehistoric looking reptiles up close (especially with an ice cold Gin and Tonic in one’s hand).
We needed to visit Livingstone town for the day so we decided that getting a taxi from the Lodge might be easier, so we were picked up by “Frank” (neither of us ever discovered wether “Frank” was actually a bloke or a woman, and its not really the done thing to ask questions like that is it), and dropped off outside Nico Insurance offices, in town . Nico Insurance was the company that sold us our Zambian 3rd Party cover at the border (there was no other option, and getting stopped by the “rozzers” on the exit from the border without cover would have meant a hefty fine). There is an agreement by most of the Eastern and Southern African Countries whereby they share and accept insurance cover, this is called a Comesa Yellow Card. This must run alongside an already purchased policy (we tried to do this previously in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, but I don’t think the Insurance Office there understood how the Yellow Card worked), so we extended our Zambian cover to last for 9 months and got 3rd Party cover for Malawi, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe, all for the princely sum of £80.00. This should not only save us money over the coming months, but will mean that we won’t have to hunt around for insurance at every border crossing (which as we know from West Africa can be a nightmare). Then after visiting ATM after ATM (each only allowing us to withdraw a small amount of Zambian Kwatcha), we purchased a local Sim card and airtime, drank lots of coffee (some good, some very bad), and then visited the Livingstone Museum. After a bit of shopping in Shoprite, we tried our new Zambia Sim card and called “Frank” to pick us up.
Next morning is was a very early rise for us, it was still dark but we had a special early morning treat planned, an early Birthday Pressie to me! We had booked a Microlight Flight over Vic Falls, and the National Park of Mosi-oa-Tunya.
So trusting a tiny engine driving a plastic propeller behind us, with not much more than a small sheet for wings, we boarded the tiny machines, wow what an experience! We have been lucky enough to do scenic flights in various places before using, hot-air ballon, helicopter, and light aircraft, but the feeling you get in a Microlight really is very special, and the fact we were flying over the beautiful setting of Victoria Falls just about topped it.
The above photos were taken as stills from a GoPro that was recording a video mounted on the wing of each machine. As it was early in the morning the spray was able to reach high into the air, and a couple of times the pilot flew through the spray which gave you the impression of being very close to the Falls (apparently descended as low as 800ft above the top of the falls at one point). Then it was out over the National Park, where we saw Buffalo, Antelope, and Hippos, and Jac was lucky enough to see into a Fish Eagles nest with its two chicks inside. Then after a very smooth landing, I dashed off to get my camera before Jac came into land (you aren’t allowed to carry any loose items on the flight).
I must admit, as I was taking off, I was thinking to myself I’m not sure that Jac is gonna like this, but she loved every second of it. This really was one of the highlights of our trip so far, and if you ever find yourself in Livingstone I’d thoroughly recommend taking this Microlight experience.
Then to top off the day, when we got back to the campsite (by about 8.30am) we were treated to a herd of elephants on the other side of the river from where we were camped, using one particular area to take it in turns to have a very wet mud bath.
The river here seems strange after viewing the Falls, as it is a very placid place, with not much flow to it, but occasionally along came a clump of broken off weed, with the most amazing flowers on board (you just have to remember the huge croc that is there too).
Next stop was Mooring Farm, which is a working Farm on the main road to the city of Lusaka, just before Mazabuka. It was on this road that we noticed a fairly heavy clunking when changing gear, and also a strange noise coming from the engine area (which on Colonel K is right under you). So once at Moorings Farm we let the truck cool down and then had a good look underneath and tilted the cab to see what was going on there. It quickly became apparent that a Universal Joint on the rear propshaft was knackered, and that this would need to be replaced quite quickly before anymore damage was done. We couldn’t see what was causing the noise from the engine (perhaps it was actually the UV joint that we could hear from the cab?).
Next day was Sunday, so we decided to stay another night at Moorings just in case we had a problem driving to Lusaka ,breaking down on Monday, seemed a much better proposition than breaking down on a Sunday for some strange reason. We also had to catch up on some chores like washing clothes etc. We were the only campers here yet again, but we did have someone protecting us and Colonel K (well she did like our supply of UHT milk).
As with almost every campsite in this part of Africa, there are the Vervet Monkeys , they weren’t too much of a problem here but I couldn’t resist taking this photo of one of the little fellas trying to get the last little drop of water (or is it ants up in there?) from this stand pipe.
Then is was off again, slowly making our way to Lusaka which was about 180km away, stopping at Mazabuka “SuperSpar” for a bit of food shopping ,during which we were plunged into complete darkness several times, as the power failed. On the way out we lit up one young lads eyes when we gave him a toy F1 Ferrari, the look on his face as I gave it to him will stay with me for ages.
On the outskirts of Lusaka we found a place run by a German guy (Carsten) called “German Truck Tech”, who looked at the damaged UV joints and said how lucky I was to have got that far without damaging the propshaft (it was completely knackered by now), I also explained about the noise that I was convinced by now wasn’t related to the UV joint. So we jumped in and went for a drive down the road, and he said it sounded like a turbo problem (it was only making the noise when under a load), this was not good!
As one of the mechanics was stripping the rear prop shaft off, I tilted the cab once more and Carsten had a better look in the engine bay, as he leant over the engine, he put some weight on the turbo to cylinder head pipe and it moved, it turns out that the huge clamp that bolts to the exhaust manifold has sheared off! So another technician was deployed to make up a new bracket and fit to another mounting point. By the time the prop shaft was removed a guy had turned up from the spares supplier to take the UV joint away to try to match it up.
So without the rear prop shaft and with the centre diff lock engaged, we now have a two wheel drive Daf, and while driving to the fairly nearby campsite it seems as though the noise issue has been resolved with the new bracket.
So at the time of writing this, we are parked up at a campsite on the outskirts of Lusaka, waiting for a call from Carsten about the availability of a suitable sized UV joint, we may be here for sometime.In the meantime we do have lots of friends to look at, including Zebra, Giraffe, Kudu, Impala and of course Monkeys. It does seem weird seeing all these animals so close to a huge sprawling African city. Oh and then theres Jacs new special friend, “Blackie”.
Fingers are suitably crossed here for good news on the UV joint………..
Thanks for reading.