Zambia Part II – Lake Kariba and Kafue National Park


After a bit of grocery shopping in Livingstone, we started our trip to Lake Kariba. We were recommended to go to Kariba Bush Club, but they were under renovation and said that Lakeview Lodge, a neighbour, would be able to accommodate us.

The road to the lake was most unpleasant, zig-zagging through roadworks (the government is tarring the road from Chome to the lake, and hopefully it will increase tourism and boost the economy), villages and people.

We found Zambia very different from Botswana, where there were donkeys, cattle, goats, chickens, dogs and people everywhere on the road. During our stay in Zambia, we saw three or four ox carts, but no donkey carts, nor donkeys. The people are very poor and have no personal transport apart from bicycles. All the bikes look the same: black with thick tyres.

The rural people live in mud huts, sometimes built with self-made bricks, with grass roofs, no electricity and no running water. Villages either have a well or fountain, a borehole with a manual pump or a river nearby. All household water is carried to the house by hand. We’ve seen many children jumping up and down as they pump water. Most people have vegetable patches with carrots, potatoes, spinach, tomatoes and so on, also watered by hand. Here and there you see a fruit tree, mainly bananas. But despite all this, they are very friendly. Every single person waved when we went past, and beggars are few and far between.

After driving 315 km, we arrived at Lakeview Lodge. Apart from the view on the lake, it’s very disappointing. As they don’t really cater for campers, we decided to stay in a chalet. It was run down and in a bad state. The electrical wires were open, and the bedroom windows only had mosquito nets; no windows. The mattresses should have been replaced at least 20 years ago. The linen were old, cheap and threadbare, as were the towels. Sophia was so cold, we had to throw Hugo’s warm jacket over her. The upholstery on the chairs was coming apart. As this was the only lodge in the vicinity, it could charge what it wanted, and it did. Instead of staying a few days at Kariba and going on a houseboat trip, we left early the next morning. Very disappointed.

We postponed the houseboat, as it was ridiculously expensive. The operators charge in US dollars and the price is fixed per boat, whether there are four or fourteen people in the group. And then you still have to add food and fuel.

On our way to New Kalala, the stopover to Kafue National Park, Gustav started complaining about his stomach. After a while, he just could not hold it any longer. Usually we would stop next to the road and use our “piepiestoel”, but there were people everywhere. Hugo stopped at a building that looked decent and took Gustav inside. They told me afterwards it was the local courthouse and the toilets were new and clean!

Back on the tarred road, we drove to Choma to quench our forever fuel-craving Petronella’s thirst. We ran into a local farmer, Bruce Danckwerts, who gave us some pointers, one of which was the name of the ferry operator at Namwala Ferry (Banja, +260 97 751 9276). We had no idea that we would have to use a ferry that day. Doing a trip as the wind blows you brings many surprises with it.

From Choma, we went back on the “scenic route”, which are all the roads in Zambia, apart from parts of the T1, the Great North Road. Again, Gustav had to do a pitstop. This time, we found a lodge for local businessmen, once again with a clean, working toilet. Poor child. Last week he was throwing up and this week it comes out the other end.

Late in the afternoon, I phoned Banja to let him know we are on our way, and he promised to wait for us. The sun was almost setting when we arrived and the scenery was beautiful. Banja had a motorised pontoon and the crossing was easy. He claimed that the road ahead was much better than the one we came with and that the remaining 60 km would take us about an hour. Lesson learned: unless you are on the parts of the T1 that have been tarred, you will never do
60 kilometres an hour in Zambia. You are lucky if you do 30 km/h and VERY lucky if you get to 40 km/h, but NEVER 60 km/h. So, the “good” road took us two hours and we arrived after dark.

The camp attendant took us to the campsite at New Kalala and showed us the most level spot. He also fired up the donkey for hot water. After a quick bite, we went to bed. We were surprised at the view that greeted us when we woke up. We knew there was water nearby, but not how much and how close it was. We had set up camp on the banks of a massive dam in the Kafue River. As we had our sights set on going to Kafue National Park and our visas would expire on 3 July, with way too much that we still wanted to see, we left early that morning, but New Kalala definitely deserved more of our time. There will have to be a next time.

The dam was the Itezhi-Tezhi Dam and the hydroelectric plant that was in progress, was supposed to come online in three months’ time. As always in Africa, you have to wonder whether the poor people, who need it most, will actually benefit by it.

Gustav’s stomach was still upset and we had to stop twice more for him. The child is so skinny and there he was losing even more weight.

Only the last bit of road to Kafue is tarred, followed by gravel yet again. Hugo and I noticed that the car were covered by flies. We looked at each other and whispered: “Tsetse flies!” Bad news. Gustav and Sophia are terrified of them. Every time a house fly lands on them they are hysterical. I don’t know who told them about tsetse flies, but I want to strangle that person. Although … it might have been me.

When we stopped at Mayukuyuku, our home for the next few days in Kafue National Park, I jumped out to go into reception and was attacked by scores of the buggers.

We were right! Tsetse bloody flies.

While I was running inside, a guy ran past me towards the car to spray it with insect killer. Apparently the flies hitch a ride on the cars going into the camp, especially the darker-coloured cars. Once the staff have killed all of them, you can get out. For some reason, there are virtually no flies in the camp.

It took some time to persuade the children to get out, and for the rest of our time there, we were never allowed to open our windows or get out of the car unless we were 100% sure there were no tsetse flies.

Thursday, 11 June, we could finally wash Gustav’s vomited-on bedding. Or rather, we paid someone to do it. I can’t remember how much, but it was a bargain! Hugo was tired after navigating all the bad roads, so we spent a quiet day in camp on the banks of the Kafue River. Again our neighbours were hippos and crocs! And fish eagles. I will never tire of the call of a fish eagle.

The camp’s power came from solar panels and a generator. They only had internet access when they started the generator. As I was finished with a blog post, I decided to send it when the internet came on next, which was at six that evening. I took my flashlight and iPad and off I went. When I was done, it was dark already. As with most lodges, the camping grounds are a bit further away from the fancy chalets and luxury tents. I had to walk with a footpath through the bush in the dark to get to the trailer. Unfortunately for me, I have a very good light and I saw a hippo just next to the footpath. It took all my willpower to not start screaming and running. I had a triple whiskey when I got back at our tent…

The following night we had many noisy hippos as visitors and both children ended up in bed with us. When we woke up, we had to move our house to a campsite further from the river, as someone else had booked the one on the river. I was not happy, but no one could do anything about it.

On Saturday, we were back on the road, heading for Lusaka. It took us forever to drive the 285 km. May I just say, our planning sucked. We needed to fill up our gas bottles and have work done on the car, and no one will do that on a Saturday afternoon or a Sunday. It’s like border posts: when it comes to borders and cities, stick to weekdays.

Lusaka is a very busy city with, apparently, no traffic rules. You kind of just go with the flow and hope for the best. In other words, it was utter chaos. It reminded us a lot of DaNang in Vietnam. Lusaka is a city of contrasts: a block away from a fancy mall are unpaved, potholed roads with shacks used as shops next to the road. People use wheelbarrows with car tyres as delivery vehicles, and overloaded black bicycles were everywhere you looked.

On Monday we filled up the gas bottles, but the guy who could help us with the hole in our second petrol tank could only do it on Tuesday! On Saturday and Sunday we camped at Pioneer Camp outside the city, but as it is some distance from the city, we moved to a hotel, the Best Western, for the Monday night. Hugo, being the best father on earth, took the children to the movies while I had a bit of me time. I’m very fond of my husband and children, but also of some personal space  ̶  and you don’t get much of that in a cramped car and tent.

The children and I stayed at the hotel and watched movies on our hotel beds on Tuesday while Hugo sorted out the car. The repairs took longer than anticipated and we stayed another night in the hotel. The children weren’t complaining.

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