Nothing beats doing it yourself. We can listen to and watch others take on epic trips across Africa and the rest of the world, ask questions about hopefully avoiding the irritating lessons they learned along the way, but inevitably you will have to just go and do it yourself. You can’t live someone else’s life.
Such was the crossing in to Zambia. I had asked about the things to look out for at the border, but crossing at Kazungula was always going to have a few lessons in store. Firstly, the ‘fixers/runners’ are relentless! After exiting Botswana they will approach you and latch on. Firstly you still have to take the ferry – the bridge is about a year or so away from completion. The ferry costs US$10 for a bike, cash only. The other payments are ZK70 carbon tax, ZK20 road tax, ZK261 3rdparty. I was also charged US$20 for toll roads, but it turns out motorcycles don’t pay toll roads in Zambia! Humph! That was the first lesson, second lesson is if you are planning to get COMESA 3rdparty insurance in Zambia for subsequent countries, you need to get that from the same insurance company as your Zambian 3rdparty. My friend Uwe Schmidt pointed me to a chap in Lusaka from Goldman Insurance (at their offices, not an agent), but it turned out my 3rdparty from the border was not from them. To avoid more running around, I bought a second 3rdparty policy from them, and extended that to cover COMESA. I also found out their 3rdparty is ZK145 for 3 months, not the ZK261 I paid at the border for 30 days. There is a sign in the border compound that says it should be ZK169, but you get 3rd party after leaving the gate so I guess many people don’t read that sign and challenge them. Anyway, they said that was the old price, and for the sake of ZAR100 I was more interested in getting out of there :-/. I have chatted to a few people about the crossing, and it seems everyone knows how bad it is at Kazungula and South Africans often avoid it, going to Zimbabwe from Kasane first and crossing from Victoria Falls to Livingstone. I wonder, being on a bike, if the border at Katima Mulilo to Sesheke is a better option than Namibia to Kasane. The road on the Zambia side from Sesheke to Livingstone is apparently all tar, but quite bad for the first section so not the best option for a car, but as long as it’s not deep sand, mud, or badly corrugated, it should be ok on a bike.
The David Livingstone Lodge more than made up for my experience at the border. I spent two days there chilling. I also popped in to town to get the Airtel SIM card sorted out and the “One Airtel” roaming on the same SIM card all the way up to Ethiopia, and to visit the museum. More info on the data roaming will follow in future blogs, but for now it’s working in Zambia on the in-country normal data packs, and the One Airtel roaming data will start to get used when I get to Malawi. It will be interesting to see how (or even if) I can top up and purchase data when I’m not in Zambia.
The sunset booze cruise on the Zambezi was great, chatting to other visitors from South Africa who seemed to all migrate to the bow of the (rather large) boat. We also had a very good guide telling us about some of the local wildlife and history – it always enriches the experience if you know the history and background of what you are looking at. Not to mention the superbly attentive waitress who kept the Rosé wine topped up and brought 4 or 5 rounds of canapés. The next day I buckled and went on a helicopter flip down the gorge and over the falls – a spectacular flight and well worth it! The locals refer to the falls as ‘Mosi oa tuna’ – ‘The smoke which thunders’. The local Zambian beer is also called Mosi, and is quite good. Their advertising tag line is ‘Thunderous Refreshment’, which sounds quite odd at first but is obviously a reference to the falls.
From Livingstone I headed to Lusaka to get the COMESA sorted out, which I managed the afternoon after arriving from Livingstone. From there it was a day’s ride over to Chipata, calling in at Bridge Camp on the Luangwa river. There was some uncertainty if it was even open, but it was. The guys there explained the owner had a dispute with the local chief over some land further along, and landed up abandoning the place with staff salaries still outstanding. When asked, the owner told them to take whatever they wanted from the site in lieu of payment, but they spoke among themselves and decided to try to keep it going. As always with these things, there are 3 sides to the story; mine, yours, and the truth.
West of the river bridge the road is still the old road, but east of the bridge is the new ‘Great East Road’ funded by the European Union, so it is in great condition. It goes via a few spectacular areas, and I got a fantastic photo of a rather large Baobab tree right next to the road. I am not disappointed that the majority of this solo trip is via tar roads – when you haven’t been to a country before I say there is just as much to see, if not more, along the established tar tourist routes. If you are more interested in the deep bush and unpopulated areas, then I say have-at-it, but that kind of trip is not one you do solo on a BMW R1200GSA! I also really like those deep bush trips, but either in a 4×4 or a group of riders on much smaller bikes (if bikes are even allowed). I stayed in Chipata for a few days, including some time at Mamarula famous camp site, but no other bikes there. A group of 4×4’s on their way to Serengeti stayed one night but they kept to themselves.
We all left about the same time the next morning to Malawi, so I landed up chatting to a couple of people from the 4×4 group at the border, but their agenda was a lot tighter than mine so the idea to maybe join them for a day or two wasn’t an option. Oh yes, and by the way, the border crossing here was much easier than back in Kazungula!