A lovely drive through the hills to Lake Kariba and a seamless exit from the Zim side of the Kariba border was nullified when we hit interpol and the worlds worst/best negotiator on the Zambian side. We had some “anomalies” with our paperwork and weren’t willing to pay the outrageous US $100 bribe (our excuse being that we didn’t have enough US or Kwacha), my negotiations failed and Tash’s crocodile tears didn’t stand a chance and after 40 minutes the best offer thus far was to leave the car at the border, get into a taxi on the Zambian side, go to the bank and draw enough Kwacha to pay old mate, who ironically seemed to get offended when we suggested that we didn’t want to do that because the car wouldn’t be safe, all the whilst trying to illicit a bribe sitting under a “proudly corruption free zone” poster. Eventually my temper and Tash’s patience wore thin and we politely told him to foxtrot oscar, declared as loud as possible that we weren’t going to pay his bribe and told immigration to refund our visas and shot back across the dam wall to the Zim side. On the bright side the sunset over the lake while sitting on the dam wall was extraordinary. The contingency plan all along was to take the dirt road underneath Kariba and follow its banks all the way to Binga, Hwange and eventually sneak into Vic Falls from there. This is exactly what we intended to do, however, this needed to be completed in one day if we were to catch up with the wedding party and enjoy some of the pre wedding festivities. We found a cheap spot to camp at Kariba Bay and we were on the road at first light the following morning. The road was tough at times but nothing we hadn’t seen before, not nearly as bad as people had said it would be and it was beautiful. All along we commented on how it would be lovely to do this road over three or four days, drop into Bumi hills and the likes when the feeling struck us but unfortunately we had to get moving.
We hit Binga and the tar road at about 5, pumped up the tires, handsomely rewarded the kids who patiently waited for us to finish and didn’t ask for anything which won Tash’s heart and then set off for the bright lights and big smoke. We hit a couple more road blocks but the police couldn’t find anything to fine us for and reluctantly let us through and at about 9 o’clock we rolled into the rest camp for a well earned meal, beer and shower before a serious sleep.
Vic Falls is unchanged, unaffected and just as friendly as ever. We managed to find everyone the following day and had a fantastic few days catching up on the latest and imparting all that we had done and seen in the past few months. A change from our normal pace, we spent the week over indulging, partying hard, and watching Stewie plummet to earth on the morning of his wedding.
The #jiggastewsayido wedding was beyond amazing and getting the run of the town was definitely special. Thank you the Glynns.
The falls were sadly low but just as spectacular as when they are in full force and we spent a day mulling around, checking the many viewing points and relaxing by the pool.
The next round of fun began when we finally found out that Tash is indeed capable of squeezing through the tiny windows in Frank after a horrendous morning getting stuck inside our housecar thanks to the faulty lock. Eventually Tash, along with help from the security guard and gardener, had to take the entire door off its hinges. Quite exhausted from the mornings activities we snuck in a lovely relaxing afternoon at the Vic Falls Safari Lodge viewing deck, arguably the best view in town.
We could have spent weeks in Vic Falls with everyone but sadly they had to get back to their lives and we had to see the rest of West Zimbabwe before we try and bypass interpol to get into Zambia. Before we left Vic Falls Tash came across a lovely old man that she thought needed help so I taught her how to respectfully call him over and then offer him some money, “madalla” being the shona word for older man which Tash mispronounced and essentially just shouted “ma dolla” at the poor guy who at this point must think that us whities were just driving around forcing money on people, great fun for me and a happy ending to a fantastic week or so.
Our next stop was Hwange. A truly amazing place, not only because of the 100 strong herd of elephant we saw driving in but because of the amazing viewing opportunities dotted around the park.
There are decks at almost every water hole and established viewing areas built into the sides of kopjies where we happily relaxed throughout the days and into the evening.
The second evening there saw us camped precariously close to the edge of quite a high escarpmeent, which in any other country would be reserved for the latest 5 star monstrosity but there we sat overlooking the valley from our campsite watching a massive herd of buffalo slowly migrate, almost ant-like, towards greener pastures.
We had a new plan of attack for the border, but we could have saved ourselves the 2 hours of planning, as this time around Zambia welcomed us through with open arms. This was very good news as Frank had picked up a slight injury in Hwange where one of the bolts at the back holding our house onto the the tray had bent while the other next to it had ripped through the washer and the fibreglass leaving our house in a very vulnerable position whenever we decide to head off road, something that we plan on doing as much as humanly possible in this country. We managed to slink into a stunning little lodge just outside of livingstone after a hair raising, rough and very precarious drive in where we managed to find a workshop and fashion some very basic washers out of a sheet of metal that just managed to get us through to Lusaka without losing our house off the back of the truck.
We arrived in Lusaka at, what we decided, was the worst possible time. Just after the recent elections due to the death of the president a couple of weeks prior the ruling party maintained majority and gave everyone a couple of days off for the upcoming inauguration, after going through the worst traffic we have seen in 8 months we vowed then and there to never again be on the road in an African capital city during a long weekend. After spending 2 nights and having steel plates made for the house we immediately broke our new vow and tried to get out of Lusaka at arguably an even worse time. What seemed like the entire nation came streaming into the area surrounding the stadium for the inauguration. Every man, woman, child, car, bus, donkey, you name it, was decked out in the party colours and heading in the same direction as us.
We literally couldn’t have stuck out more if we tried. Cars seemed devoid of the usually rules of traffic lights, it seemed that as long as you had your hand continuously on the horn whilst all passengers held their fists out of the window then you could scream through red lights at 100.
We considered giving this a go to speed up our exit, but decided that 2 white people in a huge Land Cruiser might not get away with it. As we drew closer to the stadium people were hanging off trucks and buses whilst others were squeezed into little cars ensuring that not one road rule was being obeyed and thus traffic had come to a complete standstill, we crawled along at walking speed which gave everyone not packed into cars the chance to come have a chat and teach us what hand sign to hold out the windows while pumping the horn and whistling.
The atmosphere was jovial and we began to quite enjoy it before we got closer to the stadium where nothing seemed to be off limits. Bikes where weaving in and out of traffic, people were clambering out of trucks and smashing to the floor, vehicles coming the other way now didn’t have a lane anymore and had to get permission to squeeze between oncoming taxis, all made even more interesting due to the fact that about 60% of the crowd was still wired from last nights drinking or well and truly back on the wagon. It all got a little too exciting for us and the tipping point was when a very angry, huge guy in a short sleeved suit (if you want to be taken seriously by anyone, don’t wear a short sleeved suit) bumped into the side of Frank whilst trying to get out of his brand new Range Rover in a rage, thankfully for us his door hit one of the metal side trays on Franks and instead scratched his gleaming doors, which please Tash immensely. All the same we decided the mood was changing and we decided to pull into the first road we could and get out of there via the slightly less crowded back roads. Finally we made it through the masses, got into second gear and onto the Great North Road and back towards the bush where we belong.
The scenery on the drive was lovely but we found more interest in what people were selling on the side of the road, everything from honey to coal was up for barter, with the odd coke bottle of petrol thrown in for good measure. Our amazement soon turned to the people transporting their new purchases. It was incredible and fast became a new game of who could point out the most amazing collection of goods being transported and the manner of which collecting additional points. Tash thought she had the win with a guy on a motorbike almost unrecognisable as he was fully surrounded by thatching that was now sticking out into the middle of the road till I glimpsed a young chap on a bicycle with his chick on the back, laden with a colossal bag of coal with some sort of rug over the top that, as it turns out, the rug was still alive and bleated at me as it went past.
The hours flew past as this game more and more intense, to the point where we got the camera out when we started getting close to visages and towns in anticipation of what we were going to see.
We finally arrived at the 2+3’s house in Mkushi, a lovely farming community just underneath the border of the Congo. It was great catching up with old family friends and we had an absolutely fantastic time, even having the opportunity to find the ruins of the house my Mom grew up in.
In the end we had to eventually force ourselves to leave otherwise we were in danger of trying to buy some land and set up camp.
We were in a state of turmoil with too many options of what to do next in front of us. We could head North West to some of the most remote regions of Zambia and the Chimp sanctuary, we could venture back down South to the Lower Zambezi and have another taste of the Mana lifestyle on the Zambian side, we could start moving North East to the waterfalls and largest bat migration in the world, push even further into famous Benguella wetlands and eventually into Tanzania, we could push due East to leopard country in North and South Luangwa and eventually hit Malawi and Mozambique, or we could jump on the train from Mkushi to Dar Es Salam and shoot across to Zanzibar for a couple of days. The options were endless and each as amazing as the next. It took us a week of back and forth, more than I could ever have dreamed of but we had to make a decision and the time was now.