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Tuesday, June 28

Zambia - 4x4 Shortcut Adventure

Mary: We took a shortcut from Chiawa (near Lower Zambezi National Park) to Chongwe (on the Great East Road) via Mulalika. The manager at Kiambi Camp said that it takes him just over 2 hours, so we were expecting it to be fairly short. On T4A, there are 2 roads for the start of this route. We first tried the one in Chiawa which had kids shouting “no road, no road” and they were right – bushes had grown over the path and after a few minutes of scratching, we went back to look for another route. On the way, we decided to lighten our load and start getting rid of some of the spare clothes we had brought to give out to kids. By this point we had a small crowd of kids round the car, demanding sweets and shouting “how are you?” in accusing tones. We handed out a warm top & my old green sunnies to the tallest kid, who promptly ran off with them held above his head to keep them out of reach of the smaller kids. It ended in a massive screaming/crying match and we drove off feeling really guilty for causing the riot. Note to self: either give something small to each kid (they don’t share), or give non-divisible items to a grown-up for redistribution. On that note, if our UK friends & family want to store up their charity shop clothes we are happy to take a load for distribution down the west coast.
Brett: The better road to Chiawa starts in the middle of the banana plantation and is a very good quality track (40km/h) for the first 20km. The road started to deteriorate until we reached our first obstacle. We climbed out to walk it (with Mary filming) - it feels very different when you are alone in the middle of Africa, rather than at a 4x4 track with the instructor. The start of the obstacle is a sharp right corner that leans towards a crevice and then becomes a steep axle-twister – we had to choose a path carefully to avoid the diff-bashing rocks and I could really feel the diff-lock helping on the soft sand. That was the most difficult obstacle of the day, but we didn’t know it at the time – we climbed another 600m out of the gorge, all in 1st or 2nd low range having a lot of fun with me driving and Mary co-piloting and helping with route choice. We climbed out to walk one of the obstacles and while in the middle of nowhere, my dad phoned for a chat!
After several hours of this we were getting thoroughly sick of 4x4ing  and fortunately the road eventually evened out to a gut-jarring but level-ish bump-fest for the next few hours. In total we took 7 hours to do 140 kms. I would say the total time and fuel used would have been the same as the main roads, but this was much more fun and avoided the cost of the pontoon (a whopping $28).
We wouldn’t be able to make the camp site that we had planned to go for, so headed for Pioneer Camp near Lusaka, which is a great spot ($5 pppn camping) with a friendly owner, hot water and free internet.
After another long day, we stayed at Mama Rula Camp in Chipata ($7 pppn camping) which was quite good, but noisy and full of overland tour groups.

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