While at Urban Camp in the Namibian capital Windhoek, we were reminded once again how small a world this is. We bumped into a German couple that we had previously met in no less than 3 other places, first Jungle Junction in Nairobi, then in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, then Malawi, and now again in Namibia. They had even travelled a very different route to us to get to these places, with us driving into Uganda and Rwanda, whereas they stayed more towards the east coast.
While in Windhoek we took the opportunity to sort out the truck, after its long lay up in storage and to replenish supplies of fresh meat, vegetables and of course drink.
But after a couple of days here, we headed north up the good tarmac road to the town of Tsumeb, and a campsite that we have used a few times before, but had heard from another overlander that it had shut its campsite for good. This was definitely wrong information and indeed a brand new ablution block had been built, and very nice it was too. The other attraction of this place is the pool, its massive, and allegedly a full Olympic size, who am I to argue? Of course most of the time its completely empty!
From Tsumeb, the natural thing to do is head further north where you come to the eastern gate of Etosha National Park, this is somewhere that we plan to spend at least a week, but its not that easy for us! While in the UK we received an email from ADAC (the German company that issues our Carnet de Passage), stating that SARS (South African Revenue Service) has submitted a customs claim against the truck, they apparently have no record of us leaving South Africa. Following advise from ADAC we decided to get the truck out of the SADC customs union (consisting of SA, Namibia, and Botswana) completely, we would need to do this at some point before shipping Colonel K home next year anyway.
So we decided to travel to Livingstone in Zambia, the home of Victoria Falls. We had been there before, but we really like Zambia and Livingstone is quite a lively town and there are quite a few places to camp. On the map it simply meant a short drive along the Caprivi Strip, across the Border at Katima Mulilo and the road around to Livingstone, the trouble is its easy to get sucked into what appears a short drive in Africa, on the map it doesn’t look very far, but it is in fact well over 1,000 km EACH WAY! Or to put it into perspective, the equivalent to driving from Calais to Spain, and back just to get some paperwork stamped arrrrrrrrr…….. Oh well, we would make a trip of it, and we have got plenty of time I guess.
The first leg was from Tsumeb to Rundu, where we camped right next to the Okavango River, this beautiful river forms the border with Namibia and Angola, and we took advantage of the owners evening boat trip up the river, to see the sunset and have a beer on board.
As Europeans, its very very difficult, time consuming and expensive to obtain a Visa to visit Angola, don’t ask me why, it just is…… So with the river levels so low at the moment, it was quite frustrating to watch locals literally walking through the river from Namibia to Angola, and back again obviously.
Mind you, Im not sure I’d fancy taking my chances in the water here, whilst it might be a bit too shallow for hippos at the moment, we saw other animals that might make you think twice about crossing or indeed washing at the waters edge…..
But we also saw many kingfishers, weaverbirds, etc along this great river.
There were also a pair of magnificent peacocks on the campsite, these may not be African but they were in amazing plumage.
Continuing along the tarmac B8 road, the next leg took us from Rundu to near Divundu, where we had been recommended a campsite by the Germans in Urban Camp. Oh wow, Mobola Camp really didn’t disappoint, again its right on the Okavango River, but it has been done so well. Owned and built from scratch by a German guy, this place really is one of the best camps we have stayed at in Namibia, its small with only about 8 campsites, and about 6 self catering chalets. There is no provision for food, but there is a bar on an island that has to be accessed via a very rickety bridge (only one person at a time). We loved it here and ended up staying two nights.
From the bar, the views over the main river were of course incredible.
In Africa, its very easy to get blasé about the risks, its not that often that you really get threatened by any sort of wild creature, but we tend to be fairly cautious, (we did come across a huge Black Mamba once while walking in the hills in Namibia), especially when after walking across the dodgy bridge you are confronted with a sign such as below….
And guess what? Yup we had a snake appear just off sandy path to the bar…… best to be cautious I guess.
Namibia, can be accused on being “a bit westernised”, and in many of the more tourist areas this can definitely be true, but once you are on the Caprivi Strip (now known as The Zambezi Region), things really change. Here apart from a few small towns, the vast majority still live in tiny family “villages” usually consisting of 4 to 6 mostly timber and grass huts surrounded by a flimsy boma to protect livestock at night from predators. It suddenly feels like you truly are back in Africa.
While at Tsumeb we met a lovely young Dutch couple that were on a cycling trip around southern Africa, though at the time they were in a hire car and were still waiting for some of their gear to turn up, we spent a really nice evening with them. Next morning we said goodbye and really didn’t expect to see them again. Then half way between Rundu and Divundu, we started coming up behind Jeordie and Ninka, hire car gone they were back on their bikes.
After a quick 10 minute chat, we refilled their water supplies from Colonel K’s filtered tap, wished them all the best and waved them on their way, I’m sure they are going to have a great few months touring on those bikes.
The tarmac road here is smooth (mostly), straight and pretty much empty of traffic, though at one particular “pee stop”, the lay-by was very busy with another couple of tourists.
There are quite a few warnings of elephants crossing along this road, especially in the Kongola area around the crossing of the Kwango River. These are not idle warnings either, just after we passed one similar sign, just in front of us a herd of about 10 elephants sprinted out of the bush and across the road, by the time we reached where they crossed they had completely disappeared, leaving no sign that they were there at all. It pays to be vigilant.
After one night’s stop over in a bit of a crappy campsite just outside Katima Muliio, on the banks on the Zambezi, we had an early start to get to the border at Wenela to cross into Zambia. The queue for immigration leaving Namibia was horrendous, there were about 3 coaches full of pedestrians all needing their papers cleared. It seemed to take forever with only one immigration officer manning the desks!!!! After Immigration (about an hour’s queue), we went to customs to get our carnet stamped, then police, then the dreaded Namibian Road Charges desk (as a vehicle weighing over 3.5 tonnes we have to pay separate road charges). With all this completed we drove to the Zambian border post at Sesheke, hoping that we didn’t catch up the coaches, the border car park was chaos compared to Wenela, we were suddenly hit with wave upon wave of “fixers”, “money changers” etc, we politely declined their slightly dodgy services, and after a bit of banter with a huge 6’6” Zambian guy they left us alone. In fairness if you didn’t know what you were doing at this border, it might be worth your while using one of them, but this was 45th and 46th land border that we have crossed in Africa on this trip, and so we are really old hands at this game.
First we had to stand in front of a temperature sensor, to prove we weren’t a direct risk to Zambia’s heath, then produce our yellow fever certificates, then we could proceed to immigration (no health check, no Visa), after parting with $100 USD for two 30 days Visa’s, we went to customs to get the much needed stamp in the Carnet de Passage, paid our road tax, paid our carbon tax, paid our council levy (yes honestly), and then it was the small matter of 3rd party insurance……. There is no choice but to take the only company at the border, theres no competition here. There were 3 ladies behind the glass in the booth, we it appeared were the only tourists with our own vehicle, the battle lines were drawn! After handing over our Carnet for the engine size, and weight of the truck, the lady dealing with us proclaimed that it would cost 680 Kwatcha (£57.00), “no” Jac’s replied “that is far too much”. “ok 480 Kwatcha”, after consulting her book once more. We said it was still far too much, and insisted that we were driving a private camping car with just us in it. Eventually she got the right hump and told us we must deal with her Boss, she was definitely not happy!! Eventually the Boss, wrote out our insurance disk and charged us 182 Kwatcha (just over £15.00) for 30 days insurance. This might sound like an expensive border crossing but considering that we are driving a 10 tonne truck, the total cost for the two of us and the truck was less than £139.00. The total time taken from Namibia into Zambia was a tiresome two and half hours.
But only just over 200km to Livingstone, so that shouldn’t take long……. About 100km of this tarmac road is horrendous, most of the time is quicker and easier on the truck just to drive off of the tarmac and in the bush, or one wheel on tarmac and one in the sand……… It really is monsterously bad……..I promise you, pictures cannot do it justice.
If you started this “road” with any sort of weak link in your vehicle, it would definitely break. This is the problem with tarmac in Africa, it great when its new and if its maintained, but it very soon becomes a lot worse than the track that it replaced. Give me sand or gravel tracks any day.
We headed straight for our favourite campsite in Livingstone, Muramba River Lodge, our plan was to stay here for at least a few days, but after seeing the state of the place (it had really deteriorated in the last year) and the disgusting state of the showers (and full of mosquitos), we only stayed one night, and instead drove to The Waterfront Zambezi, which while a nice place is very different from Muramba. The Waterfront campsite is aimed at big tour groups, but the campsites are quite far apart so they really arn’t a problem.
What is a problem here though are the Mosquitos, and the Vervet Monkeys……… First the Mossies, oh my god Livingstone has a major problem with these bitey buggers at the moment, we’ve not seen swarms of mosquitos like this since we came through northern Senegal in 2015. The worst place is the bar area, just after sunset, there are clouds and clouds of them, the only thing to do is cover up and use plenty of repellant (Deet is our new best friend). Fortunately despite daytime temperatures of mid 30c, it does cool off in the evening so long trousers aren’t too much of a hardship. This is a Malaria infected zone so its best to be cautious.
Next the Vervet Monkeys….. I love watching any sort of monkeys and apes, especially the young playing and frolicking with each other. I could watch them for hours……… We have met aggressive Baboons (indeed I was confronted by a mother and baby inside Colonel K when we were in Ghana), but Vervets are cute, mischievous, lovely creatures right???? mmmmmmmm
One afternoon the usual group of Vervets were being their usual naughty selves round the truck (we were laying by the small swimming pool), they were swinging and hanging from our hammock (the Vervet’s not me and Jac), jumping on the roof and playing on our table and chairs, when Jac noticed one of them standing on our top hung window (the insect blinds were down), so I got up to chase them away, enough is enough eh. Then all of a sudden the lead male of the group (the biggest one) decided to take offence of me chasing his young clan away, he bloody started running towards me!!!! I shouted, clapped my hands and generally tried to look as big and scary as I could, it wasn’t enough and the little bastard wasn’t backing off in fact he kept coming towards me in a mega aggressive fashion. It was then that I saw his face, oh my god what an ugly brute!!!!! Half of his top and bottom lips was missing and he had lost many of his teeth, obviously in a fight!!!! Wooooooooo scary!!!!!
We have since watched this nasty Vervet attack several tourists as they walk to the ablution block, or sit taking photos of the little cuties playing. All joking aside a bite from one of these monkey’s could be very nasty indeed, its best to respect them and give them their space. The funny thing is a group of Germans and Italians on a “happy bus”, pulled up and parked nearby, as they were setting up their tents, I could see them tutting at us over our “over exuberant” use of our catapult (a loaded catapult is the only thing they respect). They changed their minds once some of them had literally been chased into the ablution block, bags swinging and lots of shouting later. Be ready, be armed!!!!
Obviously while at Livingstone we had to visit Victoria Falls, from this the Zambian side. We knew that it wasn’t going to be as spectacular as when we saw it from Zimbabwe over a year ago, for two reasons. Firstly the vista from Zimbabwe is so much better, the volume of water pouring though that side is much greater, and secondly the water levels are quite low at the moment, having just come out of the dry winter period (most of this water actually falls from the sky many thousands of kilometres away).
So having paid what is frankly a crazy amount of entrance fee (360 Kwatcha, this would have been 20 Kwatcha if we were from a Southern African country), we walked down to the Falls. As expected, though it is always a spectacular sight, the water was hardly flowing over the Zambian side, but still pouring over the Zimbabwean side.
From the Falls you get a great view of the old original steel bridge, forming the border between Zam and Zim, this bridge was commissioned by Sir Cecil Rhodes around 1900, and was completely manufactured in Cleveland, England and then transported by sea and across land where it was assembled into place in 1905. When put in place, the British engineers were baffled by the fact it was 1.5 inches too long, the next morning the bridge had contracted by 1.5 inches and all was well in “Engineer’s World”!!!
We drove across this bridge the previous year and incredibly only one truck is allowed on the bridge at any one time, fortunately in reality this isn’t a huge problem because the border crossing is so slow that theres never a queue to get on the bridge anyway. The hut in the centre of the bridge is the place where lunatics jump off with a bit of elastic tied round their ankles!!!
The other surprise here (tucked away in the bush) is the World War 1 memorial, its incredible how many young men from this far flung post of the British Empire (Zambia was known as Northern Rhodesia in those days before independence) gave up their lives. The picture below is just one of the plaques on the memorial, there were many other names on there plus hundreds of locals (not named).
Then of course there’s the very dodgy memorial to David Livingstone at the Falls, this is an almost comical caricature of the intrepid explorer and was donated by Total (Zambia) LTD, only a few years ago.
So next up we have got that shocking road to do again, the border crossing, and then the long drive back to Tsumeb, but we do have a good week in Etosha NP to look forward to.
If there’s no further blogs posted, you know that “Evil Two Face” the mad psycho Vervet Monkey from Hell has bitten me and infected me with Rabies!!!!!!
Thanks for reading