Sunday, June 26

Zambia - Following the Zambezi

Mary: The border crossing at Vic Falls/Livingstone was easy as we were pretty much the only people there. The border officials are also fairly geared up for tourists and are nice & helpful. On the Zambia side we got a free Customs Importation Permit rather than wasting a page of our Carnet. The carbon tax was K150,000, which we managed to pay in dollars ($33) and road tax was $20. We got to the gate where we were supposed to buy our 3rd party insurance at 8:30am but the 3rd party people had not arrived yet, so we got a tip from a local of where to buy this in Livingstone town. Off we set, to the intersection opposite the train station, where there were a few signs for rather local looking insurance companies. Most looked closed, but we found the Mujala Insurance Agency open. We went through a little gate & into the front room of the house which had been converted into an office. Out came a kindly old man whose name I missed, who explained to us that he was on his way out, but his wife would process our 3rd party insurance. We still had not changed any money so Brett set off for the nearest ATM with the man’s son, and I sat with his wife Priscilla (Mujala?) filling in the forms and having a general chitchat.  She told me her husband used to work for Zambia’s General Insurance Company for 25 years until he retired, and she worked in the bank. When her husband retired they decided to set up an insurance agency from home to keep them busy. I heard about their 6 children, how she loves to go and play golf when they can find the money, and her work on the Council of Churches, as well as her recommendation on the national parks. She was such a lovely lady and a real character, and I honestly felt like I was in a scene from Alexander McCall Smith’s No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. I would not have been surprised if she had offered me a cup of Rooibos tea before settling down to the paperwork! Since the 3rd party insurance is apparently a fixed price (K130,500) I would definitely recommend them to anyone passing through the Vic Falls/Livingstone border – it has been one of the “people” highlights of the trip so far. Mujala Insurance Agency, Plot 124, Mosi-o-Tunya Road, Livingstone. GPS coordinates: S 17 51’ 451”, E 25 51’ 299”.
We also went into the amazing Shoprite just further up the road, which was stocked with the kind of stuff we only dreamed of in Zim – recognisable chicken pieces of the correct hue & bloodlessness, fresh fruit & veg, and most important, Cadburys chocolate! Actually I shouldn’t joke, the meat (beef) in the Zim shops was generally fine, it was just the chicken that was frightening! Brett also managed to find some more chocolate Pronutro which is good but alas no red thai curry paste as yet…
When we were driving through to Siavonga I spotted a sign with what I though was a picture of a girl in a Roedean School uniform. We circled back to check and it definitely was – advertising Bayport Financial Services. Perhaps a business run by a Zambian parent?
Zambia immediately feels more geared up for tourism and far wealthier than Zim, but also a little wilder (“real Africa”), and we are both really looking forward to exploring.

Brett: The first day’s drive was long and we ended up doing the last 20 minutes to Siavonga in the dark (which we always want to avoid). We stayed in Eagles Rest ($12 pppn) which has an amazing setting on a peninsula on Lake Kariba. We were camped within 5m of the water with warning signs for hippos and crocs. Even in the dark it was beautiful. There was a constant wind coming off the lake throughout the night – we had a braai with the piri-piri chicken from the Shoprite and some of Mary’s yummy home made garlic bread and after that off to a quick movie at Cinema-A-La-Tent (Knight & Day). I went for a quick run in the morning then we spend an hour or so chatting to Anne and Andre, travelling with their mates Gordon & Jean (www.ourbigafricanadventure.info) . Anne & Andre are were very seasoned overlanders having done many trips over the years and who were currently on a 3 month trip around Southern Africa in a beautiful Landcruiser pickup with very well planned canopy. They are planning a similar trip to ours in 2 years time. We got a lot of useful tips for the road ahead in Zambia.
We visited the Kariba Dam Wall which is impressively big and amazing volumes of water flowing. It is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area, although there is a slightly odd setup where you leave your passports and TIP at the border and cross over into the heavily guarded no-mans land.
From there, we took the 4x4 tracks (well, we saw some locals in Toyota Corollas) following the Zambezi towards Kiambi Camp which is on the road to the Lower Zambezi National Park. We crossed the Kafue river with a pontoon which is lots of fun, but expensive at $28 each way. The camp site at Kiambi ($10pppn) is brilliant, overlooking the river. We had a quick swim (in winter) then a dinner of Mary’s newly famous Pork Stroganoff. A campfire was made for us which we sat watching until it got too cold – we decided to go to bed after 3 shooting stars – within a few seconds, we saw our first one which was huge & blazed across the sky for maybe 15 seconds (best one we have seen). We each took our first Mefliam but didn't have any strange dreams, possibly because it was so freezingly cold in the night!
Today we did a half day canoe trip – they took us up the river in a speed boat and we lazily paddled down the Zambezi around an island – we got up close (not too close) to hippos, crocs and elephants. We were canoeing with a group of 11 who were doing an overnight canoe trip – they were great fun with 7 kids in their late teens/early twenties, and 4 grown-ups, a mix of British & South Africans from the same extended family. When we saw a Brown Snake Eagle, one of the British guys asked why they are called that. We were both thinking it, but Mary was the one to blurt out that it is because they eat brown snakes! Spent the rest of the day relaxing by the pool.

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