Zambia: A taste of the big smoke civilization!

Lusaka is nothing much to write home about (and the traffic in Cairo Road is horrendous), but Manda Hill shopping mall with the chance to have some Illy coffee and scones and hit a large supermarket made a welcome change after nearly two months “outback” Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe since the last sight of a store with more than 2 choices!

Even managed to buy an extension cable and electrical connectors for our solar panel, which I had been waiting for two months. The only reminder we are still in Africa was when the power cut twice when we were in the supermarket and the whole place went into the darkness you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face for 5 minutes until emergency generators cut in. Seems like a regular occurrence as the other shoppers didn’t seem fazed?

We stayed one night at Eureka Camp 5kms south of Lusaka and one night at Pioneer Camp 18kms north on the road to Chipata and South Luangwa. Both are OK and only USD$15 per night. Eureka is livelier and popular with the overland truck crowd. We spent a day shopping and relaxing in Lusaka – which was probably needed after the stresses of getting out of Zimbabwe and into Zambia at the Chirundu border post and paying the Zambian cops a nice little speeding fine shortly after.

The next day we hit the road again for the 575kms to Chipata and South Luangwa NP. We broke the drive midway with a stop at Luangwa Bridge Camp GPS  which is quite pleasant and run by a Dutch fellow (Wim) and his English partner. Bridge Camp has a nice pool and bar overlooking the Luangwa River. Next night we rolled into Chipata and Mama Rula’s camp 5kms on the Sth Luangwa NP road Mama Rula’s is also quite popular with the overland trucks but OK. The main road from Lusaka to Chipata is pretty good bitumen and high speed, but pretty boring in general. As they say in Africa- MMBA “miles and miles of bugger all”.

Couldn’t say the same though of the 100kms road from Chipata to South Luangwa NP the next morning though. The 100kms starts off as reasonable bitumen but deteriorates to very bad gravel with corrugations and washouts. Takes 31/2 hours to do the 100kms! They are working on the road though and it will be tar all the way sometime soon.

We spent 3 nights outside the Park at South Luangwa it was so good. Two nights at Croc Valley camp at the Park entrance as it was recommended to us by an overland truck driver in Mama Rula’s and one night in The Wildlife Camp GPS S13*06”558’ E31*45”221’  8kms down the road. Croc Valley is OK, closer to the National Park entrance and has a great view of the Luangwa river (also popular with the overland trucks) but The Wildlife Camp, although 8kms from the Park entrance, is great! It is run by the local community under the auspices of a Swiss lady with a background in hotel management who came to Zambia as a volunteer helping the locals with tourism 8 years ago and never went back to Switzerland. It is definitely our preferred option and recommendation despite being a little way off the road.

The Wildlife Camp again had elephants and hippos roaming through the camp at night. In fact after we spent a bit too long drinking at the bar (about 750 meters from the campsite) with a Spanish couple from the Canary Islands driving a Land Rover Discovery around southern Africa and it got too dark, they wouldn’t let us walk back and insisted on driving us back to camp rather than lose a camper! We are becoming a bit blasé’ about animals in our campsites – which can be dangerous.

The actual South Luangwa NP would have to be rated one of the top National Parks we have visited and the equal of the ones in the Okavango Delta of Botswana if not quite as exciting as Mana Pools NP in Zimbabwe. Plenty of game of all sorts and pleasant drives through a riverine bush with huge Natal Mahogany and fig trees along the river and drier Mopani forest inland. We also took a night drive from Croc Valley (USD$40 pp) and saw lions, hyenas and a leopard on the drive. Things you don’t see in the daytime. It costs USD$30 pp/day and $10 for the vehicle to enter the park, so a bit expensive but worth it. Highly recommended!

Then it was back 3/1/2 hours along the horrendous road to Chipata and an afternoon stocking up on supplies at the local Spar and Shoprite. (Interesting observing the police or army guy in camouflage and with AK47 at the ready patrolling inside the supermarket to keep the locals in order! Wondered what would happen to the stacked eggs and bottles if he had to open fire?

Or whether we would fit in the deep freeze in a hurry if he did)?  We also had Tin Can washed at Fuzzy’s Car Wash and changed some money into Malawi Kwacha with the money changers hanging around outside the supermarket. (Don’t ever do this- I got ripped off blind found out later and know better of course. Stupidly trusted the guy and it was convenient. You get a better rate at the banks. At least know your rates properly beforehand. I was not quite sure and it cost me)!
One more night at Mama Rula’s again and early the next morning to the Zambia/Malawi border post 20kms from Chipata. This time the border procedures went fairly painlessly apart for a slight hassle with the Malawi cops down the road. (Read the next post “Malawi”).

Having spent only 8-10 days in Zambia and seen only the northwest corner, we have hardly done it proper justice? But suffice it to say the people are as friendly as any we have encountered, think the Zimbabweans are thieves (and vice versa), the main roads are quite good and South Luangwa NP at least is a fantastic wildlife area and without a doubt equal to some of the best Parks in Africa. We thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit, but time to head north a bit more conscientiously and Lake Malawi and some blue water and tropical greenery beckons….

If you are interested in going on a 4×4 adventure here, but find yourself in need of a vehicle, you might want to consider 4×4 hire Zambia to find the perfect vehicle for your travel needs.

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